How I Chose My Theme: Bloggers Chime In

Polly’s blog, Happily Polly, is literally hot off the press. Launched in early April, she’s worked hard to build an eye-catching lifestyle blog, focused on healthy and happy living. She wanted a design to complement her varied topics, from recipes to DIY crafts to inspiration, and Oxygen was perfect for her needs.

“I love the design and feel of online magazines, so was immediately drawn to Oxygen,” says Polly. “The front page layout, particularly the slider, sealed the deal for me: it’s a brilliant way to show off your featured posts. It’s a very moldable, customizable theme; I’ve seen Oxygen used on different blogs and websites and am impressed with the uniqueness of each.”

We asked Blogging University 101 students to experiment with different themes. “I probably tried 80 percent of the themes available,” says Polly. “I’m particular in my style, and I had a clear vision of what I wanted my blog to look like. It needed to appear ‘theme-less’ — in other words, I wanted the design to wholly reflect my personality and style, and not come across so much as a stream of blog posts on a page.”

Because Oxygen has many options, some users find the theme challenging to set up. “There is a learning curve for any theme, but especially so with one like Oxygen, where you have a lot of control,” says Polly. “Don’t be intimidated by its features; the reward will be a professional magazine-style blog. Also, do some research on a theme instead of jumping in blindfolded.”

For more on Oxygen, learn about its features, read tutorials, and search for discussions in the Themes Forum.

Customize your look-and-feel with Twenty Fourteen

Lindsey’s site, 101 Things to Do with Kids, focuses on activities for small children, from crafts to cooking to games. She wants a site that feels and looks fun, which she achieves with the splashes of orange and colorful header image.

As a participant in the Blogging University 201 challenge, focused on branding and traffic, Lindsey was asked to “audit” her brand and think about a design that will best showcase her content and represents who she is. Her previous theme, Crafty, was certainly fun and playful.

“But I wanted something fun and professional, and I liked Twenty Fourteen‘s sleek look,” she says. The left and right sidebars offer space for widgets and social media links, providing all the real estate she needs to promote her work. While she liked the default black and green palette, she customized the color scheme with a Custom Design upgrade, and creates a cohesive look with the orange accent across her navigation menu and left sidebar.

For more information on Twenty Fourteen, visit the theme page, and see how users have customized it (as well as stripped it down).

Showcase your photography with Gallery

Heather, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, decided it was time to change her theme.

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The old design of 2 Summers, using Parament.

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The old design of 2 Summers, using Parament.

While I really loved Parament, I knew my blog had grown stale and it was time for a change,” says Heather. “So much in my life has changed over the last two years. Blogging has become a bigger part of my life, and I was ready to take it to another level. But my blog is also intensely personal, and I was emotionally attached to the old look. It took me a few months to let go.”

Blogging has become a bigger part of my life, and I was ready to take it to another level. 

Before she switched her theme, Heather’s friend Fiver had designed a fantastic new header for her site: a hand-drawn picture highlighting all the unique aspects of her life in Johannesburg. She wasn’t sure what her new theme would be, but she knew it had to showcase this new header:

With this element in place, Heather dove into the Theme Showcase to look for a theme. “Gallery caught my eye because of the large custom header space and the simple, clean gallery format on the homepage,” says Heather. “I hadn’t planned to buy a premium theme, but the moment I saw my new header in Gallery, I had to have it.” (You, too, can preview a header image in a premium theme in the Customizer.)

Heather wanted to display her photos boldly (at least 640 pixels wide), and the post format of Gallery fulfills this requirement. The ability to set featured images also allows her to showcase her best photos on the homepage. “A good post headline is so much more enticing when accompanied by a compelling photo,” she says.

Like this theme? For more, visit the Gallery theme page.

If you’d like to read more about themes, search our customization series of posts.

Posted by WordPress Guru