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Zero to Hero: Day Five

  1. michelleweber

    NOTE: Zero to Hero forum threads will close after five days. If you're just starting out, welcome! Feel free to visit a more recent thread to say hello, ask questions, or seek feedback. Happy blogging!

    Welcome to Day Five! It's great to see so many of you still going strong.

    Today, let's spent a little more time with themes, and see how appearance can enhance (or detract from) your content. For details, check out the main Zero to Hero page.

    Use this space as a place to ask questions and seek feedback from your fellow bloggers, or just to talk about blogging, why you're here, and how your month is going.

    Note: please refrain from posting links to your blog unless you're seeking feedback on something -- this is a place for discussion. Give your posts the "zerotohero" tag to enable other participants to find you. Given the number of participants and length of these threads, we are deleting comments that are simply links to make it easier for participants to have real discussions with one another.

    The Daily Post has a weekly open thread on Sundays called "Community Pool," for peer feedback. If you're looking for general feedback on your blog or feedback unrelated to this challenge, please visit that thread.

  2. I went through the different themes and tried a few of them out. I stuck with my original one, the Sunspot but I did find a few others that I liked. I also liked the Twenty-Fourteen, Expound, Parament, Greyed, and Dusk to Dawn themes. They all caught my eye but I really like the layout for Sunspot. I hope everyone has good luck finding their themes.

    Please let me know what you think of my theme: and let me know if you think I should change it.

  3. I used Misty Lake for a while (like 18 hours) and then I saw Fanwood Lite. Perfect! I love the bold lettering with extremely flash colors. Love the zerotohero challenge!

  4. morgannagrom2013

    Well if you don't succeed try again! I tried on a few occasions to change my theme - 2012 - but had no luck so decided to stay with the simplicity of 2012. I did however have the nagging feeling that the 2012 theme had a sense of emptiness that did not sit well with me. Because I want to continue with the zero to hero challenge I had one more go and found a great theme and I have personalised the header. My blog looks brighter, I am happy. Thank you

  5. Just as a resource, we had a good discussion here in the forums the other week about choosing themes. Might be a useful read for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed with the choices:

  6. silverliningsproject

    I've been blogging for two months now and reckon I've spent as much time choosing themes as I have writing! I use expound but want to try more now that I have some posts. I like a clean magazine style but I'm worried about the lack of sidebar (no buttons, no widgets etc), what do you all think?

  7. michelleweber

    @silverliningsproject, there are themes where the widget area expands/can be hidden, to keep things clean. Off the top of my head, Ryu does this -- it's not a magazine, but it *is* clean. There are others, too. You might also try a theme where the sidebar is at the bottom.

  8. ediblereflections

    I started with the Adelle theme (soft pink and delicate). Then I changed to The Expound theme (it hi lights mainly the posts. I just changed it to the Delicacy theme. I find this last one to be clean and allows me to showcase my pictures much better. I want my content to be the star, not necessarily the theme itself. But at the same time I want the entire blog to be appealing.
    Thoughts anyone?

  9. ediblereflections

    Also I found it helpful to search the themes by topic. Some are a bit more content/picture appropriate based on what you're trying to accomplish.
    Good luck everyone!

  10. desertramblings

    The other day, I had gone through to see about changing my theme to something a little more flashy and colorful, but in the end, stayed with my original theme - 2010. It's so clean and easy to read. I kind of like the new 2014 theme, but I haven't been designating featured images on each post, so it loses something with that theme unless you do. And when I did try to add a featured image on my current theme, it put the image in place of the header image, which is very short (but long) and so didn't look good. So if I made the switch to the 2014 theme, I would also need to go designate featured images on the most recent 5 or so posts, as well, to make it look good.

    The other thing I didn't like about the 2014 theme is that the center column is too narrow for my tastes. Since the theme uses both left and right columns for content, it doesn't leave as much left for the middle. And I like to share multiple photos with my posts, so a narrow middle column limits the sizes of those photos and the use of the photo gallery a bit too much for me. Maybe I should have looked at themes that were more photojournal-style.

    Believe it or not, my other concern about some of the other themes that were interesting and worth consideration was the font size and style and the "cleanliness" of the pages. My 90-year-old grandmother reads my site as it is the best way for me to share family news and photos, and she would not take the time to read the site if it were not clean, easy to read, with clear, large fonts and colors. I don't think she could read the white text on black background as well as the black text on white background. So I am almost thinking that I won't change the theme while she's still reading the site.

