June 13, 2009

Notes on the New Squidoo Themes

As all Squidoo members know, the site got a makeover recently. The SquidU forums are full of discussions regarding the new themes. I thought I'd write down some of my own thoughts regarding the changes.

Whitespace in long lenses

The old "max" style had a divider between the content area and the sidebar, as well as colored page background. As a result, even longer lenses looked alright. Most of the new themes however have no divider between content and sidebar, or even white background throughout all the lens except the header and footer. The themes seem to fall under three categories:

1) "All white" themes like Purple People Eater, Paintball and The Professor. I like the nice clean look, but all that white can be overwhelming especially if the lens is long.

2) Themes with white content area & sidebar like the Default, Gone Camping and Easy Street. These themes have a white sidebar and content with no divider between them and a colored page background. The main problem I see with these lenses is that after the sidebar ends, the content looks weird because of all the empty white space on the right. If anything, it looks even worse than "all white" lenses!

3) Themes where the sidebar is separated from the content. There are only two such themes at the moment, namely Moments of Zen and the Highlighter. In Moments of Zen, there's literally no sidebar after it ends which I think is the best solution (you can see an example here). In the Highlighter, the sidebar is a different color (gray) than the white content area which I think looks nice as well (example here).

My favorite themes at the moment are the Moments of Zen and Easy Street. I would use Highlighter as well, if it weren't for the weird yellow background behind the titles. I'd love to see more themes based on Moments of Zen and Highlighter (same layout, but different colors) since that would solve the white space problem nicely and provide more choice (the bleak gray of Moments of Zen might not be for everyone - although personally I like the calm colors).

Joshua Brown, the web designer of Squidoo said he'd consider making a new theme based on the Default one that will address the whitespace problem - if some lensmasters feel that it's an issue, that is. You can send him bribes here. At any rate, now that Squidoo has a functioning Themes system in place, I'm sure we'll get many more of them in the future.

Shorter bios

The bio fields which weren't that long in the first place were shortened even more. I believe this was done so the text would fit within the height of your avatar. It was a big issue for me since I like using images in bios and had to edit no less than 50 lenses after the change. Placing the bios in such a visible spot might be a good move, but why shorten them even more? I've already sent feedback to the HQ asking them to consider allowing more characters in our bio fields, and you can sign the request here.

Video module centering trick

I had been using a simple CSS trick in the module description to make my YouTube videos in the Video module centered instead of aligned to the left. However this piece of code stopped working after the new themes were implemented:

<p style="float: left; width: 90px;"></p>
Thankfully, the fix is just as easy:
<p style="float: left; width:90px;height:1px;"></p>
And my videos are centered once more! :)

Bigger fonts

Changing the fonts to bigger ones is overall a very positive and welcome change. However, the spaces between the modules and the items in Plexo modules were increased as well. Since one of my lenses has just over 300 Plexo module submissions, this change made it much longer than before and harder to scroll. Not to mention I prefer the old plexo item design and the numbers over new ones. Maybe this will be addressed in the future (of course, it might just be that I'm the only one who doesn't like the new plexo design in which case it won't :).

I like the changes overall, and the new Themes which bring more control to the lensmasters. I just hope it will be the last big change to the lens look for a long while (heh) and the only updates in this area will be minor fixes and new theme additions.


Paula Atwell said...

I agree with you on the bio which I think should be longer. Or at least Squidoo should use the sidebar more.

Also the space makes the lenses a bit less inviting to be read because it seems like it goes on forever. I am sure they will be tweaked after some feedback. :)

Anonymous said...

I can't even see the new themes in IE 7.0 nor does the BIG Arrows show up anymore.

Anyone else having problems with IE?

Patricia Sanders said...

I don't care for the all white themes, too much white. Also I wish the side was separated (where the ads and bio are) I think you mentioned those things too.

clouda9 said...

Nice wrap up of the new themes on Squidoo...as I was wondering around on there yesterday I wondered what had happened...seeing all the different colored backgrounds :)

Adventure Bruce said...

Is there any way to change the graphics in the themes?

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