Zero to Hero 5: Thoughts on themes.


So, in an effort to be a good Zero to Hero blogger, I spent a few minutes trying out different themes today. I didn’t find one I liked enough to change my blog themes, but I have been thinking about a redesign for one or both of the blogs I manage.

When I started these blogs, I used the Truly Minimal theme for a while, because I am a minimalist at heart. I switched to Dusk to Dawn after the first month or so, because I thought my sites needed to be more visually appealing. I liked the look of Sam’s blog and this theme gives me a good combination of features. Plus, I just like the idea of both my blogs having a consistent design, even if the colors and images are different.

Here are the things I was looking for in a theme when I designed the Writing Catalog and Sourcerer:

  1. A single column for content.
  2. A sidebar on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. Flexibility with background images and color.
  4. Clean, easy-to-read typograpy.

There are three features I would like my blogs to have that are not supported by this theme:

  1. Pages displayed a the top of the blog instead of on the sidebar.
  2. Support for more than one custom menu.
  3. Featured content.

And I have a couple of questions for any bloggers who would like to chat about the importance of the blog’s themes:

  1. I see a lot of themes with all the follow buttons, blogroll, etc. at the bottom of the blog. I went with a sidebar because I just prefer one, and because I wanted to be able to display Part Time Monster’s most recent posts at the top of my blogs. How do you feel about this? Am I just being old-school with my preference for a sidebar, and does placing links at the top of the page really make a difference?
  2. Since Sourcerer is so heavy on art and video, it is a perfect candidate for a magazine theme such as Visual. Would you prefer a magazine-look with two or three posts at the top to what I am doing at Sourcerer now?

I tried out several themes today, but I will only mention three.

  1. Bushwick is the one I tried that I would never think of using. It’s ok, but the headlines are too big and the fonts are wrong – they gave the blog a cartoonish feel, and I don’t want that; I prefer my pages to be slick.
  2. Spun just looked interesting, with its grid of circles to display posts, so I gave it a whirl, but my posts didn’t translate well into that theme.
  3. Visual, which I mentioned above, I really like, and Sourcerer looked pretty good with it, but I am just not sure about it at this point.

I would love to read others’ thoughts on themes: both how you chose your own, and what sort of themes you prefer when you go looking for blogs to read. My two pet peeves are that I don’t want the visual elements to be distracting, and I don’t want a slow-loading blog.

About Gene'O

Compulsive writer, amateur photographer, and blogaholic. Also an evil genius.

9 thoughts on “Zero to Hero 5: Thoughts on themes.

  1. Diana says:

    It’s so funny that this was today’s challenge. I spent a few hours yesterday going through themes and deciding on a new one. I’m not entirely happy with what I’ve got now, but I like it better than what I had.

    It just seemed like, as I was talking about the girl-centric focus of the blog and how it had morphed, that it was time for the theme to morph as well. Somehow the theme I had didn’t fit the mood of the blog.

    As for me, I prefer side-menus. One of the reasons I spent so long looking at new layouts is that many of them seem to be bottom-menu heavy, and I actually don’t like having the scroll to the bottom of the page to find a menu.


    • Gene'O says:

      Yeah, me neither. The sidebar is just more convenient, and I like it on the left because it’s less distracting over there than on the right. I think I’ll stick with what I have for a bit, and I agree with your assessment of your own theme – better, given that the atmosphere has shifted a bit, but I’d advise you to keep looking.


      • Diana says:

        Yeah, I’m not quite settled on this because it’s still got the bottom menu but no sidebar, and I can’t figure out how/if I can change that. I do like the simplicity with just a bit of color, though.

        We’ve started watching Dr. Who, by the way, so the Whoseries will be back on soon. 🙂


  2. I looked my theme as soon as I saw it, primarily due to lengthy customizable options. I have many interests, so I wanted the ability to categorize them so readers could easily find what topics interested them the most. Even if I’m not using all of the bells and whistles, I do like knowing they are there. I’m less likely to follow a blog that uses images on the main page instead of text because I may not know what I’m clicking on and I’ve wasted time. I think it’s always a good idea to pick the theme that represents your content and the vision you have for the blog. My blog was too new a year ago for my theme, but I have grown into it. I think you’ll know right away when you have the right theme. I do like the one you are using, it’s easy to navigate.


    • Gene'O says:

      thanks for the feedback, it definitely helps! It’s hard to separate one’s personal preferences from good design principles sometimes.


      • You’ll find a theme though that does both. You may run across one tonight that you might not given thought to yesterday. You can pick a generic theme and use a background that is your own style. The theme is just a tool for you to add to. You control it.


  3. ladyharvey says:

    I have a sidebar on my blog also, so maybe were both just old-school, but personally I prefer it. For me its important to have the follow buttons in my sidebar at the top of the page easily accessible. I feel if things are at the bottom its only the committed reader that will find them. Then again I do have a lot of things to scroll through on my blog! interesting analysis, you definitely gave me a lot to chew over for my own theme.


    • Gene'O says:

      I am of the same mind about putting things on the sidebar. I think the top two or three items on the sidebar are important for getting follows, but that’s just my notion, I haven’t done any research on it. Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  4. […] so far, and I decided to give #9, “Engage your readers” a try in yesterday’s Zero to Hero post. I was so pleased at the number of comments I received in response to my questions, I thought […]


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