Summer Blog Theme Revamp

Guess what? My blog theme is changing – again – like the seasons. If I found the perfect theme, I’d likely switch it later out of boredom. What do you do when fresh turns stale? Refresh! Besides, blog themes make an important statement on the web.


Tinker Under The Theme Hood

So why am I changing my blog theme again? One reason is that my previous theme switch-up in early April was an experiment with new post-formats and the block editor. And as it turns out, the tumble-like blog page isn’t as functional as I like.

So I tried several select themes, but nothing really clicked. Then I started to systematically “Try & Customize” every free theme down the line. In a short time, I discovered Canard and was thunderstruck! It was almost exactly what I was looking for – plus a bonus feature!

Let the theme tweaking begin.

Rather than bore you with the particulars of the changes, suffice to say I’m stoked to spelunk the depths of the design.

Personalized

The best thing about blog themes is their uniqueness. As a Personal Blogger, YOU are distinct with particular traits. And blogs vary in style just like people do.

The blogosphere is a collective place where individual writers express themselves through self-publishing. That special “self” is like no one else. So a personally designed blog theme extends that distinctive expression; it reflects your tastes.

So I like to find just the right colors, fonts, and layout that display my own vogue. For example, fonts come in many styles: modern, elegant, quirky, artsy…almost anything! Colors also convey a lot. Orange: enthusiasm… Green: harmony… You get the idea.

I often wonder though, how much does it really matter anymore? With that, I have a question straight to you, dear reader.

How often do you visit blogs?

Do you mostly read blogs in the WordPress (or other RSS aggregator) Reader?

I admit, I often read blogs in my Reader feed – it’s convenient. And only sometimes do I click out to actual blogs on the web. I’ve often considered making a point to abandon the Reader in favor of visiting actual blogs like we’re in the 90’s!

If you specialize your blog theme, but no one ever sees it, why bother with themes at all? If you master Google SEO, then search results will lead visitors to your blog itself. In that case, your theme should make a good first impression in the hope of gaining a bigger audience.

Regardless, I think your blog theme is significant even if nobody sees it because tweaking it is still a creative act and an expression of yourself.

under construction signage on laptop keyboard
Photo by Fernando Arcos on Pexels.com

Theme It Up

On the spectrum of blog personalization, are you closer to the “set-it-and-forget-it” default end? Or do you gravitate toward the “tweak-it-to-death” custom end?

Which is more important to you: form or function? Both of these factors come into play for blog design. Both how your blog looks and works make a difference in how your blog feels overall.

If you don’t express yourself in your blog’s thematic structure, give it a try!

One last thing: however much you customize your theme, don’t neglect the overall blog priority: writing posts! Some of the best blogs on the web are bare-bones black text on white screen – just words. But the writing is excellent.

Blogger Did A Thing

Blogger Endures

It’s hard to believe Blogger has been around since the last millennium! 21 years is a long time for any tech thing. And despite Google’s record for killing off services, somehow Blogger endures. In fact, it was updated last month, a rare thing.


Easy Does It

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking Blogger is no longer relevant, but Google must think otherwise. And I’m glad they do. They think enough of it to keep it up to date. A new post on the official Blogger blog details the changes.

If you head over to Blogger via your Google account, you’ll see that it’s now totally refreshed with Material Design painted all over. And it’s as simple as ever, with an aesthetic that’s more crisp and clean than iceberg lettuce.

There’s not much to it, but all the basics are clear and present. Gray icons, white space, and orange accents make the site inviting. The simplicity is attractive.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

One aspect I find delightful is the Label feature. Like labels in Gmail and in Keep, they appear and act the same in Blogger; they’re easy to manage. The best thing about them is the simplicity: there are only labels. That’s it. Contrast that to WordPress that has Categories and Tags; it’s more complex.

Blogger does have its own complex area: customizing your theme and layout. It still has the classic look to it. I can only guess that will be updated at some point in the future. Of course, that assumes Blogger will have a future.

The revitalized Blogger, still a free service by the way, also looks and works well on mobile. When I checked out the web app on my Android phone’s Chrome browser, the interface was a match!


Keep On Blogger

I guess I will always be fond of Blogger. The attention Google’s given it recently makes me smile. The overall simplicity makes the platform attractive, almost tempting me away from WordPress.

But Blogger’s basic nature sacrifices features I’ve come to rely on at WordPress.

However, if you dislike the Block Editor on WordPress, you will love the straightforward Editor on Blogger!

Blogs are dead? Don’t tell that to Blogger.


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Hit The Blog Refresh Button

Something Changed

If you visit my blog regularly, then you likely noticed some big changes around early April. I had started rethinking how I blog and what I could do to make it better…which led to a new theme. Plus it wasn’t just any theme.


Rethinking Is A Theme

So how was I thinking of blogging better? I wanted to post more often. In fact, the holy grail of blogging to me is posting every single day! Why is this so hard to do? I would like to achieve that, but awesome I am not. I guess I’m not very disciplined either.

Instead of blogging daily, I would settle for just more frequently. But long-form posts of 500 words or more are hard to come by for a dad with 5 kids and a full-time job.

So I thought about doing post series. I would maybe break up one long post into three short posts. The idea of doing short posts more frequently (hey look there, it’s the quantity versus quality issue again) stuck with me.

I pondered different variations of short posts. What if I challenged myself to write posts with a 100 word limit? Then it occured to me that WordPress has short post types built into the platform: Asides!

To me, asides are like tweets on Twitter. Why not put my tweet-like short posts on WordPress instead of Twitter? This would potentially give me more frequent posts. Then I could still cross-post to Twitter when I hit the publish button. Two birds; one stone.

