The Untold Truth About WordPress Themes

Design, color, images, widgets, text size,  there are number of factors that go into choosing a theme and customizing it. A blogger has to weight the pros and cons of them and making them all work. With the start of the Aniblog Tourney comes once again the time when everyone is discovering new blogs and revisiting older ones. As you’ve noticed there are blogs from many places, some are self hosted websites, some are blogspots blogs, some are animeblogger blogs among others. There is very fair amount of WordPress blogs participating this time around too. Some have already left others are still in it but the original number was more than 50 wordpress anime blogs. This is entry is about what happens behind the scenes when picking a theme.

As you know free WordPress offers many services and ways to customize a blog, but there are many things that are taken for granted when it comes to these options. For those unfamiliar with the service and those who have never had a blog this should prove interesting. For anyone intrigued why so many WordPress blogs look alike this ought to shed some light in that matter. I urge you to read it in case you’ve ever been curious of what happens behind the scenes and possibly answer some questions regarding WordPress themes.

This is an entry about those details for non-bloggers and non-wordpress users alike from a WordPress user’s POV.


Many themes don’t look like blogs
Wordpress themes have varies purposes and not all of them are destined to look like “blogs”. Some themes rather than looking like blogs look like web pages for news. The magazine look falls in this category as in many cases it simply doesn’t work too well for anime blogs. The reasons behind are that the main page is full with new and old posts headlines with only the first and second sentences of the entry for a preview. There aren’t images on the front page because the other headlines don’t give them enough room. Usually visitors (especially new visitors) scan for specific articles that catch their attention, titles alone may dissuade the reader from clicking the articles. Unfortunately because they have this magazine/newspaper look and because the headlines and columns of text are all over the site,  images hardly make it to the front page.

Magazines themes tend to look cluttered with posts meshed together as if in a crowded elevator.  Blogs are more “personal in nature” and moreso when blogging  is done every now and then and a blogger you’d want to emphasize and “personalize” each entry as much as possible avoiding giving the image of ‘this entry is one of the many’.  In many cases magazine themes aren’t a good pick because they look like a newspaper front page with too many articles.

There are designs especially for Photography
With such themes the main focus are images and not the text.  Blogs where writing is involved and the focus is on the writing part would really want the writing to stand out more than the images. Images are great as they can greatly drive the point home and nicely break paragraphs, but they still aren’t the main focus of an anime blog focusing on the writing part. Photography themes, as the name implies, are great for images. Blogs specializing in images can make great use of it. A blog focusing on writing part, not as much.

Colors
Do you prefer cool colors over warm colors? One of the biggest factors that go into picking a theme are the colors. WordPress offers many themes and in many of them colors are already included. We all have favorite colors or colors we like better than others and definitely colors we aren’t crazy about. A blogger is the same, they may like a group of colors and not others.  They may also like certain colors but they don’t find them to be a great choice for a blog. For example, I personally like the color black or grey, but I don’t find them to work well for a background as it puts strain in the eyes making difficult to read after a while. That’s an example of what a blogger looks for when he or she looks for a theme. And that’s part of the problem as there are WordPress themes that only have “one” default color and they cannot be changed. There are themes with white backgrounds where there no background can be added. There are theme were the default colors cannot be modified.

Hopefully, there are also themes that let you play around with the colors. Great themes such as “Bueno” has Theme Options allowing you to pick among seven different colors for your blog. Not as great themes as Bueno may only allow you to pick from one or two color. This limits the choices depending on color preference. After all you’re likely to pick a color you prefer and one where the text is easily readable.

The Background cannot be Changed
Many WordPress themes let you customize the header and the background, which is always a big plus for any blogger wanting to personalize their site. Same as there are themes that have it there are also themes with less customization than others. There are themes such as Solipsus which don’t give you that option. Some themes are designed to have certain looks because that’s how they were created. Some of these themes look neat while others don’t. Love the design? Great. Not a fan? Not great. Depending on this it will decide whether or not you’ll choose these themes. Keep in mind that because there is zero customization the blog will look as-is with the default design, automatically looking fairly generic compared to other blogs. This may really really not be something you necessarily want.

