TW redesign / Changes

As i posed earlier, we listened about making changes to the site and reverted back to the old site.

This begs the question, what changes should be made?

The theme / backend that is activated is 3 years out of date and hasn’t has any security updates or fixes for over three years.

If anyone has any suggestions for a new theme / template for wordpress, please comment below.

We dont want to tinker too much, but just catching up on maintenance…

44 thoughts on “TW redesign / Changes”

  1. Keep the look and operation as it is please Tim –it is simple and easy and look comprehensible. Perhaps update non-sign in security etc. But it is grand as it is in terms of look and use.

  2. If there are security updates pending and you’re forced to put out a new look to be able to put in the security updates, the security should win.

    If you’ve not done any updates for three years sooner or later, you’re going to be pwned, hijacked, delivering trojans, keyloggers all sorts of ‘interesting’ stuff.

    There will be grumbles, but nothing like as many when you’re having to apologise for security breaches 🙂


    Every effing blog that I follow that has “upgraded” has almost inevitably turned out worse / more difficult to navigate / problems with commenting / et-fecking-cetera!

  4. You just need to manage the site. Put in Shield security (my choice) or Wordfence (popular but heavy) as a matter of urgency. Some security anyway.
    Again I thing WP super cache is heavy and prefer something like Swift lite.
    Dreamhost says they offer free SSL certificates. If not get a Lets Encrypt one (free) to secure the site in Google’s eyes.
    Run the newest PHP you can. Given the age of the theme this might only be 7.1 or 7.2.
    Use Manage WP to keep everything updated.
    Start looking for a new theme as this hasn’t been updated for over 2 years and WordPress has been significantly updated since then. Something like Newspaper will do both sites and look and act differently (as you wish) on both. (Or a page builder like Elementor is an easy if not ideal route.)

  5. @Baron. I’m a fan of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school of thought too. Sadly if the sites are not updated, (and sometimes this means change), they will break and/or be hacked.

  6. I think the principle to hold in mind when looking at a new design (if one were needed for security reasons) is that its the comments that brings people here, not (dare I say) it the actual posts………while the posts create the ethos of the site, a free wheeling free market libertarian type vibe, its the comments that are the real entertainment. So all changes need to be looked at through that lens – does this change make commenting and getting involved easier or harder? The abandoned setup was hopeless on that front – because there was no mention of comments on the front page, it looked dead. Any new design needs to put the comments right up front, have things like Trending Threads, Latest Comments, that sort of thing. Also stuff that makes navigating the comment threads easier, especially older threads – a decent comment thread can easily die because new posts push it to the next page and people lose connection with it.

  7. “I’m a fan of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school of thought too.”
    Likewise. But nothing seems to deter the geeky kids with the chin beards. You will have the new leading edge format, even if it sucks.
    One of my domain providers just did it with their webmail. Went over to the preview pane format, á la freemail. Yeah. OK if you’re a tosser uses freemail to write to chums. Not so clever if your incoming’s got 18 digit order codes, the subject field crops. Now, instead of knowing which mail is about which, every mail has to be previewed. OK, so now I use a mail client. But why the upgrade? Or at least give a choice People who own domains aren’t freemail tossers.

  8. Richard,

    Whatever you decide, as I said in a post earlier, test it first on willing punters before it swaps into live here. With Contins it took a fair old while to get it from first release to something practical, you really don’t want to be taking that kind of approach with a live site.

    FWIW – although I like the look and feel of this, the features are more relevant than the look: count buttons, latest comment pages, easy posting, and lots more.

    Ie, it’s familiarity, people will easily adapt to improvements / minor changes in look and feel (rather than wholesale retrograde change, and definitely not those bloody stupid great big green blockquotes) if all the key features are there..

    That might be a question worth asking up front – what do people regard as important features?

  9. Threaded comments would be nice, as would a way to keep track of what is new i.e. something to note the time and date of the most recent addition to the comments.
    Please get rid of that outbrain crap, I switched to using Opera with ad blocking because of that.

  10. @BIS

    If it’s 3 years behind on security updates then it’s broke.

