It is widely recognised that content is the most important aspect of a blog, however it is the look that is first noticed; and just like with people, first impressions do count. So unless all your readers use a feed reader they will gain thoughts about your site from the first few moments of visiting. Now I have to admit I didn’t really like my theme, but stuck with it until I could develop a new one; I just didn’t think it would take three years.
The reasons for wanting a new theme
I read it was important when starting a blog to pick a theme with the structure you like and not to spend time changing it too often so you concentrate on writing content. Therefore I picked my previous one because it had a three piece sidebar (a wide sidebar on the top and two narrow ones underneath). However, over time I found myself using the top section more and more and realised that the structure was no longer working for me.
I also thought the navigation was difficult. I had previously introduced a tabbed widget to include more information in the sidebar e.g. recent posts, top commentors, but think this actually hid the information more! Then there was also the minor details of the dark background and the standard header.
Designing the new theme
Again I looked for a structure I liked and selected techicon theme by blog oh blog because of the boxes at the top aiding navigation. I wanted to have a personal header and went through our photographs and picked this one taken from Worth Matravers, Dorset looking out towards Winspit and selected an appropriate sized header. To get the colours for theme I used an colour scheme tool to select a blue from the header to get complimentary colours and I was very keen that they were light in colour.
I then started adapting the code. Unfortunately my knowledge is not as high as my desires so this was tricky. I cut, paste and fiddle the code, relying on information in forums and blogs when I get stuck. However, I was just about there when WordPress 2.7 came out. I wanted to include features such as nested comments so changed the code, and WordPress 2.8 came out and at that point I gave up as I realised I would not be able to keep my code up to date with the updates to WordPress.
Redesigning the new theme
While browsing for something else recently, I came across the idea of framework themes and realised they solved my problem with keeping the code up to date with WordPress, as the theme changes are kept separate from the framework so when WordPress or framework is updated it is completely separate to your theme. I downloaded Thematic to give it ago and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to personalise. I don’t want to suggest it was completely straight forward as I still needed to look for help and ask questions in the forum, however, it only took two weeks to convert the standard Thematic theme into a theme that was very close to the theme I created previously.
Improvements still to make
I think the site looks much better and is much easier to navigate, however I know its not yet finished, for instance I’d like to remove the numbers in the header boxes for number of comments and views and the code around the header is not as neat as it could be. Plus I suspect I will discover other features to tweak after using it for a while.
I am excited at finally having a new theme, although there is still a feeling of disbelief that it has finally gone live. Please let me know what you think; does it work on your browser? What features do you like or what would you change? I’m also hoping my new theme will encourage some more comments as I haven’t had any since April and I’m feeling a bit lonely 😉