Sunday, March 21, 2010

New blog template – and the problems entailed

Last week I was happy to see that Blogger.com (where this blog is hosted) introduced a new template layout editor. While marked “beta” – or “Blogger in Draft” as they call it – I had thought about updating the layout of my site for quite some time, but never managed to sit down and do it. Now with this new editor, there seemed to be no reason not to go for a redesign.

You can see the result – I did not go crazy with the layout, but I think it is a nice, refreshed variation of the previous style. I replaced the header image and went for a slightly different color scheme. Temporarily I had picked a more colorful background image, but after some feedback decided against keeping it; it was just too noisy.

In general, I have to say the new editor is very nicely done and offers a very quick way to come to a reasonable design. However, there are some problems, too. Just to be clear: Even though I did not see any big-lettered warning signs in the new editor itself, by using the “Blogger in Draft” mode, I agreed to use pre-release software. So the following is clearly at least in part my fault – don’t get me wrong. However I thought I’d write it down for others to read and decide whether they would be fine trying it out, too.

Problem 1: Custom CSS got lost

Quite regularly I post source code or script snippets. In the old template I had included google-code-prettify to make those samples look nice and not take up too much space, but be limited to maximum box size and use scrollbars when necessary. To achieve this, a reference to a JavaScript and a CSS file needed to be included in the template, which I did. This got lost when I used the new graphical template editor and needed to be restored manually.

Problem 2: Google Analytics is brokenAnalyticsBloggerDrop

When I looked at my Google Analytics stats today, I saw a sharp drop in all numbers, starting last week when I switched to the new template. Apparently I am not alone with this and there seems to be some sort of problem with the tracking code embedded in the page.

According to the instructions, the JavaScript snippet for GA must be placed right before the closing body tag of any page. However when doing to in the new template, the final page (as seen in the browser) will contain a whole bunch of additional script code, before the body gets really closed. I am not sure what the problem with this is, but I suspect some sort of race condition or something like this, because my stats still show some people getting through.AnalyticsSomeHits2

Even though I do not really rely on these numbers for anything, this might be a more serious problem for other people. I hope Google will find a way to fix this soon.

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