January 4, 2009
Regular visitors will notice that I've been changing the look of this Wordpress based web site. The old layout was built using a theme called Atahualpa that I still highly recommend. Atahualpa is free, very popular and different than most Wordpress themes because it allows you to completely customize the way it looks by using a set of menus. Atahualpa provides a well-behaved framework that's been optimized to work well with all browsers. It's also SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly.
The new theme was made using ThemeFrame, a new product from the same folks who made Atahualpa. It costs $60 but it's revolutionary and even easier to use than Atahualpa, although to get the most of it or Atahualpa you need some knowledge of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). The hard part about CSS, at least for me, is figuring out what selector to use to change the look of something (size, font, color, etc.). ThemeFrame avoids that problem with a graphical interface. It provides a mock-up of your web page and you change elements by right-clicking on them. That pops up a menu that lets you change everything about it by moving sliders or by typing in your values. And as you do that you see your changes in real-time. You can also reposition or add/remove elements to your page by dragging them around. If you want to see a demonstration then look at these videos.
ThemeFrame is a great tool and I predict it will become the tool of choice for web developers because it will hugely increase their productivity. You'll probably see me make some more radical changes to MachinistBlog's look when I get some more experience using it and finish up two other web sites I've been working on.
I highly recommend using Wordpress if you're thinking about creating your own web site. Instant Wordpress provides a really easy way to try it out. It's free, it takes about 30 seconds to setup and it's a "standalone" app so it doesn't "install" on your computer. That means you can run it off a USB flash drive. I've got it in my DropBox which allows me to use it and ThemeFrame from any of my computers.