    About 30 years ago I worked with a guy who had a thinish wispy chin beard. He decided to leave the team to go freelance programming. At his leaving do I asked him if, now he was going to be rich from contract programming, he’d be able to afford a proper beard. He didn’t answer…

    But not all geeky types have chin beards.

  11. Requisites

    – quick to load and read
    – comments are easy to find
    – comments are easy to add

    – better search!
    – have the bloody thing remember my ‘Name’ and email

    – I don’t know the ins n outs of WordPress.
    – I don’t know whether it’s feasible, but I’d tend to want to go for a secure hosting service with my own content – that is, use some app to create the goodies and have it served from something safe. But I don’t have any suggestions for either.

  12. A conservative site does not need the ‘theme’ changing. Certainly not every few years. Perhaps think about changing that in a couple of centuries?

    A conservative site, however, ought to be strong on defence. So make sure your security is properly up to date……

  13. Look at the sites that have an active commentariat. You are familiar with some of them like El Reg. Date and number of comments up front with the headline is important when catching up. Voting, not so much.

  14. Threaded comments would be nice, as would a way to keep track of what is new i.e. something to note the time and date of the most recent addition to the comments.

    Problems with threaded comments:

    1) After a couple of replies, the width of the comment can become so restrictive it makes the text unreadable.

    2) It’s next to impossible to see which are new comments since last you looked.

    At least with flat comments, you just scroll to where you left off and continue reading.

    As for the rest, I agree with Jim above. My workflow for this site is to go straight to the thread URLs from an RSS reader: I never look at the front page. Interesting threads stay open in a tab until they dry up; I’ll refresh that tab every now and then to see if there are new comments.

    For ConTel, I would suggest that it should look more “professional”, with more of the “See also…” type features that just get in the way of the more bloggy style content for Tim’s personal site. I agree with the comment about the large upper-case green block quotes being hard to read, but that’s a style choice. I think on the whole that site worked quite well, though I never read the comments section (I filter out things like disqus, so that didn’t bother me 🙂 )

  15. @Mr Ecks, Baron Jackfield, bloke in spain, PF,


    Nothing needs changed

    @Steven Crook

    Security is overrated by fear-mongers and not important here, there are no logins or personal data stored

    Site works with Javascript Off which is a large security plus

    Chrome, Firefox etc are good at blocking trojans, keyloggers etc

    @Fatmatt October 5, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Newspaper was the awful template Tim foisted on us

  16. Problems with threaded comments:

    2) It’s next to impossible to see which are new comments since last you looked.

    At least with flat comments, you just scroll to where you left off and continue reading.

    It might be a minority view but 100% agreed, it’s much quicker that way. And when people do “reply” on here, many tend to quote what they are responding to, which takes away some of the need for threading.

  17. Site is fine, just the way it is.
    It’s content that counts: yours & the comments, NOT the bling.
    Prettifying the format just slows down load times. No Javascript is great.

    Re. threaded comments: avoiding them helps keep the comments on track, wrt the blog topic. Threaded comments branch into endless sub arguments. And hopeless to revisit and catch up.

  18. I have agree to the comments that say if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.

    Threaded comments are useful if you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of people, which isn’t the case.

    Keeping up to date with security is necessary , but only really if you have something important to protect. You’re not storing credit card details or personal information so I don’t think you have to worry there.

    It’s a personal preference if you want to update the look and feel of things, but again, unless what you want to change to is a significant improvement (which in this case I don’t think it is) then why break continuity?

    I’m happy with things the way they are.

    Look at El Reg.
    When they changed things, pageviews fell off a cliff edge.
    I rarely look there any more sadly. It simply doesn’t have the same zeitgeist any more.

    Simplicity and useability have a lot going for them.

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    A long time ago comments were numbered and the total displayed at the top of the page. That was really useful to see which pages were still active.

    Agree with comments about threaded comments.

    Latest comments in the sidebar would be useful, especially for older pages.

  20. >This begs the question, what changes should be made?

    Two things:

    (1) Make clearer when you’re quoting.

    (2) Don’t use ‘begs the question’ to mean ‘raises the question’. 🙂

    Otherwise everything’s great.

    But I understand if you think you can get a bigger — or even bigger — audience with a site upgrade. And fix the security issues. Maybe make a bit more money from blogging, which you totally deserve. Understood. If you have to do it, I hope it all goes well.

