Psst! You might have noticed a slight – well, more than slight – re-do of my blog look last week. What happened?
I suppose I could say it was a “shoemaker and the elves” thing. You know the story from Grimm’s Fairy Tales? A poor shoemaker, who only has enough leather for one pair of shoes, lays out the pieces overnight. The next morning the shoemaker discovers elves had came in and made up the pair of shoes during the night, which he sells for enough money to pay for rent and food and to buy more shoe leather, while helping out other needy folks.
Let’s see. Did elves come in overnight and make my new blog look? No … but it would have been fun if they had!
I’ve been fairly happy with the previous look of my blog; it had featured photos to make it colorful, a one-column layout to give the stories and essays more screen space, and bright website colors to add liveliness. So, why did I make the change?
I can only say that when I looked at my blog, I suddenly had a vision of a new look. I felt like it would be lovely to try something more simple. A picture came to mind – a bit unusual for me – a clean look, without as much going on.
As many of you know, when you start to dive into changing themes on WordPress.com, it can suck up a lot of time. The tweaking you have done with widgets, header images, colors, even fonts, all has to be redone in the new theme. Not only that, but the convenient “Theme Preview” feature in WordPress.com only goes part of the way, as you have probably noticed. So, when this vision came to me to change my blog look, I was a little trepidatious about the time involved.
And there is the challenge of converting a live site to a new theme. You make all the changes, and then you may realize … oh, oh, this isn’t going to work after all … but, it’s not easy to go back. Activating the previous theme drops many of the tweaks you had made in the first place.
I probably spent a couple of hours (a record for me!) devising the new look. And I’m really happy with it! The font is large enough for readability, I can show off my little sketches to good advantage, and the menu is unobtrusively visible at the top. I took advantage of a couple of footer widget spaces (scroll down!) to honor my blogging community and to feature recent posts, so that the front page is nicely uncluttered.
Two additional notes:
- I have temporarily “retired” the nice logo from turtledesk (sorry, yellowfuzzyduck!) .- I may bring it back after a while…!
- I used a “test blog” site to try out my design before I made the change on my live blog. (See How-To below.) I think that’s a great way to avoid oops! surprises in an unfamiliar blog theme.
How about you?
What are your experiences with designing, or re-designing your blog? What theme do you prefer? (This theme is Penscratch2, and previously I’ve used Saga, before that Twenty Twelve.) Do you sometimes get the “itch” to change looks, or do you prefer to stay with a tried-and-true look? I would love to hear your comments!
Encore question: When you edit posts, do you use the “new” editing interface from WordPress.com? Or do you prefer the former WordPress.com Admin dashboard interface?
How-To: Using a “test blog” site to re-design your blog before going “live”
Instead of doing your re-design on your live blog, consider trying out the new theme on a “test blog” site first. You just open a new WordPress.com blog site (you may want to make it private). Then you export your existing blog content into a file that can be imported into the test site (use Tools->Export and Tools->Import). Once that’s done, you can do all your tweaks for colors-fonts-menus-widgets-headers on the test site, to gauge how it turns out. Satisfied? Now go back to your “live” site and make the theme change and other customizations. Bravo!
One small tip: you may want to select just a portion of the Blog Posts for export (there is that option). I found it took a long time to import the full set of blog posts, and I didn’t need all of them just for testing. Later, when I wanted to empty the test blog to try a different blog re-design, it was hugely time-consuming.