in which the blogger shamelessly appropriates a trope from a popular movie to help explain why the blog looks different
So there was a point when I actually had a little too much free time.
Coincidentally, this was the time when WordPress’s Blogging 201 online course started. I signed up, thinking that this could be a way to make the blog better, and at the same time give me something to blog about. After each online lesson, I would write a post in which I both commented on the new information and implemented it.
And yeah that didn’t happen. I started a couple, but they are still floating around in the drafts folder.*
It’s partly that the free time evaporated, but I think there was a little bit more going on. I just wasn’t comfortable with that degree of self-examination in a public forum. This might sound strange to some, as self-examination seems to be the whole theme of Teacherpants, but I guess there is a limit; it’s also important that this self-revelation be on my own terms.
One thing did stick, as you can see. One part of the course was a blog audit lesson. I realized that it had been a long time since I had done anything with the visuals, so I decided to do my homework and take a critical look at the physical aspect of Teacherpants. I actually hadn’t looked at the blog that much, as I spent most of my time on the Edit Post pages. So when I switched to the public site and looked at it honestly, I was a little perturbed.
It was painful. Not in the sense that it was embarrassing or naive, but literally: it hurt my eyes to read it. The dense text was surrounded by black borders, and the background image featured horizontal black and white slashes representing the branches of an ice-covered tree. The harshness of the image and the way the lines clashed with the rows of type did not make it easy to get through the long narrow paragraphs of educational exploration.
My blog didn’t always looks like that. My first background was a green Japanese print that I stole off Google Image. It was soothing and unobtrusive, but it gave the blog its own feel. The problem was that the image wasn’t particularly personal to me, and I wasn’t even sure where it came from.
Then the icestorm of 2013 happened, bringing with it amazing photographic opportunities. I ..um … adopted the new background image from a friend’s photograph**. I found the consistent colour scheme and wintry feel somehow satisfying. And perhaps it was.
But then I kind of forgot about it, and it stayed there, for a year and a half. In fact, it’s probably the only background image that most of my readers have seen. Maybe it was time to acknowledge that the ice storm was over.
So now, I thought, it was really time for a change. Once I decided to remove the background image, I thought about changing the theme altogether. The black borders were kind of oppressive, especially when they surrounded posts of over 600 words. I wanted people to read my pieces thoroughly, right? Why was I making it so hard for them?
A lot of the best blogs that I read are quite minimalist, Spartan, even. I wanted to move in that direction, but I wasn’t quite ready for that degree of simplicity. For one thing, I like a bit of flash, and for another, I don’t have the typographic skills to make that 0-style thing work.
So I’ve chosen the new theme that you see now. It’s simple, but it has its own character. The layout suits the way I’m feeling right now. For one thing, there’s a nostalgic element. It looks a lot like an old broadsheet, and, even more, like a student newspaper. I spent some time working on my college newspaper — not long, but I remember those hours fondly. For another, the busy-ness on the page somehow mimics the slightly attention deficit way my mind works — I like the way everything is laid out together, making it possible to flit from story to story.
I’m not 100% sure about this theme. For one thing, this open layout makes tracking difficult. One click to the homepage reveals so many posts. How can I tell which ones they are actually reading? I can always put in a “Read More” tag. This would be good for metrics, but it feels a little coy and mean-spirited. It seems to say, “Okay, if you want anything more, you have to do this for me.”
Also, I’m missing the menu features from the old theme. I spent quite a few hours this spring painstakingly dividing my posts up into different categories. Now the category listings are gone. What if you want an Overland story and you end up with a conference review? How will you find your way? Maybe that’s something I can tweak.
Anyway, welcome to the new Teacherpants. May you will find it more accessible. On the other hand, perhaps you really liked the icy shards that seemed to stab into your eyes as you tried to read. Either way, please let me know in the comments.
* Interestingly, this great post by Anna appeared in my reader just after I finished the first draft of this. We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at the posts that didn’t make it.
**Still stolen, but less anonymous