    Maybe in a few years when my boys are in college and my husband and I are doing more traveling, I could create a new, separate blog as a travel/photo blog and get more creative and artistic with it. Maybe with a different target audience. :)

    What I would like to do with my theme that I think would really refresh it a bit is if I could come up with a new header image and a new background image. I think that would be nice. But I haven't found the images I want to use, yet. With a blog name of "Desert Ramblings", I need to keep the desert theme, so we'll see where that takes me. It might be something that I have to keep in mind over the next few weeks to be on the lookout for views that I could take with my camera specifically for that purpose. I reviewed the pictures I took over the last year or 2, and since I have been focused on family, there aren't much in the way of landscape photos. :)

  11. desertramblings

    I did create a new, updated menu for my blog after learning how you can use categories as menu items. I cleaned up the right column, removing things that I didn't want there anymore and adding things I did.

    Can you all give me some feedback on my site?

  12. I loved exploring the different themes. Below is my blog on the chosen themes.

  13. morgannagrom2013

    This is a reply to silverlinings project
    Theme 2012 (I used until an hour ago) is clean and could be seen as a magazine style and you get a sidebar , I didn't have a header so it looked more like a journal and became a little too clean for me but well worth the try.

  14. psychoticincognito

    Yet another challenging task. I tested a few themes and even found one I almost changed to, Splendio. The fonts were so great and it is such a clean layout. But, in the end, I stayed with Reddle because I created a header image in Photoshop for it a few days ago, and I really like how it looks.

    If you have a few minutes, please stop by and tell me what you think.

  15. cogitoergoabby

    I am terrible at the visual side of things. It took me a long time when starting out to work out the theme that most suited the blog, because I was still trying to work out what my written voice was (I still am). Now, I use Adelle. After three months, I am really happy with it.
    In one of the earlier challenges we posted about who we are and why we are here. In my post I stated one of the aims of my blog is to talk about serious things without taking itself too seriously. I think this influences the type of themes that jump out at me - which ones encapsulate that aim?
    I had to apply a filter when looking for other themes to try - the ones that are free. Also, I don't currently have money to customise a theme so I have to be happy with the basics.
    I didn't think I would find anything but I really loved Bushwick and Sundance. If I ever get better at sourcing, creating and embedding beautiful images and videos in my post, I could well consider a switch.
    For now though, I think I am going to stick with Adelle.

  16. captureyouphotography

    I have changed my first blog theme several times and I have customized themes available on that blog.
    My new blog I was changing this a.m before this was even posted so that is a bit of a coincidence.
    I like the magazine type look for my blogs and both are photography websites. I just think they are crisp and clean looking.

  17. I have a question - I have a website I am building but I want to keep the 'blog' portion on Since this is a 'theme' day, what would I have to do so I can customize the look of my blog to match my website? Pay the price for customization via the store? BTW Thanks for this zero to hero challenge. Been fun.

  18. michelleweber

    @deejrandom, it would depend in part on how much customization you needed to do -- if you have a simple/minimal site, you might be able to match it up with simple/minimal theme. Many themes also let you upload a custom header or background, and some even come with different color options. Beyond that, yes, you'd buy the Custom Design upgrade ($30), and then you'd be able to really tailor the look.

  19. I really thought that Pachyderm was a great theme for my blog, but I was willing to give it a try. I ended up, after several tries, settling on Matala. It really jazzed up my blog, it looks like a new page now. I am glad I tried today's exercise. Thanks.

  20. @Michellelweber does that $30 option cover customization all themes, both free and premium? I wasn't sure about that from the description.

  21. psychoticincognito

    Well, in the last few minutes, I changed my mind again. I just love the fonts on Splendio, so I changed over to it. I am just going to create a new custom header in Photoshop for this one.

    Thanks Michelle, you really had me thinking at 3am.

    Fellow Bloggers....Please tell me what you think

  22. dribblingpensioner

  23. I changed mine from Adele to Oxygen, as I wanted more of a magazine style. I liked the slider on the Oxygen theme, as it lets you showcase up to six posts. I also like that you have the option of both a left and right side bar.

    Good luck choosing your themes.

  24. michelleweber

    @deejrandom, it does. You buy custom design for your blog, and can apply it to whichever theme you decide to use it, even if you change themes. The upgrade attaches to your blog, not to a specific theme.

  25. vegasesundance

    My theme is the Parament theme. I think I changed my theme at least once a week before landing on this theme. Best way to find a theme is to go on other blogs to see the full potential.

