Monthly Archives: May 2006

The unusable interface

Sigh. Although my profession as a designer in a corporate in-house design group tends to push me towards more and more usable interface designs in an attempt to make what we design much easier for people to use, I, in some sort of cosmic irony, seem to have messed up my blog installation so it no longer displays correctly.

In the process of trying to fix it, I’ve discovered that all of the themes I have tried are running into the same problem. Unfortunately, it thus seems I may have to teach myself PHP in order to be able to fix the %@$#&%#@ thing.

Which does bring up something else. Ok, this theme is free (and it is very nicely designed – I love it when it works) and even though it’s just wrong to complain about something you get for, well, nothing, here I am about to rant. I’ve investigated bunches of these themes. They all have a great big handful of page pieces, all done in separate files caled things like sidebar.php, header.php and index template page.php and so forth, and there is absolutely no way the average person can understand how they work without learning to program. And for the most part, the people who write them and post them on the web to be used don’t tell you squat about how they are used (or, more importantly fixed or modified). I mean, not a word.

Way back before the beginning of time, when I was being taught how to program a computer, we had it drilled into our brains that everything we did ought to be filled with comments so the next generation of people who dealt with our work would be able to understand what’s going on. (Actually, I also have to admit that this theme’s files may be commented to some limited degree. I don’t know. They’re written in German. But there’s not a lot of German in there.)

The last theme I used had a really nice picture of a dog on the beach in the header. It was nice. I liked it. I found the file where the images were specified and found the name and size of the dog header image. So I took something I’d actually photographed, tinkered with it and resized it to be the exact same size as the dog picture. I named it headerimage1.jpg (the one of the dog was headerimage.jpg, so I knew that was safe) and put it in the same folder as the dog. Then I changed the name in the header file confidently and refreshed my pages fully expecting to see my photo there instead of Fido. Wrong. I got nothing. No photo at all. Zippo. Nada. So I changed my file name to be the same as the dog’s photo. No help. Nothing ever worked. I used that dratted dog photo up until I changed to this style.

That’s life, I guess.