A Blog You Can Actually Read

Why I waited so long, I don’t know.

With the blog redesign launched today, I don’t know why I resisted changing it for so many years, particularly in switching over from silver text on a dark brown background, to black text on a white background.  Even I find it easier to read, and I write these posts.  Last evening a friend who works for a prominent blog took a look at the changes and liked them, saying that previously he resisted reading the posts half the time, just because of how dark the site was.  [N.B. I realize that for those of you who subscribe to this blog, you have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me, it's probably for the best that you don't.]

Let’s take a look at what’s new, and at what’s going to be rolled out soon:



As you can see not only is the overall design cleaner, in terms of text, brighter, larger images, better separation between the posts, more visually-oriented suggested posts and tags at the end of each post, and a pretty nifty, partial animation in the header as you scroll down.

There’s now a permanent page called The Patron, about this blog’s inspiration, Renaissance man among men Count Baldassare Castiglione.

There’s also a page listing the Top Posts on the blog, in terms of number of online reads.  This ranking doesn’t include the figures for those who read my scribblings via email or e-readers, or the figures from back when it was hosted on Blogger, but it’s still reasonably accurate. I’ll update this Top Ten list periodically, when the numbers change in the analytics reports.



There’s now a mock-up of a possible Photos page, which a number of you said you wanted.  However, since I’m not exactly sure what you want me to put *in* the Photos section, I’ll ask you a favor if I may.  Please head over to the Photos page, and take the quick survey posted there on what you’d like to see in this section – I’d greatly appreciate it. I’ll leave the survey open until the morning of Friday, May 30th.

Quite a number of you liked the idea of having a Masterpiece of the Month section, and I’m still trying to figure out how to make that work, so expect to see that section roll out soon.


In the meantime, there are always kinks to be worked out when you do a major re-design like this.  Please feel free to leave any observations, suggestions for changes or further additions, or questions you may have in the Comments section of this blog post.  Alternatively, you can always send me a private message with your thoughts by using the online form in the Contact section.

Thanks very much!

"Saint Ivo" by Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1450) National Gallery, London

“Saint Ivo” by Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1450)
National Gallery, London



About these ads

You Voted! Time for a Blog Redesign

Thanks to everyone who participated in the redesign poll! You’ve sent some very helpful feedback, and I’m going to share some of the results with you:


An overwhelming number of you said you’d prefer to see the posts as dark text on a light-colored background.  This is a complaint I’ve received for years, so I may as well accept it. What can I say! Sometimes old habits die hard, but I’m listening.


There was a definite majority for keeping the current mix of browns, blacks, and grays, taken from Raphael’s portrait of Castiglione in The Louvre; a detail of that painting is used for the site masthead and thumbnail icon.  Castiglione is, as many of my regular readers know, whom I call the “Patron” of this blog – not only because “Blog of the Courtier” is a pun on his famous “Book of the Courtier”, but because I think we have a lot to learn from him.  And to that end, I’m planning to sketch out a permanent tab of some sort to explain who he was, and why you should get to know him.


By an overwhelming margin, voters thought the current image ratio – just wide enough to fit the width of the post – is fine,  but you also want to see more pictures in the text of the posts themselves.  So we’ll give that a go, and see how things develop.


Three of the eight options listed in the poll had a fair amount of support, so they’ll be added to the new site:

  • Masterpiece of the Month – Each month I’ll pick out something from the cultural world – painting, sculpture, literature, film, music, architecture, etc. – that people should try to know about, and give it its own dedicated section, sort of like a microblog within the larger blog.
  • Most Read Posts Section – This will basically be an All-Time Top 10 List, to give new readers in particular a flavor for the variety of subjects which readers seem to enjoy reading the most. And of course I’ll update it periodically as statistics on the most popular posts change.
  • Photo Gallery – Quite a few of you asked for a separate photo album section, so I’ll do my best to see how to integrate one into the site. Unfortunately I’m not sure exactly what sort of photos you want me to be posting. Should it be a Courtier Instagram feed? A gallery of dogs and cats I have known? Me with other bloggers making odd faces? Perhaps you’ll do me the great favor of leaving some feedback ideas to let me know.

Again, thanks for your votes and your comments; please keep them coming as these changes toll out.  Be sure to check in Monday and let me know what you think.  And as always, I am very grateful for your readership!

"Sketch of Raphael's Portrait of Castiglione" by Rembrandt (1639) The Albertina, Vienna

“Sketch of Raphael’s Portrait of Castiglione” by Rembrandt (1639)
The Albertina, Vienna


For Readers: A (Word)Pressing Question

Over the weekend, one of my very regular readers and commenters pointed out that The Courtier has had the same look since it switched over to WordPress three years ago.  They suggested it might be time for an update, particularly because they have had difficulty reading these pages due to the light text on a dark background.  By way of explanation, I should point out that the darker color scheme of browns, grays, and blacks was deliberately chosen to reference the colors in Raphael’s famous portrait now in The Louvre of this blog’s patron and inspiration, Count Baldassare Castiglione (those are Castiglione’s hands you see in the masthead and blog icon.)

However, far be it from me to appear inflexible before you, gentle reader, so we’re going to have a little poll. Do you like the way things look here now, or would you prefer to see some changes?  Please take a moment to vote below, and I’ll report back on the results at the end of the week. And as always, thank you for your continued readership and feedback.