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The late 2017 site refresh

Alex Roddie
Alex Roddie
3 min read

Yes, I’ve been tinkering with the CSS again. Here’s a summary of the changes.

Since I started this website I have experimented with several different looks, from white text on a black background to animation-heavy Blogger themes. Since switching over to self-hosted WordPress in 2015 I have had far greater control over the layout, and have been on a slow but steady quest to reduce clutter while focusing 100% on a better reading experience.

That almost always means removing stuff. The last big refresh, almost a year ago1, was a major improvement in user experience but I’ve been aware for a while that there was still some way to go. My ideal website is almost entirely text, with as little junk as possible to get between you and reading the stuff you have come to read.2

In the late 2017 refresh I have made the following changes:

Removal of the graphical banner

I’ve wanted to do this for a while. Although the banner gave the site a bit of personality, I’ve long been aware that it instantly screams ‘MOUNTAINEERING!’ at the visitor, which isn’t always the image I want to project. My site plays many roles and not all of them relate to the outdoors. The banner also rendered poorly both on phone screens and very wide displays.

Removing the banner allows me to add more whitespace to the layout, and emphasises the typography. It’s an obvious move in my opinion.

Removal of the card metaphor for individual posts and pages

In all previous WordPress versions, each page or post was presented as a white rectangle against a page of very light grey. The effect was subtle but it performed the important role of separating conceptually distinct pages (i.e. individual posts in the main index view).

I’ve gone back to a pure white background simply because it looks better after the removal of the graphical banner. Now, where conceptually distinct pages need to be separated, I’ve simply added a < hr /> line instead. Sometimes the old ways are the best!

New typography

Out with Lato and Georgia; in with Asul and Lora!3

Why did I make this change? Mainly because, nice and readable as Georgia is, it’s also everywhere, and is not at all distinctive. It was time to pick a new typeface pairing. The goal was to find a combo that was both very readable and distinctive.

Lora is a gorgeous serif typeface that works really well in body copy, and Asul is quite distinctive, with an almost uncial look about it. The closest font to the Asul look I know of is Optima (a long-term favourite of mine).

I really like this typeface pairing and I think it’ll serve me well in future years.

New main menu layout

I actually made this change a couple of weeks ago and have been evaluating it since to gauge its usefulness. I looked into the order of menu items at the top of the page, and realised that ‘Blog’ was the least used, as the default homepage is the blog listing anyway. I decided to put FAQ & Contact first – as I want those new FAQs to be read by as many potential contacts as possible – then simply arranged everything else in a rational order.

The ‘Resources’ menu ties together all my backpacking articles with a new section on writing resources. The idea is for this section to be as extensible as I need.

New tagline

(Again, this one has been in place for a few weeks.)

‘Words, mountains, imagination’ served its purpose well but the time has come to tell visitors what I do right from the start. Now the website does exactly what it says on the tin.

Search results and archive pages have finally been fixed

Since 2015, there has been a long-standing bug in which search results and archive pages displayed a very broken sidebar view between the main page and the footer. I’ve finally got round to fixing that.

You know, the thing that used to serve up three ‘Related Posts’ at the bottom of each page. I never liked it, and have been trying to get rid of it for months. Well, I finally figured out how to do it, so it’s gone!

My data says that most people rarely click on related posts anyway, so I don’t think it will be missed. Most people just want to read the article they came to read and then get on with their lives.

Pending changes

There are a few changes I have yet to implement. I’ve been aware for a while that the Pinnacle Editorial section needs improving, expanding and updating, so that’s next on my list. It needs to work a bit harder for me – and I’ve been meaning to add a selected work history there too. One for next year!

  2. Still very proud to say I have no adverts on here. You’re welcome.
  3. Asul: Lora:

Alex Roddie

Happiest on a mountain. Writer, story-wrangler, digital and film photographer. Editor of Sidetracked magazine (I make the words come out good).


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