Site issues, and a question for mobile users

A few weeks ago, I started having a problem with comments showing up on the blog.  I consulted with WordPress support, and was informed that it was a bug with my old trusty Twenty Ten theme, which I was also informed is no longer supported.  To fix the issue, I’d have to change to a different theme.

What followed was a torturous process of looking at endless themes.  I find theme shopping painful.  Much like car or house shopping, it’s something I’d rather not do, because everything I look at has flaws, new flaws that I didn’t have with my old solution.  Of course, the old one had flaws too, but I had become so used to them that I didn’t notice anymore.

That said, given the popularity of the old Twenty Ten theme, I’m puzzled that WordPress doesn’t have newer ones that are very similar to it.  Many of the ones often touted as similar, really aren’t.

Anyway, the first theme I tried was beautiful and very modern.  I activated it, let it sit for a day or so, then decided I hated it.  It buried too much information.  So I changed to another one, which looked much more promising.

But once it was installed, I started noticing a lot of nits.  No problem.  I know HTML and CSS, so I made some minor modifications.  But the nits kept growing, and so did the CSS customization list, until I reached a point where I had over a hundred lines of CSS code, and the little window they give us to edit it was having problems scrolling.

Yesterday, the list of issues seemed like they were going to keep growing, and some of the new ones were deep in theme functionality.  On top of all that, I was struggling to find a color scheme within the theme that didn’t give me eyestrain.  It finally became clear that it wasn’t going to work.  So again, more wretched theme shopping.  Until I found one that I could tolerate, and activated it before going to bed last night.

To be clear, there are things with this theme I don’t like.  The sidebar is more scrunched up than I care for and some of the links are funky.  But on balance, it seems like it will stay out of my way, and is something I’ll be able to use without heavy customization.  You may see the colors change around in the next few days or weeks.  Or maybe not.  At this point, I’m actually pretty sick of tinkering with it.

But there is an issue with this theme too, one I didn’t notice until I had activated it.  I have threaded comments turned on, allowing them to nest five levels deep.  I noticed that when viewed on my phone, the deepest comments are unreadable, unless I turn it horizontal.  I can turn on the default WP mobile theme, but I personally find the font on it too small unless I turn it horizontal anyway.

But I rarely use my own site from mobile.  My question is, for those of you who do, which would you prefer: the standard WP mobile theme, or this theme’s mobile UI?  You can scroll through this thread to see what I’m talking about.

34 thoughts on “Site issues, and a question for mobile users

  1. I almost always read this on a large iPad, so I don’t know if I’m getting the mobile version or not. Re: the long threads, it seems the margins get squished on both sides as opposed to just the left. Don’t know if there’s anything you can do about that. Otherwise no complaints.

    *

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks James. You made me look at it on my 10″ iPad, which had been locked in horizontal mode for so long, I had to reboot it to convince it to go vertical. I see what you mean. It looks like the theme designer decided somewhere how much real estate they had to work with, and that was it.

      Unfortunately, my options are limited. I was able to reduce the amount of indenting, which helps, but not with that issue. But unlike at phone level, at least it’s readable, and I don’t think the WP mobile theme would apply to tablet level screens.

      Like

  2. I mostly read from a full sized desktop screen.

    I have seen a reappearance of the issue of some of your posts not appearing in the WordPress Reader. The same thing happened to one of my posts. I still don’t know what WordPress has going on with that. If you chat with them, they do something and the missing post appears and it gives you the impression there was some sort of lag. But your post on “Predictions…” never has appeared in main followed sites stream in the Reader, although it appears when I click directly on your site in the Reader. So I think they have a bug and I’m surprised they haven’t gotten around to fixing it.

    On the desktop on my screen, I’m fine with colors, format, etc but there seems to be too much blank space like the theme is built for posts of 150 words or less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had it happen to one of mine about two weeks ago. (Since Mike’s issues, I always check the feed!) Got a chat session with a “happiness engineer”… after a while, suddenly, there’s my post. I’d already told him the problem occurred on my desktop, pad, and phone, so no “clear your cache” dodge was possible. I kept insisting for a reason this happened (mentioned I knew of other bloggers it had happened to). He said sometimes the system lagged.

      I dunno. On the chat for about 20 minutes, and he was off doing something or talking to someone. Then my post appeared. Just a coincidence? Sure, if you believe that sort of thing.

