Blogging and Writing

How Do You Choose Your Blog Theme?

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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 I wasn’t forced to change, but I figured if it was no longer current it would end up getting buggy.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:

  • columns/sidebar
  • 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?

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40 thoughts on “How Do You Choose Your Blog Theme?”

  1. Haha you got me. I’ve been writing about redesigning my blog for 3 years πŸ˜‚. My cover photo is still food themed from my original idea when I was still drinking.

  2. Themes and page speed! What a nightmare.

    I’m on my third theme now, in an attempt to speed up my site. Originally, I used the Hemingway theme, which was beautiful, but awful for speed. I was getting a 13 on Pagespeed Insights. Then I switched to one I liked after searching themes for “page speed optimization” and finding one that claimed to be fast. After that, along with smushing my images, I’ve gotten it to a 40 which I couldn’t get past like a brick wall.

    After speaking to someone who informed me that my theme only ranked a B on GTMetrix, I did a Google search for the fastest free WordPress themes and settled on the one I’m currently using. So far, Pagespeed Insights is still using old data (it loads a picture of my last theme), so the number hasn’t changed. I’m hoping once it updates I’ll see more of an improvement. SEO is such a thorn in my side.

    Ang | https://loseweightwithang.com

    1. That’s weird that Pagespeed Insights is loading your last theme. i just ran it on a page I made changes on yesterday to the top image, and the current version is showing on Pagespeeds right now. My desktop speed is generally good, but mobile is crap. It’s also hard to figure out what I can and can’t control.

      1. I don’t know. I cleared my cache and cookies. Maybe a plugin is keeping old data and feeding it to Google. I figure since it’s only been a few days it’ll fix itself on it’s own.

  3. I’m using Toujours, I just changed it from something else which was a change from something else – can’t remember what they were. I prefer clean and simple so I want custom header, customer colors and single column because that’s all I need and/or want.

      1. I’m using Toujours on WP and Awesome Inc Light on Blogger. You can do WAY more customization on Blogger but Blogger has gotten just as buggy as WP since they made major changes to the platform last Summer. It was a real PITA getting the left hand column to stay put and visible. But I double post – same post on Blogger and WP – copy and paste from one to the other – makes dealing with each platform’s quirks easier…

  4. I am not very savvy. I am currently using twenty-twenty. I tried a few and it fit and I have just stuck with it. Great post.

  5. I changed my theme last week and I have mixed feelings. I miss my old theme so much. But there were things I could not do (widgets) that the new theme allows me to.

    I am going to have to get used to it.

  6. Oh, the theme game. Sheesh. Does it ever end? Perhaps not for someone as “specific” as me. You wouldn’t imagine it would be hard to find a minimalist theme but dear…I have you know. I do want to utilize my home page separate of my blog pape but I am not there yet. I know how to execute but I haven’t the rest put in place. I just recently conquered this battle and I love my theme but again, I am forever working on it. Oh, the first one I did when I started back blogging was not block editor friendly. DIdn’t make much sense to me either.

  7. CSS………….. wow! way above my head. I just chose my theme 2019 and I’ve stuck with it. It took me long enough to understand what I was doing with this theme, so I won’t be changing mine any time soon.

      1. Oh, I agree. It’s difficult and frustrating enough to start a new blog, then trying to make changes afterwards is a flippin’ nightmare. So I just leave mine as is πŸ˜‰

  8. I use Baskerville 2 and l think l have used that since day 1, although, if there is a Baskerville and a Baskerville 2, then l have used both but have remained with B2 since choosing that. if of course there is only Baskerville 2, then l am losing the plot.

    I did think of changing my theme a couple of years ago, but the truth is l actually like this Theme the most out of all the choices available.

  9. Representation and exposure are very critical in this prospective. I’m very green to this and don’t even know how this is appearing to onlookers? Timing and organized formation in these perspective releases could make the difference of how many people actually read through the information that you are sharing. So any input that you can bless me with regarding how my β€œtheme” is perceived by you and what I can do to better its approach and presentation will be appreciated and respected. Seeing how well your page is laid out I’d definitely take information that you provide and act accordingly. Thank you for your time.

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