I sometimes tell people that it was the Happy Cog Blogger template project that got me into theming. Specifically one blog post about it by one of the designers that made me think, “Whoah! Theming for thousands of people is a really cool design problem that I’d love to tackle!” Of course, I totally forgot what that blog post was and never mentioned it anywhere that was easy to retrieve. Like a blog. This was a full two years before I started blogging so maybe I can excuse myself that way.
Anyway, it turns out it was two blog posts that inspired me. Dan Rubin’s post puts into words something that I still find exciting about theming.
The number of people who will make use of these templates is astounding (it’s already started), and the web is going to be a much better place for the effort (just think of the hundreds of thousands of sites that will soon be using well-designed standards-based markup!).
And the trick, according to Dan, is still the same.
Design something visually fetching, but not too personal (the primary function is a reusable template, which might display many different types of content), yet individual enough to inspire someone to actually use it.
It’s harder than it looks.
There’s maybe less excitement in Dan Cederholm’s post about his TicTac template but it’s his concern over the header that I remember the most.
Extra care was taken to ensure the design would be flexible enough for any amount of content at any text size. For example, the header uses a vertical version of the Sliding Doors technique (sliding windows?), where if the Blogger user has a long site title, or if the user bumps up the text size, the header graphic (separated into two pieces) willl “spread apart” to accomodate it.
I thought this was just amazing in 2004. I still do. It’s one of the central concerns of any good WordPress themer. Making sure everything just works for bloggers. It’s never boring.
Ironically, when I got around to finally blogging two years later I never did use these templates. I used Doug Bowman’s Minima template. It’s a design marvel. In 2007 Jeffrey Zeldman called it the Helvetica of web design “magically supporting whatever tone the content provides.”
Douglas Bowman’s white “Minima” layout for Blogger, used by literally millions of writers—and it feels like it was designed for each of them individually. That is great design.
So there you go. My WordPress theming inspiration: 8-year old Blogger templates.