    I would, though, avoid a layout where you have to click on a post to read all of it, because you write so many short posts there’s no need not to have them all out on the page in full ready to read there and then. The ‘Click to read full post’ function is for bloggers who write long posts.

  21. Pendantry corner:

    “This begs the question, what changes should be made?”

    Begging the question is the logical fallacy of assuming what you set out to establish. It is not the same as suggesting or raising a question.

  22. Think you need to realise that this consultation process is coming very late in the day.

    The smaller blogs depend on the loyalty of their readers.I am a big fan of this blog.

    But when you just hit us with a radical new layout, completely unannounced, the shock pisses us off. You should at least show you care about your readers by flagging up such a change a few weeks in advance.

    When you launch a website such as CT and then just dump it without notice, meaning that from one day to the next visitors get a series of placeholder pages and error messages. Well, that pisses us off completely.

    The Worstall USP is knowing better than anyone else and ridiculing the dim. Very good. But your lack of user management skills has just made you look like complete amateurs and damages your brand.

    Must try harder.

  23. I apologise for my previous intemperate post. Now my breakfast is working its magic I shall try and write something which I hope you will find helpful. Here goes.

    1- I would certainly try to implement changes incrementally, avoiding big bang remodelling. An immediate change you might make which would upset nobody would be to…

    2-… dump the lefthand column.
    a- You can do this easily if you put the ‘Archives’ panel on its own page, accessible from the top horizontal menu – there can’t be many visitors who want to go to back to 2007. THe top menu is anyway very underused.

    b- Well, categories are very nice, but I can’t imagine many readers use them, certainly not at every visit. You could put them in the righthand column in a small scroll/pulldown box.

    c- The ad for the CT and the donate button can just as well go into the righthand column, too.

    d- The various blog lists don’t need to be on the front page – in fact, who uses them these days? Like the archives, I would put them on a separate page accessed from the top menu.

    3- The main font seems to have got bigger and more legible (thank you!) but we decrepits cannot cope with a 10pt/13px sans-serif font in pale green. Please fix this if you do nothing else.

    4- Sooner or later you are going to have to change the layout to an adaptive one that works on any kind of viewport format. Getting rid of the lefthand column will be a start, but you will also need to use scaleable, relative dimensions such as ems for everything – px went out ten years ago. Tiny typefaces are no use on smartphones and tablets, particularly when they are links (impossible for the fat fingered).

    That’s my input. I hope it helps.

    [As far as CT is concerned, I am not even going near that without a few drams inside me.]

  24. Agree that linear comments are better. A quote button can be useful to avoid copy/paste tedium. That’s easy on the desktop but a pain on mobile.

    Speaking of which, mobile is really important. I suspect that most of your readership is via mobile now (I could be wrong). Don’t make it an afterthought – I reckon it should be your first.

    The existing simplicity of your site is appreciated. Keeping things like fonts, spacing and colours is important, as far as practical/appropriate – when a site changes all that it can be jarring.

    Personally I found category tags useful. It’s often the way a new visitor explores the site – read one comment you like, explore a series on the same topic, then you’re hooked.

  25. Have taken @FoS advice and removed the left hand column it makes the content area bigger and easier to read, categories and archives have been moved to the right hand column in drop-downs.

    To be able to have logins remembered we would need to use some form or java or have you creating accounts. Looking into this further.

    Added some amazin ads

    Will leave it there.

  26. Richard

    Good grief! This is the first time anyone has taken my advice in the last 20 years at least (he’ll be out on parole soon).

    Well done. You are right, losing the LH column has opened the whole page out – his nibs can scribble away to his heart’s content now.

    I was a bit worried when I sent my suggestions because I realised that you were after advice about WordPress templates – but you seem to have cracked that nicely.

    Trebles all round, I think.

  27. @PF October 5, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    +1 Threaded bad

    @Tim the Coder October 5, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    +1 No Javascript Good, Threaded Bad

    @BlokeInBrum October 5, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    +1 security not an issue and reminding Tim W of rapid decline and slow death of El Reg, in a hospice now

    @FoS October 6, 2019 at 6:15 am

    +1 should have been done – it’s new template/css entry not duplicate site

    your lack of user management skills has just made you look like complete amateurs and damages your brand.

