Choosing a theme for your blog is kind of a big deal. Like we mentioned in our post, How to install a theme in WordPress, the way your blog looks is the first impression readers have. Some of you will see a theme and instantly know that it’s the one for your blog. Love at first sight. For others though, you’ll look and compare and look again. There are a lot of themes to choose from, so I totally understand your dilemma.
If you get to know me, you’ll quickly find out that I am horrible at making decisions. As is Devin. I remember when we registered for our wedding, we sat in front of towel section for what seemed like forever trying to decide on what color of towels we should get. I knew then, that we were in for a lifetime of never being able to decide.
For those of you that are like us, I’ve put together a list of elements to look at when picking out a theme for your new blog. This list is intended for people who don’t want to adjust any of the code for their theme. I hope this will help you find a turnkey theme for your blog. We recommend using a * Genesis theme for your blog (if you haven’t yet, can read why we love Genesis). We are going to look at 9 different elements of a theme that make them different from the other.
There are 3 main types of home pages: blog roll, static, or dynamic. By default, WordPress blogs use the blog roll as a home page. The Genesis theme Eleven40 Pro is an example of a theme that sticks with this traditional blog roll home page.
Other themes move the blog to another page, usually yourblog.com/blog and have a dynamic or static home page. A static home page has content that stays the same and does not change (unless manually changed by the blogger).
The new trend for home pages is a dynamic page. These pages are built to update when you add new content. The Metro theme also displays featured posts on the home page. The first post is the most current post and it fills the full width of the content section, followed by excerpts of other recent posts below.
The Epik theme is a displays combination of static and dynamic elements. There is a slider with popular posts that takes up the full width at the top, followed by static content below.
Take note: most of the home pages are widget areas, which means you get to control what is displayed in the different sections. Don’t focus on what the demo has in the sections of the home page, but how the sections are divided. With the use of the Genesis Featured Posts plugin (it comes default with Genesis themes) you can make any of the areas a featured post section. Or, you can choose to display static content.
In the menu of every Genesis theme demo, you should be able to find a link called page layouts, make sure to check and see if the theme has your desired layout.
1140 pixels is the default width of the content section for the Genesis framework, but some themes adjust this width. You can use a measure it app to see what the measurements are for different elements of the blog design. I always like to look at the widths of the post section vs. the side column. I also pay attention to the width of the menus. Some menus are the same length as the content + sidebar, while others (like ours) stretch the width of the full screen. I also like to measure the width of the spacing and padding between elements. Originally, this blog was going to be on Metro theme, but I want a little more white space between elements. You don’t have to be this picky (see why I can never make a decision!).
Check out how these 3 themes style the title area of a post differently: The title in the Centric theme is followed by the post information with icons and colored links.
The Metro theme has the title followed by a basic line of text for the post info. Matching the theme, the links are bolded.
The Modern Blogger theme has a script title, the post information is separated by lines, and the links are colored.
On a side note, you can adjust what appears here by going to Genesis – Simple Edits and then changing the short codes in the post info box.
Typography elements are the small little details that aren’t always noticed individually, but make a big impact on the whole of a blog design. Typography elements to look at when picking out a Genesis theme are: fonts, headings, block quotes, lists, and links. To find the different font styles, the newer themes have a page called typography. That page will show you most of the elements listed below. With the rest of the themes, you have to maneuver around the demo a little to see the different style. If the demo has a blog roll as the home page, there are usually different blog posts with the titles of the various formats. If the home page is static, I usually go to Page Layouts – Content/Sidebar to find the posts.
Luckily, most of the Genesis themes use great fonts that are easy to read. Still, make sure to take a look at the fonts in the theme. For example the Eleven40 theme uses a san serif font in the titles, but a serif font in the body text. Whereas, the Epik theme uses a sans-serif font all around.
Headings are an important element in your blog. Not only do they help your reader understand the flow of your post, but the correct use of them helps improve your SEO. In most themes, headings are differentiated by size of the text.
The Enterprise theme is a nice example of a theme that has clean and clear headings.
Some themes, like Modern Blogger theme customize the headings a little more with different colors or fonts.
Take a look at how the theme uses block quotes. Pay attention to how they stand out from the normal text. Are they a different color? Is there an indent? Some themes even use a larger quotation mark.
The Crave theme indents the quote, uses a large quotation mark, and the font is lighter than the main body text.
The Lifestyle theme also uses a larger quotation mark, but not as dramatically large. The quote text is indented on the left, but the color stays the same.
Lists: Ordered and un-ordered
Differences to look for in lists are indentation and spacing. For the un-ordered lists, also look at what shape is used for the bullet point: square, solid circles, open circles, etc.
Look and see how links are formatted. How do they look inside posts? Some are just a different color and some themes underline links. Most themes make links inside posts look different from links in other areas of the blog. Make sure to hover over the links to see if and how they change.
The way a theme looks after the blog post varies a lot between the different themes. There are 4 different areas I look at after the blog post: the tag and category links, the author box, the after entry widget area, and the comments.
In the Beautiful theme, the categories and tags are linked in a different colored text. The author box is separated by solid gray lines and then there is a gray after entry widget box.
The categories and tags in the Centric theme have icons to the left and also use a colored link text. The after entry widget area is separated by solid lines.
In the Enterprise theme, the categories are aligned left and the tags are aligned right. The after entry widget stands out in a white box.
The Magazine theme does not use a different color to link the categories and tags, but bolds the text. The after entry widget area is separated by bold black lines and the author box is gray.
Most of the Genesis themes use threaded comments, meaning you can visually see when someone is replying to a specific comment or to the blog post. Each theme customizes the appearance of comments differently.
The Parallax Pro theme has a basic comment section with the threaded comments slightly indented to the right.
The Going Green theme uses speech boxes to enclose the comment and the threads alternate colors.
The Modern Blogger theme uses gray boxes for the comments, with large numbers on the comments. The threaded comments are indented and outlined in white.
The footer area is at the bottom of every page. Usually with a Genesis theme, the footer areas are widget sections, so you can decide what type of content goes in that area. You can choose to mimic the demo or put your own content in these boxes. Pay attention to the color and how many widget areas are in the theme.
The footer in the Foodie theme is a gray box, the demo is set up to show 3 widget areas: connect, popular posts, and a section for ads.
The footer in the Magazine theme is black with widget areas in 3 columns. You are in control of what appears in these widget areas.
Check out how the Parallax Pro theme uses the footer section for a bold call to action. It is a red bar with one widget area, followed by a black bar.
I hope this tutorial has helped you become more aware of the different elements to look at when choosing a theme. I’d love to know what theme you ended up selecting, leave a comment and let us all know why you picked the theme you did.
*Disclaimer: when you click on some of these links, and make a purchase I will receive a commission of the sale.
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