Fixed Width
Many visitors and bloggers who don’t like small text and tight looking blogs might be instantly put off by the site layout.  It’s not an overstatement that fixed width themes play a big role in deciding between WordPress themes. There are two types of fixed width in WordPress: the first is one gives enough room for the text, widgets, and images looking polished and hardly having that cluttered look. The second one is the fixed width theme that isn’t as well distributed as the former tending to be too narrow or too wide.

Really narrow fixed width themes are a HUGE problem in many cases. The images are small, the text is small and there is too huge a void on both sides of the blog. You can’t change this because of the fixed width. Say you want to broaden the width. You can’t change that. Fixed width themes can work, too narrow themes not as much because may not be everybody’s cup of tea. In some cases such even average long title posts may look awkward compared to everything else because the font is too big compared to everything else. Sometimes us bloggers want a design that covers more than 40% of the screen and regular size letters. If you don’t enjoy feeling a bit claustrophobic in your blog many fixed width themes specially too narrow themes may not be for you.

Sometimes neither of these two may be viable themes so the blogger has to look for either a “custom-width theme” or a theme with a fixed width with a reasonable one. A great deal of time fixed width isn’t a very good choice for the reasons mentioned. When it does work is because the theme possesses a reasonable fixed width.

The text, the Font
As mentioned above the text size (and font) play also fair role on deciding a theme. The purpose of a blog is to convey ideas and these ideas reaching others. A more personal writer usually writes for himself or herself, a blogger who wants to reach everyone writes for an audience. In either case any blogger would like what they wrote to be readable. Here is where the text size and fonts come into play.

I don’t enjoy reading small size text I prefer an average text size which is easy on the eyes making the reading experience pleasing as it should be. So far I’ve found that there is no WordPress theme that lets you customize the text size of the titles for free. In other words what you see is what you get. If the font is small, that’s too bad. If the title is too big, well, that’s also bad too (as bad as it may sound). That’s why WordPress bloggers have to look for themes they agree with the text size because they have zero any control over them. Also let’s not forget  that as far as fonts go there are fonts that are easier to read than others.

Premium Themes
Prices vary. For what I’ve found they range from 45$ to 75$. Premium for 75$? Oh no, no.. Exactly how good are the premium themes? Not that good for the price they’re charging bloggers. Blogging is done for free, mostly as a hobby and equally given free to all readers. The free WordPress designs aren’t so bad the problem lies in that they’re fairly limited. WordPress users would also find that the premium themes aren’t so hot as they look.

CSS
The upside of paying for a premium wordpress theme spares bloggers from figuring out what goes where, however, with CSS it’s all up to the bloggers. CSS is recommend to bloggers who know CSS well as they’ll be able to move around, remove, and edit the theme, in other words customize their blog. Bloggers not familiar with CSS will find that buying CSS won’t do much for them. There are still other more viable options.

Some designs are too niche
Some WordPress themes are just not viable for anime bloggers. Some look like a birthday party, others look like the color wheel had something it didn’t agree with it (not kidding), some look just silly. They don’t have the custom-background option and some thing we have to remember is that they’re designed to have certain looks which some users may find cute or interesting. There are themes for everyone and just the same they can be used as any other theme, however, much of what goes into making a blog yours, as in your personality, is lost. Because they can’t be edited in any way the blog ends up looking exactly like every other blog with the same design. In many cases you’ll find that you really don’t want your anime blog to have that certain look.

Lack of custom headers
I’m a big fan of custom-headers and I think that many bloggers also are and with good reason. Personally I find it that a site needs a header to express itself. You really need to tell your audience the theme of your blog and having a header is one great way to show it. A great deal of thought goes into picking an headers because it has to be one that reflects your personal tastes, favorite show, favorite character or genre. Headers tell the audience something. It may be a season, place, moment or situation. They always tell the audience something. They are indeed important one of the many reasons is because they are the first thing anyone sees when they visit a page. Without a header image a blog header is basically a title for a header.

