Blogging 101: Love Your Theme

Today’s assignment: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with yours. Try one you’re drawn to, and one you’d never use.

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Starting a blog is kind of like buying a house: you decide what neighborhood you want to live in, pick a house, and fill it with your stuff. For a blogger, that means deciding on a blogging platform, picking a theme, and publishing posts. You’ve already done #1 and #3, so let’s focus on #2.

Today’s assignment: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with the one you first chose. Try one you’re drawn to, and one you would never use.

Why do this?

  • No one is going to spend more time on your blog than you, so you should love the way it looks.
  • As with jeans, you never know if a theme fits until you try it on.

Preview or upload some new themes, or just try out some of the options available to you from your blog provider. Minimalists, try something ornate! Photobloggers, try a magazine-style theme! Shake it up. Try at least one that you don’t think you like at all.

Note: For assignments like this, there’s no need to publish a post. If an assignment asks for a post, that will be explicit; if it simply suggests something for you to do behind the scenes, there’s not need to post about it (unless you want to!).

And yes, do this even if you love your current blog layout. You never know what seeing your words displayed in a new way will inspire, and you can always keep the layout you love.

To help whittle down the options, try our three rules of thumb:

  1. Pick something that speaks to you. You might admire simplicity and bold typography on others’ sites, but if you’re personally drawn to something soft and romantic, head in that direction.
  2. Consider your content. If you know you’ll be posting lots of images, pick a theme meant to show off photos. If you love poetry, choose a streamlined theme that makes your words the star. (Not sure what you want to publish? Welcome to the 99%. Try everything!)
  3. Think about your priorities. Some themes have a very distinctive look out-of-the-box. Others let you add custom touches like headers and backgrounds, while some have a variety of layout options Take a look at a theme’s features and customization options.

We’ve chatted with a few bloggers about how they chose their themes, if you’d like advice right from the bloggers’ mouths, or check out some impressive theme transformations and get inspired. For help understanding theme features and functions, take a look at our guide to evaluating themes; for details on how to browse and preview themes, head here.

Pro Tip: When you activate a new theme with a different structure, you might think you’ve lost some widgets you’ve added and customized. You haven’t! They’ve just been inactivated — head back to the Widgets tab in your dashboard and scroll down; you’ll find them waiting for you in the “inactive widgets” section, and you can quickly re-add them.

It’s easy to get lost in the land of themes, so feel free to stretch this assignment out a bit, and browse themes  — try more than three, if you’re still on the fence — when you’ve got a bit more time over the weekend. But not too many — looking at dozens and dozens of themes leads to analysis paralysis, and can make it harder to decide on one. If you must go on a preview binge, cap it at 10 or 20, not 100!

Questions? Ask away! As always, The Commons is there to continue your conversations.

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