19 November 2008

Choosing my Wordpress Theme

In order to start my new blog at Heatheronhertravels.com, I need to choose a Wordpress theme and I'm finding it rather confusing. A theme is simply some software that you download that determines the visual look of your blog, and it's important to give it some thought, because it's a real pain to change later, as I'm finding out. Because Wordpress is an Open Source software (that means any developer can create related software), there's a whole industry out there in creating Wordpress themes.

Finding a theme
Some themes can be used if you're hosting your blog on Wordpress - you can find these at Wordpress.com. Others are only available if you're self-hosting your blog, and in this case you should start at Wordpress.org where you can find all the free ones. They're categorised in various ways, for instance by the number of columns or colours used. After a while you notice that most Wordpress Theme developers also have their own websites where they offer other themes that you have to pay for, and it's worth exploring these too.

I also started looking a lot more closely at the themes used by other travel bloggers and at the bottom of the page, there's usually a link to tell you what theme they're using. If not, you an always e-mail them to ask.

Cut through the confusion
This is where it started to become confusing, as there are thousands of themes out there, so I decided to fall back on some Project Management techniques to help me make sense of it all. In the early stages of any project you always define your requirements. This means making a list of all the things you require from your blog, and also thinking about what other users of your blog will require.

For instance an advertiser, reader and blog writer may all have different requirements and you should try to address them all. Ideally you should ask your readers and advertisers what they think, but if that's impractical, you can put yourself in their shoes. Once you have your list of requirements, you can use it to narrow down your list of themes to those that will best meet your requirements.

My requirements as a blog writer
- Good support and a user community who can help me get the best out of my theme
- Built by a reputable developer who will respond to questions
- A header with a picture at the top that I can change from time to time
- Potential to expand into a magazine style website over time
- Clean and simple look to showcase colourful photographs and content
- I like to see blue in the theme as it reminds me of exotic destinations with blue sea and sky
- Layout to support adding advertising and commercial activity to my site, probably a 3 column theme
- I don't mind paying for the right theme

My requirements as a blog reader
- Easy to find the latest post
- Easy navigation through tabs at the top
- I prefer to see the full post immediately, rather than just the first few lines
- Light rather than dark backgrounds
- Easy to find destination information
- Easy to search the blog for topics

Requirements of an advertiser
- Blog looks professional and is easy to use
- Blog will attract and retain readership
- Information on how to advertise and rates
- Adverts are displayed prominantly and look attractive
- Adverts are relevant to content to encourage readers to click on them

Listing my requirements helped me narrow down the potential themes to a shortlist.

Here's my shortlist
Clockwork Mint by Łukasz Sobek
Zigzag3 by Sadish Balasubramanian
Palnila by Sadish Balasubramanian
Seashore by Sadish Balasubramanian
Revolution Lifestyle by Brian Gardner

So can you guess which one's my favourite? Which would you choose if you were me?

Related Posts
My blogging journey
Tips to keep readers on your blog

Useful links
Here's a useful video at BecomeaBlogger.com on choosing your Wordpress theme

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Catherine said...

As someone relatively very new and fresh to the blogging scene all this networking info is really useful..thanks!!

Jenny said...

You straightened out a bit of my confusion there

poetloverrebelspy said...

Tough one, Heather. Maybe when you're done deciding, you can choose a theme for me too!?

Spring said...

I like clockwork mint and revolution...not that it matters, but I don't particularly like seashore (but if you do, that's all that matters :)

I love your blog and have been lurking!

Happy Hotelier said...

I tried Clockwork Mint and threw it out. Main reason is I want numbers numbers and numbers (for my archives, for my categories and for my comments) my two cents. Try my theme switch and see another Sadish theme. I like his themes.