I know my posting has been slow almost all of the summer, but if you have not been here in a while and were a regular before take a look around (for that matter, if you are completely new do the same). I have, when I had the time over the last month or so, made a few major changes here on the blog. The biggest things that come to mind are an updated, more modern theme, dropping out a LOT of ads, and just and over all cleaner look. A few other things that may not be as noticeable include re-implementation of a mobile theme and roll back to the basic comment system (with allowance for Facebook and Twitter logins). It was time to be sure and I am happy with it, but give me your thoughts if you have any.
It is a toss-up between the theme change and the limited advertising as to which of the changes are the most noticed when you first get here. Let me touch on the theme first. The old theme had limited support at best, was a little on the dark side, despite have a dark text on the light background that seems to be the preferred, and quite frankly was little heavy with older features, while not up to supporting the new features in the latest few versions of WordPress. The new theme is super light for both load times and overall feel when you get the first front page of the blog. It does a better job of presenting the last few post that have appeared on here in a very nice and concise way without really feeling the need to pull in a flashing picture scroll or something of that nature. By doing that, it allowed one more piece of the widget area to be dropped. Combine that with dropping the links widget (which who really uses that these days anyway?) the whole side bar got a LOT of cleaning up.
Add to that the dropping of the blinking and sometimes animating advertising blocks that were only on rare occasion getting any clicks, much less much in the way of conversion and the blog becomes a much cleaner less distracting experience. You dear readers and users can now do what you and I both want, which is read with minimum interference and distraction. I did leave the Google Adsense area, but only as text, so distractions are at a minimal amount and what does show up seems to more likely be related to what you are reading in the posts anyway. That is also, where the small amount of conversion actually comes from and does help in a small way to support keeping the blog up and running.
As mentioned, one of the other big changes, that you are likely on seeing from a mobile device, was the return of support for mobile devices. I have done limited testing with it, but the module is the one included in the JetPack plugin. It does seem to do a good job of what is advertised, giving a slightly stripped down but very readable version of the blog on multiple mobile platforms. Coming included in JetPack means it likely going to have a pretty good support as new mobile types of platforms come along.
Another thing that I have done, because of support in a different JetPack module is revert back to the normal comment system that is included in WordPress. The biggest reason I went to and tried things like Discus and LiveFyre was the support they offered for allowing logins with both Twitter and Facebook. It seems like both added a pretty good amount of overhead, did not detect spam comments as well as Akismet is able to do, and generally left me feeling like I no longer ‘owned’ or ‘controlled’ my comments (I know that is not the case, but it was the feeling all the same).
Bottom line, all changes that I think are for the better. Take a look around yourself and see what you think. And by all means, drop a comment or something letting me your thoughts and opinions on these changes and anything else we can do to make for a better user experience.
** – Image from the web, but indicated in Public Domain.