WordPress offers free themes. “Themes,” you may remember, are the code that someone has written to set up the design and look and feel of your website. The free themes are pretty good and can be customized to some extent.
You can also buy themes. These offer more complex designs and customizations. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted my website to look like. Note: It is very hard to arrange and design content when you don’t have very much content. So I stuck with the free theme and decided to try to begin writing blog posts and learn about how to design a website. As I stated elsewhere this writing daily and learning about website design and operation became too much for me to do at the same time, but at least I had enough content by this point to begin to think how I wanted things to look.
I started looking around the internet at sites and I started reading about something called “The Genesis Framework.” Over and over I read that this presented an easier way to customize your site. It came highly recommended from many WordPress users. It also supposedly came with great support and a great community of users. So I decided to bite, and I bought the Framework and a theme.
The “Framework” is an uber-theme for WordPress, if you will, that sets up a framework for the Genesis themes to hang on. So you buy the “Framework” and then you can buy a theme to lay on top of that. I bought the Whitespace Pro theme. Both the framework and theme together were about $100. Then you can customize the theme by making tweaks to some of the files. So that’s what I am working on now.
I decided that I liked the new full-screen look where you scroll and scroll rather than click on menu items and load pages. The Whitespace Pro theme didn’t exactly do that for me, but it did put my blog posts in a nice grid, which I liked. I figured I could learn how to add more sections to my front page later.
So how am I faring on the customization front? Here is my biggest frustration: I understand the basic principles of these scripts or languages or whatever they are called. You tag the pieces of your website with HTML codes. You then correlate these codes to formatting in the CSS file and set up how each piece of your site looks in that file. In the Genesis Framework, you use “hooks” to put code in your child theme that can change the code in the Framework, so your customizations take place. The problem is that when I go to see these files in “real life,” they never look exactly like I was expecting them to look. It’s like if you were learning English and your teacher explained that to make a verb past tense you added “ed.” Then the first sentence she gave you was “He went to the store.” Frustrating!
One thing that Lynda.com can help you do is set up a test site on your computer so you can try out different coding solutions without breaking your real site. I used “Bitnami,” so you can look that up if you want to try it out.
Anyway, I have managed some customizations: I have filtered these posts on “My Blog Project” out of my front page blog posts. I didn’t want these to be intermixed with my main posts on books, Christianity, etc. Whitespace Pro actually had a way of customizing that without going directly to the code. And I have tested but not yet put into action changing the heading font colors.
Still, I have tried some other things that are still not working even though I think I am following instructions (and if I am not, I can’t figure out where I am not).
Also, when I changed to the Whitespace Pro theme, I lost access to information in my sidebars. It apparently is still available (supposedly all your content is kept in WordPress and Genesis even if you change themes). The thing is the Whitespace Pro theme doesn’t have the sidebars my old theme had, so that info is not visible. I don’t know where it is hidden, so I just had to recreate it. I was going to re-do my outside resources links anyway, but I didn’t have them listed anywhere else (note to self: Keep a list somewhere else), so it’s a pain to try to remember what I had there.
Anyway, I will keep you abreast of my other tweaks and let you know about some plug-ins I have installed in a few days.