What Type of Experience Do You Provide

the experience of reading

the experience of reading

The Issue

Working in the web industry means there is lots of news to follow. Tons of new developments all over that you are expected to keep track of. If you don’t keep track of the latest developments you can quite quickly find yourself using outdated techniques.

I use Google Reader to organize all my feeds. It’s great for moving through lots of feeds quickly to get the good stuff. Follow a few friends and they can share items you missed. Google Reader is accessible from any internet connection on any machine. Jump on the Google Gears bandwagon and offline reading is only a sync away. But Google Reader sucks…

Google Reader sucks for one thing though…reading. Yeah that’s right Google Reader sucks if you actually want to read the articles in your feed.

Google Reader is just not pretty. Sure the blue links with purple for visited links is accessible but boy the experience of reading is sadly lacking. Sure you can install HelvetaReader and get some nice typography and drastically improved looks for links but it’s still has a long way to go. It most certainly doesn’t make reading an enjoyable experience, reading in Google Reader is a utilitarian experience.

The Experience

I personally miss reading as an experience. I miss sitting and enjoying a good book. Yeah I know that much of those times are gone but the web could learn something.

Most sites are full of flashing little banners for adds (I know people need to get paid). Though they say ‘content is king’ it’s really only lip service it seems.

A book is just words on paper. You’re not getting distracted by that cool flash add. You sit and experience the story, experience the content.

I want blogs to start taking some of this experience into their design and layout. Drop the flashing adds. Tone down content all over your sidebars. Provide the user with some beautiful typographic layout in the body copy and let the other things fade to the background.

Yes I do realize my site doesn’t totally mesh with this idea, but a redesign is in the works.

The Reality

So despite all the charming things I said above the reality is that putting time into a blog is a lot of work. At some point there has to be a payoff and for many people it is financial. Financial comes in a few forms. It can be the adds. It can be the referrals for clients.

Most of those payoff’s require some form of advertising and some way to pull the focus off the text and onto your services or your adds and contact forms. But let’s see if we can leave off a bit and let the reader focus on what they came to see, the content.

Comienzo a Free WordPress Development Theme

Comienzo theme file

Comienzo theme file
If you follow me on twitter you may have noticed me tweet about adding features to my WordPress development theme. Well today it’s ready for release.

Comienzo (thanks @iKitty for the Spanish help) is a starting theme built for developers or designers. This really isn’t built for non-coding users since it contains almost no styles at all. Comienzo actually started out life as the wonderful Starkers by Elliot Jay Stocks. I used Starkers to start my WordPress development for quite a while but despite its greatness I was still always adding things to it like jQuery. Thus Comienzo was born.

The readme is a bit more detailed but Comienzo includes a bunch of stuff for you like jQuery 1.4.0 in the theme functions file. 2 widgetized areas complete with descriptions (new WP 2.9 feature). One of the widgetized areas is an alert area in the top of every page.

Comienzo only loads the new WordPress thumbnails if it is supported in the current installation. Comienzo auto removes text in the search box, provides client side validation of username and email fields in the comments, provides an admin panel for clients to include website tracking scripts like Google Analytics.

In short it does a bunch of stuff that I was always doing to make WordPress development as efficient as possible and provide my clients with the best theme I could.

The theme is entirely free to use for personal or commercial projects. I’d love a link in a blog post saying how cool I am but it’s not required. So that means go ahead use it for client work and give me no credit. I’d love to see some of the things that get built out of it though so leave a comment and let me know what you did.

Support: I offer no real support on the project. You can see the project on github which does issue tracking on projects so if you have an issue submit it there. Feel free to ping me on twitter to let me know you added an issue (that included a good description and test case and even a code fix) and if I agree I’ll add it at some point. Even better fork it on GitHub and fix the issue yourself then send me a pull request. Make sure there is a good description with it and if I agree I’ll incorporate it into the Theme.

Edit: Since I’ve got the question lots already…no there are not any real styles in the theme. It exists as a foundation for building WordPress sites. It provides a bunch of features for your site development so you don’t have to go add them to each site again like the client side comment validation.

View Theme Demo

Download Comienzo a Free WordPress Development Theme.