The New Theme

Well, here it is and I hope you like it.

It’s taken a few months of irregular work and a fair bit of help.

This post describes the new features and in some cases the decisions behind them.

Overview

Essentially, the theme is very similar to the old one. This was a concious decision due to the format of the posts. After so many years of creating posts, editing the older ones to a completely new style would have been impossible. Therefore, I decided to stick with the basic blog-style layout – it’s functional and can look good.

In case you are wondering why I changed themes and not just add new features, it was because there have been a lot of improvements in the free software I use to run the site and my old theme just wasn’t able to take advantage of them. In addition, it has been edited and adapted over so many years that it has become bloated. Sometimes, it’s better to just start afresh.

A good example of this is the responsiveness. This means that when the site is viewed in different screen sizes the theme adapts what it displays based on that size. For example, the menu displayed to users on mobile devices is different to those on full size screens.

The Top Slider

Well, I doubt you missed this. It’s become popular to have these big sliders and by having one I can highlight a number of different posts or features in the same space. I currently have the slider on all pages, but I may remove it from single post or other special archives.

I’ll try to keep to no more than 3 sliders to reduce the size of the page.

The Main Orange Menu

This is now the heart of the navigation on the site and is visible at all times unless you are viewing on a mobile, in which case it scrolls up when you scroll. The menu links to all the category archives and special pages. There is also a conditional mini-menu that only displays when you are on a single post that is in the PLAY category. This mini-menu links to all the sections within each post.

The Grey Secondary Menu

This menu has links to important parts of the site, but the menu scrolls when you do, so it disappears on the lower parts of the post.

The Category Archives

This aspect of the new theme has the greatest change. Instead of listing posts as excerpts, thumbnails or tables, the site only lists the archives as tables. However, the new tables are JavaScript powered and actually replace the Personalizer in function. You can order each column and in fact, secondary ordering is also possible. In addition, there is a live search function that will immediately display the results. This search function can take many options including release dates, post dates, whether you have reviewed releases or not, playtime and even tags!

Each archive has detailed notes at the bottom of the page but because this feature is so important, I have made a video explaining and demonstrating all the featurews:

Animated icons on the Buttons

Not exactly a huge difference, but the buttons now have animated icons.

New Gallery

When you click to view the screenshots they will display in a new gallery style. Not only is this nicer than the old one, but it is also consistent in all the browsers I tested it on. You can use the mouse OR keyboard to scroll through the images.

Screenshot Sizes Display

The 3 different screenshots are now displayed in what is called an tab style, making it easier to choose and see which one you have selected. They are coloured-coded to indicated which size you have selected.

More control over editing the comments

I have managed to get the buttons back for users to add some styling to their comments. You can now add headings, bold, italic, blockquote and spoilers.

Chat with me

You can now chat with me directly when I am on the site. It’s a private conversation and when I am not around you can easily send me a message.

No More Sidebar!

Due to the main menu and footer holding all the important links, the sidebar has been removed. This makes the post wider and the site looks cleaner.

Footer Changes

There are now two footers, the first contains 3 columns, each displaying different information and the second, lower one, is more formal, containing legal information etc.

No More Newsletters

I apologize for the stop/start nature of these, but they took too much time to do properly and when I analysed the number of clicks/visits I got back from them it just wasn’t worth my time. It’s better for me to make videos or do other things.

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Help me create more and better content - please support me on Patreon

39 Comments

  1. I guess this won’t be a walk on flowers.

    May the force be with you, Philip.

  2. This is great. The layout looks pretty slick and nice and it’s wonderful to be able to style my comments again, especially in reviews.

    From my limited experience there are only 3 minor problems that I found. The logo at the top right doesn’t take me to the main page which I would have thought it would like most websites. After clicking on the logo, clicking on the search button doesn’t bring it up until I close the information that popped up with the logo. And I also can’t close the logo unless I scroll all the way up to the top of the page.

    Hopefully it made sense for me to post that here, but certainly this new change is very cool.

    1. I’m pretty sure you mean the top left logo.

      I have removed the funky overlay and disabled the link. The HOME text takes you back to the home page. I’ll make the logo go to the home page too soon.

      1. Just testing how comment hierarchy worls.

      1. “It’s safer here.”

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

        I’m liking the new theme, Phillip, great job!

  3. I think the new organization of the site is cool and the Submit button is going to be super-useful for emergent mappers.

    The only thing that kind of bothers me is how “huge” and “wasty” the new sidebar-less layout feels. It kind of looks like a mobile site. Most people today have switched to 16:9 screens, so I’m not sure if putting everything in an unhideable top bar and leaving the sides of the screen compeltely blank is the best way to browse the website. I also feel that there is a lot of “wasted” blank space, for example in the comments. Instead of a separating line, there is just a bunch of empty space which I don’t think is the most efficient way to do things, although that might just be my OCD-like obsession with efficiency showing up again.

    If you could set an option to have the orange bar on the side of your screen instead of on the top, or maybe if there was the ability to hide it, I feel that navigation from 16:9 screens would be greatly improved.

