Exploring themes and appearance

Now that you have begun to fill your blog with a range of different content you can start to explore the way different wordpress themes might present your blog most effectively.

A wordpress theme will take all your content, including post content and headings, images, links, categories – indeed anything you have added to your post – and display it in a new format. Each theme behaves slightly differently and you need to try a few to see what will suit your blog and the style that you wish to convey.

My current theme – Chunk – is a very simple clean theme but I could decide that the elegant formal style of the Chateau theme was more appropriate. You can change your theme under the appearance menu (main right hand control menu of the dashboard). You can test what a theme will look like by clicking the preview button underneath any displayed theme. If you like it click activate and you will see the new theme and a series of option buttons appear at the top of the page.

You need to look carefully at what a theme does to your content. Particularly the type of content that is important to your blog. In academic blogs categories and quotes are particularly important so be careful to analyse what your new theme does to them. Also check to see if it gives you an “Edit post” button directly from your live posts – this isn’t essential but it makes editing and updating posts easier.

Chateau does a good job of highlighting quotes and links, it gives edit access and includes categories in the byline of each article (although these aren’t as clear or prominent as they are in some themes). One of its nice features is the “Leave a comment” button.

One of the first things I would do if I decided to run with this theme would be to replace the header because while grand the image of the French chateau is entrancing it is not very relevant to my subject matter. I would replace it with an image of the University or better still one of students working in one of our journalism labs. Given the style of the theme I would probably stay with a black and white image. You can upload a new header image by clicking on the header option at the top of the theme page or in the right hand menu under appearances. The header page allows you to upload an image and then crop a selection to fit the rectangular space of the theme header.  You can try out a number of different images. So don’t feel like you will be locked into the first one you try.

The “Theme Options” tab is an important one and different themes will provide different controls under this tab. The Chateau theme allows you to change the “accent” colour i.e. the colour for headings and links. It allows you to set up your home page as a set of scrolling posts one after the other or in a grid format with one post more prominently displayed at the top. Many of the theme options in any given theme will relate to these type of controls that will change the number and type of displays on the blog’s home page. In a blog like this having a set of posts with their titles and a brief excerpt in a grid on the home screen might be quite useful because it would allow readers to pick and choose items of interest without scrolling much.

The main thing to remember about themes is that nothing is permanent – so you can always play safely and explore different options with the confidence that you can easily revert to a previous version if that is what you prefer.

So experiment.


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