      I think they got bugs. (Actually, no, I know they do. There are some fundamentally bad design decisions lurking under the hood. WP has major issues with categories and tags.)

      Like

      1. I don’t buy their lag explanation about lag. Given the sporadic nature of the problem, it might be they are caching something (the whole post maybe but that wouldn’t make a lot of sense) for the Reader but if something in timing of retrieving/receiving whatever it is they are caching isn’t in sync it misses the publication.

        Anyway, not too much to complain with WordPress about and everything has bugs. Under the covers a lot of stuff looks pretty ugly.

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        1. The thing is, the post almost always appears on the web site and RSS feed. So, strictly speaking, it’s not really a bug in the WordPress site system itself. (Not that there aren’t plenty of actual bugs there.)

          It’s in the Reader. And sometimes it’s specific to certain users. I’ve had people complain about posts not showing that show up for me everywhere I look. And I’ve had some not show for me that no one complained about. If it shows up for you and the support person, it’s hard to get them to take any action, unless the person it’s not showing for is willing to spend time in chat with them.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, I think it is Reader too.

            But here’s something, maybe coincidence. I looked at your RSS feed in my browser where I saw the missing post and now the missing post appears in the Reader. It might have been there anyway and I hadn’t scrolled down far enough recently to see it, but that is an odd coincidence.

            Like

    2. Thanks James. I know what you mean about the blank space. On a full size desktop screen, the effect is like two lonely columns in a sea of emptiness. I think it comes from the austere nature of this theme. The last theme did it too, but it masked it with all the color. When I CSSed that color out (which I considered doing to resolve the color difficulties), it had a similar effect.

      I did notice that the Predictions post didn’t show in the Reader. I’ve found that explicitly saving drafts dramatically increases the chance of it happening, so I mostly avoid that now, letting WP do its autosave thing. But that didn’t work for the Predictions post, and I’m fatigued with having to get with support every time. If I could just open a ticket or something, I’d do it, but having to wait for a chat response is time consuming, and often I don’t have that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To someone who’s never had a blog, this seems like a tempest in a teapot issue. Your blog content is great Mike. I’d read it on stone tablets if that were the only way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jim! The feedback and kind words make my afternoon!

      In general, I know how a site looks doesn’t really matter all that much, unless it’s really bad. Content is king. But I use enough sites that I have to fight with, so I’m sensitive to putting anyone else in that scenario.

      Like

  4. As it is, I don’t seem to have a problem with it on the phone.
    Theme shopping on WP is painful. I do it once every many years & then forget about it. If I could code, I would do minor modifications to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mak. Having the skills is a mixed blessing. Our access to do things (at least on the Premium plan) is often maddeningly limited. I sometimes wonder if I’d be happier if it was all beyond me.

      Like

  5. When it comes to blogging I rarely use a phone or pad. Sometimes just to check how things look. WP clearly has been orienting on the mobile world for a while now. On my 27″ desktop monitor, your site has huge fonts and tons of open area. Which is fine on a phone, but like reading a billboard on my monitor. (I measured. The “Y” on “Your thoughts?” just above this text box is a quarter-inch high. Easily read from across the room.)

    It’s a mobile world. We desktop dinosaurs are being left behind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah. The thing is, all the new themes are like that. On the one hand, I do agree with taking care of the mobile segment. It’s 43% of web traffic. But that still leaves the remaining 57%, which supposedly generates most of the interaction. Mobile traffic tends to be one stop hits.

      I really wish WordPress would let us select two themes, a big screen one, and a small screen one. Then the UI on each could be optimized. Insisting that it all has to happen in the same responsive UI leads to you reading a billboard.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t realize it was as high as 57% or that it’s generating that kind of interaction. We should form a Desktop Users Group and lobby for improvements. Join DUG today!

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  6. The only WordPress theme I ever really liked was my original theme, from way back in 2009 when I started blogging. I don’t remember the name of the theme, but I thought it looked really nice. However, it put all the text in this narrow column, and once people started switching to widescreen monitors, that super skinny column looked awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I occasionally stumble across self hosted blogs that still use those old themes, although they do look pretty dated at this point. For a lot of them, the code is still maintained, if you’re willing to deal with the headaches of self hosting.

