Please Pardon The Dust

It is time to retire the old Writing Excuses website.

This site has been using the same WordPress theme since the very beginning, in early 2008, and that particular theme felt very “2005.” This means Writing Excuses is about eleven years overdue for a change, which is a neat trick for an eight-year-old site.

You’re reading this on the new theme, which was rolled out by Howard and Izzy on January 1st.

WX-LogoBWWe still have a lot of work to do. The new theme exposes a bunch of pages that will be super useful once they’re finished, but it’s going to take time. Expect things to occasionally be broken, then better, then worse, then really good. But even at “really good” there will still be stuff to fine-tune.

Please be patient, and per the post title, pardon the (metaphorical) dust while we remodel.

New features include:

  • Mobile-friendly design, complete with “readable text” and “nothing is missing, just scroll down.”
  • RSS widgets from your hosts
  • More white space for easy-on-the-eyes reading
  • Prominent links for the archives, the transcripts, the books-of-the-week, and more (coming soon)
  • Bigger, better tag cloud
  • Gravatar compatibility

The scope of this project is limited. The new site will never be perfect, but it will never be perfect in the same way that the book you send off to the publisher will never be perfect.

“Flawed, but finished” is our goal, provided the flaws are small ones.


51 thoughts on “Please Pardon The Dust”

  1. The biggest problem I’ve found, just so everybody knows I know about it: The custom fields for Book of the Week and Writing Prompt are not displaying in posts.

    This will require some crunchy coding.

  2. Hmm, I like having the season links on the side, but I have to admit, I’m going to miss the old theme. I actually like that grey-and-black style. But I’m probably in the minority, here, so….

  3. oh, I no longer have the opportunity to buy Dan bacon! I liked that link.

    The new site looks good and highly functional. Looking forward to it.

  4. Hey, so I noticed the desire to have a list of guest appearances. While I’m obviously a random stranger and therefore should never have admin privileges, I would love to scour the archives and assemble a list of all the relevant information and email it to whomever could post it on that tab.

      1. Okay, will do. I’ve been relistening to all the old podcasts at work anyway so it will be a great writing excuse!

    1. Not sure how much progress you have already made, but I have been retagging all the MP3 files to a consistent format over the last few years, and using the utility have generated a complete list of the artist information. It can serve as a checklist of which episodes had guests, though the tags do not have the URLs for the write-ups.

      I should be able to derive a list of all names from it, if that seems useful as well.

        1. Sent an email to the address above, using subject line “Requested Material: Writing Excuses Guest List”.

      1. Ha! I did the same thing a couple months ago – downloaded every episode and renamed and retagged them all in a consistent format so they play in the correct order on my phone. It took quite a while, but it was worth it, as I’ve listened about halfway through on my second time around.

  5. You’re doing well, Howard :) Pardon our feelings of ownership of this site, it’s just that we do have such a long-term relationship with it.

  6. I’m totally having one of those experiences with the new logo where half my brain agrees with the obvious intent that it’s a pen that’s sending RSS updates, and the other half is like “nono, it’s totally a scifi wifi torch.”

  7. Looking good.
    I understand the concept of “making a mess before you can tidy up.”
    Looking forward to the rest of the changes.

  8. Been lurking for a few months and thought the new season would be a good time to start commenting. I really like the new site design – especially the “levels of crunchy” sidebar. I’ve been using it a lot.

    There is one thing that bothers me about it though – I wish that when you click on one of the levels of crunchy it would display the most recent episodes first, instead of the oldest first. You guys have always been entertaining, but I miss Mary’s input when listening to seasons 1-5, and it sometimes takes a lot of scrolling to get to the more recent ones.

    1. The CRUNCH LEVEL menu results now sort newest-first, while the SEASON menu results sort oldest-first.

      This took some custom code from Izzy. I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

  9. Please include an option to defer to a desktop layout, don’t force me to use a ‘mobile friendly’ version. They’re always so impractical and lacking in their utility.

    1. Try this with me: On the desktop, make your browser window smaller and smaller and smaller and watch what the site does.

      That’s what the mobile version is. There’s no mobile device detection, just a query for screen real-estate. On your mobile, you’ll get the desktop version flowing correctly for the size of screen you’re on. All the menus are there. You just need to scroll down.

