Starting a Blog — Choosing a WordPress Theme

A WordPress blog is easily customized with themes. A theme affects more than the appearance or style of the blog; it also defines what information is displayed and where. In fact, once you choose a theme, you can change its appearance by editing its CSS files or using a child theme.

I chose the K2 theme for Impolite Company and blogan.net for the following reasons:

  • K2 Sidebar Manager. WordPress supports widgets that display recent comments, calendars, blogrolls, etc., on your blog’s sidebar without programming or editing your theme’s files. Unfortunately, WordPress’ widget support displays the same widgets on every page of your blog.

    K2 Sidebar Manager lets you control where on your blog each widget appears: the main page, individual pages, single post pages, the archives page, or even individual posts. I use K2 Sidebar Manager’s display feature to restrict my lengthy blogrolls and Google Reader shared items to the long main page.

    Note: WordPress is planning to add most of K2 Sidebar Manager’s functionality. Once that happens, all themes will be able to take advantage limiting where widgets appear.

  • Configurable columns. K2 can have zero to two sidebars in addition to the main content column. The width of the header and page automatically adjusts and K2 Sidebar Manager automatically supports placing widgets in these sidebars. If you want, the blog can be screen width aware and move the sidebars to the bottom of the page if a visitor’s screen width is too narrow to display the sidebars beside the main content.
  • Archives page. K2 creates an archives page that allows visitors to browse your posts by tag, category, or date. Nice!
  • Page menu. When you create a WordPress page, K2 places its title in a horizontal menu in the bottom of the header. This is handy for “About” and the archives pages.
  • Custom CSS file. K2 supports a custom CSS file that changes the appearance of your theme and can be selected from your K2 Options screen. It operates like the child themes mentioned above. Keeping your custom CSS separate from the core K2 files simplifies the upgrade process when a new K2 version becomes available. The custom CSS file also defines the size of your header, enabling WordPress’ header upload function to crop to the correct proportions for your blog.

    My custom CSS file changes my colors, background images, fonts, link styles, and supports some plugins. I also use it to unclutter my blog by hiding some extraneous icons and messages I don’t want to display.

    K2 comes with two sample custom CSS files to get you started.

K2 has some other features that I’m not currently using, but you might find useful.

  • Asides. K2 allows you to designate a category as an “aside.” K2 will display all posts in this category with different styling. If you choose inline asides, the post title uses a smaller font. For sidebar asides (which uses K2 Sidebar Manager), the an aside’s title doesn’t display, just its text.

    Asides are useful for short posts. For now, I use Twitter as a “microblog” and import the “tweets” into my sidebar using Twitter Tools. Josh Bancroft uses Twitter Tools to save his tweets as asides in his WordPress database and have them displayed in a sidebar.

  • Advanced navigation. K2’s advanced navigation is an AJAX capability that can load older posts without having to reload the entire page. I go back and forth as to whether I like it. I’m not using it right now.
  • AJAX commenting. When someone leaves a new comment, AJAX commenting displays it at the bottom of the list of comments without reloading the entire page.
  • Live search. Live search displays search results as someone start entering letters in the search box.

What theme did you choose and why?

Next up, content plugins.

Update 10/1/08. The latest K2 nightly build now supports threaded comments, but no longer supports AJAX commenting.

K9 WordPress Theme

I’m experimenting with the K9 WordPress theme. It’s written by Safirul Alredha, or “Zeo” of K2 fame, and is based on the K2 WordPress theme. After a little investigation, I’ve found that K9 leaves out a bunch of K2’s functionality:

  • K2 sidebar modules. Widgets on steroids — K9 uses plain widgets
  • Custom CSS files. Nice to maintain style changes when K2 updates
  • Asides. Short posts for the sidebar — not much need anymore with Twitter
  • Archives page. Automatically generated archives page with tag-, category-, and time-based archiving
  • Live search. AJAXy search capabilities — no fun if your page loads slowly
  • Advanced navigation. AJAXy loading of previous pages

Although I’ve grown attached to the first couple, I don’t really care about the latter three or four.

K9 sticks with K2’s use of blue and adds a bunch of speed. Wow!

I’m concerned. With a theme like this, I’ll need to focus more on content than appearance.

I’ll experiment a little longer, at least long enough to get my >>--> in the header. Maybe…

For now, my initial opinion is K9’s no dog.

Recent Changes at blogan

I added a couple of blogs to my blogroll. Check them out.

  • ArmsControlWonk — As they say, “All the stuff about WMD, intel and the national security bureaucracy by Dr Jeffrey Lewis and friends to wonky or obscure for publication.” How could you pass that up?
  • Johnny & Friend’s Blog — “Johnny and friends write about religion, ethics, politics and life.” Seems pretty limiting to me, but they seem to do just fine within those confines.

I probably still need to go through and prune some of the links I never visit any more…

Blogan’s template is now K2. K2 makes creating an archives page, having a pages menu, changing header pictures, and controlling what’s shown in the sidebar, all very easy. Highly recommended.

I updated the “static pages.” Rather than grabbing pictures of the book covers and making my own links, I’m now relying on Amazon.com to do the work for me. Feel free to buy your stuff from wherever you want. This was easier for me. Yeah, I make a little money if you buy it from Amazon using my links but I assume you already knew that.

I created a “guitar” page that shows some of my toys.

Oh, I also started posting a little more frequently. We’ll see how long that lasts. :-)

As the old guys used to say at the end of Bartles and Jaymes ads (wow, more than 20 years ago),

Thanks for your support!