I can't believe that four years have passed since I started Swordroll's Blog. Over the past few days, I've introduced a couple of new things, so before we look back, let me highlight what's new!
Update NotesHere's a summary of what's new!
- The characters up top have been changed to more accurately reflect current outfits and incorporate more dynamic poses.
- The main navigation has changed slightly to include the Doubloon Database on the main bar and the new Pirate101 Hybrid Guide on the sub-navigation bar.
- The bar that follows you down the page to avoid having to scroll back up to change pages is still present, but in its new form.
- New sidebar dividers now match the theme.
- The background should now appear seamless for those with larger screen resolutions.
- The background on the Doubloon Database and main site are now consistent.
- Earlier this month, the first Aztecan Builder's Bundle Guide was released.
- Two days ago, I announced the Pirate101 Hybird Pet Guide, which I have had a ton of fun creating over the past several months.
- The Dire Crab, discovered by Alric Ravensinger, was added to the database.
- Yesterday, I announced the Wizard101 Illustrated Card-Giving Jewel Guide, which has been in the works for some time as well.
- Links in posts are now underlined to indicate that they are clickable, while links outside of posts such as the titles and on sidebars will not have underlines.
Looking Back: Blog Design
In my four years of blogging, you have only seen three major design changes outside of character or banner updates, but a lot more than just three were created behind the scenes. I tend to be my own worst critic, so I go through a number of designs before finding one I like. I thought that I might share a few of them with you here. Most of these are from quite awhile back, when I was moving from my first design to my second.
Long-time readers will recognize this one - it's the very first design I had. Subtle background, basic formatting, except that I added rounded corners to the different parts of the page and incorporated my own header. The characters stayed consistent, but each time you refreshed the page, they'd be on a new background, similar to how Central does their headers. It was a feature I really liked. This version is still available for viewing on "The Wayback Machine."
I ultimately chose to migrate to a new design after about a year of blogging. I was getting my own domain, needed something refreshing, and, most importantly, the rounded corners weren't compatible with Internet Explorer... naturally.
The second design I did had many more buttons. Not only did I want some "Play" buttons for the games, but also some different pages with information other than just my blog. Rather than my pages influencing the navigation, I'm fairly certain the navigation had more influence on the pages I made. I was also on a slideshow craze, attempting to incorporate that somehow.
This design died not only because it wasn't my strongest, but also because I was irritated by the excess space between the post content area and the sidebar, which I did not know how to manipulate. Up to this point, I'd accomplished my buttons and such almost entirely through different tricks in Blogger rather than messing with the source code.
Once I figured out how to do more coding, I started including some overlap. I used only my main pages at the time and some additional links to featured posts and guides up top. This design was one I liked, and I'm not sure why I threw it out at the time other than the fact that I may have done one that I liked more in the process.
With a little bit of assistance, I put together everything I loved from all of my other designs to create this one. Rounded corners up top, a rotating background that changed behind the characters with each refresh, a working slideshow, and buttons galore. I even turned the main navigation bar into a .gif that had some shine effects.
I decided that this one was too header-heavy, and that the content should be a bit more prominent when the page loaded.
I went in-game and started gathering images of different elements to put together for a site design. I'm disappointed I didn't save my Castle Avalon version of this one (I also discard many other nice ones). It had more navigation links in less space. I also incorporated a scrolling marquee. But it just wasn't right, and no play buttons were present, either.
This was what I arrived at after nearly six months of designing and redesigning. It required extensive manual coding and image creation, and, although I still use some pretty heavy-duty images today, I knew nothing of optimizing images for design, so the large, resized .png files took a long time to load. At this point, KingsIsle had also introduced Pirate101, so that had to be accounted for.
This design you should recognize. Though it had its characters changed many times with the release of Pirate101, the way the navigation looks was how I ended up refining the above design. I also, with help, had the bar follow viewers along the top of the screen for ease of access, and still use that feature today.
You may recognize this site, too. Back before I joined my websites, I ran a separate Pirate blog. All posts have since been migrated, but it was fun while it lasted.
This is the design I'm using now. Unlike the transition from the first to second, it isn't a complete overhaul, just an update to the existing design. This was based on the European versions of Wizard's website, but designed from scratch (outside of the game images, of course).
It had different versions, too, with different parts of the three-level navigation attached or separated, sized up or down, and so on. I'm very happy with how it turned out, and now have some updated character renders. This one, like my second design, actually required separate stylesheets for most browsers and then Internet Explorer.
No Celebration Without Gifts
I know you've all been waiting patiently at this point, and I'm excited to announce that I picked up some pretty cool prizes for contests this year. You can win the new Aztecan Builder's Bundle, crowns, and a $20 Target Combo Card with 10,000 crowns or 2 months membership to either game plus a mystery item.
Thanks to all of my readers who have stuck with me over these four years, and here's to many more! I appreciate you all. Head on over to the contest page for a chance at some prizes!
UPDATE: Winners Announced!
Congratulations to Mary Darkriver for winning the Aztecan Builder's Bundle for her blog post entry.
Congratulations to Rowan Ironblood for wining 5,000 crowns for her blog post entry!
Congratulations to Giant Hunters for winning 1,000 crowns for contributing to the Card-Giving Jewel Guide.
Congratulations to Wolf Fairyforge for winning the $20 combo card from the raffle!
Thanks to all who participated!
See you in the Spiral!