  10. The website looks great! I especially like your organization of episodes according to “crunch” level. Looking forward to another great year of casts…thanks for all that you do!

  11. Hey, nice new website! On the old website, there was a cool little calendar off to the side, where you could see when episodes had been posted month by month. Is that going to be added as part of the new website or is it in the past? The new logo is awesome too!

  12. New site looks great Howard and Izzy! Much appreciated. I’m noticing some small issues in the episode archives, such as season one listing episodes in this order: 1, 4, 2, 3, 5,…

    1. Season one looks fine to me. Perhaps Howard fixed it already. Or did you mean season three? Episode 3.4 was aired out-of-order in deliberate reference to its subject. You can see this in the calendar dates, or hear it in the start of the episode.

      1. Mmm, perhaps you’re right, and I somehow got confused as to which season I was viewing. My apologies.

  13. I really do NOT like the new site. The old design had it’s own mood and was individualistic. It felt like a site for writers. . you know, all that black and white. It didn’t need to be flashy. We’re writers, we LOVE black and white. Whereas this site looks like you’ve used the most basic colour palette you could find. It feels cliche and frankly boring. The font choice is lifeless. The logo basically has not changed except the colours. However what do these colours have to do with writing? What was the creative process in choosing this palette and design? For a couple of dollars you could crowd source better ideas from 99designs or Fiver. This just feels like a lack of creative input – something I definitely would not have expected from Brandon, Mary, Howard, and Dan.

    1. Noted. We’re not changing back.

      Note also bullet point three here. Your complaints showed utter disrespect for those who worked on the site, made worse by the fact that as a writer you could have demonstrated skill in lodging complaints respectfully. Your comments will no longer be auto-approved.

        1. Oh, I expected far more complaining than we actually got. It’s about 20:1 in favor of the design, and we would have been completely happy with an 80/20 split.

    2. I agree. I liked the old scheme more, but I do like the features. Perhaps an option to go to a secondary scheme would work.

      1. That level of customization requires time and money that we do not have. And if we had the time and money to do THAT, there are a dozen other things we’d do first.

        I liked the old scheme more, but I do like the features.

        What you’re saying is that you liked the old paint job, but the new paint is on a better car.

        I suspect you’ll get used to the paint.

  14. I like the new site. The only thing I would like is a short description of each episode in the archive to distinguish different takes on similar topics. And I can’t quite remember, but with the old site, couldn’t you listen to all the episodes listed without navigating to a new page? Maybe I’m confusing you with a different site, but that was extremely convenient.

    In terms of color scheme, it would help to have alternating backgrounds behind each episode so it’s easier to tell where one ends and the next begins. Or it that’s too hard to code, a dividing line would work, too. Right now the white space between each subset of links for each episode is the same as between one episode and the next. That makes them all seem to run together.

    1. We’re still working on the archive pages. The format does not yet make me happy. I’m not sure why the divider bars present on the main page do not also put in an appearance in the other pages containing multiple episodes.

      We never had a “listen to everything here” page, or if we did, it broke sometime in 2009. I’ve updated the RSS feed so that it will provide links to the most recent 120 items, but that won’t take you all the way back to the beginning. (An RSS feed that includes the entire archives crashed our server before. We miiiiight go back to that, but there’s work to do first.)

    2. Hang on, just did some more exploring. Clicking “Season 1” in the link on an episode’s page will take you to which is exactly like what I was suggesting. But clicking “Season 1” in the archive bar takes you to which is weirdly formatted, as I described. Maybe you could just change the sidebar links to the same as the episode page links? I don’t know why you have two sets of archive pages, but I think it would be better to put the links to the more user-friendly one on the sidebar.

      1. Yup. Per my previous comment, we’re still working on it. The up-side is that right now everything is accessible. The down-side is, well, you’ve found the downside.

  15. There is a divider bar on the first page, but the bar is very thin.

    Also I noticed the side bar has the

    formatted URLS up through season 7

    and uses the

    formatted URLS for seasons 8 – 10.

    Not trying to hurry you Howard, but just thought you’d like to know for when their is time to look at this.

    Yes, I also used to do tech support and I did S/W / web testing.

  16. being fairly new to regular commenting I forgot why my comment was being held for moderation, having forgotten that the FAQs say it will be held when there are URLs in the comment, so I was correcting an error that doesn’t show yet.

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