In the last installment of Our Love Affair with WordPress we discussed blog design in all its glory and step by step. You learned that design is more than the way the blog looks, it’s also the way a blog is structured. Now, let’s assume you’ve followed the first three steps in the seven steps to blog design in Episode 1: you’ve defined the purpose of your site, set goals, have a mood in mind and have developed an information architecture (structure and navigation) that’s ideal for your site. Now it’s time to put it all together using WordPress as your content management system.
You can approach creating your blog in two ways: 1. Use and modify one of hundreds of free themes available at the official WordPress themes site themes.wordpress.net, or other unofficial but equally wonderful sites like Wordpress Themes, WordPress Theme Park or visit Using Themes at WordPress.org for a non-exhaustive list of sites with free WordPress themes you can download; or 2. Visit WordPress’s Stepping into Templates page on how to create your own theme from scratch.
For this tutorial, let’s use the first of the two methods. You’d have to be versed in PHP, HTML and CSS to step into the templates for option 2. Also for the purpose of this tutorial, let’s use the bra fitting business I used as an example in Website 101.
Pick Your WordPress Theme
This is both difficult and fun. Difficult ’cause there are hundreds to choose from and fun because, well, it’s like picking a new outfit. One that defines, or helps define, who you are and what you’re selling. Fortunately and since you’ve defined your site’s goals, come up with a mood and information structure, you can definitely narrow down the possibilities. The themes at the official WordPress themes sites are generally very stripped down as far as “design” goes. The goal I think is to find a theme that is as close to your site plan as possible as far as structure and navigation.
Let’s say our bra fitting business is called Perfect Fit and we decided to create a blog to create an online presence and develop an informed and curious client base. We already decided in Website 101 that Perfect Fit’s online presence should be unique, a little playful and simple. Since this is a business that most people are unfamiliar with, I’d say the structure of the site should be simple. How about a header no more than 100 pixels high, a footer about a third of that, a right sidebar and a body that’s about two thirds the size of the sidebar width. Basically, your average, basic web layout.
If you visit themes.wordpress.net, you can narrow down your theme choices by choosing the number of columns, what side you wish your sidebar to appear (left or right or both), whether you want the size of the columns to be fixed or fluid (size changes with the size of the browser), color scheme, widget ready or not, plugins required or not, and a couple of other choices. For Perfect Fit I chose 2 columns, fixed width, widget ready, right sidebar and the color “salmon” which is close enough to pink (representing feminine) without being cliche. Only one theme came up with these exact options, “Harmony“. So, let’s use Harmony as Perfect Fit’s template.
I’m not a big fan of the flowery background, so i’ll get rid of it. In the next installment, Our Love Affair With WordPress: Part 4, Episode 3 - Edit Your Theme, we’ll get rid of the background and decide what elements stay and which go. Stay tuned.