Currently, WordPress has many themes with custom headers which is a huge plus for anime bloggers and bloggers alike as they can set themselves apart from other blogs with ease despite having the same theme. I think that with this I drove the point home that custom-header themes are a must for many bloggers. Themes with no custom headers can be a no-go, same as sometimes it may not always be easy to find the “perfect” header or find a new one for your blog.

So what’s keeping a WordPress Blogger from changing themes?

Switching Themes

The moment the blogger has found *the* right theme (after so many obstacles) is time to try it out. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds. The most difficult part was finding the right theme then second most difficult part is one that may turn out to be an unexpected problem – the new theme doesn’t work correctly. The dilemma comes in when the blogger already has a theme and is thinking of changing it. And this is may be something that many don’t always expect – the header and the background image and don’t work too well with the new theme. Many themes will require you to look for a different background and header because the width, length, height or color, no longer works with your previous main images. The reason behind it is that themes have different designs and they don’t always work well with others. Time to make it work.

The last problem many WordPress users have – changing themes may make your blog look off.  The problem is that sometimes it may – break your blog, which is a very very very common thing to happen. Everything a WordPress blogger does is based on their current theme. They compose entries keeping their current theme in mind, especially images. When a WordPress blogger changes the theme many images don’t resize properly and end up looking cropped in half or a part of them is no longer visible. We’re talking many images older entries which have to be manually edited for the blog to not look strange here. Switching themes isn’t as easy as it sounds and unexpected problems will arise.

This and many others are things that happen when switching between themes. This and many other factors come into picking a theme.

O-New Toxic Muffin Anime Tree The Notaku Blog The Otaku’s Blog The Kotatsu Kansatsu Those Damn Cartoons! Ace Railgun Ultimatemegax’s blog The Check-in Station The G-Empire Sequential Ink Angryjellyfish’s Blog Calamitous Intent Amaenbou Dane~ Spherical Cows Baka Laureate Caraniel’s Ramblings  The Anime/Manga Harem Brigade  Beneath the Tangles Ephemeral Dreams Otaku Panorama 見ないで! ひとり言 Deluscar Maschera Avvesione’s anime blog Ambivalence , or is it ambiguity? Ogiue Maniax Riyoga’s Ramblings Bokutachi no Blog Moe Fundamentalism Anime Viking Shinde Iie Anime Blog Anime B&B We Remember Love GAR GAR Stegosaurus Open your Mind Kritik der Animationskraft Prede’s Anime Reviews Continuing World Anipulse Yaranakya Lemmas and Submodalities Marth’s Anime Blog Drastic My Anime Blog NewAnimeThursday Illogicalzen The Untold Story of Altair & Vega Canne’s anime review blog Abandoned Factory Anime Review Eye Sedso Unmei Kaihen Shades of Grey World of Yamaguchi Hoshiko Lower Mid-Table My Sword is Unbelievably Dull Listless Ink The null set

All WordPress blogs

There are already a good number of WordPress anime Blogs in Animenano but before the ABT I didn’t realize there were a lot more anime blogs out there. The ABT rounded up a whooping number of more than 50 WordPress Anime blogs to participate in it. Those are WordPress anime blogs only in the tourney that are participating not counting those not participating this year. As you see the number of WordPress Anime blogs number is great.

WordPress currently has 196 themes which out many of theme are premium and only a couple of them may work perfectly for you. WordPress does offer ways to customize the design yet even these choices are limited. Even when many of the customization perks are there other good features aren’t. I’ve gone from theme to theme, temporarily tried and previewed a few and I found that many of them, as explained in this post don’t work too well. There are many anime bloggers (myself included) who have WordPress themes and I thought that issues such as themes should be addressed by someone. WordPress isn’t really a bad service. Don’t let it fool you it is actually great service because for its polished look and practicality but let’s not forget is far from perfect.

