Just a bit less minimalist

Strokes

About a month ago, I made a big change to this website when I redesigned it and combined the blog with my business website, with both on the same single domain.

At the time, I talked up my strong feeling about a minimalist approach to a presence on the social web, doing away with all the clutter that tends to populate so many websites with widgets, ads, popups galore, and more.

If you observed that change and have visited this site since then, you’ll notice another change if you’re reading this on the site itself rather than via the RSS feed or syndication elsewhere.

I’ve reverted to a website based on the Genesis Framework – in my view, the best foundation for self-hosted WordPress sites – with the eleven40 Pro child theme presenting the content you see and enabling you to interact with it on whatever device you use to come visiting. It’s HTML5 and mobile-responsive.

Why the change?

In short, Decode, the minimalist theme I switched to, presented a number of challenges that I couldn’t resolve without either getting to know more about PHP coding and CSS than I was able to commit time to, or hiring an expert.

There was a major issue surrounding how the site worked on mobile devices. I was hearing about odd experiences some people had reported where browsers on iPhones and iPads crashed when trying to load content from the site.

To fix that in the short term, I installed the WPtouch mobile theme, which did the trick. It’s a great addition to any WordPress site but not what I wanted as it needed more work that I was willing to give time to to make it behave consistently with the primary look-and-feel of the Decode theme.

I’d also experienced some weirdness with sudden changes in formatting to content after it had been published.

I’m highly confident that none of those issues will arise with the Genesis Framework-based foundation now in place.

In preparing this site today for relaunch, I was greatly aided by using a terrific tool called Design Palette Pro, a premium WordPress plugin designed to work with Genesis that lets you customize many appearance elements of a Genesis child theme without having to edit any code.

So here is version 6 of NevilleHobson.com! Hope it works for you – let me know if it does or not.

A minimalist approach

[Updated July 27: Today I reverted to the Genesis Framework and the eleven40 Pro child theme. Concise reasoning in today's post about the change.]

Pink Floyd, minimalistsToday I re-booted this website. It has a new look and feel, quite a bit different to what went before it. And the domain on which the blog has run since 2006 is also now home to the separate business website I’ve had for some years.

So everything you want to know about me is housed under one roof instead of fragmented in a few places – all now at NevilleHobson.com.

The whole site uses the Decode theme for WordPress. It’s the most attractive and simplest theme to set up that I’ve come across since starting to look for “the right look” earlier this year. It’s a free theme, too – thank you, Scott Smith – described as “A minimal, modern theme, designed to be mobile first and fully responsive.”

Decode replaces the Genesis framework and the eleven40 child theme. Genesis is an outstanding platform upon which to build a dynamic WordPress-based presence on the web. And I’ve been pleased with the eleven40 theme since I set it up on the blog last year.

But I decided that I wanted a far simpler setup. Something that had the right minimalist look, that was inexpensive to acquire, didn’t need deep knowledge of coding, HTML5 or anything mildly technical, and worked very well indeed no matter the device on which it is was displayed.

The ultimate choice is undoubtedly a bit subjective – I’d be hard pressed to tell you what is it about Decode that I prefer compared to, say, Minimum Pro which I also have – and I may well discover something I wish Decode had that other minimalist themes do.

But Decode works for me. What I want is something that focuses on the content of a post or a page – especially the words – without the distraction and overhead of all the furniture, so to speak: widgets, sidebars, icons, ads, etc.

I’ve decided not to continue with any of that, at least for now. Instead what you see is simplicity, lots of white space, and readable text especially on a mobile device.

So here is version 5.0 of NevilleHobson.com. I hope you find it useful and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it (especially if you find anything that doesn’t work).

Thanks.

The mutual value of the conversation

2013 Annual Report

The stats helper monkeys have been busy, said WordPress in an overnight email telling me about “Your 2013 in blogging,” a concise analysis of this blog during the year as noted by the stats module in Jetpack, the uber-plugin utility for self-hosted WordPress sites.

