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.

Journey To A Journal

Destination Journal

If you do a little Googling, you’ll find a lot of sites that cover the benefits of keeping a journal. In sum, journaling’s good! Besides my blog, which is sort of a public journal, I’ve written in a private journal for years. I’ve always used different note-taking apps, and I’ve tried a few dedicated journaling apps. Now I’m trying out one that’s new to me: Journey.


Journey Is The Destination

Somehow, Journey had slipped under my radar. I found it by searching the Google Play Store for journaling apps. Since I rely on a Chromebook, I wanted an option that worked in a web browser in addition to using an Android app. Journey covers those bases, plus there’s an iOS app for Apple’s mobile devices.

So Journey is a cross-platform app made by a third-party, meaning it’s not an Apple, Google, or Microsoft product. That said, it utilizes Google Drive for all its backup and cloud sync tasks, so it should be dependable. The advantage of using a third-party service is that it works on all the major tech-ecosystems and isn’t trapped inside a walled-garden.

For me, that means switching between an iPhone, a Chromebook, or a Windows PC won’t be a problem. There’s no need to migrate all my journal entries from one app to another; I just log-in to Journey and get all my stuff! I could have my iPhone in my left pants pocket and an Android phone in my right (because I’m a nerd-geek like that); my journals would be in sync just the same.


Pros and Cons

My first impression of Journey is that it’s a lot like the Day One app (a highly acclaimed journal app made for Apple devices, now also on Android), even using almost the same shade of blue. It’s got your main section that shows all your entries in chrono-order (Timeline), newest at the top. There’s also a calendar view, typical in many journal apps, that shows which days of the month have entries.

You can also view journal pages by photos and by location. Finally, there’s a section called, “Today.” There you can view overall stats for your journaling, like how many entries you’ve made, how often you journal, and what your average mood is over time. It even shows you what entries most reflect your various moods.

This section also offers more (journal coaching, entry prompts, fitness tracking…) if you upgrade to one of the paid versions. There are a few coaching prompts in the free version, which is the one I’m trying now. In fact, it is not even ad-supported. There are zero ads in the app, except for the repeated nudges throughout, which remind you that there’s more offered if you buy or subscribe. So far, those elegant “ads” have not been nagging; time will tell if they wear me down.


There’s a lot to like with Journey. I’ve been trying it in three places: iPhone app, Android app on my Chromebook, and the web version in the Chrome browser. And I’ve encountered zero sync issues. All my entries made on each interface appear everywhere without fail.

The look-and-feel of the smartphone apps is consistent and pleasant to use. You can ‘tag’ and ‘favorite’ entries (still in the free version) for easier searching later. And despite there being a lot of features, the app isn’t cluttered or convoluted. Journey is simple, neat, and easy.

I’m finding that the more I use Journey, the more I like it! I didn’t think the calendar feature would really be important to me. But now with several days of usage, I can easily see my journaling streak visualized!

After depending on note-taking apps for years to do my journaling, at first I found it hard to get into Journey. I was not comfortable with the idea of using yet another app to do what I have always done. But I have found that Journey’s singular focus on journaling has allowed me to quickly and easily jump into the app and let my thoughts flow. The date and time is automatically recorded and displayed prominently. I can even back-date journal entries in the free version!

Then after more use, I found something really cool about Journey that I never had in my note-taking apps. When viewing an entry, you can swipe the page left or right to see the adjacent day’s entry, which also shows the tag, weather for that day, and your mood. I love it! I can thumb through my journal like a physical journal and casually browse my thoughts over time!


Of course, nothing is perfect. Journey is an ideal app yet with one minor drawback. The web version is functional, but it does not have feature parity with the phone apps. The only section available is the overall list view (Timeline) with all your entries ordered by date. At first, I felt this was a limitation. But it’s grown on me already because it looks and feels a lot like a social-feed (for better or worse).

At the top of the web site for Journey, there’s a big box for entering text with a formatting bar and all the features you need, although a few seem to be missing, like the ‘favorite’ option. It’s easy to type what’s on your mind and also easy to go back and edit in-place.

The online version has a web-chat feature that lets you talk with the friendly people at Journey to get help. I had some initial questions and they were answered via the chat. Nice! The journey folks have also emailed me helpful tidbits, including the chat transcript with follow-up links to help resolve my queries. Impressive!


Happy Journaling

Overall, Journey is proving to be a robust and reliable journaling service that’s very inviting to use. It’s got some kind of ineffable zen mojo thing going on.

It will take more time to decide whether or not I want to stick to a dedicated journaling app. My tried and true method has always been to use a note-taking app like OneNote or Apple Notes. As of now, I’m checking out Evernote as another alternative for journaling.

And as for other dedicated cross-platform journal apps, there is also Penzu. I tried it a few times in the past week. It is nice, interesting, and full of useful features. But it’s free version is limited compared to Journey. And overall, I like Journey better because of the way it’s laid out. Penzu tries a bit too much to replicate a physical journal. It’s a preference.

If you want or need a place to keep your private reflections, I say give Journey a try. It’s a good destination to help you along life’s journey.


Do you journal? What is your go-to place to write your mind’s musings? Chat below, or write me here! Thanks for reading!