Theme Playground’s new design

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If you care to, take a minute to step out of your feed reader and have a look at the new design of Theme Playground. It’s been a little while since a fresh design hit the scene here, and it was time for something unique that fit in with the content. It also helps that the new design is keeping me excited to post again!

Current Theme Playground logo

It’s been an interesting run of designs at Theme Playground. Just before this design I was running a version of Mocha Theme, which is now available for sale. For this time around I opted for something a bit louder and less “personal blog-ish”, if that makes sense.

Theme Playground, as it looks today

Theme Playground, as it looks today

Some of my favorite parts of the new design:

  • Threaded comments with a live preview. I’ve been looking forward to implementing threaded comments on this blog, and after releasing that feature on Mocha Theme I included it in this version of Theme Playground as well. The live preview also gives a nice confirmation of what your comment will look like. Give it a try on this post, if you like. I’m using a modified version of the Live Comment Preview Plugin by Brad Touesnard.
  • Increase in social integration. I’ve never really done it before, but it’s been exciting to add my own links for things like Digg, Delicious, and Stumbleupon to each post. You can see the links right under the post content.
  • Featured post slideshow. I included a jQuery featured post slideshow, using the jQuery Cycle Plugin. In my case I’m generating the featured posts using WordPress tags rather than categories, since I tend to remove posts from being featured after they become older.
  • Useful jQuery anchor sliding. I’ve always been a fan of using jQuery to slide to different positions on a page. In fact, I use something like it over on my portfolio. I like the idea of anchor based navigation (jumping to different parts of a page using links) and sliding there just makes it a much more intuitive experience. This technique is used in the footer’s “back to top” link, as well as the links to add a comment on the single post views.

This redesign also brought with it a re-aligning of the post categories, which you can now see listed in the sidebar. I’m still not quite happy with them, as I think they can still be paired down even further, but it’s a start. Splitting categories down too far makes them less useful, I think, so I’m trying to keep them as general as possible. I’ve also been busy adding helpful descriptions to category templates as well, which I hope will add a little bit to each of the category listings (see the “beginning discussions” category for an example).

The most important part about a site’s design is that it is usable and appreciated by its visitors, so I would appreciate any feedback you have for me. This launch is still pretty fresh, so there may still be some little bugs here and there to work out. Let me know if anything seems out of place or confusing to you, and of course let me know what your favorite part of the new design is!