It’s a concise portrayal of a range of metrics that are useful to know.

For instance:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 170,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 7 days for that many people to see it.

In 2013, there were 260 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 2,598 posts.

The busiest day of the year was January 9th with1,838 views. The most popular post that day was Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012.

I can get this information myself, of course, via analysis of the stats. But it was nice to see it expressed this way.

The Jetpack report also tells me which were the top five posts that got the most views in 2013.

attractionsin2013

  1. How to make your business card a smart card – June 2009
  2. How to secure your WordPress site against hacker attacks – April 2013
  3. Good example of a social media press release from ING – December 2012
  4. Prepare for goodbye Feedburner in October 2012 – September 2012
  5. Disney brings the second-screen experience to the movies – September 2013

As the report notes, some of these were written before 2013 but still got attention (views) from people, adding:

Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

A good tip, thanks!

The most-commented post in 2013, says Jetpack, was Don’t ignore social voices, Knight Frank #LostMyGiggle with nearly 130 comments including on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Of interest, too, is information on where visitors come from, ie, which sites refer them. According to Jetpack, the top three referring sites in 2013 were these:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Google+

I knew this from other research, but it’s good to see it confirmed by another credible source.

And where in the world did these visitors come from? 193 countries, says Jetpack! Specifically:

Most visitors came from The United States. The United Kingdom & Germany were not far behind.

US visitors are, roughly, about 51% of all visitors according to other measures. But, as Jetpack says, it’s ‘most.’ I suspect part of the reason why US visitor numbers are high is that much of my content has been widely syndicated in the US for much of the past decade.

So a useful snapshot of some of the metrics about what’s published on this blog, what people came to read in 2013, and what they did when they read it.

It makes me think about the value of blogging, especially with a strong business focus that is the characteristic of this blog (not many posts or videos about cats here), a topic about which Euan  Semple had a very good post yesterday.

It makes me think about the exposure of my thinking to others as expressed in posts that stimulate them to refer those posts to their communities or directly add their own points of view, whether here or elsewhere across the social web: it’s all trackable and connectable.

That’s what I call a conversation. So I’ll keep going… :)

From the fingertips of bloggers over 50

The email said, “We have a paying subscriber base of around 550,000 and 1.2 million readers so do expect an increase in visitors – make sure you put your wittiest, wisest comments up around then!”

These were the words of Katy Bravery, editor of Saga magazine, in an email to let me know that this blog, NevilleHobson.com, is one of 50 blogs written by bloggers over the age of 50 that are included in a feature in the September 2013 edition of the magazine, out from today.

50 Over-50 Bloggers

“50 Bloggers Over 50″ presents concise descriptions of Saga’s “pick from the best” (as they say), divided in categories that include culture, politics, food and drink, history, and the all-embracing ‘personal.’

I’m listed there, sandwiched between political blogger and radio show host Iain Dale and Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow.

It’s quite flattering to be included by Saga and presented to an audience that may not be that new to me as I’m right in the age group Saga serves – those aged 50 and over – with its array of services that include insurance, travel, financial services, healthcare and cruises. Plus the monthly magazine.

Here’s how Saga’s listing describes this blog:

Neville Hobson

Neville describes his blog as being at ‘the intersection of business, communication and technology. And shiny new objects.’ As that final sentence suggests, all this is explained in terms we regular folk can understand.

nevillehobson.com

If you’re visiting this blog having read the feature in September’s Saga magazine, welcome! Let me guide you to a few things that might interest you while you’re here:

