Liliputing has been publishing news, reviews, and how to articles related to tiny computers for more than a dozen years. And in that time, the web has changed. A lot.

Every now and again I try to make sure the site changes with it… so for the second time this year, we’ve switched to a new, modern theme in an effort to adopt the latest web technologies and offer a faster, more streamlined experience.

In today’s Lilbits news roundup, we’ve got more details about the latest design for Liliputing.com as well as stories about Intel Lakefield processor benchmarks, updates on the Chuwi LarkBox and GPD Win Max, and more.

Liliputing.com homepage (6-26-2020)

After years of using themes based on the Genesis Framework, Liliputing is now using a customized theme based on Automattic’s open source NewsPack theme. It’s a responsive theme that plays well with desktop and mobile devices, but it features better integration with Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages technology than our old theme. And while customizing the new theme, I was able to do away with 8 WordPress plugins that were no longer needed.

One of them is wpDiscuz, the plugin Liliputing had been using to make comments look pretty. But it was one of the bigger resource hogs running on the site, and I noticed recently that the latest version of wpDiscuz doesn’t seem to play well with AMP (making it difficult for visitors to reply to comments after clicking an AMP link from a Google search).

So the comment system is now based on native WordPress comment functionality with a few tweaks from Automattic’s Jetpack service and a little custom CSS. It’s less pretty, but it should be faster. And more importantly, you should be able to comment from any device, no matter how you get to the site.

One issue that I’ve spent the last week trying to work out was that some Liliputing readers weren’t seeing fresh content when they visited the home page unless they manually refreshed the browser tab. I think we’ve identified and corrected the caching settings that caused that problem. But if you’re still experiencing that issue (or any other), please let me know in the comments to this post.

Feel free to sound off about font sizes, colors, or other things that may have caught your eye. I can’t promise to address every concern, but I’m open to feedback.

You can keep up on the latest headlines by following Liliputing on Twitter and Facebook.

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24 Comments

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    1. Interesting. I went with an rem setting instead of specifying a pixel height so that it would be more dynamic across different devices. Maybe I’ll try a lower number, or maybe I’ll switch to using px. Thanks!

      1. Whoops, it turns out the large font was a side effect of a change I’d made earlier this week getting reverted yesterday evening. Let me know if it looks better now.

  1. Glad for the updates. I’m curious: as an independent publisher, what’s your view on AMP? It’s controversial to say the least.

    https://www.theregister.com/2017/05/19/open_source_insider_google_amp_bad_bad_bad/

    Regarding the new design I still have an old Windows Phone from 2014 I sometime pick up around the house to check up on news around the web. It fits in my pocket, that’s a feature. 80% of web pages I’m interested in still work, but the new Liliputing interesting shows up as 502 Bad Gateway. Understandably you don’t want to optimize for obsolete Internet Explorer Mobile based on the obsolete Trident engine, but you were asking for feedback. 🙂

    1. Huh, you are correct. I had not tested for Windows Phone. Not sure why you’d be getting a 502 error unless something that I haven’t noticed is broken though.

      As for AMP, yep… Definitely controversial. But overall traffic and revenue for this website has fallen quite a bit over the years and that’s at least partially do to changes in Google’s search algorithms. The one change I made a few years ago that seemed to help boost search traffic was installing an AMP plugin, which led to a big surge in traffic from Google News and Chrome content suggestions for some new posts. But I really didn’t like using a plugin that effectively creates a second version of the site. This new theme is largely the same whether you’re viewing an AMP page or not.

      In fact, I’m considering making the AMP version of the page the default view for everyone. It loads more quickly, has less unnecessary code, and scores far better in Google’s pagespeed insights tests.

      But there are a few things I’d need to work out before I could do that.

      While it is problematic giving Google so much control over the technologies used by web publishers, I’m not mad at Google for coming up with tools that reduce file size and speed up loading of websites like this one. And AMP doesn’t hijack your url and send visitors to a Google hosted page anymore.

      1. “But overall traffic and revenue for this website has fallen quite a bit over the years and that’s at least partially do to changes in Google’s search algorithms.”

        The other part of this story is that we are in a cycle now where the open web is on the retreat and we increasingly spend our times in apps or silos. Such as Facebook or YouTube. Not necessarily the audience of Liliputing but as a society as a whole. There was a Wired article about it a few years back I can’t find now.

        YouTube is probably probably worth a special mention. Many tech journalists became YouTubers in the past fey years. That”s certainly a different approach to both creating and consuming journalism than words. Notable example: https://daringfireball.net/thetalkshow/2020/03/31/ep-281

        Regarding Google search results. I use DuckDuckGo, I know I’m not majority. But I can report that to a lot of my searches Liliputing comes up, so that’s good.

        Isn’t the name and email changed up in the new comment form?

      2. @Steve: Yep, some websites have done well by making up for declining search traffic through an increase in social media referrals.That’s always been a pretty small factor for Liliputing. Here’s a look at our referral traffic for the year-to-date:

        Referral traffic

        It’s Google’s world. We just publish mobile tech news in it.

        Update: We also used to get a lot more traffic from referrals from other tech blogs. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, likely due to changing behavior both on the parts of bloggers (they don’t always link to their sources) and readers (they don’t click those links as much as they used to). You’ll notice that third-party tech sites are pretty low on the list of sources of traffic for Liliputing.

    1. I’m not married to it — I’d prefer to actually eliminate Google Fonts altogether and just let readers browser use whatever their default sans-serif font is. But I have to dig a little further into the theme’s config to see how easy it will be to make that change.

