New site design (partially) implemented

My guilt over slighting those regrettably still stuck using Internet Explorer 6 finally got the best of me, and I decided to do a new site design that doesn’t completely break down in that (outdated) browser.

Well, that’s not really the reason I did it. I wanted to take a new approach that allows for more customization of the presentation in different sections of the site. But I made it IE6-friendly while I was at it. The new design is based on another color scheme called “Salamander” that I found at Kuler. (Sorry, I’d link right to the specific color palette but, guess what, it’s Flash. Boo.)

It’s not finished yet, but I wanted to put the necessary pressure on myself to keep working on it until it’s completely done. So now that it’s far enough along to be presentable to the public, I’m rolling it out.

Most of the cool site-specific graphical headers are still missing, so it’s falling back to a generic presentation with a nice garish green band at the top. Certain other fine details are also still missing in the CSS, but I’m getting there.

Eventually there will be more dramatic changes to the page structure: the home page will be more of a “portal” than just a dump of the most recent blog posts; different sections of the site will have different content in the sidebar, etc. But this is a start.

The Case of the Missing Nav Bar

I will admit, sometimes the problems I encounter in Internet Explorer are simply due to slight differences in browsers’ implementation of HTML or CSS or whatever, and I’m just not properly accounting for the way IE does certain things. Other times, it’s true, they’re due to a flat-out bug in my code that Safari and/or Firefox (usually “and”) will just graciously accept, whereas IE will not. (The cases where IE catches errors that Safari and Firefox permit, however, are rare compared to the vast, cluttered landscape of bad code that IE welcomes with open arms but that Safari and Firefox rightly reject.)

And then there are the cases such as the one I encountered today. There’s no way around it. I can’t find a nicer way to put it, IE is just plain fucked up.

Yesterday I was going along innocently enough, demonstrating to a coworker the site I had been working on for him. As usual I had worked with Safari and Firefox as my test browsers, firing up IE through a remote connection to my PC as needed to make sure things weren’t completely off track. (In a perfect world, I would never have to do this, of course. But, well…) And then, wham! Of course this kind of problem only rears its head when you’re showing your work to someone who has the authority to reject it. I was convinced it was a fluke on his computer, but sure enough when I went back to my desk, I observed the same thing happening in IE on my own PC. Time to hit the brakes once again and go into IE debugging mode.

I tested all of the obvious things. No luck. So I dug a little deeper and started testing the more obscure, but at least logical things. Still nothing. And like so many times before, I was reduced to just randomly trying anything to see if I could get a different result, no matter how seemingly absurd.

Fortunately it only took about an hour to track down the problem this time. But as usual there was no satisfying resolution, no “Aha!” moment as I suddenly recognized a stupid mistake I had made. Oh no. The problem was that the CSS definition for the <div> tag containing the entire body of the page specified a background color. Of course! (No, not of course, as this should not have any impact whatsoever!)

*SIGH* Seeing as how that background color specification wasn’t technically necessary, I removed it. Problem solved. Frustration with Microsoft, higher than ever.

Site redesign? No way!

Yet another incremental tweak of the design has arrived. I’m pleased with the general direction of the current design, plus I’ve got enough invested in the functionality the way it’s currently put together to be interested in a wholesale redesign. But I just haven’t been happy with the color palettes or the treatment of certain elements. So, now we have a triumphant return of the orange-and-gray color scheme, accented by new green and brown elements. I’ve also reworked the header (in case you somehow hadn’t noticed). I’m still not totally convinced this is the way to go but I’m on the right track. (Perhaps the green is a little too “XBOXy”. I’m going to live with it for a while though…)

I think I may need a new section to file posts like this under: “Like You Care!”

A nifty little tool…

For web geeks like me whose design ambitions occasionally outpace our abilities, it’s always fun to come across tools like this:

Color Palette Generator

Just give it the URL of any image anywhere on the web (such as, for example on your own site) and it generates color palettes for you to use in your design, based on the colors in the image.

Look for yet another new Room 34 site redesign in the near (or not-so-near) future using this tool!

Refresh the Page. Twice.

Although the tan-on-brown color scheme was… er… unique, and crisp to read on an LCD screen (which is all I own), I got tired of how smudgy and illegible it appeared on the ultra-X-treem high resolution CRT I use at work. (Uh… I mean… not that I… uh…)

So it was that I changed the color scheme of the site. But most browsers (at least Firefox, which is what I use) keep the CSS and image files cached more persistently than page content, so on first glance the pages here come off with the same circa 1978 color palette as before, just with a white page background instead of black.

If that’s what you’re seeing, for the love of Jehosephat* refresh the page now!

OK. Now I know what you’re seeing (at least if you’re using Firefox). This time around everything’s blue… except a little less than halfway across, the header graphic changes from blue to the old orange scheme. Ack! Refresh again!

Ah… that’s the stuff.

If it still looks like crap, maybe it’s your browser. You might need to actually clear the cache or something. Just don’t blame me. I already told you to use Firefox.

* Side note re: Jehosephat. What little I know about biblical King Jehosephat comes from hearing the phrase “jumpin’ Jehosephat” in passing, and the few minutes of Googling I did right after I posted this. (After all, I figured if I was enticing my reader [sic] with the love of Jehosephat as a reward for doing as I command, then perhaps I should know whether or not said love is desirable.)

From what I gather, King J. was a respectable fellow. For more on the matter, I direct you to the very Google search I myself undertook. But beware… as is often the case in life, that road is fraught with peril… and completely impertinent links. Seems the king himself is not exactly a hot topic around the virtual water cooler. Oh well… off you go!