So week two of our project involved more preparation work. This is really important as there’s nothing worse than rushing into designing a blog only to realise a few months down the line that you’ve limited yourself or lost track of what you intend to achieve.
If you haven’t already, then I strongly suggest that you read my earlier post, My daughter Emma, in addition to her daytime job, makes and decorates cakes to a high standard. It’s her ability, coupled with her desire to do more with her life that has lead to this joint project. So, rather than repeat myself, let’s crack on!
Choosing A WordPress Theme For A Blog
Ok, first things first, for those of you who don’t already know, a theme is what gives your blog a certain look. It controls the layout, the fonts, the colours and so on. To a degree it’ll also offer certain features.
Imagine that WordPress is a person, then the theme would be it’s clothes. It defines the look, You know yourself that just by changing your outfit, you can achieve dramatically different looks. WordPress is no different, the right theme can dramatically change how your blog looks and feels.
I’d given Emma some homework from the week before, Here’s a screenshot of the homework card on the Trello board that we’re using to organise the project.
So, as we met today, Emma has already opened business page on Facebook and accounts with Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube! In addition, she’d spent some time browsing different blogs, not just from the baking genre but blogs in general.
What she was looking for was a layout that she liked and she’d brought some ideas along with her.
The one that she particularly liked was a really good blog called http://sweetnessandbite.com as it displays really well on both a computer or a mobile device. It’s very visual and easy to navigate. It didn’t take long to find out what theme the blog was using.
TOP TIP: To find what theme a blog is using, simply right click anywhere on the page and select ‘view page source’. You’ll then see some code like below.
Can you see the line of blue writing? This tells us that the theme is called ‘Restored 316 Divine’. So after a quick search on Google we found the theme author. This theme is designed to run on a framework known as Genesis. I don’t want to confuse you at this point, and, if I’m honest, I didn’t want to confuse Emma either. As good as Genesis is, (as I’m writing this, SteveGrady.Org is running on Genesis), I really don’t think that there’s a need for a framework. It’s something else to learn and it can be quite restricting and code heavy.
So, having looked at the theme in more depth, we agreed that what we both liked was that the category archives could be displayed in a really appealing visual way. Given that Emma will be posting recipes, we figured that a lot of people would be using a tablet and following instructions as they go, a theme such as this offers a clean easy to follow layout.
Free Themes Vs Premium Themes
There are thousands of free WordPress themes on the WordPress repository that you can download and install on your blog. Great right? Well no actually. There are some drawbacks with using a free theme, especially if you’re serious about blogging and making money from it.
Here are 5 reasons why you might not want to install a free WordPress theme.
- A lot of free themes are actually freemium. What this means is that you get a watered down version of the theme for free but, if you want more features and support then you’ll need to pay.
- Free themes generally don’t come with support, this isn’t always the case. The standard theme that ships with WordPress generally is well supported. Currently the free theme that comes as standard is known as Twenty Seventeen. It’s a nice clean albeit very basic theme. Ideal if you’re back packing around Darkest Peru and you just want to blog to let your folks back home know that you’ve not been eaten by something with lots of teeth.
- Some themes are insecure and are easily hacked. Authors of free themes generally have little or no motivation to update their themes with security fixes etc.
- Free themes aren’t very configurable. You’re pretty much stuck with a standard design and it can be hard or impossible to change fonts, colours, etc.
- Some free themes force you to display a credit in the footer to the author, overall, this doesn’t look very professional.
Why It’s Best To Choose A Premium WordPress Theme
Essentially, for all the reasons above! Premium themes are well supported, have regular updates and offer far more flexibility which allows you to control all aspects of how you blog will look and function.
There are many authors of premium themes. I’ve used so many over the years. By far the best (this is only my opinion) source of premium themes are found on ThemeForest click to open link in new tab.
After looking through many themes we eventually settled on the Newspaper Theme. There were many reasons for this but mainly because it allows for a very easy to navigate image rich blog. The theme also comes with many skins, food recipes being one of them. This will make it even easier to configure the blog to Emmas requirements. Take a look at this short video that shows the features of this theme.
You’ll Also Need A Child Theme!
What on earth is a child theme? Good question! A child theme is one of those things that you wish you’d heard about before you started to build your WordPress website or blog. Thankfully, most premium themes have one included.
Why do you need a child theme? Well, if you can imagine, a theme is simply a collection of files written in code known as php and css. Together, they control the way WordPress displays your content and functions. One of those files is called style.css and this controls many of the display elements. It controls the font size, the font colour, the background, the gaps between different elements and much more.
Imagine then that you’ve customised your website and suddenly you find that your theme has an update available. If you apply the update, then all the changes that you’ve made to your website ( that have automatically been stored in the style.css file) will be overwritten by the update. Disaster!
A child theme contains the customisations that you make that aren’t affected when you update the main theme, The parent theme acts as a base for the child. The parent theme contains the programming that creates the function and features of your site whilst the child theme contains the images and styles that form the base for your site’s layout and design. It sounds complex but it really isn’t. To use a child theme you simply install the main theme, then immediately install the chid theme and activate it. WordPress looks after everything from there on in. Simple!
Don’t be afraid to play around with WordPress, customise your theme, play with the theme options and take a look at how it changes the look of your website. It won’t bite you, you won’t break anything. By playing around with it you’ll get to see how things work. It all sounds very daunting at first but it really isn’t.
How To Install A WordPress Theme
This bits easy but it’s better to watch a short video rather than look at screenshots so, take a look at the short video below, It explains how to install a WordPress theme. Once you’ve watched it, go and install a theme yourself. Install a free one at first and play around with it. In fact, what the hell! Install a couple, get used to them then once you’ve found your feet, consider buying a premium theme from somewhere like ThemeForest.
Whilst you’re there, take a look at three of my favourite themes, these are themes that I’ve used many times to build websites for businesses of all sizes.
Avada Theme I’ve lost count how many websites I’ve created with this theme
UDesign Theme This used to be my all time favourite because of it’s flexibility
X Theme A stunning, relatively new WordPress theme that is quite possibly the best out there at the moment.
How To Customise A WordPress Theme
All themes are different, not drastically so but in the same way as each car is different. If you get used to driving one type of car then you should, fairly easily, be able to jump into another car and drive it with ease. It may have extra features that you’re not used to like auto or manual gears, cruise control, indicators or turn signals on the opposite side etc but by and large, if you can drive one car, you can drive another.
By far the best thing to do when you install a new theme is to have a play with it. You wont break it. By changing small things in the options panel you’ll get to know your theme, this is critical if you plan to blog regularly. It’s so tempting to pay someone to configure a theme on your behalf but trust me, if you put the time and effort in now, just to learn how your theme is configured then it’ll pay you back down the line.
It’s impossible to do a tutorial on how to customise a theme simply because they’re all different. It would be like trying to do a ‘one size fits all’ tutorial on how to use a mobile phone. Each have similar functions but very different interfaces and menus. As I’ve already said, the best thing you can do is to play around with it before you start adding content.
With this in mind, I’ve now sent Emma off for a week to do just that, play around with the theme settings, add her logo if she can figure out how and change fonts and colours etc. We had the incredibly talented Jen Bolan from The Online Team design a logo for Emma. We gave her a quick brief and as usual, Jen delivered a great logo which is exactly what Emma had in mind for her Baking Tutor website. Emma can now customise her theme using the colours that are in the logo.
When we meet next, we’ll continue setting up the theme but mainly we’re going to be looking at structure. By that I mean menu items, categories etc and how best we can organise her future content in a logical manner.
Until next week… Have fun!