I like WordPress themes. I like looking at them. I like testing them out and playing around with them. An unfinished post on the subject of WordPress themes began thusly:
I used to change my WordPress theme the way some people change their socks.
To give you an idea, on my hard drive I have a folder of WordPress themes that I downloaded. Some I used. Some I didn’t. Some had a feature that interested me. Some I wanted to take a look at the code. Some I wanted to play around with. Some are even themes I tried a hand at creating.
267 folders. 213 megabytes.
I feel like that’s not all the themes I’ve looked at in the last twelve years.
The rest of the unfinished post isn’t important. I went way out into the weeds and wrote about things that didn’t even interest me all that much. Who needs to know how much I hated Kubrick as a theme? Or how many times I modified Brian Gardner’s Vertigo theme (because it was a very clean code framework) to work with free HTML/CSS templates I found online?
Instead, I want to write about what I’m doing with my themes now and what I intend to do.
As I’ve mentioned, The Chronicles of Awesome is a blog I set up specifically for two reasons: 1) to participate in the Blogging 101 project and 2) to try out WordPress.com and see what that’s actually like since, for the last twelve years, I’ve been a self-hosted WordPress user.
The theme I’m using for TCoA is Intergalactic.
Intergalactic is a stunning specimen for your personal blog. Bold featured images act as the backdrop to your text, giving you a high-contrast, readable theme that’s perfect for making your content pop. The one-column layout provides a distraction-free environment for reading, while the slide-out menu keeps your navigation and secondary content readily accessible.
I vaguely remember when I saw Intergalactic for the first time, and I loved the way it looked. The full-width images on the blog index were striking. I couldn’t see myself using it — at the time, I was using a magazine-style child theme I created for the Project Argo theme developed by NPR — because I didn’t feel that it worked with my posting style. But for a specialized blog, starting from scratch, why not?
Anders Noren’s Radcliffe is quite similar in its presentation, and there are several things about it that I like better than Intergalactic, but I decided to go with Intergalactic because, at heart, I like to look up into the night sky and dream of the stars. Never discount the importance of a good name.
On my main website, I’m currently using Apostrophe; I downloaded the WordPress.com theme and installed it on my self-hosted site. I like magazine-style themes because they make it easy for readers to skip over stories they don’t want to read, which a full-text blog index doesn’t. I created a child theme for Apostrophe that I call “Isle of Lewis” (after the island off the coast of Scotland where the Lewis Chessmen were found); it changes the theme’s link colors, sets up a custom favicon, sets up a featured page slider above the blog posts, and makes a couple of other minor-ish tweaks. There are a few more things I want to do with the child theme, but I’m going to wait until the official WordPress.org version is released. (The changelog for the theme indicates that it’s been submitted to the .org theme repository.)
I have to admit, I’m really tempted by the newly released theme, Cerauno.
Why did I stop using my child theme for Argo? Much as I liked Argo, it wasn’t responsive. I cobbled together a child theme that made it responsive, but Argo had some very quirky (and, honestly, buggy) code under the hood, and I could never get a responsive slider to work with it. (I suspect a JS conflict somewhere.)
As I said, I like looking at themes. Maybe I’ll get some ideas. Maybe I’ll see a presentation that I find compelling.
I like Museum. It’s very striking in the way it presents the blog index. Big images, interesting behavior in how it handles a hover over those images. The typography doesn’t grab me, though.
Harmonic has an interesting look, but I don’t think it’s the theme for me.
Syntax is cool. Word-focused.
The theme that really interested me, though, was Book Lite. I like the typography a lot — dropcaps, serif fonts. I like what it does with featured items on posts.
I feel like taking Book Lite and the way it handles single posts and pages and using its code in place of the way Apostrophe handles single posts and pages. That might be the next thing I do with Isle of Lewis. Now I’ve downloaded the .org version of Book Lite, and I feel like there’s code delving in my future.
For me, that’s the great thing about having a self-hosted WordPress install. If I see something a theme does that my theme doesn’t and I want my theme to do that thing, I can rewrite the code and make my theme do that thing. I can get my hands dirty with PHP and CSS.
For now, here, I’m sticking with Intergalactic. I’m happy with it.