  26. @Michelleweber thank you for your response. I shall do this.

  27. thistimethisspace

    Day 5: Zero to Hero
    I won't be changing themes 3 times today on my Zero to Hero blog and if you read my post into the last day's thread you will know in part why that is. I tried a new theme design I did not feel particularly drawn to. However, I change themes on my test blogs many times daily to help others with issues they post here.

    Warning: I have very strong opinions about themes and features and I am a visually challenged artist with a background in color and design to draw on to boot. I hope this comment is helpful.

    I answer lots of support forum questions on themes and when I do I use my test blog and change the theme on it to the same one the person asking the question is using before I answer them. That means I am familiar with all of the 138 free themes and how they are designed.

    What I observe is that some bloggers do not read their detailed theme description found in the theme showcase. Others who do read it there don't click into the support docs to locate what they need to know such as:
    Uploading a Custom Header Image
    Setting featured images
    * The exact dimensions of all featured images are critical to their display.

    All images lose image quality when you use the cropper so why do that? Why compromise image quality, waste your free media storage space, have to troubleshoot images, and end up with an ugly result when you don't have to?

    When you upload HUGE images right out of your camera and expect the software to "fix" it what exactly do you expect? Doing that creates ugliness like pixelation, scrunching, stretching and/or one side of the image being hacked off. Hello! You would not try to park a Mac truck and trailer unit int a scooter sized space, so by analogy, then why are you doing that on your blog?

    There are free desktop image editing programs and free online image editing programs that you can use to optimize and pre-size images to fit prior to uploading them. Preparing all your images by optimizing them for the web and sizing them to fit before uploading them is the way to go.

    I don't cotton to visiting blogs where the blogger has killed the lovely professional design and created an amateur appearance by

    • choosing to create a loud or even animated header image;
    • adding a busy distracting background image;
    • choosing to have too many columns with too much going on in them on the front page;
    • injecting special characters in their site title to create a unique appearance but in doing so has compromised SEO;
    • mucking about with the color, style and sizes of fonts in posts and pages creating a rainbow colored hodge podge of text that looks like childish and makes those with visual impairments have to keep re-focusing their eyes unnecessarily to read it;
    • creating a sidebar full of unrelated clutter such as meme badges and mile long blogrolls;

    Sidebars full of "tat" ie. useless decorative clutter like badges make me grind my teeth. How can new blogger fail to notice that experienced bloggers don't have a lengthy roll gained from taking part in meme backlinking schemes in their sidebars and don't have lengthy blogrolls.

    Please consider putting all distracting useless tat on a static page. Please don't even consider putting anything it in your sidebar that is not minimalist in nature because less is more. I try to limit my sidebar content to
    (1) navigation aids aimed to direct visitors to blog content deeper than the front page of your blog;
    (2) navigation aids to aimed to direct visitors to related high quality content on similar blogs;
    (3) social networking icons in a welcome widget that states the blog's site title and tagline and purpose in a few words as possible.

    I'm fully aware of the mobile explosion and I choose to use responsive layout themes on my blogs because I've been witnessing the growth of mobile use among my blog readers and I know that Responsive Web Design is the Gold Standard.
    Note: When using a responsive layout theme we go to > Appearance > Mobile and disable the mobile theme.

    I know responsive design means the theme layout adapts depending on the size of the device being used to view the site. When responsive width themes are viewed on mobiles sidebars appear below the posts in order to provide as much space as possible for reading. If you don't know what that means check these out:
    one cool site: WordPress blogging tips tools & tutorials
    Note what happens to centered header text here when viewed in difference devices:
    this time - this space: living the simple life consciously and loving it

    The theme team provides a large selection of gorgeous themes and one or more will showcase your content beautifully. If you can't find the perfect theme then find one that meets your requirements and buy an annually renewable custom design upgrade to tweak the appearance. CSS editing cannot be used to change the way any theme functions but appearance changes can go a long way to creating the image that suits you best.

  28. I have very literally, previewed every single theme over the past week so this was not such a new concept to me. So here's what i did instead… :-D

  29. thistimethisspace

    Note what happens to centered header text here when viewed in difference devices:
    this time - this space: living the simple life consciously and loving it

  30. michelleweber

    Just to clarify for everyone, there's no need to actually change themes -- you can preview a new theme without switching over to it on If you do this, your site will most likely look different than the theme demo's site and you may not get the full theme experience, but it also means your live blog won't suddenly change appearance three times in a row :)


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