Are you still using the same blog theme that you started with? Do you want to switch things up but can’t figure out what to switch to? Today, let’s talk themes.
I started off blogging with Sela, which was a free theme. Then Sela was retired. I wasn’t forced to change, but I figured if it was no longer current it would end up getting buggy. I switched to a premium theme, although I can’t remember the name. I discovered quickly that it annoyed me, because of the way it was handling featured images. I then tried out a theme that I installed from elsewhere, but that had things that annoyed me too. Then I ended up where I am now, with Dara, which is a free theme.
Theme-changing is a pain in the ass if you’ve got a fair bit going on on your blog. Widgets in particular can be annoying if a new theme doesn’t have the same widget areas available, so end up crammed into odd places. Then there are the various things that you don’t notice right away with a new theme until you poke around for a while and realize that it’s doing something weird that you don’t want it to do, and there’s no way to make it do things differently.
I feel like too much choice doesn’t help me… that is, until I try searching by combinations of features I want, and I get nothing. Speaking of which, the search by feature setup that WP has got going in is pretty ghetto. With the WP plan that I’m on, I can install themes in addition to what’s listed on WordPress, but again, that comes back to too much choice.
From what I can gather, a fair bit of what’s done with a theme is done (or can be overridden) using cascading style sheets (CSS). My theme appears to have a big, clunky CSS file, at least according to Google’s Pagespeed Insights. I haven’t bothered testing it out to see if my theme is more bloated than usual, or if WordPress themes are all pretty big. This may be part of why certain themes are considered more SEO-friendly than others (wpbeginner has a list of best SEO-friendly themes).
So, what are some of the options to consider when picking a theme? Here’s some of what WP’s crap-arific theme search field allows you to specify:
- grid/responsive/fluid layout
- custom colours and backgrounds
- site logo
- menus: custom, classic, fixed menu, multiple menus, social menu
- featured image header, flexible header
- footer widgets
- allows portfolio
- multiple post formats
- threaded comments
- supports block editor
- allows blog excerpts
I suppose that the more things a theme allows, the bigger and clunkier it gets, but some of these seem a bit ridiculous that they could potentially not be included in the theme. After WP forced everyone over to the block editor, how is not supporting the block editor even an option?
I also think it’s a bit dumb that custom colours and backgrounds aren’t a given. How hard can it truly be that it seems like a better option to force people into a colour scheme?
What I would like to see is a choose-your-own-adventure theme generator. Granted, one could probably do that to some extent using cascading style sheets (CSS), which is usable on the WP premium plan and higher (or self-hosted); still, that takes effort and fiddling to make fancier changes.
This has been a lot of me semi-ranting, so moving right along to what’s desirable to have in a blog theme. Personally, I like to be able to have my blog posts on a different page from my home page, primarily because I’ve got more going on on my site than just blog posts. I like having the freedom to do what I want with menus, because that seems like a given, just like custom colours should be a given. I also like having a sidebar and footer for widgets. I’m not as widget-happy as I used to be, but I do have things I want to put there.
How does one find the right theme that does exactly what you want and nothing that you don’t want? I have no idea. If anyone knows where to find that particular magic wand, please share.
What theme do you use? Do you like it, or just put up with it? Have you been looking for another?