March 25, 2009

Site Redesign Planning - Most Ugly RPG Blog Award

I WON!!! The Most Ugly RPG Blog Award!

OK, just kidding... but I do have a very strong desire to eliminate the busy, distracting nature of this blog's layout and design. The problem is that I have very little time to tinker around with CSS and HTML for hours on end. So what do you think I should do?

Drop blogger and jump to WordPress? Or stay here and just redesign using one of bloggers templates?

Fire up my own hosting service and get back into PHP? My mousefinger groans in pain at the thought of hacking php again.

So, since I don't have all the time in the world... should I use a free template or purchase one? Are purchased WordPress templates "worth it"?

Is there anything about my current site design that you like? (I'm so sick of looking at it, I usually use my feedreader to check the layout of my posts...)

My goal is simple: to improve The Core Mechanic by improving the reader's "experience" through increasing the blog's functionality. Simplicity, readability, functionality are the words that make me go "Yeah... I want that".

Any feedback you have, positive or otherwise, is very much appreciated.


  1. I use a free template in Wordpress and I rather like it, but I'm poor. There are, however, dozens upon dozens of amazing free templates you can get into your wordpress installation (if you are using a self-hosted wordpress).

    However, I think you should just stick to blogger right now and check their free templates.

  2. Hello lad, as a small recommendation I would suggest you list exactly what you seek to accomplish (as far as the user experience goes) with your site. Make this a very explicit list, for example try to avoid:

    1- Great navigation options.

    And instead go for..

    1- Easy to use navigation, don't want the users to have to scroll more than one screen height for navigational controls, want to have controls both on the top of the page and on the bottom or quick access to navigation at the end of every article... want indications of where the user is in the structure of the site and want easy ways to navigate by topic, date or particular content.. and so on.

    The least work you should do is to be clear about what you want, which is a base requisite for actually getting it. Once you've done that, do try the free templates offered by blogger or any other host (I've had experience with blogger, wordpress and recently drupal and personally I find my preferences going in a reverse order: drupal, wordpress, blogger.)

    I can also offer some personalhelp (free of charge of course) although you'd have to put up with the fact that my partner and I are currently quite busy.

    In any case, I hope you can solve the issue to your satisfaction.


    PS: I think I never said congrats on the book, so congrats on the book!

  3. I asked the same question some time back after I got sick of my own template and fiddled around with it lately.

    There aren't really a lot of good clean free blogger templates (as far as my Google-fu is concerned) so this is probably where wordpress would win out. Also wordpress seems to work better with the RPGBN than blogger (like not getting de-featured posts, '&' don't show up on the RPGBN feed and not having your html codes spill all over your post in the RPGBN feed).

    Since you're self hosting, i guess you won't have much problems switching between wordpress or blogger but keeping your current template is really the easy way out. Blogger is still serviceable and it makes a real difference to me if you play around with the colors, fonts and layouts as far as your template allows you to.

  4. @QuestingGM: I have Wordpress and several of my featured articles were dropped.

    @Jonathan: It's all a trade-off, and I'll agree with Wyatt here and say try to squeeze as much out of Blogger as you can. If you do that and are still not satisfied, go self-hosted Wordpress (because you'll still be disappointed with There are plenty of decent free themes for WP (and it is fairly easy to change the look & feel through CSS).

  5. I took one of blogger's templates and tweaked it - with plans to continue tweaking it over time. It was simple and saved me a LOT of time over building something from scratch.

    Just remember, it's the content that matters most, not the various widgets and gizmos available for the sidebar.

  6. I started Pens & Swords on Blogger, but quickly moved to Wordpress once I went self-hosted. I tend to customize whatever template I start with, but found Wordpress easier to work with than Blogger. I also like the plethora of plugins you can add to Wordpress.

    It really comes down to what features you want for your blog. I consider Subscription options (RSS and email, at least), Popular Posts, Recent Comments, tag clouds, and drop-down menu archives required features.

  7. I think Wordpress is better when it comes to design, I keep looking for a cool desing on blogger and can't find any, wordpress have a lot cool ones

  8. The genie of graphic design appears and says:
    Your primary info (blog entries) and secondary data (ads,widgets) divide the color-less screen equally...this is bad. Look for a template that establishes visual hierarchy, which will be clean and easy to navigate. Topping it with a unique title banner helps too.

  9. From user POV, commenting on Wordpress is much easier than accomplishing the same feat on blogger/blogspot, where it is something of a pain.

  10. I fine Wordpress infinitely better than Blogger in terms of functionality.

    For Dungeon's Master we use the Thesis Theme which I purchased. It's clean, easy to follow, easy to modify (if you know how to code, which I don't, yet) and has good support with a new version being released in the next few weeks.

    If you are self-hosting I do believe Wordpress is the way to go. The admin screens have great tools for tracking etc.

    I recommend you create a list of the features and functions that you want as the author and do the same for what features you want your readers to have. Find the platform and theme that matches your requirements.

  11. Maybe you could just try cutting back on the ads and other plug-ins cluttering 2 of your 3 columns.

  12. Your blog to me is a single column on the left of the page. I might notice the header graphic but if the design ever mattered to me it was when it was new, and now I just look at the posts.


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