OK, the new design is finished.
It took me two weeks of nearly full-time work, going through at least ten iterations. I started out with nothing more than insatisfaction with my previous site, some notes from Adam Engst‘s critique of it at his MacHack 2002 session “Hacking the Press”, and the idea to implement both a weblog and support forums.
At first I tried simply implementing some of Adam’s suggestions under my old design, and using Blogger. However I found it difficult to integrate, and I didn’t like depending on someone else’s site being up to be able to post stuff to my own.
Anyway, after looking briefly at some available options, I decided to download and try out phpBB. My provider turned out to have the necessary infrastructure installed (mySQL and PHP) and very soon I had a test forum running.
I looked at the several visual themes available for phpBB and the default one (subBlue) looked nearly like what I wanted for my site.
After several iterations of convergence between the forum theme and the rest of the site, here it is. It’s now hard to tell which pages are served by phpBB and which aren’t, unless you look at the URL; if it has the .php extension, it’s a phpBB page.
Before anyone asks, I actually like Mac OS X’s “metal” look. The site graphics (actually, there are only 3 graphics altogether for that) have a different blur level and are very slightly blue-tinted. So it will be easy to change in the future. Suggestions are welcome…
Please excuse any remaining inconsistencies (and tell me if you find any). I had no previous PHP experience, and stylesheets also were new to me. Hopefully it came out OK.
I checked the site with all Mac OS X browsers I could find. Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla and Chimera all seem to work OK and render things the same. OmniWeb still doesn’t support borders in stylesheets, but seems otherwise OK. Opera does some strange things to column widths on some page; no time to figure out why. And iCab, so far, seems to have the most formatting problems.