Trying out a new look

I’m trying out another new look for this blog. This design will probably evolve over time, but I am excited about the new direction — most significantly, the new colors, and the custom fonts using @font-face in CSS. The fonts are from a site I just discovered and am very excited about: The League of Moveable Type (no relation to Movable Type, the blogging software).

Of course, Internet Explorer won’t support it, so the fonts degrade to more common, standard, and boring options.

Let me know what you think!

Fun with site usage stats

OK, “fun” may be an exaggeration, but it is interesting to look at these stats for room34.com courtesy of Google Analytics.

The usage statistics that are always of the most interest to web designers and developers are the web browser and operating system breakdown among site visitors. “Conventional wisdom” is that Windows makes up about 90-95% of most sites’ users (with Mac OS X making up almost all of the rest), and that among Windows users, Internet Explorer is at about 80-90%, with Firefox making up the bulk of the rest, while on the Mac about 90-95% are using Safari and the rest are on Firefox.

The stats for my site paint a much different picture. Now, granted, I am probably by at least a couple of orders of magnitude the most frequent visitor to my site. I can accept that. So that means Mac OS X/Safari should skew high in the results. But just how high? Let’s take a look.

The following are room34.com stats from the past month, January 19 to February 18.

Web Browsers

Here’s the breakdown of web browser usage among my site’s visitors:

Site Usage: Web Browsers

Firefox appears to be winning this war, with Safari close behind and Internet Explorer strong, but decisively in third place. Chrome trails far behind in fourth place, but I get a twisted pleasure from seeing Opera disappearing into irrelevance.

Operating Systems

And now for the operating systems:

Site Usage: Operating Systems

Well, how about that? There are enough other people looking at my site that Windows manages to still be the most widely used OS, though its 56% share is far below the roughly 92% share it (supposedly) holds among the general populace of computer users. And what do you know, the iPhone is third! Actually, iPhone and iPod should be identified together, since they run the same OS. I’m not sure why Google breaks them out (but doesn’t break out something much more useful: the different versions of Windows). Look at #7: the Wii! Sweet. Those were not from me. I must confess I’ve never heard of Danger Hiptop, but it’s obviously a mobile OS. Perhaps I should care, at least 0.04% of the time. (That works out to about 2.9 hours a month. Considering the average time on my site is about 3 minutes, one could [carelessly] deduce that Danger Hiptop users like to spend nearly 60 times the average amount of time per visit!)

OS/Browser Combinations

And now, all together:

Site Usage: OS/Browser Combinations

It’s no surprise that the Windows/IE combination manages to land the top spot, but it is surprising that the combo’s share is less than 29%. I’m a little surprised that Windows/Firefox also edges out Mac/Safari, although I should be glad that I represent, at most, about 1/5 of the visits to my own site. (I’m sure it’s actually only about half that!) Fully 12% of visitors to my site are coming to it on an iPhone or iPod touch. That’s incredible. And almost none of those are me. I guess it’s time to make sure I’ve optimized for that platform! I think this represents a turning point in the viability of mobile browsers, and we web designers and developers had best take notice.

Putting my money where my mouth is. OK, not money, but code. And not mouth, but… typed words.

On my Tools page, I tout my use of jQuery, which is true (I do use it), but up to now I wasn’t actually using it on my own site. Like the unkempt barber, I was always too busy cutting everyone else’s hair and not my own. And by hair I mean websites. And by cutting I mean building. So, sort of the opposite of cutting. But (as usual) I digress.

Before, the Web 2.0-ish, AJAX-ified, buzzword*-izationalized features of my site were kind of a hodgepodge of built-in WordPress features, homebrewed JavaScript and partially-implemented and or modified plug-ins.

Now I’m trying to streamline and consolidate it all on jQuery and, when applicable, jQuery-based WordPress plugins, dropping the last vestiges of Scriptaculous and prototype.js (oh how they’ve served me well). To that end, I’ve changed my navigation menus from my own quick-and-dirty style to something jQuery-based and unnecessarily showy. (I may drop the sliding animation once it starts to annoy me, which will be in about 14 minutes.)

