A few weeks ago fellow blogger, Robert Moore, inquired about my latest theme. I understand the curiosity given the recent unveiling of a custom design back in December. Hell, I’ve been changing themes on a regular basis since I started blogging back in 2005. For one reason or another I was never satisfied with the design, and although I know a bit of HTML, it was never enough to shape a template in a way that proved to be satisfactory over the long term. For a long time I wanted a blog theme that was both flashy but still had a professional feel to it. You may disagree, but I think the look of your blog is important in maintaining the reader’s focus and attention. I left Blogger and Typepad because most of their themes have a juvenile/cartoonish look. With Typepad you had to pay much more to access CSS to make the most basic of changes. After a while it seemed like a waste of money. One of the things I was looking for when I moved to WordPress was the opportunity to have access to literally thousands of free themes. I soon learned that the vast majority are just downright ugly, but my bigger concern was with my lack of knowledge of CSS and HTML. You end up in a position where you are uploading a theme coded by an unknown individual who you have no interaction with in case of problems. Simply put, I didn’t know what I would be playing around with and it left me feeling very uncomfortable. One exception (and I know there are others) is the Tarski Theme, which I really like. Of course, content is everything, but there is something to be said for the aesthetics of a blog as well as its functionality.
One day in January while browsing WordPress themes I came across Chris Pearson’s Thesis Theme. I was immediately struck by the simple yet sophisticated look of the basic template as well as the typeface and clean lines. Of course, I hesitated when I saw the price tag of $85 since I recently shelled out some cash for the custom design. Luckily I was staring at a check for a recent book review and decided to go for it and, since doing so, I’ve had no regrets. The cost comes with free lifetime upgrades as well as a very active community of users who share their own customizations on message boards (only available to registered users) as well as video. What I love most about the theme are the interfaces that allow you to change basic features of the site without any tinkering with the HTML and CSS. Thesis actually utilizes a system of “hooks” which allow you to make changes to stylesheets that function independently from the CSS page. As you can see I haven’t customized my site much further than the basic template, but at some point when I have more time I will begin to play around. I would like to get a custom banner up as well as a few other things. Part of the reason I haven’t found the time to do so is because I absolutely love the look of my blog. Again, there is a simplicity that I find very attractive. Best yet, since I moved to Thesis I’ve noticed the number of comments has steadily increased. Could it be the design? It’s the same thought-provoking/kick-ass commentary that you’ve come to appreciate so that can’t be it.
I’ve also come to realize that less is more in terms of sidebars. I used to use a three-column layout with as much content crammed in as possible. This is a huge mistake and I’ve been slashing away at my sidebars over the past few months. First, few people actually take the time to click the links. More importantly, depending on what is included in your sidebars often leads to a longer load time and that usually results in a frustrated reader. Visually, the focus should always be on the content. I remember reading that blogs load left to right so if you have a lot of junk in the sidebar it means that your post column may take longer to appear. Use one column, place it to the right and figure out what is absolutely necessary and trash the rest. If you take a good look at my sidebar what you will find are features that promote social networking. I include links to some of my favorite blogs, but other than that the goal is to encourage increased networking for me as well as my readers: Google Friend Connect, Library Thing and my personal social networking feed (Lifestream). In the end, that’s what this is all about.
Of course, you may think differently so feel free to share.