I am pretty sure that I am going to tinker with themes a lot. However, I am not good at building an entirely new theme from scratch, so I need to settle on a theme as a basis, and keep a list of interesting references.

Speaking of themes, I find out that the best way to know about themes is to try out as many as possible. Only through this, I learned what themes can do, and more importantly, how to clearly define what I want.

What do I want?

Style-wise, what I prefer can be described as “minimalist with a motif”. The said motif can be the way to use an accent color, a geometric pattern, lines, or dingbats. I want to control typefaces and accent colors myself, so these are not considered motifs.

While I will obviously write on desktop computers, the same cannot be said about the readers. Especially, the only reader I know is myself, and I do view my blog on phones! Thus, while mobile support might not be prioritized, but is still mandatory.

What do I not want?

I write, not draw. Thus, a mandatory huge header image, or a design that simply does not work well without such an image, will not be used. Worse are mandatory featured images for posts. I don’t want to look for a featured image if I somehow write an article about, say, ordinary differential equations. Sliders are as useless for me.

A particular kind of behavior for mandatory featured image is to use random images when I do not provide one. It makes the main page beautiful, but all those beautiful and high-quality images are utterly irrelevant.

Navigation bar that sticks on the screen is annoying. It reduces the effective screen size, and really offers nothing to users who knows how to look at the browser title bar and how to use the “home” key. They are even worse on mobile since the screen is even smaller.

A feature that was pretty popular is a tag cloud where more frequently used tags are displayed with larger fonts. It was a cool new idea back in 2008. It is no longer new in 2018. Also, it makes web typography much more trickier. A particularly offensive variant is a theme that obviously focuses on uniformity, featuring lines and typefaces of similar line widths, while also using this stuff. Fortunately, I am confident that it would be pretty easy to turn off such features myself. Adding something is hard, removing them shouldn’t be.

Post carousals is unwanted, since that butcher my posts into a random parade. I want them to look organized. Also, I do not want to try to make each of my posts start with catchy words. I want to catch nobody. Similarly, masonry grids that only display the first thirty words or so are hard to use for me.

Themes that do not satisfy the conditions

Athena: random featured images.
Ashe: random featured images, a featured slider that I cannot turn off, and lots of “you may also like” bars on the main page.
Cressida: random featured images.
Lekhak: cannot disable the floating navigation bar.
Lightning: cannot disable the floating navigation bar.
Satrah: ugly “image unavailable” image for post thumbnails. And I do not want thumbnails anyway.

Themes that do not satisfy the conditions, but offer interesting features

Agama: cannot disable the floating navigation bar; motif is accent color, bold lines and rectangles; provides a huge selection of animations.
Bloggers-lite: cannot disable the floating navigation bar; motif is accent color and a unique separation line.
Fury: by default, does not support comment boxes. The accent color is not applied consistently. Despite the name, the motif is accent color, thin lines and round-cornered rectangles.
Lucienne: cannot disable the post carousal; motif is shades of grey.

Themes that do satisfy the conditions

Almia: 19th century typography.
Anissa: motif is thin lines and gray boxes.
Decode: accent color, very mobile oriented.
Graphy: horizontal and vertical rules subtly dividing the space.
Kuorinka: no longer maintained. ALL CAPS and three levels of shades of the accent color. Single and double lines. And looks like a fake paper.
Panoramic: to be honest, nothing special without the header images. The motif is translucency, which is not visible without images. But not particularly bad either.
Wisdom: motif is thin lines; minimal usage of accent colors on hovered lines and buttons.

By Automattic:
Dara: color block menu; colored links; adding hyphens around widget titles.
Libretto: dingbats, initials and first line in small caps: all nice typographical tricks.

By Theme Isle:
Amadeus: rococo taste.
Zillah: ALL CAPS everywhere.

By WP Koi:
Asagi: colored links; pretty mundane design that puts everything into boxes; bar code font for the tag line, I am not sure what this intends to be.
Kohaku: asymmetry, background connecting with footer.

By Cryout Creation:
Anima: motif is two accent colors and transparency.
Fluida: motif is two strongly contrasted accent colors, icons and animations.
Kahuna: motif is two accent colors and thick colored lines.
Septera: motif is two accent colors, thick short gray lines as separators, and ALL CAPS.
Nirvana: motif is two strongly contrasted accent colors, and colored boxes for clicked links.
Tempera: motif is two accent colors. Widget titles have black backgrounds.

Theme-providers

Automattic, often known as “wordpress.com”, is probably the largest theme provider. They have a few themes that are really old-fashioned though. Also, they have a habit to hardcode colors and deprecate themes.
Theme Isle produces some of the quality themes.
WP Koi names everything with koi species. They also tend to hardcode everything.
Cryout Creations creates some of the most feature-rich free themes.

Tricks

The proper way to add a copyright: “Copyright © [the-year] [site-link] | All Rights Reserved”.

Conclusion

After wasting three nights on picking themes, I decided that Cryout Creation’s Kahuna fits my goal most closely. While its default installation does not look like anything I want, by tweaking its myriad options I can actually get a decently fitting theme. Thus Kahuna makes me realize why customization options are useful for even personal blogs.

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