      My first theme on this blog was Sundance. I liked its minimalist nature, but had to abandon it due to bugs, also with commenting. When I switched to Twenty Ten, I CSSed it to look as much like Sundance as I could.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mike,
    I see that in landscape mode on a tablet there’s the standard sidebar with the extra material where it should be. Then in portrait mode that goes at the end. I guess that’s fine. The problem is that on a mobile phone in either landscape or portrait modes, the screen only provides text with the extra stuff at the end. The mobile phone is exactly where it’s critical to have such side bar material, given that here text lines aren’t as long and so we’re able to zoom in to make the text bigger if we like. For example The Splintered Mind has splinters on each side, which is perfect. People seem to prefer reading short lines anyway. I use an extra small phone, so for me text size can be an issue. Still the text here isn’t nearly as small as what I sometimes encounter, such as at the Evolutionary Philosophy site.

    Sometimes there’s an option under a blog theme to not give people a mobile option at all. I did that at my site, which might help if offered. I find mobile versions of blogs in general to be bad for mobile viewing. For example if a comment gets nested too far, in portrait mode you’ll get one letter per line! That was the true under your old theme as well. I always request desktop versions for blogs and websites in general, though now the request changes nothing.

    On the subject of mobile phones, as well as having a good thing (like your old theme) which the market ignorantly kills off, there’s how smart phones began with hardware thumb keyboards that a person could truly write with (once mastered), though these tools were killed off in favor of on screen keyboards exclusively. Typing on a sheet of glass has always been a joke, which is exactly why bloggers only go that way when desperate. The half ass way that modern phone manufacturers have tried to help people write with their phones, is to make them idiotically big. Typing with them is still a joke however. So today phones have become one way rather than two way communication devices in this regard.

    My own solution has been to glue a metal plate that sticks a quarter inch off of the only reasonable thumb keyboard that’s made (https://usa-m.banggood.com/Rii-i5BT-Bluetooth-Wireless-Mini-Keyboard-for-IOS-Windows-Android-TV-Box-p-1195192.html?rmmds=search), as well as a plate on the back of my phone for it to tightly slide under. Then with a holster that accommodates each machine, I’m not only able write effectively at a desk, but anywhere! I’d think that many hard core bloggers, as well as writers, would find such a tool well worth the investment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eric. That’s exactly the feedback I needed.

      The sidebar does drop down to a footer on small screens. I actually see that as a feature, since at least the information remains available for mobile users. I would prefer to have it collapse into a dynamic section that a mobile user could call up on demand, similar to the menu. But the only themes that do that, do it even on the desktop, which I don’t like, since I think it would cause most users to miss the existence of the sidebar entirely.

      I called the UI you’re seeing the theme’s “mobile UI”, but the theme has a responsive design, so on mobile what you’re getting is a version of the desktop UI, just adjusted for screen size, which is why explicitly requesting mobile doesn’t work. (If you look at it on a full computer and shrink the window down sufficiently, you’ll see the same effects.) I can’t really mandate that the theme not do those adjustments, and pretty much all the new supported themes work that way.

      As I noted to Wyrd, I really wish WordPress would let us have two themes, one for large screens, and another for small ones, so that each could be optimized for the experience on that scale. Then you might be able to request a desktop version and get it on mobile. But I suspect WP would tell me that there’s no clean division anymore between mobile and desktop, just lots of different screen sizes, so these issues may be inevitable in the current environment.

      One thing I’m not wild about is the newest themes actually do away with the sidebar entirely, only giving you footers, even on larger screens, which I think is bad for all kinds of reasons. I hope they eventually back off of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It sounds to me like this theme will do fine then Mike. Text size is only a bit of a problem for me, and I use an extra small phone. But it occurs to me now that a larger phone won’t increase the size if they simply put more words in per line. So let’s test that…

    On my phone in the third paragraph of your post it says “That said, given the popularity of the old Twenty Ten”, with the next word “theme” on the next line. I hope that’s the case for standard sized phones as well. Actually come to think of it I could probably adjust some phone or browser settings to increase text size if I want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Eric. It’s a relief because the theme alternatives aren’t great.

      On my phone (an iPhone 7 w 4.7″ screen), the first line of that paragraph is:
      “That said, given the popularity of the old”.

