Customizing a Theme

As a designer, I have a hard time with the concept of a template. I’m used to being able to pick my font, get nit-picky with typography, and place elements/objects exactly where I want on a page. But, I’m smart enough to realize that a web page has different requirements than a print page. Since I’m not ready to learn all the ins and outs of writing code, I know I have to choose what amounts to someone else’s design.

Since I’ve determined that my Green Queen site will be blog based, I looked for themes that feature a few posts rather than one. I cover a variety of topics, so I wanted a way to get that across quickly. The person who came to read a post on repurposing might also want to read one on composting, but not crafting.

I knew I wanted a site I could customize—at least colors and fonts—so I focused on those. Ditto for a responsive layout.

Of the free WordPress themes, I liked two, though neither are perfect. In either case, I would want to pay the additional $30 to customize them—now, no longer free.

EXPOUND has the simplicity I like, attractive fonts, and good photo placement. I prefer the organizational page links to be at the top as these are. I don’t like the black border and would hope that could be changed. The feature photo crops badly, but I know I can fix that. The size of the subhead in the header is too small, but, I assume, I could change that too.

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IDEATION AND INTENT (I&I) was quite different as it includes tiny photos from all of the blog posts. Since I do use photos, this could encourage people to stay on my page and investigate other posts. I know this format would not do well on smaller devices—one for the minus column. I do like the text fonts and the placement of the keywords at the top of the post—another way to entice readers. The background color is subtle. I don’t like the font or color for the header, the size of the tagline in the header, or the placement of the menu.

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Since I’d end up paying $30 to customize my free WordPress site, I didn’t hesitate when I saw a deal for five themes for $27. One of these five would work well for Green Queen, another for my day-job business.

BREF by Nice Themes, has everything I want: multiple photos on the home page, responsive layout, left-column header, social media icon placement and is completely customizable. I like that you have to scroll past the photos to get to the first batch of text as I believe images are powerful and the best way to grab people’s attention. It even has a “contact us” template already set up. I do want to encourage site visitors to contact me so this is a plus.

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Since I can’t import my content into the Bref theme until we migrate to WordPress.org, I’ll work in I&I until we do. It’s good enough for now. I love that you can swap out themes somewhat easily!

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About Andrea Leigh Ptak

I am a graphic designer, editor and writer who specializes in publications. My 40-year career has included stints as Art Director at a small printing firm, Assistant Art Director at an advertising agency, and Production Manager at both a national advertising agency and a large national printing company. In 1980, I forged out on my own and never looked back. I owned and operated a successful full-service design studio in San Antonio, Texas, from 1980–1992. In 1993, I moved to Seattle, Washington. As the owner of Communicating Words & Images, I work with publication clients from the corporate and non-profit worlds. I also write a blog under the moniker: The Green Queen of Moderation—living an imperfectly sustainable life. The Green Queen shares tips and promotes ideas for sustainable living without going to extremes. Topics include the "re" words (recycling, repurposing, etc.), the green garden, green living, and simple gifts. My interests include gardening, photography, knitting, music of all kinds (I sing), theater, science fiction, and everything about the natural world. Two years ago, I received certification as a Master Urban Naturalist via The Audubon Society.

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