I’ve also finally addressed my annoyance with the less-than-amazing new gallery feature in WordPress 2.5. Granted, it’s way better than what I was using before, but I really don’t like how clicking a thumbnail loads another blog page that just contains the larger version of the photo, with the photo’s filename as the title. Yuck. But I found a nice jQuery-based lightbox plug-in that does exactly what I wanted. Now anywhere on my site where I’ve got a link directly to an image, that image loads in a lightbox layer instead of redirecting to another page or just a blank window. (And I didn’t even have to add a bunch of rel="lightbox" attributes to my old code like before! [And even better, I didn’t have to take out the ones I had already added!!!!])

So… well, you are either a web designer/developer, in which case you are ever-so-slightly interested, or you’re not, and you’re not. But I am, and I am, and I am very pleased with the results so far!

And the last thing I have to say is, given my inclination to talk in circles tonight solely to amuse myself, it’s probably a good idea that I decided to spend the evening tinkering with my own site rather than working on a client’s project!

* I just love how the page I linked to notes that “This page may not work with Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.xx.” Only on a page whose URL contains both .edu and a tilde. I just installed Multiple IE in my new copy of Windows last night, so maybe I should fire up IE 3.1 and see if he’s right.

The iPokédex is here!

iPokédexYes, I am into Pokémon. Way more than any 34-year-old could possibly justify. At least I have a kid I can use as my excuse. But it’s getting pretty serious. First the DS video games, now the trading card game, and of course I will sometimes watch the TV show and DVDs with him.

If you know anything about Pokémon (or, for those of you over the age of 10, who don’t), you know there are a lot of them. In fact, the sheer, staggering proliferation of them seems to be the main point, or at least a shrewd marketing tactic. As a result, there’s a lot of information to know about them, and thus arose the idea of the “Pokédex,” or Pokémon Index. The Pokédex is both an element in the games and the TV show, and a tool for fans, to store and retrieve information about all of the various Pokémon.

That’s all well and good, but what I really wanted was a version that was always at my fingertips, i.e. a version that works on my iPhone. Strangely there seemed to be no iPhone-friendly Pokédex out there. I can understand why an official one wouldn’t exist, what with Nintendo’s reluctance to license their brands to other hardware manufacturers (a smart move when you consider the disaster that resulted the one and only time they tried it), and especially when you consider that the iPhone is now essentially a competitor to the Nintendo DS.

Anyway… the point of all of this is that I’ve built my own iPhone-friendly Pokédex, which I am oh-so-creatively calling the iPokédex. Don’t bother going to ipokedex.com though. (Yeah, I have no idea either.) I may eventually register a unique domain name for it (assuming I don’t get sued in the meantime), but for now you can find it here at this relatively pithy URL:

room34.com/pokemon

Enjoy!

WordPress, I love you, but you drive me crazy

What’s even more extremely current than “bleeding edge”? Well, whatever it is, I’m not it. But I still try to keep my software as current as possible, and that includes updating WordPress whenever a new version is out. Most of the time, the difference is negligible, of course. Other than the major transformation of the admin interface with WordPress 2.5, very little actually changes as far as your site appears to the outside world. Which is good, for the most part, because you don’t really want unexpected changes on your site just because the underlying software is changed. It should all keep working just like it did before.

And there’s the problem: usually the only things I notice that are different when I run a WordPress update are things that are broken. That, and the fact that it’s a major pain to have to update the entire file set whenever a few changes are made. (It would be easy if I had terminal access to my server so I could upload the tarball, but no dice. I have to upload all n-thousand files individually.) So far I haven’t been able to find a reliable source listing exactly which files are modified from version to version.

That aside, what really frustrates me is when I do an update, like the 2.5.1 update that was released last week, and discover that none of my navigation works anymore. I still have no idea exactly what they did, but the old URL rewrites I was using — /%category%/%post_id% — crapped out. It seems like the %category% variable isn’t supported anymore, but I can’t find any documentation of that kind of change (nor can I comprehend the logic behind it, if it was in fact intentional).

Anyway, I discovered along the way that pretty much any of the rewrite schemes (at least, the 3 or 4 standard ones) seem to work, regardless of the one you’ve chosen as your “real” scheme. This makes sense because if you change the scheme, old links from other sites will still work. But my chosen custom scheme does not, anymore. So after some angry fiddling around, I settled on one of the standard schemes that’s almost like what I was using before, and everything seems copacetic, for now.