Here's what happened, in a massively abridged timeline: we started with Squarespace, which is a great platform for certain use-cases, but did not evolve enough to have great page-load times - it is a bit of a bloated product now - but only because of the sheer volume of content that CHILLFILTR® produces. So we moved to Ghost, in a huge and painful data migration that happened over 2 months in the summer of 2019. More info here and here.
Earlier this year I was still new to Ghost, and gravitated towards the first theme I could find that looked good; I just didn't have the time to play around with the presentation layer, so the last theme we had was great and looked fantastic; but there were a few features that I needed that were not there, and over time it became quite an issue. Now, I wish I had more ways to communicate with my web visitors, but as it stands right now, I have to make decisions without the advantage of focus-group testing, or anything like that. I am very much still coding in the dark on this one, so I will never know how many of you are going to miss the old layout, and the fancy mouse-over image flutter, for example, nor will I know how many of you were missing the very same features that I have decided to prioritize. But I will take a minute to explain what is gone, and what is here now for the first time.
The last theme had a custom search function, which looked great, again, but a bit like the entire Squarespace experience, it just wasn't ready for the massive volume of content we have at CHILLFILTR®. So the actual speed of the search was not optimized, and it was just a bad experience - sometimes nothing would happen, and in the best of cases you were waiting 3-4 seconds to see any results at all. With our new customization, I have handed the process over to a custom search; it now happens VERY quickly. So that's great. Check it out here. The search is fast and reliable, and at this point it is completely necessary because if you had a feature published on CHILLFILTR® last year, for example, you would have to do a lot of scrolling to find it. Now you can search and click the result in about 1 second. Huzzah.
As much as I enjoyed the previous layout, this new one adds a few benefits, in terms of layout style. I liked the clean, white-background aesthetic, but the layout now is much closer to something like Apple News, in terms of how the tiles move between a few different sizes, and then of course the infinite scroll helps enormously with engagement. I won't know for sure until I see some stats over the next few weeks, but something tells me that a better search and auto-loading new content should play a role in bumping up the number of page views per visitor.
When you are running a one-man shop the way I am, maintainability becomes a massive consideration, something I like to call 'set-it-and-forget-it.' Certain tasks will always be manual, of course, things like the actual content writing and some of the shares that I do, as well as the curation for playlists which takes a fair amount of time. So fiddling with Ghost code is pretty much at the bottom of my list, and the issue with my last theme was that I did so much customization that every new version roll-out was a rather large headache for me. One of the benefits of re-evaluating the 'view' layer from time to time is that you can make optimizations. I have moved as much of my styling into code-injections as possible, which are durable against new theme versions, because they don't live in the Handlebars files; and I removed other customizations in lieu of a drop-in embed, like our new tags page for example. So I am learning as I go, and I'm always finding new ways to simplify.