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.

New t-shirt design: 1974

I’ve just added a new t-shirt design to my Born in 1974 shop on CafePress. This new design pays tribute — in a suitably retro cheesy style — to the glorious year of my birth.

And while you’re there (since I know you’re on your way at this very moment to buy one), don’t forget my other retro-ish designs, Seven Days without Pizza Makes One Weak and Old Old School (featuring a truly “old school” media format).

New old school shirts

Checking Wikipedia, I discovered some celebrity birthdays of note: I was born a week after Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) and 11 days before Lark Voorhees (Lisa from Saved by the Bell.) I’m also within a month or two of Kate Moss, Tiffani Thiessen (another Saved by the Bell alumna), Christian Bale, Seth Green, James Blunt, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (more Saved by the Bell), Jenna Jameson, Da Brat, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, Penélope Cruz, Jewel, Alanis Morissette and Derek Jeter. And that’s just in the first half of the year.

Sheesh. And my greatest claim to fame is the freakin’ Chewbacca thing.

Still wish you were using Internet Explorer 6?

If you’ve never visited this site using Internet Explorer 6, you probably are unaware that up until now doing so would load a big ugly alert box explaining how foolish you were being to do so — being that I am an arrogant Mac and Firefox user, not to mention that IE6 is dangerously insecure (besides not supporting alpha channel transparency in PNG images, which are the building blocks of this site’s design).

Today I had the chance for the first time to see just how horrible the new design looks in IE6, and as much as I don’t want to support that browser, I also couldn’t handle thrusting visitors into the hideous mess of this site in IE6 without at least giving them a taste of what it’s supposed to look like first. To that end, I’ve created a more friendly “welcome” page for IE6 users, giving them one last chance to upgrade before proceeding, and in the process showing them a hint of the site’s actual design as it’s intended to appear.

But of course, since you’re not using IE6 (are you?), you have no idea what that page looks like. So, I thought I’d show it off a bit. Here it is. Enjoy. Or not. Actually, it’s not really intended to be enjoyed, so don’t. (I’m really only posting this link so I can test the HTTP_REFERER link functionality I embedded in it. [And yes, I know the correct spelling is “referrer.” Tell that to whoever created the names of the HTTP host headers. I mean whomever. So there.])

All hail PNG!

According to the official spec, it’s actually pronounced “ping,” which I dislike: “ping” already means something very specific (and very different) in the Internet world. But I’ll go along and stop calling it “pee-en-gee”. Apparently I have to start calling GIF images “jiffs” as well, since that’s what the creator of the format calls it. (Maybe as a form of rebellion I’ll start saying “LIE-nux” — or not.)

Anyway… savvy reader(s) will know I’ve actually been using PNG images featuring the all-important alpha channel transparency for nearly a year on my site; it’s what allowed me to swap in the various 34-themed photos in the old design as an underlay below the logo and navigation bar without having to create separate versions of the logo and navigation button graphics for each separate photo. Alpha channels allow you to build transparency information right into an image, so images can be overlaid directly on each other with complex layering effects, regardless of the color of the background. (This is all exceptionally arcane for anyone who doesn’t do web design, or more generally, graphic design; but to us in the field it’s potentially huge.)

Now, PNG has been around for several years, but almost no sites I’ve seen are really taking advantage of alpha channels yet, and with good — or at least, understandable, if lamentable — reason: Internet Explorer did not properly support PNG alpha channels until version 7, which just came out earlier this year. As a result, even though Firefox and Safari have both been able to display these images properly since their inception, no one could really use the format unless they were willing to have upwards of 90% of their visitors look at garbage.

I for one am willing to have my visitors look at garbage: if they’re using Internet Explorer 6, that’s what they’re dealing with anyway! Hence, for those of you who may still be using IE6, I present my annoying JavaScript alert whenever you enter the site. (The rest of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and be glad for it.)

But now, according to log stats on the sites I’ve developed at work (where I actually have stats to look at), the majority of Internet Explorer users have upgraded to version 7. Combine that with the fact that increased usage of Firefox and Safari (corollary: increased use of Macs) has pushed overall IE traffic down to around 80%, and I felt like the time was ripe to dive into a full-fledged transparency fest with this new web design.

Maybe I’ve just been slipped more of Steve Jobs’ special Kool-Aid, but since I’ve gotten to the point where I almost like Leopard’s translucent menu bar, it only seems fitting that I should honor (or, if you prefer, imitate) this new direction in computer interface design, legibility be damned! (OK, I know Microsoft’s on the transparency train too, and it’s hard to say who’s really pulling the mixed-metaphor cart here; Vista came first but Leopard is still ahead of it, and the whole concept behind Vista’s interface seemed to be another attempt at playing catch-up to Apple. But I digress, as usual.)

I actually no longer have access to any Windows computers that haven’t been upgraded to IE7, so I have no way of knowing what the new pages look like in IE6. I expect they’re pretty terrible. Guess what: blame Microsoft!

All hail PNG!!!

Note: I’ve just discovered that there’s a weird problem with an unexpected background image showing up across the top of the page in Safari 2.x, which is the browser most Mac users are running unless they’ve wisely switched to Firefox or zealously upgraded to Leopard. (In other words, it looks great on my MacBook, but I noticed the problem on SLP’s iBook!) I’m hoping to have it fixed soon… once I figure out where the hell it’s coming from!!!

Site girth expansion

I’ve just finished a modification to the site design. I was starting to feel a bit too confined by the narrowness of the old layout, so I’ve basically kept things intact design-wise, but I’ve expanded the layout to be more suitable to today’s 1024×768-or-greater standard screen resolution. I’ve also bumped up the size of the type slightly.

The only design element that’s noticeably different is the little greenish weirdness at the right end of the photos in the header bar. This was something I spent a great deal of time developing for an old, shortlived design that was part of my quickly-abandoned experiment with running the site on Drupal. I may end up getting rid of it again; I just thought it deserved a second chance.

Now then, if you’ve actually visited this site sometime before, you may find the pages are looking somewhat garbled; sadly that’s the side effect of keeping a lot of the filenames the same; your browser likely has old versions of these files cached. Hit the Refresh button a few times or perhaps clear your cache. I did the Refresh thing, but I had to hit it about 4 times before all of the files actually updated. Sheesh, you’d think I was using a Microsoft product or something, not Firefox!