Moving to WordPress and K205 May 2008
It seemed fitting that the inaugural post on this blog should be about the usability of blogging systems. I’ve been thinking about adding a blog to my website for a while now. I’d experimented with Blogger and early versions of WordPress but I’d never been that impressed. Although blogging systems enable non-programmers to set up an interactive website quickly and easily, handing over control is hard for a programmer. When one relinquishes the power of coding a website in XHTML, one wants superb usability and flexibility in return. I’d found blogging systems lacking. But then I found K2.
K2 is a WordPress theme that not only controls the look and feel of a WordPress blog, it also enhances the tools for creating and managing the content. K2 enhances WordPress so well that I decided to republish my website in WordPress.
K2 has four outstanding usability features:
- humane messages and auto-saving;
- easy CSS restyling;
- interactive header image customization; and
- flexible sidebar management.
Humane Messages and Auto-Saving
K2 presents its feedback messages in modeless, transparent overlays which are dismissed by moving the cursor rather than clicking on an OK or Cancel dialog button. The following screenshot shows the message Gallery options saved presented in a modeless, transparent overlay.
Changes to some K2 settings are automatically saved, which reduces the click count still further. K2 provides an undo facility which encourages experimentation by reducing the fear of making uncorrectable changes, which often occur in other blogging systems.
Easy CSS Restyling
Unlike other blogging systems and WordPress themes, K2 doesn’t make one delve into the guts of the implementation to tweak the CSS. To override K2’s default styling, one stores the new CSS rules in a separate file which is linked into K2 on its settings page.
Interactive Header Image Customization
The default K2 header displays the title and sub-title of the blog in white on a blue background. Although K2 allows one to easily customize this text, it is the user interface for adding an optional header image that stands out. K2 can display a 950x200-pixel image behind the blog title. When one uploads an image larger than 950x200 pixels, K2 displays the image with an overlay that highlights a sub-region of the image that would make a valid header image. One then moves the overlay up and down to select a sub-region for the header image. K2 darkens the region outside the overlay to emphasize the selection within the overlay.
Flexible Sidebar Management</p>
K2’s Sidebar Manager provides tools such as drag and drop for adding modules to the sidebar and for rearranging their order. Where K2 takes a leap forward in customization is the flexibility designers have to decide on which pages a sidebar module will appear. The following screenshot shows the Display tab of the dialog for editing a K2 sidebar module. This tab lists all the pages on which the module may appear. Checking the box next to the name of a page controls whether K2 displays the module on that page.