  • The Saga description is accurate on what I write about here – topics that are broadly to do with business, communication and technology. I don’t write for a specific age group and you won’t find much about sport or gardening, but a lot about PR and the social web. In short, topics related to business, communication and technology that might interest you whatever your age or your gender.
  • The ‘About‘ page will tell you a  bit more about who I am and what I do.
  • The drop-down menus called ‘Categories’ and ‘Archives’ on the right of your screen (or scroll down to them if you’re reading this on a mobile device) are your access to content I’ve written here since 2006 categorized by specific topic and dated by month. Also see the word cloud – the bigger the word, the more posts on that topic. And of course, the search box.
  • If you’re interested in listening to content, I co-host a weekly business podcast, For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, published on Mondays. There are also occasional podcasts that are book reviews, interviews with interesting people and recordings of speakers at events. Why not give one a try?
  • If you have a tablet like an iPad, you might like to read my Flipboard magazine that contains a wide range of articles on contemporary topics that I find interesting. You might, too.
  • If you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, we can connect there too if you’d like to do that. Or you can just follow if you prefer. I’m also on Instagram and post smartphone snapshots there.

Thanks, I hope you enjoy your visit. Let me know if you do (or even if you don’t).

Refreshing design

A Bank Holiday weekend is a good quiet time for a web project and to roll out a new look to NevilleHobson.com.

The look and feel of a website – whether it’s a blog like this one or a corporate site like any you can think of – is a key element in the overall experience someone enjoys (or not) when they come to your presence on the web. It plays a role in your brand presence, whether it’s personal or corporate. (Ask Jakob Nielsen about web usability.)

In thinking about the reader experience, the focus in my mind was on putting the content front and centre. Consuming content in a blog or wherever else primarily ought to be about that: what the consumer experiences and whether that experience is worthwhile for him or her.

With that in mind, I present the new NevilleHobson.com.

The new look

Lots of white space, a pleasing serif typeface for the text, an overall uncluttered look.

The new look is a bit of a departure from the busy, newsroomy one it’s replaced.

The old look

The major feedback I’d had about the old look was in reference mostly to the typeface – sans-serif and too small – and how cluttered everything seemed to be. It largely reflected my own thoughts, too.

Both the new and old looks are WordPress child themes  – eleven40 and News respectively – that run on the Genesis Framework. I installed and enabled them myself.

With the new look, what you see is pretty much out of the box. I’ve made a few changes and tweaks here and there, mainly in the CSS. There will probably be a bit more tweaking in due course.

The structure of the site has not changed although I have simplified the navigation menu system, getting rid of a lot of clutter there, and retired some out-of-date content (static pages, not blog posts). I’ve also removed the background image that appeared every time you loaded a page. It looked nice but it had a huge negative impact on page-load times.

Importantly, I wanted to continue the responsive web design aspect of this blog that the Genesis Framework developers have made easy. It works well on whatever device on which you access it – whether it’s a 24-inch widescreen desktop monitor, an iPad or other 10-inch tablet, a Kindle Fire or other 7-inch tablet, or any modern smartphone with their 3- to 5-inch screens.

Let me add that as this blog runs on WordPress, changing a theme typically is a simple process that doesn’t require you to have much knowledge or skill in PHP coding or even HTML. The actual work I had to do to get to what you see now – from installing the new theme on a test blog, testing it, changing some elements, updating some content here, the other changes I mentioned earlier, etc – took me about five hours spread over this weekend.

And finally, if you read this blog’s content in an RSS reader, in your email program or via a syndicated service, you may not notice the design at all never mind a change in it if all you see is the text. That’s great! But, if you have five minutes to spare, do pop in and have a look around.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, I’d welcome your feedback, thanks.

Christmas wishes 2012

gapingvoid happy-holidays-animated540

For many people, today is the final working day before Christmas Day on December 25, followed – in the UK, and in much of the Commonwealth – by Boxing Day on the 26th. As they’re public holidays, it means in effect that many people take most if not all of next week as holiday.

That’s what I’m doing, too, focusing on family and close friends and taking time to reflect on the year that’s passing as we look forward to the next.

Apart from posting the show notes for the the next episode of the @FIRpodcast I’m recording with Shel Holtz on the 24th, I don’t expect to be posting much more here before the New Year. I will be around from time to time in my other usual places online – Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Instagram.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!