In which Theresa explains her new blog look

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.

Nevertheless.

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?

Come Dance With Me, Artist August Asberry, photo by Theresa Barker.

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.

45 thoughts on “In which Theresa explains her new blog look

  1. Well I love the old dashboard – and can relate to what u shared about setting up a new theme – whew – I have spent some time as well.
    Oh and the reason I wanted to leave a comment for this post was to just mention that we should keep in mind that a lot of people skim posts in the reader – and never see mobile or desktop sites – I think some might see mobile versions more often than desktop – but I personally rarely go to the desktop site unless I want to see someone’s photos.
    So as u wrote about widgets and sidebars – it reminded me that I hardly ever see the main home blog pages anymore – especially if in the app – we can access full posts and comment and all that – hmmm

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    1. I love the old dashboard, too! I have found some time lagging when editing in the new interface, which is probably due to the automatic saving it does for blog posts. And thanks for the reminder about reading on mobile devices or in the reader. It reminded me that I do most of my reading via an email (daily/weekly digest) or by clicking on the link and going to the site. But I think you are completely correct about others’ reading habits. Thanks, Yvette!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. oh I forgot about emails!!
        you are so right – and I kinda wonder the stats (I bet Google and wordpress know) about who reads blogs via email, mobile, the reader, and from actual desktops….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A good question! But thanks to your reminder, I took a quick look at the updated blog look in mobile form, and it was a good reminder my menu will still be compressed in that form. But, nice and uncluttered! I’ll have to check out the Reader also.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! I’m glad to hear you found a theme that you really like. It sounds like it is flexible enough to accommodate the writing you do. May I ask what the name of your theme is? I’m starting to get familiar with a few, but there are so many! Thank you for sharing your observations!

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  2. Hi Teresa, I like this theme. I like the clean look. I may use one of my private blogs to test it. I notice that this theme has the “Share this” button that one blogger was talking about. He uses share this button instead of reblog button. I have to public blogs, but none of them has the share this button.

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    1. Hi Miriam, that is very interesting, about the Share this button…and it reminds me, these blog themes are so varied in their little mini-features. You’ll see an example of the theme being used, and when you try it, yours looks nothing like the example, because they used features in a particular way. Hah! I’ll be interested in seeing your opinion. One of the other “writing” themes I have liked is Libretto, and I have it on a private blog where I record what books I have read and learned from. Keep me posted!

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      1. I like the theme I’m using for my current blog. It has the feature of full page width, but I could figure out how to switch it. My second blog uses Nucleare. It has both sidebar and footer, I think. I don’t get on it too much. Another theme I played with is Button 2. I saw one blogger using it. It has scroll down sidebar and she post a lot of things on that scroll down window.

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      2. Good plan! And, you don’t need to invest time in a conversion. I remember when you lost either your blog, or a bunch of your subscribers couldn’t find your blog, what a nightmare! 🙂 Just keeping things that are working well is a good idea.

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      3. Yes, I’m running out media library space. I should have upgraded it when the personal plan was $2.86/mo, now is $4/mo. I didn’t take action because it will drop wordpress, so it would be .com. I didn’t want a new site link right after all the confusion. I don’t mind to keep wordpress.com. I’ll ask to see if I can keep it and still do the upgrade. It will give me 6G total, right now I have 3G.

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  3. Congrats Theresa on your new (and tidy) blog look😊 I did try to set up a new look once and even created a dummy blog but i couldnt export my blog. Perhaps i should try a partial export like you advised thanks!😊 btw I couldnt see the dancing photo on my desktop but on my phone i can. Strange!

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    1. Thank you, Tom and Audrey! It’s always a work in progress, isn’t it? I know your readers will continue to enjoy your blog, whether you change the look or keep it the same. You have the most important part down pat – engaging and thoughtful content, and also engaged and thoughtful readers. Kudos! 🙂

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  4. Hi Theresa,

    This look is so totally neat. Well done! You truly are so productive. I’m only managing to be present again in the blogging world with the outside world taking over recently. He-he. I’ve started eating healthy and nothing hectic until NaNoWriMo in about 50-days time.

    I do use the Button (Not 2, so my color scheme has pink, although I wouldn’t mind orange, provided not prison orange, haha! Actually, I like orange, any orange, especially burnt orange…) and apart from my time-limited situation, that little Taurus nature of mine is preventing me from changing the tried and tested. I’m also pretty happy with the Publication for my Travel blog. I struggled a lot with my author website (outside of WordPress although using WP as a platform) and there is nothing there. Binx Thinx actually helped me add the Follow button, which I think she had to somehow code as it wasn’t available in my free Plum theme. Twice or three times, my whole site disappeared. I even paid WordPress to do the mapping but I think it was the wrong way to do. I’ve just decided to leave the author website as it is as it’s really supposed to be more informative and not interactive like the blogs. Although, the content is still very much blog-gy… 🙂

    Oh, I do like those widgets on the side. I’m very social (haha!) so I have lots of stuff there. Even when I don’t blog, if not on mobile device, one can see my activities on Twitter or Instagram. Do you have Instagram, by the way? It’s that quick “post an image” as many don’t make my Food and Travel blog.

    I forgot I had visited your author website before. I even downloaded your Flash Fiction I and II ebooks. 🙂 I must make changes to my author website when I actually have something to share about being an author. Hahaha!

    Good looking blog! And I’m looking forward to seeing more of your sketches. I will have to stick to taking photos with my iPhone and Samsung phone.

    Much love and hugs, my friend.
    A

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anne, I completely admire your side bar layout in “I think, I say, I do”. It’s so welcoming and interactive! I’m envious!!! As they say, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!” But, thank you for your very kind words about my blog re-do and about my author site. I think I may do a cleaner redesign of the author website, it needs refreshing… coming soon! So glad you’re still out there writing and blogging. Having your blogging friendship has made a huge difference in my blogging life! 🙂

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      1. Aw, thanks so much, Theresa. We do have to keep the aesthetics fresh and attractive so we’re encouraged to continue blogging, writing and being creative, and grow our friendships. You, my friend, are an inspiration.😊🤗💖

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  5. I use the older editor. I think partially because that is what I started with, it just seems more comfortable to me. I changed my blog theme awhile back and basically took out the sidebars, which leaves more room for a photograph to be displayed. In general my blog had become more cluttered, and I just needed to clean it up a bit.

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    1. Thank you, yellowfuzzyduck! It especially means a lot to hear your thoughts, since you helped me with my logo. I felt a little disloyal when I changed the look, but I appreciate that you are happy for me and that you like it. Thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Theresa. I really like your new blog look – very clean and professional looking! I keep thinking that maybe I should have a little blog makeover. I like how it looks right now but I wonder if I could make it look better. However it does take a lot of time and that is something I have very little of right now. 🙂

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    1. I know, I know, so true that once one starts to look at a blog redesign, it can be a huge time sink! If you do think about a change, I would love to see a slightly larger type font for your posts. I confess I find myself squinting at times and I soooo love your writing! 🙂 Just a thought. Thanks for your endorsement of my new look! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know I always worried that my font size was too small too. I can probably adjust that easy enough without having to redesign the whole thing. Thanks for saying something Theresa. I should have trusted my own instincts. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I increased the font size and it was super to do. I just need to go back and look at some of my older posts to make sure that the formatting didn’t get wonky. Thanks for the suggestion I like it much better now too!! 😀

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      3. I went to the Customize option on my blog theme edit menu then chose font and just clicked Large. I had the Normal size selected originally but normal apparently means small! LOL

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