Super Plugin Sale! Your Choice: BOGO or 30% Off »
Web Dev + WordPress + Security

Getting Serious with a New Design

New design in effect at Perishable Press. It’s sort of a hybrid between some of the things I like about the Quintessential theme and some of the best parts of the subsequent Requiem theme. So this new theme is named Serious because it represents a renewed commitment to design, blogging, and everything I love about working on the Web. While I have everything fresh in my mind, here are some of the highlights of the latest incarnation of Perishable Press..

Focus on content

This is the primary motivation for this new design. My previous Quintessential theme was a colorful, psychedelic, post-modern crowd pleaser, but it was also entirely design-centric. It said screamed “look at me,” which was fun and all, but it’s time to get serious, so to speak. With this new design, the focus remains on the content, with every aspect of typography, composition, and imagery working to unify and emphasize the high-quality content that I strive to create. As they say:

Good design doesn’t say “look at me,” it says “look at this.”

Sidebar or super-footer?

Why not both. I absolutely love single-column designs, but there is a certain practicality to having key information available right there next to the article. My Quintessential theme had hundreds of links tucked into the scrolling sidebar panels, and the following Requiem theme went in the opposite direction with only a footer menu and no sidebar at all. With Serious, I wanted to combine the best of both worlds and went with a sidebar for on-site stuff and super-footer for the social-media, friends, and projects stuff.


I gave this one a lot of thought. This is the fourth year of Perishable Press and the 19th redesign, and I have never put any advertisements on the site. I think there are pros and cons of doing so. The obvious benefit is the extra income, but the downside is being stuck with a bunch of uncontrollable material appearing on your site. The money is tempting, but for the time being I have decided to retain my commercial-free integrity.

New Logo

Perhaps the most significant change is the new logo. I tried like the dickens to get that old Rez-font sun logo to fit the bill, but it just wouldn’t gel. After some experimentation, I decided to roll with the triple dropped “e”s and half of the original sun icon. Way back in the days of pen-&-ink drawings and percolated bong hits, the “Perishable” logo was frequently deployed with either dropped letter “e”s, backwards “e”s, or both. Seeing that classic format here on the site is a good reminder.

Nice ‘n clean

One thing that I really wanted to do with this new design is clean things up and stay focused on what’s truly important. Rather than trying to link to everything from the sidebar and footer, I consolidated conceptually related information into second-level pages and just linked to them instead. A good example of this is the site Dungeon, where I give props to friends and software, share my accomplishments, reveal site statistics, and so on. Having all of this stuff on a single page eliminates clutter from the sidebar and footer. There’s just too much content on a site this size to connect it all at the top-level of the hierarchy. I think this new theme makes great strides toward a more streamlined organization.

Color palette

With its white-text on dark-background, the previously active theme (Quintessential) fried a lot of retinas. There is a way to do light on dark, but it’s a delicate balance of hue and contrast. Even just a few shades off and it’s gonna get painful — tracers, ghost text, and bleeding eyeballs in general. After much calculation and testing, I think I conjured up a color palette that’s much easier on the eyes. Using off-white text against rich tones of brown softens the edge without sacrificing contrast. So the readability is improved, and by sticking with only a handful of colors, the design conveys a sense of unification and harmony.

Custom fonts

The typography connoisseur will immediately recognize the use of Museo for headings and Monaco for <pre> and inline code snippets. This is accomplished by the increasingly supported @font-face CSS selector, which makes it possible to display custom fonts directly through the stylesheet. No JavaScript required, but support is either hit or miss as newer versions of popular browsers continue to embrace the functionality. Personally, I think the Museo font looks great. It’s been used on a number of other highly popular sites (including CSS-Tricks), and I predict that it will catch on like wildfire and become the next big font trend.

Uniform link styles

I think it is important that hyperlinks look like actual links. They should be easy to recognize as links, look uniform in appearance, and exhibit the same behavior. As obvious and simple as this sounds, I always find it challenging to accomplish in my designs. Many of my older themes fail in this regard, but the minimalist Requiem theme goes above and beyond with uniform links that are actually blue. The new Serious theme doesn’t go quite that far, but a simple look around shows that the links are definitely uniform.

Other bells & whistles

Instead of going on and on, I’ll try to summarize some of the cool bells & whistles:

  • Lots of progressively enhanced visual effects for the header, sidebar, links, code et al
  • Super-cool <pre> code areas. Following my own advice, I pimped out the pre code with auto-expanding boxes, hover effects, and better IE support.
  • Collapsible Twitter updates with cookies to remember user preference
  • Imported latest images from my graphix archive,
  • Drop caps (in most browsers) on the first paragraph of each article
  • Fancy tooltips courtesy of the awesome qTip jQuery plugin
  • Toggling informational panels to keep everything nice and tidy
  • CSS-based graphical indication for external links
  • Auto-clear/restore input fields to make it all sweet

Plus all sorts of other stuff that I probably shouldn’t have bothered with, but it is so much fun playing with CSS and jQuery that I just couldn’t resist ;)


Of course, all of this fancy-pants design stuff would be pointless if site performance prevents people from participating. To optimize performance for the Serious theme, I tried to do as much client-side and server-side optimization as possible, including everything from image sprites and minified code to content compression and expires headers. You can check the results for yourself using YSlow or similar.