Thinking about the Asides on WordPress set me off to searching for a new theme that supports the aside post-type. After much sifting, I found Baskerville 2 was the best fit. What is most noteworthy to me is the fact that this theme happens to be designed by none other than my favorite, Anders Norén! I’ve written about him before because, like now, I somehow always gravitate towards his blog themes before realizing they’re his.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

While still aboard the change train, I also decided to add more photos to my blog as Image-type posts. I like photography, and this would again increase how often I publish to WordPress. It would be kinda like replacing Instagram as my go-to fancy photo share spot.

Along with adding images and asides to my articles and changing the entire theme, I also added a new homepage and rearranged widgets. And in the process, all this helped me refocus on what I want to write: articles and notes on consumer tech, entertainment, and photography. It’s a lot of change!


So How’s That Refresh?

Almost two months later, I noticed that despite the big blog refresh in April, for some odd reason my posting frequency in May has slumped. And on top of that, I’m starting to wonder now if I should have narrowed my writing focus to three broad areas specifically as mentioned above or if I should have left it more open ended.

I’ll give things more time before I make any other changes or decisions. I still enjoy blogging and will keep striving to improve it when and where I can.

Sometimes blogging slumps happen; I’ve noticed sporadic cycles in my own writing too. Even when I seem to get into a groove, seasons change, life happens, and it throws off my blog vibe. But I always end up coming back to it one way or another.

Maybe I need more coffee.


Do you ever hit a blogging slump? What do you do about it? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Reblogs: Share the Awesome

This article on the basics of WordPress Reblogging is straight up informative. I’m considering whether I want to make my own posts rebloggable. Also, I think this post I’m reblogging now is the first one I’ve ever done! Check out the link and tell me, what do you think?

The Daily Post

My last post was about pingbacks and trackbacks, and some of you had questions about how that relates to reblogs. Both features help you share the work of other bloggers on your own site, but whereas a pingback simply notifies the original blogger that you’ve linked to their site, a reblog captures an excerpt of another blogger’s post and automatically links back to their content. 

View original post 486 more words

Unblocking The Block Editor

A Blockade

If you are a blogger on WordPress, then I’m sure you noticed that well over a year ago, this new thing called the Block Editor arrived. So began the push against the old-school, I mean ‘classic’, editor. I resisted; you probably did too. But I knew it was futile, like telling the Borg to leave you alone. So here I am, being assimilated to the blocks.


Word Blockage

Blocks are fundamentally awesome. Because Lego! By their nature, blocks are for building things, like a website or, maybe, a blog post. But bloggers are not builders, they’re writers. Right? We pour words into a draft. Then we edit them. We don’t edit blocks. Except, I guess, now we do.

In late 2018, when I checked out the shiny new editor of the blocks, I thought it was interesting, but I did not see its potential. I just thought it made plain writing harder. Like, everyone knows Writer’s Block is not a good thing. That’s why we writers like a distraction-free blank canvas to allow for maximum word outflow.

Now in early 2020, I started refreshing my blog theme. Besides writing only articles, I decided to try adding shorter blurbs called “Asides.” This was a bit of change to my blogging workflow, so while I was at it, when I opened the editor and it asked me to convert to the new blocky one, I figured it was time to get on that train. It was an avalanche of change.

The Unblocking

Once I made the mental shift towards accepting the Block Editor, then it was simply a matter of time and attention to learning and practicing it. A key issue I had to resolve first was whether or not I could still use my normal writing workflow…without being blocked. (I prefer intentional puns.) To my relief, yes, I could!

In a nutshell, I write all my article drafts in Google Docs, then I upload directly to my blog using the WordPress Add-on. It looks like this:

Google Docs Add On

I’m happy to report that this great Add-on works with the Block Editor. By some tecno-wizardry that would make Gandalf proud, my Google Doc Draft Template gets converted to all the blocky things. It just works! (Knocks on wood, crosses fingers, and prays.)

The ABC’s Of Blocking

What about all those blocks? Why are there so many? What do they all do? What’s with all the new buttons? How does it all work?

Hold on, change is hard, but it’s okay.

First, you must embrace the fact that the Block Editor is going to steamroll you sooner or later; it is inevitable! Once that melodrama eases up, then you may begin playing with the blocks like you’ve got a pile of Lego. Let your imagination and creativity go with it. Just start snapping the basic blocks together. Set aside time to do this; you’re gonna wanna focus.

Second, repeat. That’s it! All it takes is a little time and practice. For the most part, when it comes to an actual blog post, you won’t really need a whole buncha fancy blocks anyways. Your bestie will be the Paragraph block. You might also wanna try the Header block. There are a few blocks for writing, and maybe a few for layout, that you’ll want to get familiar with.


Now Blocking. I Mean Blogging.

The Block Editor is not bad. In fact, now I think it’s pretty cool. It does offer more capabilities than before. And yes, more features often means more complexity. Yet it works. I’m still learning all the ins and outs, but I have not run into any block-busters (ok that pun is kinda weak). And recently, WordPress shared some good new info about the creative abilities of the ever-improving Block Editor; I found it helpful.

For straightforward writing, I think the block paradigm is kind of overkill. You really just need a blank page and maybe some text formatting (WYSIWYG) when you’re ready to polish and edit. But for website and blog building, the Block Editor is really good. Maybe over time, I will come to learn how beneficial it is to writing.

Give change a chance.


Are you a Block Editor hold-out like I was? I get it! Have you been assimilated? Me too! Add your comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!