Ever thought about radically changing the look of your blog without much design work? Are you a designer who likes to work in semantic HTML and do amazing things with CSS? Maybe you’re moving from WordPress to Movable Type and want to keep your current design. Sandbox for Movable Type may just be what you’re looking for.
What began as a hackathon project of between Bryan Tighe and myself a little while ago has yielded some great results: today we’re releasing Sandbox for Movable Type as a plugin that allows the many Sandbox themes to be used on Movable Type blogs as well. (BTW, Hackathons—the ability to spend every Wednesday scratching our own itches—are one of the reasons why I love working at Six Apart. The Vanilla Template Set was another of my recent Hackathon projects.)
Sandbox is similar to the CSS Zen Garden in that it showcases the power of CSS—the ability to radically transform the look of a site without changing any of the underlying HTML. Movable Type has always supported this concept. Tools like the Movable Type Design Assistant have made it much simpler to customize the look of your Movable Type blog through CSS alone. And this concept and philosophy is also why we supported The Style Contest, which not only succeeded in producing over 150 new designs to style Movable Type’s default templates, but also in rewarding the awesome designers behind each of the winning designs.
Scott Wallick and Andy Skelton created Sandbox as a theme for WordPress and it has since been used as the base for many blogs over the last few years. At its core, Sandbox is a rich and semantic—yet simple—HTML structure with many unique CSS classes throughout in order to make it simple for non-designers to easily make small design adjustments to an existing Sandbox theme. More experienced designers can even radically change the look and structure of a blog using CSS alone. Using the dynamically generated classes, themes can even style the site differently each hour of the day!
This well-thought-out structure has attracted many web designers and developers to create themes for Sandbox which other can then use as a starting point for their own customizations to suit their individual needs. (Though Scott points out that his site uses purely unmodified Sandbox html!)
Here are three of our favorite themes showing off the flexibility of Sandbox… and remember that all of these designs use the exact same HTML templates!
Essay by Ian Stewart
Takimata by Robert Ellis
Blackbox by Hillary Louise Johnson
Diurnal by Carolyn Smith
Diurnal is a great example of a theme using Sandbox’s ability to change appearance based upon the time of day. Diurnal has different styles for sunrise, morning, afternoon, sunset, and night which you can see across the top of this screenshot:
And we owe a huge thanks to the designers of all of the variations of Sandbox that we’re making available. Here are their names and the designs they’ve created — be sure to check out their sites and show your appreciation for their work!
- Magnolia by Andrea Daigle
- Ponjong by Nurudin Jauhari
- Prima by Sunaryo Hadi
- Sandpress by Arpit Jacob
- Shades of Gray by Leslie Franke
- Tiffany Blue by Ia Lucero
- Moo-Point by Will Wilkins
- Promised Land by Adam Freetly
Installing Sandbox on Movable Type 4.2 is pretty easy. Sandbox requires that you have PHP setup on your web server in order to create dynamic classes; this should be easy as nearly every host comes standard with PHP out of the box these days.
The Sandbox plugin also ships with a newer version of StyleCatcher (the Style selector within Movable Type), making it simple to switch between different Sandbox styles. Installation instructions for Sandbox and StyleCatcher are included in the plugin, though if you’ve installed a plugin before it should be a snap.
We’ve shipped all the winning themes from the Sandbox Design Contest and a handful of other Sandbox themes. You can also install other themes from the Sandbox Design Contest with Sandbox for Movable Type or create your own Sandbox theme
Download Sandbox for Movable Type from the plugin directory and please let us know what you think and how we can make it better.