Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

New design for a new year

Okay, so we still have a bit over 24 hours in 2005 but I’ve launched my re-design early. It’s not hugely different from before in terms of code – a few new and redefined CSS classes and a bit of HTML code shifted around – which meant it was pretty quick to do.
Essentially, this is what has changed:

  • Three-column layout. With the additions to the entry pages that I’ve been trying to make, the site started to outgrow the rather restrictive two-column layout I’ve been using for almost 4 years now. I’ll hold my hands up and be completely honest by saying that this was also related to the advertising – the more I added stuff to the pages, the further down the pages the AdSense boxes moved. This has lead to a rather marked fall in revenue – we’re talking quite a lot of money here – so I’ve made them more prominent by giving them their own column on the far right.
  • New menu. The menu has moved from the top of the sidebar (again, a position it has held for a long time) to the top. This is to create more space on the sidebars, but also because I just fancied a change. I’m using Matt Mullenweg’s Intelligent Menus to have the page labels highlighted where applicable.
  • More related links on entry pages. To try to get people who visit through search engines to stay on the site, I now have links to related entries and those entries with new comments on all of the entry pages. The related entries list uses mt-relatedentries and pulls up the 5 most recent entries in the same category. It can also work using keywords, which would give a more relevant list, but due to the extra load this creates I’ve opted just to work with categories.

There is also a minor change to trackbacks, in that I’m no longer providing the trackback metadata block on pages. You can still ping entries by manually copying and pasting the trackback URL, but autodiscovery systems will probably not find it. This is an attempt at stopping trackback spam, since around 98% of the trackbacks I’ve had recently have been spam.
I’m still rolling out the design so if any pages look weird, please bear with me.
Update: I’ve changed the design slightly so that it works again in 800×600 resolutions (or rather ‘should work’). It now looks a bit weird in IE6, with lots of padding in the middle and very little at the sides, however it looks fine in Firefox, Opera and Safari. So use those browsers instead.


  1. Oooh, gone the way of StyleGala with a 1024-width layout. If that’s what your stats show, then fine, but don’t chuck 800-width users away lightlight. The only reason I mention this is because I’m using 800×600 now, on my parents PC.
    You may think supporting 800-width is old news, but it is still used by a majority, such as people with bad-eyes (old people, like my rents).

  2. I’m not technical or anything (I read this only for Neil’s university related high-jinks) but my screen isn’t working. I suspect the 800 thing mentioned before.
    Just a point. Sorry for being all technophobic and everything.

  3. I had to refresh a few times, probably the css getting cached somewhere. Just thought i’d mention it in case people were thinking you’ve gone mad with overlapping text.

  4. It should now fit snugly on a 800×600 screen. I didn’t realise quite how many people were still using that resolution – something like a quarter of all web surfers.
    Unfortunately now it’s broken in IE6. Grrr…

  5. Just refreshed, all is well.

  6. I like it a lot. Looks good even with the text size increased in Firefox.
    Neil, I’m curious, if you don’t mind sharing: Are you using MT includes? Or, PHP includes? I suspect it’s PHP includes. If so, how, since your entries end in .html? Thanks so much.

  7. Hmm can’t say I’m really taken by the new design to be honest. I know this is different but the ecommerce company I work for used to use a 3 column design on their sites. We’ve gone for 2 columns now and it makes everything much less cluttered. I suppose your going for the advertising angle on this but the 3 column layout does seem to take focus away from your posts. But hey that’s just my opinion.
    Ooo how about a nice big funky graphic at the top too instead of current header.
    Happy New Year! 🙂

  8. I’m not familiar with MT as I use WordPress, but is there a function in MT for displaying links to the next/previous posts on a post page? I find it really handy when I go to a site that has updated with several posts since I last visited, to be able to go back through them reading the comments whilst I go. Just a suggestion!

  9. Neil, the right hand side of the comment box is cut off ever so slightly (I’m using Firefox 1.5 on XP).

  10. Marie: I use a mixture of both, but mostly MT includes. I use PHP for the ‘active discussions’ bit because that’s always changing and I want old pages to show it.
    As for how I get .html pages to work as PHP, I added this line to a file called .htaccess in my root folder:

    AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .html

    Bon: Yes there is, hence the links at the bottom. Here’s the code:

    <a href=”<$MTEntryLink$>”>« <$MTEntryTitle$></a> |
    <a href=”<$MTBlogURL$>”>Main</a>

    This functionality has been in MT for as long as I can remember.
    As for the comment box being cut off, I’m not seeing that myself, sorry.

  11. Neil, Thanks so much for that line. That was really nice of you. With that I was able to gzip my other blog (using the easy method) – something I wanted to do for a while. And I’ll be able to do some PHP includes.

  12. I’ve been looking at the sideblog from your main menu and I think you still have a few issues to sort out in terms of layout.
    Some space between the entries of the sideblog, and the nice two column side-section would improve things a little.
    Or should I switch to Firefox?

  13. OK here I am in Firefox, and there is quite a difference, and the sideblog works better in terms of layout.
    Don’t leave us IE users to suffer though !

  14. Andy: I’ve added a bit of extra space in IE (couldn’t manage much though). Funny though, that problem doesn’t appear in Opera, Safari or Firefox. Thanks for letting me know.

  15. Bon: Yes there is, hence the links at the bottom.

  16. I like having the third column exclusively for advertising. It serves the dual purpose of keeping it raised to the top of the page while being separated from the content. A good compromise.