Greetings, fellow bloggers! I’m Sarah and am absolutely delighted to be a guest blogger on here, thanks to Mohamad for his invitation, I do hope you’ll find the post useful. I’ve had my blog since 2012, but haven’t always given it a lot of time and attention. Recently, I decided to take the plunge and upgrade to a Premium account on wordpress.com, so I had a wider choice of themes, could monetise my site if the need arose, and all of the other benefits that come with just a few pounds a month.
In terms of choosing the theme, I think there are a few considerations when you’re looking through what’s available:
- The overall look/style/feel – my blog is mainly for creative writing, so I decided I wanted something much more visual than my previous theme. Having said that, these themes look great in the demos, but just be sure that you will have enough images to make it work on your site.
- Ease of use – definitely one for me. I don’t code, I also work as a teacher so I don’t have a lot of time to spend fiddling about with the theme once it’s there. User-friendly is definitely top of my list.
- Ease of updating – I needed something that would allow me include external links to work I’ve had published, that would showcase the posts and work I put on there, as well as allow for all my previous content to be readily available. Perhaps asking a lot, but I think the theme I chose allowed for flexibility, along with the possibility of adding new content and keeping the look good.
As you can see from here, very visual, lots of white space, and a range of menus. I especially liked the scrolling ‘Features’ bar at the top, which allows you to highlight certain pieces on your website. It also takes the word count and works out how long your pieces take to read, which for my website felt really relevant.
Here’s a few of the main features and how you can use them on your blog:
- Menus: You can have a Customs Menu in the header, as well a Social Links Menu, which you can put in the Header Navigation, Header Section and Footer. Great for drawing attention to social media links.
- Drawbacks: This might take some tweaking from your old theme, but once I’d got things labelled properly it all worked fine.
- Header/Logo/Background: All of this can be customised, so you can put in whatever images and logos you like to give your site a really personal feel.
- Widgets: A range of these available, including an Instagram widget, so the focus on this theme is really visual. My widget area simply updated from the last theme, so all I did was shuffle the order around a bit. Very easy to update.
- Featured Content: Any ‘featured image’ you add to a post will come up on the top of your post, and acts as a link to that piece. For the Featured Post Slider at the top of your page, you just need to add the tag ‘feature’ (or a tag of your choice) to your piece when you’re writing it, then it will automatically appear in the slider. Considering that a layout like this is more normal for a .org site, it’s great to be able to have this.
- Drawbacks: To make the site look really good, you’ll have to choose images that are uniform size, or edit them, so my site isn’t quite as slick as it could be yet. When adding new posts, you need to remember to remove the ‘feature’ tag from older ones, so the content changes. You also need to crop the image for Featured Content so it doesn’t take over the page, but the ‘setup’ section gives you the dimensions.
- Posts/Layout: There are lots of options here. As with many WordPress themes, the default organisation of it is to show your last post first, but you can choose ‘Stick to the Front Page’ in post settings if you’d like a particular post to feature at the top of the page. This theme also has a static front page option, which then files all the rest of your content under the ‘blog’ menu, so you can still easily access old content. You can have one, two or three columns (see images below) and there are a range of options for showing images such as tiling them in a ‘gallery’ format. Lots of different content is supported, including Audio and Video, but only in the main area, not in the sidebar or header. Having asked for feedback from some of my readers, it transfers well to mobile and tablet layout, preserving the overall look and feel of the site. Here are some of the layout options:
- Other: There are other parts of this theme that you can customise, such as hiding featured images inside the post, or hiding the social menu bar so it appears only in certain places. CSS also has customising options, although I’m afraid that goes beyond my skill set, but good to know it’s there should I need it. There are a load of extra image/background/font options, but seeing as I liked the default so much, I didn’t want to clutter it with extras.
- Updating: In general, updating from the old theme to the new was very straightforward. Everything was there, I didn’t need to change any content, apart from images, and it was usable as soon as I’d updated it.
- Drawbacks: This will depend on how much content you have and how much you decide to change your menus. For me, I had five years of backdated content to work with, and needed to add images to all of them, to fit with the look of the page. I haven’t quite finished that yet, so that’s taking a while. I also changed my Menus, which meant I had to go back through my old posts and add them to different categories, in order to make sure they showed up on the different pages of my site. Something to think about when posting – always consider your categories and menus!
I do hope this post was useful, do go along to https://sarahtinsley.com to have a look at my progress with the theme. Any feedback welcome!
Having shared my experiences, It would be great to hear about your experiences with blogging, themes and ideas. Please comment below.