27 July 2013

Adventures in Dynamic Views: A Blogger Adventure (AKA, Please Drop By and Let Me Know if You Can Comment Now)

Yo! So, I signed on to do Camp NaNoWriMo at the beginning of the month, a goal I set alongside sundry other goals to get my writing house in order. With a two-thirds finished manuscript and a handful of short stories I wanted to write - not to mention a plan to get back on the submission horse and possibly start editing a collection of short stories - why not completely change my blog?

I admit this was a spontaneous change brought on by the envy I felt looking at Deborah Walker's shiny new template. When she claimed in a post's comments that she was getting way more page views with the new format, I was sold.

I admit, I like a lot about Dynamic Views. To me, part of the purpose of having a blog is having a whole lot of stuff you've written available to people online. One of the things I've found pesky about a traditional blog format is that it is fairly challenging to a reader who might want to poke around in the archive to access that archive. Blogger's "archive" widget is pretty crappy in terms of navigation. With Dynamic Views, the reader has access to the entire blog via a simple scroll down. Dynamic Views actively encourages people to wander around and take a look at the place. Yay!

Once I had it installed, I realized there were some big problems with Dynamic Views. If you just install it without tweaks, it automatically includes a little menu that allows readers to bork with your layout by choosing cute options like "flipcard" and "magazine", thus displaying your posts in different arrangements. I like the "timeslide" format (what you see on my blog) - it's why I chose Dynamic Views, but my particular content looks terrible in "flipcard" and I don't think much of some of the other options. I wanted to take that little menu away. "Timeslide" does this neat thing where it displays snippets of selected posts, but it also cuts off your blog post titles if they are longer than two or three words. More disturbingly, the awesome fishscale background and reddish colour theme that I love was only sometimes displaying. Half the time when I loaded my blog it would be this plain jane black thing that was quite ugly.


When Andrew Leon kindly let me know that he couldn't comment on my blog any more, I was saddened, to say the least. I wondered how many other people had dropped by and couldn't comment. Boo Hoo!

I was totally prepared to go back to my old template. I logged in, and had a quick look at my stats.

My pageviews had gone up 400% from before I changed the template. Uh. Yeah. Four times more pageviews! My ego made a decision: I would be keeping Dynamic Views, but only if I could figure out a way to make it more reliable and make sure that readers could comment.

(Google claims in this post that the reason for the increase in pageviews is a product of the more accurate tracking system that is enabled for Dynamic Views. My sense is that DV is also more user-friendly. Win / win.)

Enter Southern Speakers, a blog about tweaking your Blogger blog by a fellow named Yoga. This blog is seriously the best thing. Yoga posts all kinds of simple, quick, cut-and-paste bits of HTML for you to stick into your template, along with complete instructions on how to do that. (He has tweaks for more traditional Blogger layouts as well as DV.) With his help I did the following:

I got Dynamic Views to display the full title of my posts on my main page, rather than cutting them off.

I wiped out the ability of the reader to pick different types of dynamic view, meaning that they have to stick with Timeslide.

I inserted adorable vertical lines between my page links in my header bar.

Most importantly, Yoga linked to this tutorial on how to force the Dynamic Views template to stop occasionally loading that ugly black plain jane version of the template - what Yoga calls the "Ghost Template"  This fix comes via Päivi and Santeri of Global Nomads. Yay!

So: if you have Dynamic Views installed, at the least I heartily recommend that last fix, especially if you've found, like I did, that your pageviews have gone up since you installed Dynamic Views, but your comments have dropped. It's possible your readers can't comment! Tragic!

A special plea: If you're reading this and you're not seeing a comments form or the reddish fishscale pattern on my main page, PLEASE LET ME KNOW: elizabethtwist at gmail dot com. Thanks! 

ETA: As per L.G.'s complaint about the black gadget dock menu thinger overlapping the scroll bar on the righthand side, I've used this fix to move it to the left where it shouldn't interfere with the scroll bar any more. Thanks for the feedback, L.G.!


Deborah Walker said...

Yep I've had a 400% increase, too. Which is pretty amazing.

I've had trouble with my comments too. Which is a blow, because I love comments.

Thanks for all the links. I really must get around to sorting these out. But I'm too busy! Busy, busy. I know I'll put it on my list o' things to do.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Yep, I can comment. And I see the fish scales. But this layout is always tricky for me to maneuver. There's this menu bar on the side right where the scroll bar is. They always overlap on these things, and as I try to scroll down I end up hitting something that changes the page and I don't know how to change it back. Weird that the pageviews increase so dramatically. Why can't they track all sites the same?

Andrew Leon said...

The comment space is here, but all of the other stuff that was here last time is no longer here. I don't know if it's supposed to be or not?
And this is why, until I can afford to pay someone to do all of this for me, I will be sticking to my plain, generic blog look. Although it's promising that that blog has tutorials and stuff; I just won't be using them.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, never mind. It reverted after I commented. That's kind of weird.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks Andrew. I'll keep an eye on it for weirdness. The Ghost Template issue has to do with the rendering time, meaning the time it takes your computer to load the page. I can push it a little harder to make sure it works for most people. On the other hand I've been tweaking the template pretty hard, so it might have glitched on ya.

Not sure why Google has chosen not to work out potential problems with DV, but it is clear from what other people have discovered that they consider the plain jane "Ghost Template" to be a feature, not a bug.

Andrew Leon said...

Is the ghost template when everything else back behind looks fuzzy? Because that's not what I had when I first linked in. It was your post with the fish scale background as if that was the whole page. Not fuzzy or anything. However, after I commented, it updated and everything went to how it ought to be.

