A Whole Lot of Improvements

Asteroid G, State of the Site 2023

Another year ticks by and I end up realizing that this site had been going for five years now (in its current form). That's far longer than any previous version of the site. The Domain updated weekly for about three years (with some of that content being hosted as "Darkmoon's Rants" over on ICVD, meaning The Domain really didn't last that long as its own site, but we'll fudge the numbers there). The first Asteroid G only officially made it a few months and then various little updates sputtered out after that. And my Tumblr blog, Musings of the Jewpacabra sporadically updated for a year or so and that trailed off after that. Getting to five years here is stunning.

Looked at from another perspective, all of the previous iterations of the site combined managed just shy of 200 articles total. The current Asteroid G, for comparison, has 2,234 articles at current count, without any signs of stopping. I'm damn proud of that, doing well over ten times the number of articles as my previous version. And it's honestly been pretty effortless most says, which is exactly how a hobby should be.

So, with that bit of back-patting out of the way, where is the site headed from here? This year has been the year of upgrades. It started back in January when I did a bunch of under the hood upgrades to the article code. That was so that each article could have their own <title> that would populate in your browser tabs, bookmarks, and all other ways to link and display the site. The way this site is built, on some PHP trickery and page switching, it's very easy to simply let every page have the same title by building that into the wrapper and just having the PHP switch out the interior content code. That's how this site (and ICVD) have operated for years. But I decided I really hated that and I wanted this modern looking site to operate in a more modern way. So I buckled down and changed that, creating more work for myself but a better site for everyone else. That's always the way it works.

And now, as you've likely noticed, the site has gone through another upgrade. I consider this the v2.5 of the site, a solid code upgrade for the main template that adds in more needed options. It did require yet another recode of the articles themselves, using a quick bit of automation to speed up the process. Unfortunately that does mean there are likely a few hard to find errors on some random articles deep in the archive. When I have time I plan to go through and, yes, click on every article one by one to verify the layout and make sure everything is displaying properly. My hope is that even if something doesn't display perfectly right now it at least degrades will enough to still be legible and usable... but we'll see. There's always work to be done.

Still, the new site design will look nice on 99% of the pages (I can guarantee that), and I do think it looks pretty snazzy. It's a solid upgrade over the look and feel of the previous site, itself a design I was rather proud of. Frankly, this site has become my showcase site, the place where I put all my random design ideas and my best code, just to show I can do something. I like making this place shine with a solid amount of sparkle and pizazz.

One thing you may not have noticed if you didn't scroll all the way down to the footer is that we now have themes for the site. Along with this main theme I made four other layouts. One, I like making layouts and I wanted this site to have that feature (the same feature, with appropriate themes for that site, is already implemented over on ICVD). The skins were specifically designed to suit certain readers' needs, though, and it's worth taking a moment to go over why they exist.

Naturally we start with the default skin, "Asteroid". This is the kind of website theme I like to use, a "dark mode" style with white-on-black text but still a fair bit of color overall. This site style suits my eyes, which is why every one of my sites default to a dark mode. They're my sites and, clearly, I'm designing them for me.

The next up is "Classic". This is a theme based on the best (and final) design from the previous version of this site, the v1.0 from back in 2009. I really liked the look of that site so I used its thematic elements here as an optional skin. Classic splits the difference between a "light mode" site and the standard Asteroid skin. It has a dark background, but then the main content is displayed with black-on-white text. For those that prefer reading text against a light background but still want some of the low-light benefits of a dark mode, this skin is for you.

"Retro" is the third skin, and it's what I call the "high contrast" skin for the site. It's theme is based on the classic vector arcade games from Atari, so everything is done with hard, colored lines and very little "filling". It's dark on dark on dark with white text, good for those that feel even the dark mode of the Asteroid skin doesn't hard enough.

After that we then have "Nebula". This is what I think of as the "console" coloring for the site. It features a black background at the very back, but content is displayed with an easy on the eyes white-one-blue coloring. I like this color combo, and I know a lot of people find it much easier to read text when it's white-on-blue, so I like being able to include this theme on my sites (I have a similar theme over on ICVD). This is good for people that want another nice "split the difference" skin.

Finally there's "Pulsar". This is the true "light mode" for the site, featuring white and light colors everywhere. Frankly this one hurts my eyes just because I really don't like light mode sites... but at the same time it's at least smooth looking. It doesn't glare like some white-colored sites can. For someone that hates light mode, I did try to make this work well.

Part of me is annoyed I didn't make six skins, since I like them to be nice and even... but I don't have an idea for one yet. Maybe some usability article I read will spur another skin idea and suddenly we'll add a sixth into the mix. We'll see if that happens.

So now, what's next? Well, I've done my big projects I wanted to do, but since I have to go through all the articles to check their layouts I'm planning to also go through and make sure every relevant page is listed in the archive navigations (the little navs in the footers of the articles). Cataloging everything and getting it all up to date is a priority for me. As I said, the work on this site is never done, and it's only going to continue to grow as the site grows. But then... I like working on this site, so this won't get boring any time soon.

The site will keep going, and I'll keep adding to it. So here's to another great year, and hopefully five more years to come (and five beyond that, and so on).