    Also, comments can’t be edited for 15 minutes anymore?

    1. JG

      Yeah, I’d say that’s my gripe as well. It feels like a mobile site because of how massive and spread out everything is on desktop. On the front page, I feel like I have to scroll for miles to get to where I want to go. Each post takes up the whole screen.

      But, I also acknowledge this is kind of the “new normal” in web design. It’s a trend that’s very pervasive across the Internet these days. Some of the default WordPress themes I have on my web site are the same way – tons of unused space and massive regions between every box of text.

      The rest seems reasonably organized, though. And I like how the “Last 100 Comments” option works chronologically now (it used to get odd when people would reply to an older post that was also on the page).

      1. Oh I didn’t realise there was a last 100 comments option. That’s awesome. Was it available on the old site as well ? I never noticed.

        1. JG

          Yeah, it was, but it was kind of buried.

          Now it’s here under Explore, although I just noticed that it only shows part of the comment, not the whole thing. :\

          1. but it was kind of buried.

            It was listed in the sidebar with all the other pages.

            only shows part of the comment, not the whole thing.

            Yeah, I can’t get that working with the code I have, but it is on the list to be fixed.

  4. to be honest when i clicked the shortcut on my toolbar i was worried i had the wrong site …. however this shows how far removed the new theme is from the old one !
    that said its grown on me since i started this comment … and im sure it will as the weeks go on …. you may get some negative comments but overall im impressed !

  5. Wesp5

    Well, the new layout is okay, but the name? PlanetPhillip was your place and everybody knew it! What’s up with this new stupid name?

    1. What’s up with this new stupid name?

      It’s the old tagline for the original Half-Life release.

      1. Wesp5

        Still this could refer to any HL site, this one is yours and you should be proud enough to show it :)!

  6. It’s a lot “shinier”, which is pretty nice. I also like the map/mod browsing, it reminds me of the Quake website Quaddicted, and it’s a lot quicker too. It’s also really cool that there’s a “submit” page, I think that might encourage some more peoples to start mapping.

    1. Spirit

      Hey, thanks for the shoutout! πŸ™‚

      You said “it reminds me of the Quake website Quaddicted, and it’s a lot quicker too.” Do you mean it is quicker than before or quicker than Quaddicted? Because this site is very slow for me. If Q is slow for you, please mail me some details to spirit@ . Thanks!

  7. I like it! My ‘gripe’ is similar to those above: I use a 16:10 screen so the page is reallllly wide, with a decent amount of blank space on either side. Designing things that CAN be viewed on mobile devices is kind of a double edged sword: I certainly won’t stop people from wanting to view the web on their phone, but it really doesn’t have a good view place on a proper desktop. A lot of sites I visit are doing this, and frankly they don’t look nearly as nice as they could if mobile devices *were turned horizontally* like every other viewing device under the sun… ah well. Dang ol technology.

    I do love the orange and grey theme though. Actually I have a version of it on my old XP machine’s firefox browser, when they still had people making themes for it, I’ve got Gordon and orange there.

    A question aside from the current mess I know you’re probably dealing with in making the site functional: there are a couple older mods I’ve commented on (the Mansion series) which are basically unplayable and I need advice on how to make them work again. Attempts have failed, so I’m kind of at a loss. Do you go over older comments at all? I know you don’t particularly like seeing “hey I’m commenting on an unrelated mod about something else”, but I’ve never gotten any replies after commenting over on the individual mods as requested.

    1. (Also, there doesn’t appear to be an ‘edit your post’ feature?)

      ** Need to say: the upper right hand log in does not want to log me OUT. I can do so from the section right above the reply area here, but not from the top bar. **

      1. (Also, there doesn’t appear to be an β€˜edit your post’ feature?)

        Yeah, I couldn’t get it to play nice with the theme. I will try to add it soon though.

        ** Need to say: the upper right hand log in does not want to log me OUT. I can do so from the section right above the reply area here, but not from the top bar. **

        Fixed, thanks.

    2. Are they Half-Life 2/EP1/2 or Half Life 1 mods?

      If they are for HL2 and episodes, during the Steampipe switch Valve had this great idea of changing the way that the gameinfo.txt file works (the file tells Source how the mod should be handled and what game’s assets it should rely on). Gameinfo.txt now has a different structure, which means that older mods which use the old structure will crash on startup or load broken assets. You will need to manually update those gameinfo.txt files to the newer structure for the mods to run.

      For some mods official or unofficial fixed gameinfo.txts have been released, in other cases you will want to look up a tutorial on fixing it yourself.

      1. As I said, I’ve tried that. What I wind up with are a lot of broken textures, for some reason. Someone did post a couple days ago but since there’s no ‘code’ tags that I know of, I have no idea whether ‘everything is right’ on their post or what. I haven’t tried their fix yet, it looks monumentally difficult to just ‘make sure it looks good’… O.o What I’m hoping for is an ‘official’ Phillip fix, for these older mods that are still broken. When they broke them a few years ago, Gorpie was trying to help figure out what went where, but that was a task that even she gave up on after a while I think. Then, they broke everything further, so… kind of pointless there.