Have you seen only a number of the same themes and wondered why? There’s a good reason why the Top WordPress themes are the top themes as there is a great number of themes yet not that many choices to pick from. There could be many themes but not all of them work well for anime blogs because of many reasons. Switching to a new theme isn’t a straightforward process, it requires changing more than a few things and those who don’t change their theme because of it know it. Sometimes there just isn’t a good replacement for a great header or background as good as the last one. With WordPress some themes may have some good perks but lack others, another may have that but lacks the former. There are particular themes for particular blogging needs, other themes that are a no-go, there are also themes for particular blogging not related to blogging. As you see there are many themes but a handful of them really have everything. That’s the reason why a number of wordpress themes are popular with anime bloggers. Because it gives them what they look for in a theme.

Usually when you read about comments regarding WordPress themes you’ll hear words such as generic or similar looking themes but the reasons behind it aren’t always known. WordPress bloggers aren’t trying to all look the same or dull they are doing what they can with what they have. Some themes look fantastic others look ok. Some bloggers picked their themes because they liked it best, others because they found their fellow WordPress bloggers’ themes to look great and thought their blogs would also look great with that theme, some anime bloggers picked a different theme (even sometimes impractical) to set themselves apart.  It’s not always as easy as is cut out to be. In picking themes many factors come into play, from color preference, to images, to backgrounds, to text size and titles to the theme design. It’s not always a straightforward process. As said before There’s a reason why a number of WordPress themes are popular with anime bloggers. Because it gives them what they look for in a theme. Picking a theme is a matter of preference, style, practically, experimenting what works and what doesn’t, and somehow trying to be unique and smart with limited choices. That is WordPress.

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10 thoughts on “The Untold Truth About WordPress Themes

  1. Hehe you might want to add Sekijitsu to that wordpress blog list, since we do use that platform. May not look like it since the theme has been heavily modified, but yea, it’s wordpress operated.

    • I think Keikakudoori only added blogs that are hosted on WordPress.com. I.e. blogs that have .wordpress.com in their url. You can’t heavily modify your theme if it’s hosted on WordPress.(You need to buy CSS) :P

      • Yep, it’s mostly pretty much free wordpress themes, but if anyone wants to jump right in making a post about tribulations of self hosted (or other services) themes they should go right ahead. I for one would like to know what happens behind those scenes.

  2. I really should get a header image one of these days. Unfortunately, header images likely don’t work very well with my otherwise dark theme (Fusion). I don’t want to change my theme either. I have had it for so long and it is just so nice and simple! Though I really do wish it was more flexible with widget space and stuff.

    • Tell me about it. Some themes just work while others don’t. I like my header image and background but they don’t always work that great with other themes as seen in the post.

      I’d recommend getting a header image because they’re great for blogs. The thing is that, yeah, you’ll probably need a new theme for it.

  3. Woah, I thought almost all new blogs came from WordPress, with only a slight number in Blogger/the AB.net antenna! I guess I’ve just never had the experience of choosing custom themes, because I have no idea what I’d do if I had free rein over every option.

    At least our site looks unique. That’s why you put O-New on the front of the list, right? Right?? :D

    • Custom CSS is best left for experts. You really have to know what you’re doing in there. I once purchased it and messed up the theme then when I got a hand of it
      I could only play around with the width. WordPress’s been getting better with the themes though. Slowly, but everyone now and then they release great ones.

      • In fact, emperorj’s wordpress theme was the only one (?) that got past motsucq without any criticisms of any kind! :c

        • Indeed. :)

          Some posts could use shorter paragraphs and excerpt should link to post URLs, but otherwise it’s a solid design.

  4. Blogspot offers full free HTML/CSS customization. You can write/edit your own theme.

    Pretty cool feature in an otherwise shitty blogging platform.

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