Skinning Yehuda (or the development of an igoogle theme)

For a little while, I had been wanting to play with my own Google theme. The Google search page can be customised by the individual. All you need to do is to create your own account and be logged in. The trouble was, though I was interested in the technical nature of this, I didn't actually have any big idea as to what I wanted the theme to be.

Whilst acknowledging that this was rather back to front, it didn't diminish the interest.

Then, I was looking at my favourite online strip (currently on hiatus), Yehuda Moon and the kickstand cyclery and I thought "that'll be good to use as a base for my own experiment".

As a result, I came up with this skin for google:

This was my first theme, showing Yehuda cycling through the snow

This was based on the 23rd Feb 2008 strip.

I thought this came out quite well for a first try, it's pretty simple really. What you have is a text file which contains XML. This is a formalised language to say 'use this colour here, this image there' and so on. The images and file are uploaded so they can be seen by google, and then you can try out your own theme. All the details of how to do this are here, and I won't be re-writing this tutorial.

Having had my fun with 'proof of concept', I decided I'd like to use a Yehuda theme on my iGoogle homepage, and can only do this if it's submitted to Google, and can only do this with Rick's consent. Rick draws Yehuda Moon.

So, I told him what I'd done, and asked for his blessing.

Before he could respond, I'd put together a second skin:

This was a composite from two different strips.

This was based upon the strip for the 31st Dec 2008 and for the 25th December 2008

Rick responded - he liked the idea, and he and I discussed what could be done with it.

I suggested that we work toward a dynamic theme, which changes throughout the day. The idea would be to show 'a day in the life' of the kickstand gallery. We decided to do a basic structure and add to it over time, eventually ending up with a full dynamic theme which changed regularly to provide interest. The theme would be roughly in sync with the time of day, so someone using google in afternoon would see a daytime scene.

I created an ftp login so that Rick could send files to me, I would then encode them as static skins, i.e. the look would not change. Rick would comment about any tweaks. Once everything was okay, I would incorporate these static skins into a dynamic google theme which chose a different look depending upon the time of day.

In the meantime, Rick got busy, and said that what I'd already done was something he was happy with, so I submitted the two skins above. As a result we're now in a position to announce that the first public version of the theme is available on the iGoogle directory, and you can find it here (or just search for 'Yehuda'). Over time, we'll quietly update it to add more variation, and then we will gradually modify it as seasons change. At least, that's the intent. To use this theme with iGoogle, you need to be have a google account, and be logged into it.


The theme continues to be updated - there are now many more in the rotation. Unfortunately it takes google AGES to approve each update, so the live version won't update too often.