        Anyway thanks for the reply I’m going to see what happens if I try putting the other info in there.

  8. Thanks for all your hard work Phillip, I am looking forward to exploring the new site. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I’m sure there will be a few pleasant surprises.

  9. I like it! It feels very… very… Half-Life! Great work.

  10. Anon_1387343

    I don’t really like the top banner, it’s a bit too big for my liking, if it were a bit smaller I would like it more

  11. Spirit

    Not a fan of the big (10%?) and attention grabbing header but I love the table view. It was my choice at Quaddicted and I love the accessibility of such interface. Having a “fancy” paginated browsing mode would be awesome, but I am sure you know the trouble of finding people for who help with technical stuff.

    1. Firstly, let me say you are an inspiration to me. Your work on Quaddicted is fantastic. I have to admit I rarely visit the site because I don’t play Quake.

      I recognize that no everybody will like certain features and as you probably know one just has to go with what feels right.

      Now that I look at your site I see how similar our table views are. I didn’t know you had the same features but when something is useful, it’s more or less useful for everybody!

      I don’t understand by what you mean by “”a “Fancy” paginated browsing mode”. Could you explain, please?

      I notice you have the authors listed – I hope to start adding that soon too. I also notice you have a very simple list of direct links to the files. I’d like to do that but then I would lose my download totals and also be worried about people just downloading stuff to slow down the server.

      1. Spirit

        Same to you! I hope some day Quaddicted will have attracted 10% the size of your readership πŸ™‚

        Fancy paginated mode means something like https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/notsexyindex%5B2 to 4, manually edit this, I don’t mean to link].php . I never found a solution I was happy with so those prototypes idle for years already. I think a view like that is nice for newbies. You have a lot of newbie friendly views on your database already though and the very graphic-heavy review blog, so that’s probably already more than enough.

        The direct links I actually wanted to remove because I never used them but some people liked them so they stayed. You could still use your tracking DL urls in the table, that should not be a problem. And if someone wants to annoy you with downloading a lot (I think I once did, sorry!) maliciously (not me!), they could do other things easily. So I’d say go for it, if you think it’s worth it. Direct links/icons to load each entry in MapTap might be nice too. πŸ™‚

        One thing that your rating system inspired me to (and which might finally appear in 2015) would be histograms of the ratings, like eg Amazon shows their review ratings. Might be nice, we’ll see.

        You could think about additionally displaying the median, not just avg+stdev. For releases with a wide difference in opinion, this might give you more sensible ratings. For the user ratings at Quaddicted I ended up using Bayesian average which seems to work well but is hard to understand as number. Maybe also something to try.

        I am back to Quake for now, best mail me if you want to follow up but I usually take a long time to reply πŸ˜‰

  12. K. Foster

    I like the new look, it’s really clean and legible. I’m often resistant to change, but not when it’s an improvement. πŸ™‚

  13. Cool theme! Looks alot better than the old site! Although I would personally perfer the top left icon (as said before by Dalannar) to lead to the Home Page rather than open the ‘about section thingy’.

    1. I have made the logo link to the home page.

  14. Frankly I prefer the old site as I’m not a fan of this excess space web design thing (as many have already said) which pervades almost all new sites it seems. Must be something to do with tablets taking over the internet world.

    Also its sad to see the “Planet Phillip” name leave – I prefer that.

    Regardless of what I think, as long as the site works and brings us lots of interesting stuff, its great!

    1. Remember, the new theme has new features too, which wouldn’t be possible with the old theme. Have you tried the new table archives?

      You might have preferred the old name but I feel it was limiting the growth of the site and you do want it to be more popular, don’t you?

      Hopefully, you’ll get even more great content as I will be able to do new stuff because of the theme.

      1. I hadn’t had a good look around when I posted, and looking now at the archives it is indeed a MASSIVE improvement in searching for maps/mods compared to before! This is more important and functional than the width of a header or a page for example. Content is King.

        However, something to look into, some of the apparent features don’t appear to work just right. For example I went to PLAY HL2 Ep 1 (but I’m pretty sure it will be the same everywhere) and tried to sort in Average Recommendation order. It appears the list of mods’ order changed but it wasn’t all in order of Recommendation. Some of it was though.

        Yes I want it to be even more popular, however in my opinion, PlanetPhillip is an “institution” in the HL world and the new name can only improve things “by accident” (ie; “hey, there’s a new site I didn’t know about”). πŸ™‚

  15. Unq

    Hooray! The time has come!

    Love the look and the new features – once people check out the Table Views and especially the powerful Search function they’ll be amazed.

  16. I like the new look, but the thing that bothers me a little is the size of some titles and spacing.

    P.S: I think it’s pretty amazing that two big Half-Life fans decided to launch a new mobile/tablet focused website at almost the same time. Yes, I redone my site too … :). I mean … what are the odds? πŸ™‚

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