Deborah Walker said...

Ah, I've made all the fix ups. I thought it was going to be hard, but it was soooo easy. Took me about five minutes.

Thanks for doing all the research, Elizabeth, and to Yoga. Hoorah

Anonymous said...

Hey! I can comment, which is probably obvious to you if you're reading this. ;)

The cynical part of me is wondering if part of the reason you have more page views is that people have to click on a particular post to read it, but I'm glad you love your Dynamic Views. They look pretty cool.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Andrew: no, the ghost template is when you get a black and grey background on the main page, and my pages links don't show up in the header bar, and you can't comment.

What you saw was part of a tweak I was experimenting with. It didn't work for me, so I switched it back, but you must have loaded the site during the minute or so that the tweak was in place. (If you'd logged in at exactly the right minute, you might have witnessed the moment when I accidentally turned everything neon orange!)

@Debs: glad you found it helpful. Yoga's stuff really is the bomb. He's got great tweaks for regular Blogger templates, too.

@Chris: Hi! Yes, DV's click-to-view format does mean that each blog post viewing results in a pageview. This is not the case with a traditional scroll-down blog. However, Debs and I both feel that we're also getting pageviews because our archive is more easily accessible. No proof of that, exactly, but I feel that DV invites a reader to hang around, especially if its his / her first visit.

Andrew Leon said...

That would have been hilarious. I'm not a fan of orange.
Just sayin'.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Seldom have I known such horror.

Cathy said...

Thank you so much for this info. I've always liked the DV, but like yours, my blog looked terrible in some of the choices.

Jocelyn Rish said...

The new format is very cool. It does make me sad that the posts I spend so much time on are pretty much lost to new readers once a few more posts get posted on top of them, but since I'm not on Blogger, I don't think I can try this snazzy new look.

Hope things went well with your Camp NaNoWriMo projects!

Mina Lobo said...

I'd stopped by before and couldn't comment. Now I see the comment form and I see the fishscale pattern, but it's like a light pink color.

Deborah Walker said...

Talking of modding the old blog, do you know how to add social networking buttons to Blogger, Elizabeth? That's next on my list.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Hi Debs! I don't know, but if anyone does it would be Yoga at Southern Speakers.

Unknown said...

Hey, thanks for the nice tricks! I'm fixing up my blog thanks to you.

Unknown said...

Adventure tourism gains much of its excitement by allowing its participants to step outside of their comfort zone. This may be from experiencing culture shock or through the performance of acts, that require significant effort and involve some degree of risk physical danger.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Awesome, Gilles-Philippe. Glad I could help. Wish I were smart enough to have invented the tricks.

@shaun gave: I suspect you might not have read my post as carefully as one would like, but thanks for trying, spambot.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Thank you, thank you! Your post and links have helped me decide to change over to Dynamic Views. Whoo-hooo!

Skeptical Square said...

Your post has been a great help in fixing my blog. Thank you for the time you took to write this much appreciated.

सुभाष यादव said...

The new blog looks cool, easier to flip through your posts.

Anonymous said...

I'd highly tempted to switch over to DV- since I'm having trouble setting up Analytics.
Love the handling of archives though- it really is much more fluid and just prettier.
Doesn't seem like it's possible to add custom widgets though, which is the one thing holding me back.
p.s. nice fish scales!

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Su-sieee! Mac, I hope you are liking the new look.

@Skeptical: Yay! You are welcome.

@Subhas, thanks!

@alia, you are right, the loss of custom widgets or any HTML-based widgets is a big problem, and one I haven't dealt with in terms of my update. If you are really in love with your widgets, I would wait. There are some dirty hacks out there to get widgets to show once the post is expanded, but I haven't seen anything that looks like it will really work.

Vikas Shah said...

This site has really helped me make my mind up about my site: I've been switching back and forth between a DV and "normal" template but having seent this and the Southern Speakers sites, I am sure I can make the DV option work.

The only drawback I have come across is that I can't seem to get the site to recognise me as an author of my posts, such that in Google search results, the listings show the URLs as well as my face. I can easily claim authorship with traditional templates. How much this actually matters is debatable and I can probably trade that for the beauty of the DV.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this. All the links were all the questions I had. THANK YOU, and thanks Yoga- Southern Speakers!

altadc said...

Does anyone else notice that the dynamic views messed up our texts? It just cuts the words in the sentence whenever it wants to. Example: senten ce * tra ditional * l ove * ha te * pleas e * h elp * m e * fi x * thi s *

Unknown said...

Hey Alta D.C. - I am setting up a new blog with dynamic views and I've been trying to fix this line-break problem for hours. Is this a new problem? Your post is the only evidence I have that I'm not imagining it.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Hi, Alta and Professor Clark: it looks to me like this has been fixed as of today? According to the Google Product forum post I read it was a known issue. I just dropped by both of your blogs and looks like your line breaks are in appropriate places today. I love it when a fix involves zero effort!

Elizabeth Twist said...

Hi Vikas, I'm glad you found it helpful.

Not sure how to deal with the problem you're describing in your second paragraph. I would maybe shoot Yoga at Southern Speakers a message about it and see if he has a fix for you. He's the guru.

Jannik Lindquist said...

Apparently, you gave up on Dynamic Views. How come?

Regarding the boost in view counts this could be due to the fact that Dynamic Views has much better search options. For instance, standard Blogger templates can't be searched from a mobile device

Gerry Hatrić said...

Southern Speakers is a brilliant site, and lifesaver for any Dynamic Views user. You should also check out DynamicBlogger. I got some scripts from there to add social sharing widgets and LinkWithin onto my site.