    2. I, on the other hand, really like this font.

      Font tastes are a pain in the rear for web designers. But going for websafe fonts is probably a good shout in any case.

  2. We have been using Genesis framework for a number of years. Personally, I use Litespeed Cache instead of Jetpack, i found jetpack too bloaty. You might want to look at Thrive Comments for wordpress.

    1. Our web host WP Engine handles most of our caching — but we’re already using Jetpack for several other functions, so it made sense to try it. I’ll take a look at Thrive, but at this point I’m looking to use fewer plugins, not more!

      1. I like the new theme, it shows more cleanly on both my Laptop and my Phone.
        However, I’m having a few issues with the commenting system:
        1 – Some comments seem half cut-off (scaling/border issue?)
        2 – Some comments do not have a Reply button (no idea)
        3 – I can’t see any Avatars on Mac, they don’t load half the time on my phone (The placement is there, just not fetching the image)
        4 – It fails to remember my account details (still caching issues?)

        Laptop: Using a MacBook Pro with the Safari Browser (battery life)
        Phone: Using an Android10 phone with the Firefox Browser (privacy)

      2. Urgh, forgot to mention another thing:

        5 – Googling.
        Sometimes I will try to find a previous comment by googling my “username”, “liliputing”, and a “keyword” from that comment. This tactic no longer works. All comments remain invisible to DuckDuckGo or Google. Not sure if you noticed, but personally it’s a major drawback for me to re-find things quickly (my browsing history gets full/hard to find specific article when I can’t remember the title).
        ….is there a way to active that feature so it can show up on Search Engines?

        PS:
        Yes, can’t see the last sentence on my previous comment (about my phone).
        Also can’t see the Reply button beneath that, plus no avatar.
        Still asking me to re-enter my details, even though the “Save my name” is used.

        1. #3 – Are you using ghostery or any other script blocking plugins? Because the only way I can replicate this issue is by installing it.
          #5 – Seems to work for me. I did have to limit my Google search to the last 24 hours to find this comment, but it showed up.

          I’ll look into the other issues. I haven’t been able to replicate most of them on my end, but I don’t have a Mac, which makes things a little tricky. But I also don’t see a reply option on some comments and I’m not sure why yet.

        2. OK, figured that out — it has to do with comment threading. Previously it was set to a depth of up to 3 nested comments. I just upped it to 4. That means that you can reply to replies to replies… but after that you can only reply to the parent comments. This just keeps the threads/indentation from getting too far out of control.

        3. Sorry for late reply.

          1) Still seeing the “comment bubble” clipping into the comment. Need to adjust the borders to give some more white space. On Firefox Mac/Android its like it is set to a value of 0, where on safari it looks like it is set to -10. So maybe tweak that value up slightly higher if you have the option.

          2) I see. I think a nested comments of 3 is limiting, and ~5 feels decent. But agree if its too many it can get overbearing.

          3) I have Ghostery Lite but Liliputing is on my whitelist. I also have AdGuard Pro but that’s no longer working since the Catalina update (so I’ve disabled it, can’t seem to be able to completely uninstall it). Though Apple pushed another update not too long ago, so this has kinda broken Safari again. Ghostery seems to be blocking certain elements even in my whitelist, I confirmed this by force closing it and restarting Safari. On relaunch I duplicated the bug. Seems I either need to forgo seeing the avatars, or use Safari without any privacy protection :\ Yeah, Apple is breaking more things than they are fixing them lately! No issues on Firefox Mac/Android.

          4) Any idea about the issue asking for username details on each comment? Just keeps forgetting details, even when clicking on “Save my name” checkbox. I replicated this on Firefox Android/Mac, and also Safari.

          5) Yeah, thanks for the suggestion. I realized if I limited to a day/week/month/year it works. But on custom date, or no date it doesn’t work. Well, I just tried again now on “Any time” and it works. So I’m thinking its nothing to do with Liliputing, and more to do with WordPress syncing things over. At least that big feature is back. Woohoo. And I agree Disqus sucks, and many people including myself don’t want to make/use social media accounts just to post comments (Twitter/Facebook/Google).

          6) Also, is there an “edit” function? It would be good to have something like a 10 minute window to go back and edit a comment for typos/grammar or to correct an info or expand upon it.

          1. Thanks @Kangal!

            • I just added a little extra padding to the bottom of comments. Maybe that will help with the clipping.
            • I’m going to stick with four nested comments for a little while, but I might extend it if it looks helpful in the future.
            • Not sure what’s causing WordPress to require you to re-enter your username. I can see in the backend that all your recent comments are associated with your email (with 1301 comments to date!). I’ll continue investigating why it might not be remembering you each time though.
            • There’s not currently an option for user edits, because it’s not baked into the default WordPress/Jetpack comment functionality. It looks like there may be plugins that enable this, but I’ll have to evaluate their impact on site performance before deciding whether to implement them. I know this is an often-requested feature though.
            • I actually dropped Disqus in 2017, but after going through way too much work to wrest Liliputing’s comment data away from the third-party service, I set up wpDiscuz, which runs locally on our server and replicates some of the functionality of tools like Disqus. But wpDiscuz adds a lot of scripts and styles to the site, so when I moved to this new theme recently I decided to see if we could make do without it. The nice thing about this plugin though, is that it just adds functionality to the existing WordPress comment service, so I could flip a switch to enable/disable wpDiscuz at any time if I decide that native WordPress comment features are too limiting. The historic comment data is all stored in our database.