Cross-browser consistency and validation

The most painful part of any decent web design is getting them to look good in as many browsers as possible. To accomplish this, I relied heavily on multiple computers, Adobe Browsershots (which didn’t work that great), and the always helpful Chris Coyier. Overall, I think most of the bugs have been ironed out, but definitely let me know if you see something that looks off, broken or whatever.

As for validation, well I really haven’t bothered with it so far. After the theme is active for awhile, I might check a few pages, but honestly I stopped caring about validation once I realized that I don’t really need it. Not to sound boastful, but when you can code a site like this with Notepad, you don’t need the W3C to hold your hand along the way. Sure validation is great for double-checking your code, but if everything is doing what you want, there is no need to waste too much time trying to ensure strict obedience to every obscure rule in the book.

Feedback appreciated

Let me know what you think of the design and please contact me or leave a comment if you spot anything that looks out of place. Thanks! :)

About the Author
Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Book Author. Secretly Important.
Digging Into WordPress: Take your WordPress skills to the next level.

54 responses to “Getting Serious with a New Design”

  1. Marcel Korpel 2010/01/25 8:17 am

    @Thomas: I like DejaVu Sans Mono and Consolas, too. My comment was just aimed at Courier New as fallback font, because I dislike the looks of it and there exist far more legible fonts on Linux and Windows.

    @Jeff: actually, I did some testing in Windows and the behaviour is the same (by the way, your site degrades nicely on IE6). As Thomas mentions, this happens when the browser width is too small, less than 1040px. I don’t have screen size statistics (especially not for this site), but I think there are still many people around browsing on a 1024×768 monitor, so they will get this behaviour, too. Nonetheless, testing in Linux is good to do. One thing that strikes me is the green font appearing in FF 3.5.7 on Linux, but not in other browsers and not in the same browser version on Windows. I’ll have a look into that, when I sit behind my Linux terminal again.

    Also, I don’t think just adding left padding will solve this problem (of the balloon sticking out of the viewport). As this is implemented as a JavaScript function, you’ll just have to put some extra conditionals in your code, testing if the balloon sticks out of the left or right side of the window and adjusting its position accordingly.

  2. Jeff Starr 2010/01/26 9:29 am

    @Marcel: I thought that the greenish font was because of the Ubuntu LCD rendering package you had installed..? If you do look into that, I would be very interested in hearing about your findings.

    For the left/right padding – I think you may be correct that it would be better to script a solution. I’ll have to check if there is already a way to configure the qTip plugin to do that; if not, I may end up switching to the TipTip plugin (404 link removed 2012/07/11) which does this and looks pretty good in general.

  3. Marcel Korpel 2010/01/27 10:18 am

    Well, I initially thought that could not be the case (the Ubuntu rendering of fonts resulting in greenish looking characters), as in other browsers in Linux (Chromium and Opera) I did not see this strange rendering. But after looking in Firebug and knowing that the colour is actually the same, I just resized the font to something bigger and the correct colour popped up. Perhaps it has something to do with sub-pixel rendering. Anyway, it’s solved.

    About the tooltips: my first thought was to plough through the qTip sources and build an extra test in the JavaScript code. But moving to TipTip seems more sensible, as this plugin renders the tooltips always on a visible place.

    Just one more remark: I noticed that the footnotes on your pages are not clickable, like on Wikipedia. Is this on purpose? Do you dislike within-page links? I don’t like having to scroll down looking for a note. Perhaps a nice tooltip good be a solution, with a within-page link as a fallback for users with JavaScript turned off.

  4. Jeff Starr 2010/01/27 6:16 pm

    So it was only for smaller (looked like 12px) font sizes that the pre text was greenish in Ubuntu/Firefox? Certainly not critical stuff, but good to know about for future designs. Thanks for checking it out :)

    Same thinking on the tooltips thing.. i think it would be easier to just swap out scripts and re-configure/re-style tips as needed. Fiddling with jQuery plugins is always something I regret doing.

    I like the idea of improving my reference links with jump functionality; many of my older articles actually do have cross-linked refs, but coding it manually gets tedious. I would love to find a script that either cross-links <sup> tags automatically or creates a nice tooltip as you describe.

  5. I love the elegance with which you were able to pull such a earthy look off. This is a lovely, content-centered design that still catches the readers attention.

    However, the comment form is rather blah. Perhaps the borders are just too strong. Also, I now have to read you site with “CTRL+” because the font is too small (and I have >20-20 vision).

    Good work!

  6. Jeff Starr 2010/03/20 9:12 pm

    @David: Thanks for the feedback on the design. The next version will include larger fonts and maybe a more “inspiring” comment form ;)

Comments are closed for this post. Something to add? Let me know.
Perishable Press is operated by Jeff Starr, a professional web developer and book author with two decades of experience. Here you will find posts about web development, WordPress, security, and more »
Banhammer: Protect your WordPress site against threats.
All free plugins updated and ready for WP 6.6 dropping next week. Pro plugin updates in the works also complete :)
99% of video thumbnail/previews are pure cringe. Goofy faces = Clickbait.
Crazy that we’re almost halfway thru 2024.
I live right next door to the absolute loudest car in town. And the owner loves to drive it.
8G Firewall now out of beta testing, ready for use on production sites.
It's all about that ad revenue baby.
Get news, updates, deals & tips via email.
Email kept private. Easy unsubscribe anytime.