      In the phone simulator in the site customizer (which is probably based on a 3.5-4″ screen), it’s:
      “That said, given the popularity of the”.

      So, some variance, but both less than what yours is showing, implying bigger text.

      A lot of people are swearing by the new large screen phones. They’re getting as big as small tablets I’ve owned. It seems like carrying something like that would be a hassle, but maybe worth it if it’s your primary device.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mike,
    I should have stipulated that I was in landscape mode rather than the portrait mode that I presume you tried. No problem though. So what I get in portrait mode is “That said, given the popularity of”, though your phone was able to include “the old”. You have .7” bigger screen than my iPhone SE, so the text is probably about the same size, which couldn’t quite fit in “Twenty” as well. (They’ve got a new iPhone SE out this year with your sized screen. Apparently I’ll eventually need to get used to a machine 2/3” longer and 1/3” wider, as is standard.)

    My first set of bifocal glasses came two years ago, and I probably need to increase magnification soon anyway. I bitch about my eyes when I’m over at Ed’s.

    Regarding “phablets”, I doubt that they help much beyond a slight improvement for typing and viewing. This is evolution, and evolution commonly doesn’t do things sensibly/ teleologically, but rather like this. Back in the old days before people saw much need for true writing on a smartphone, Steve Jobs could have added a keyboard option that I suspect would have gotten done right. If so then I suspect that hardware keyboards would have become extremely common today for phones. Alas, no, and so we get these huge things as an incremental stopgap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eric,
      I was in portrait. When I do landscape, I get:
      “That said, given the popularity of the old Twenty Ten theme, I’m”
      …almost the entire line shown in the desktop version.

      If you have a full desktop or laptop machine anywhere, you can use Chrome’s dev tools (hit F12 and look in the upper left corner of the dev console) to simulate most mobile devices. Based on what you told me, sounds like your phone is a 5SE? From what it’s showing me, I don’t know that I care too much for what the X shows, but the Plus versions of 6/7/8 look pretty nice, showing the entire line in pretty much the same size I’m seeing on my laptop.

      Personally, I have a hard time doing any significant writing on anything less than a laptop. If I needed to go smaller, I’d probably have to look at the tiny Chromebooks or something.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Forgot to mention, I’ve resisted bifocals up to now. Ebooks have allowed me to postpone the day of judgment, but the writing’s on the wall. I currently do keep some reading glasses around, for when I have to read something where the font size can’t be adjusted.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t want to downplay the investment it takes to go from ten fingers to two thumbs. It might take a year for truly effective typing in this manner. Many people are getting that education while pecking at their glass screens however, and so a hardware thumb keyboard would still be great for them if they had the option. As I see it, that’s the only good solution, or at least for those who want to type anywhere they happen to be.

    If you don’t use glasses then yes, keep the reading glasses handy. Note that my phone screen always fits under my bifocal lens. A big screen would not however, so here I’d have to tilt my head higher than comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you ever considered that typing on a virtual keyboard is also an investment? I know a lot of people who do quite well on them. I used a Blackberry for a few years, and got quite good at thumb typing, but never to the point that I considered it as good as a full sized keyboard. Likewise, I’m okay on a virtual keyboard, but only if a full size laptop or better isn’t available.

      I do wear glasses for seeing far away, like driving or watching TV. But I’ve always taken them off when at a computer or reading. But at some point I’ll need reading glasses for seeing the phone, and then, unless I want to carry two pair, I’ll have to go bifocal.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My point was that thumb typing virtually is an investment which could help a person immensely with hardware keyboard skills. And while people do get very good typing virtually, no one seems to do it all that well or prefer it. Arrow keys aren’t even provided for a person to go back and edit — you’re suppose to somehow tap the proper spot. It’s really just for quick texting stuff rather than actual writing. And I’m not saying that the “two bit” way will ever be preferred to the “ten bit” way. I’m saying that without harming ten finger typing, hardware thumb typing opens up tremendous freedom that few today beyond myself have.

    If you’re already taking your glasses off for computers then I suppose that you could put another pair on to see clearly rather than blow everything up. Yes two pairs. As I mentioned, you’ll have to tilt your head pretty high to do bifocals on that. But I doubt that you’ll want to switch glasses every time you look at your phone. So bifocals would help there, and you know, to see things up close in general.

    Liked by 1 person

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