    Nails it

  28. @FoS October 6, 2019 at 7:11 am

    An immediate change you might make which would upset nobody

    Rather presumtuos

    a. Half done

    b. OK

    c. 50/50

    d. Disagree

    3. Font now smaller?

    @PF October 6, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Yep, History on Left removed

    Yesterday Tim was saying “I (we? is he non-binary?) had listened and reverted to normal. What changes would you like?”

    Nobody only FoS said “Remove history/archive”, but proviso: and relocate to menu bar

    Yet a few hours later – boom, it’s gone. Strange behaviour

  29. @Richard October 6, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Login and Javascript – don’t look into it, say NO. K.I.S.S

    Archive Page from top menu bar – then one can right-click, new tab. Drop down means back and forwards pita

  30. +1 security not an issue

    Security is always an issue. Even if it’s only to prevent malware being included on every page.

    Consequences of that happening include having Chrome and Firefox blacklist the site. Probably IE and edge too, but no-one with any sense uses either of those.

  31. Discourse is a ‘flat but threaded’ forum tool which works well, but integrating it could be a bummer.

    Ars Technica manages just by making it easy to quote the comment one is answering.

  32. Tim,

    I’m on this site most days but often don’t look at the comment, and rarely post.

    For me the ease of use on this site is that the page loads once and I can scroll down and read/skim everything new. The update you did ment clicking links and waiting for pages to load, just to skim something. I think Guido did a similar thing a few years ago (to maximise revenue?) and changed back pretty quick.

    It’s the same reason I didn’t really read ConTel. Content was good, I just don’t like having to click, wait for the page to load, skim, move on.

    Not sure what the solution is for ConTel. For here you gotta keep the ability to see everything on one page.

  33. @Bloke in Wales October 7, 2019 at 8:07 am

    No javascript = no malware

    Good management = no malware

    Protect yourself, don’t expect others to protect you

  34. @Richard

    One person: FoS requested archive move to menu bar

    Then the change was made – You moved to right drop down

    It is not good, PCs have widescreens now, but reading portrait is easier. Left column solves this. Jeez, even El Reg knows that.

    Hence why books, mags, newspapers, letters etc are portrait

    Revert please and in future use beta.

  35. @Pcar @Richard


    You try to delegitimise Richard’s change by repeating that only one person (me) suggested it, when in fact only one person (you) opposes it. Richard had the casting vote and used it.

    Just agreeing or disagreeing isn’t sufficient – we need some reasoning.

    Something had to happen to the design of this website. Richard was quite right to note that it needed some TLC. My initial objection was that the TLC had been done with a sledgehammer, not a pair of tweezers. But the principle still holds: something had to happen.

    More and more people are browsing websites on smartphones and tablets. The old days of spreading screen real estate across a broad, static canvas have gone. You will notice on modern websites that their layout adapts to the dimensions of the platform.

    Three static columns won’t work any more. Even the new two column solution can only be regarded as an intermediate step, since the contents of the RH column cannot be wrapped in any meaningful way. Richard is on the right path here.

    Whenever you redesign a website, you annoy someone – that was the reason I argued for incremental redesign. The average visitor to the site probably arrives once a day, reads the guru’s latest words of wit and wisdom and then moves on. As long as this basic functionality is there, most visitors will be happy.

    All the other stuff – categories, blog rolls, latest posts and comments – are really low traffic and shouldn’t be taking up valuable screen space. If Richard wanted to go to the trouble of collecting some metrics of who clicked what he could, but why bother? Modern websites are putting all this stuff (with the exception of latest comments) away from the main reading space. People who want them can find them with a click or two.

    The information architecture of the new design is intuitively clear to all visitors: the main reading section in the broad LH column; all the other functional stuff in the narrow RH column. I really do not understand why you need two columns of functional stuff.

    Nor do I understand your remarks about ‘reading portrait’. The concept of portrait and landscape makes little sense on many different viewports with many different aspect ratios. You can change the proportions of your browser in any way you like.

