As part of reinstalling systems after hard disk failure, I wanted to set up another local test website to try things out. I learned this the hard way: the online blog is not the best place to play around!

So, themes, again.

The old plan was to write one post about my process on settling on a theme, then stick with it at least until I change the theme, and I should just update the post whenever I feel the need.

It turned out that when a long duration, such as two years, had passed, changing old posts, beyond simple typo fixes, are prone to cause logical problems. Especially since posts are interlinked. Perhaps writing a new post is easier than messing with an old one.

What has changed

So, what has changed in the past two years?

The most obvious change is WordPress 5 and Gutenberg. I still have not adopted Gutenberg for this blog, but I have been trying it everywhere else, and my feeling has improved from negative to neutral.

It is still very easy to mess things up, just like all WYSIWYG editors. But on the other hand, people are making new stuff in the name of Gutenberg blocks. They sound more composable than the old shortcodes; they sound more official (and hence less prone to be abandoned) than most third-party page builders. And they do stuff.

Theme providers

I mentioned four theme providers in the last post.

Automattic, the official, the almighty. Love it or hate it, it provides functional stuff with excellent support.

Theme Isle, the theme maker that I loved so much. It turned out that they retired my favorite, Zillah, and the real weirdo, Oblique, some time ago. Was it related to the Gutenberg update? Anyway, it is a real shame to see old themes retired. Sure, they keep pumping out new ones, but why should I waste my energy to change theme every now and then?

WP Koi kind of has abandoned the practice of naming themes after koi species. Instead they started to use very generic Indian names, such as Garuda.
Anyway, they were quite productive over the last two years and the old themes seem to be receiving regular updates.
Finally, all their themes since Lalita are child themes of it.

Cryout Creations started to produce child themes in addition to its slowly expanding catalogue of themes. Particularly relevant to this blog is the very recent addition of Verdant, which is a child theme of Kahuna and perhaps I should check out what they have been doing there.
Cryout Creations have a history of keeping their old themes alive, by the way.

Priorities

I was abhorred by websites that hard code color schemes. I still find it inconvenient, but well, in the long run I would need to tweak the colors anyways, and Chromium debugger helps a lot. The real inconvenience is that if I cannot see how different color schemes work out quickly, I would be clueless about colors at all. After all, I am not a designer and need some convenience tools to make the decisions.

Also, layout options were a bit overlooked last time. How wide your page is can pretty much determine whether the text is readable or not. Unfortunately, due to difference in monitor size and mobile stuff, this is not something I could just hack the CSS if I want to change. Thankfully, while I did not think of this when I picked Kahuna, Kahuna had enough options that it satisfied my needs anyways.

In the past two years I uploaded much more images than I thought I would. I do not take photos, but I did not realize I would make game screenshots, talk about designing the site logo, and fixing the font rendering. Hence, I should stop assuming that I just write things. Good support for including images are important for me. On the other hand, I still cannot guarantee making a title image for each post (how would I make one for this very post, for example?) so it would be better if themes do not assume that.

Finally, the disappearance of Oblique and Zillah have reminded me that stability is something I should be careful about. To make it more worrying, a glance at development discussion shows little desire on the WordPress developers to stop breaking stuff. Hence, perhaps sticking to an active developer is a good plan for the time being.

New Stuff

Unfortunately since I am already settled in a theme (Kahuna) I am not going to test the previously undiscovered themes seriously. They are just listed as a shortlist for future use.

Atheme, Competethemes, ThemeZee and GraceThemes make good-looking themes that do not offer options.

Uxlthemes. They tend to provide various layout options, which is a bonus.

Themeinprogress. Their color schemes are provided with a drop-down list, not a color picker… which is weird. Otherwise, lots of options in the free versions.

RoughPixels. Options a bit unorganized. Instead of organizing things in a nice hierarchy they seem to prefer a huge list instead. Anyway, better than no options.

PreciseThemes. Lots of options but few of them seem relevant for just a blog. Anyway, they make multiple demo sites for each theme, so I guess they care about versatility.

ThemeNextLevel. Only two (partially) free themes at the moment, but they both look hopeful. Again, multiple demo sites for each theme. (Is this a new trend?)

Conclusion

OK, it is time to stop this distraction. It is time to actually pick one for my local site, and start experimenting stuff (and rewrite this section).

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