Building a WordPress Site: Theme Selection

New site, new theme. Simple as that, right? Right…? Bueller…?

Before I discuss themes, I need to declare the #1 self-imposed rule during this site’s redeisgn: do not do a Big Bang approach.

This is because past incarnations of this site involved big ideas, all of which I wanted to see implemented at once.  This led to a never-ending coding cycle that kept me from writing actual blog content.  This time around, I wasn’t going to be slowed down from my set goal of a two-week project cycle, even if it meant some of my ultimate ideas would have to come in the future.

For my rule to work, I had to make quick decisions and roll with them.  This led me to spend just 15 minutes looking for a new theme in the WordPress theme directory.  I quickly stumbled upon Crowd Favorite‘s Carrington theme and it proved to be a winner for several reasons:

  • It is cutting edge. Carrington is incredibly young in dog years.  Instead of your standard WordPress template files, it provides an engine to piece together the user presentation from a variety of sub-templates, the selection of which is defined by the viewing context.  For example, viewing the About page vs. a Category archive could show you different sidebars, content areas, headers, and more, depending on how you design it.  You can even control what’s displayed when viewing posts by different authors.
  • Sub-template file organization is logical. As mentioned above, many sub-templates combine to make full templates.  These sub-templates are stored in context-specific folders.  For example, the various sub-templates which display post content are in the “content” directory.  There are also folders for other elements: “sidebar”, “loop”, “header”, etc.
  • Customization was quick and easy. I am addicted to changing any code which resides on my site.  For WordPress, this is because the themes and plugins I use only meet 90% of my needs, and I have to supply the rest.  Making changes to Carrington was easy.  I housed my custom code in custom sub-templates outside the core theme files.  Also, these smaller chunks of code were much easier to handle during the debugging process than a larger template file.
  • Upkeep should be a piece of cake. As noted above, my custom code is contained within custom sub-templates.  Since I barely touched the core files, upgrading Carrington down the line should be as simple as overwriting the existing core files with the latest release.  This is a huge improvement over my previous blog designs, which would require side-by-side comparison between new and existing files then manual reapplication of my code.
  • The price is right. In other words, it was free!

Actually, I shouldn’t brag so much about the theme being free.  The developers at Crowd Favorite have earned my gratitude for providing such a robust framework while only asking for attribution in return.  The matching documentation on their website was also quite useful.  Besides the few hours it took me to get oriented after first installing it, Carrington proved to be an easy theme framework to work with.

At some point in the future, I will skin Carrington to appear like the site I want vs. looking like all other Carrington sites out there. This is one of the many things I’ve put off to the future in order to get rolling today.

That’s the skinny on themes.  My next post will compare & contrast use of Pages and Categories between my current and old designs.

Author: Matthew

Husband to Jenn, father to Zachary and Penelope, blogger, artist, WordPress consultant, OpenCamp organizer, and running enthusiast. Brother, can you spare an extra hour in the day?

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