    I don’t wish to be rude, but your remark ‘Hence why books, mags, newspapers, letters etc are portrait’ just displays your ignorance. The basic metric that governs the presentation of ANY text is line length – no one wants to waggle their eyes or even their heads from side to side in order to read a line. Very short lines are also quite annoying. After choosing a comfortable line length, then a font size has to be chosen that is as readable. At this point we then start discussing serif and san-serif faces and off we fly into designer heaven.

    The basic motion in reading in a computer browser is vertical scrolling, so the viewport is ipso facto portrait. You seem to imply that the new design is landscape – which I find incomprehensible.

    Your remark ‘PCs have widescreens now’ shows that you are completely out of date. It is true that, as PC monitors increased in size, websites also spread out horizontally. But this trend stopped around 2010 when smartphone and tablets started to be used. The trend of the previous decade had to be reversed and good web sites changed their designs to adapt to whatever viewport was displaying them.

    I was involved in managing such a change for a global enterprise during this period. Your grumbling reminds me of the opposition we met from the various divisions of the company who all wanted their piece of screen real estate on the home page.

    IMO Richard’s changes were the right ones (and not just because I suggested them). They have improved the appearance and usability of the site without upsetting users (apart from you) with too much innovation at once. I also think he is right to leave it as it is for a while and take some time to ponder what to do next. The goal is to end up with a web interface that displays well and readably on all platforms.

  36. No javascript = no malware

    Not true. Not by a long way.

    Good management = no malware

    Good management includes keeping everything on the server up to date, from the CMS through the web server down to the OS. And sometimes updates will be disruptive to the look of the site, that’s just the way it is.

    Protect yourself, don’t expect others to protect you

    Sure. But don’t assume that just turning off javascript is enough.

  37. FoS

    Not disagreeing with some of your comments, but:

    “Something had to happen to the design of this website. Richard was quite right to note that it needed some TLC”

    isn’t true, it was made clear that security was the primary reason that change needed to happen (ie nothing to do with optics) and, separately, whilst some sensibly mentioned smartphones etc, quite a few others did suggest that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it as it was (ie it wasn’t “just” Pcar).

    And if you think that the comments are “really low traffic” (yes, yes, many of us may well be low content!), then (imo) I think you may have missed the point as to why the site works?


    FoS insists it should only be “a click or two away”, hence, where is:

    It had the last 20 comments – and full comments, not just who commented (it would be great if it was more than 20) – and It used to be on the left hand side. Invaluable to me, no idea if your metrics say mostly unused or not. It’s still working fine, but where’s the link for it?

  38. @PF

    ‘And if you think that the comments are “really low traffic”’

    I wrote:

    ‘All the other stuff – categories, blog rolls, latest posts and comments – are really low traffic’,

    which in my head meant

    ‘All the other [functional] stuff – categories, blog rolls, latest posts and [latest] comments – are really low traffic’

    Sorry, this could have been clearer, but then I was certainly not suggesting moving comments away.

    I also explicitly excluded the latest comments listing: ‘all this stuff (with the exception of latest comments)’ since it is a function that I can imagine being quite useful to a lot of visitors.

    Hope that clears it up.

  39. @PF

    Richard wrote in in his article: ‘The theme / backend that is activated is 3 years out of date ‘

    Your observation ‘isn’t true, it was made clear that security was the primary reason that change needed to happen (ie nothing to do with optics)’ is not accurate.

  40. FoS 12.30

    Got it – fair point…

    FoS 12.33

    Actually, I did read Richard say that at some point (primary reason etc)! If I misread it (I can’t be bothered to go back and check where it was), then my apology.

  41. @FoS

    Just agreeing or disagreeing isn’t sufficient – we need some reasoning.

    I provided reasoning:

    PCs have widescreens now, but reading portrait is easier. Left column solves this. Jeez, even El Reg knows that.

    Hence why books, mags, newspapers, letters etc are portrait

    Tim & Richard should have left alone and worked on device specific based on OS, Browser & Screen Res as Youtube does. YT drops right column if screen res not sufficient.

    Something had to happen to the design of this website.


    It worked, nobody was demanding change

    As others suggested, trial it changes

    @PF October 8, 2019 at 9:55 am


    FoS now digging

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