August Recap, NO MEETING in September

Hello, WordPressers! I’m here with a recap of the August meeting, but first, a reminder that there is NO WORDPRESS USER GROUP MEETING in September, because WordCamp Portland is the same week.

Unfortunately, if you don’t already have a ticket, WordCamp Portland is SOLD OUT!

The August meeting was all about themes. Robin Catesby led an excellent presentation/discussion on designing themes, while Aaron Hockley and I discussed choosing and using themes on the less techie side (Kelly Guimont was unable to make it due to a death in the family. Heartfelt condolences to Kelly and her husband Scott!).

For those who didn’t make it, or who would like another look, below is Kelly’s outline, which we used for the talk on choosing and using themes. Robin is still working on getting the slides from her presentation up on the web, and we’ll post a link as soon as they’re available.

Two things to consider for your blog:

  • Who your audience is
  • Who you want your audience to be

Sometimes each of these is different, whether you intend them or not. For example: If you are working on a site for the visually impaired, don’t use teeny type and lots of Flash that will keep a text-to-speech-reader from working properly. Also have some awareness of your actual audience, your regular readers aren’t always who you want them to be.

Here is a list of validators that can help:
http://webdesign.about.com/od/accessibilityvalidators/Accessibility_Validators.htm

And a second list of resources for compliance:
http://trace.wisc.edu/world/web/

One good way to make sure you are able to meet requirements in various ways is to have a theme that is flexible and easy to customize. A prime example of this sort of theme is called Thesis:
http://bit.ly/getthesis

A big advantage to Thesis (even though it is a paid theme) is that it separates the content from the layout pretty clearly so it’s easy to make changes and get things how you want them without seriously breaking content elements.

Other things you should consider when looking at themes:

  • Is there a color associated with what you’re blogging about? (Maybe your environmental blog should be in shades of green.) This isn’t something to worry about when picking your theme, usually it is easy to change a color, so don’t worry if you love a layout and don’t like the oranges in the color scheme (for example).
  • What are you posting? Are they really really long posts? I write some really long liveblog posts, and I had a theme that broke REALLY badly when I got a little lengthy. Make sure you’re keeping in mind your content when you look at themes. If you are posting a lot of large images, you might wanna avoid super skinny columns.
  • There’s more themes out there than wordpress.org. Go google (or bing or whatever the kids do these days) your desire (flexible width, blue, photoblog, custom header) with “wordpress” and “theme” at the end and you’ll get about a jillion hits. I actually googled “WordPress Themes” recently and got 81 MILLION hits (and change). I’m not kidding.
  • Monkey around with it! Swap out a header, change a color, keep in mind that like a house, you’re more looking for “good bones” than for the exact perfect thing. If you find the exact perfect thing, fabulous. But mostly you will probably be close, and if you’re close you (or someone you get to consult on your site for you) will be able to get it the rest of the way. Keep a clean copy stashed away somewhere and if you totally break everything, it’s no big deal.