Starting a Great Blog Part 5 – Themes

Now that you’ve got your blog installed and configured, are you ready to replace that boring default design with a better one? You didn’t think you’d be stuck with that default metallic-blue and white one forever, did you? Today, we’ll show you how to find a new theme, install it, and customize it a bit. Ready?

Okay, first of all, you need to find a theme you like. How do you do that? First, you check out some theme repositories. Here are a few to look through:

If you want more, just Google “WordPress Theme”. WordPress is the most widely-used blogging software, so there’s no shortage of free themes. You can even make your own, if you’re experienced with CSS, XHTML, and Photoshop.

Whether you want them or not, here are my top picks for WordPress themes :)

You may have noticed that most of those are on the Smashing Magazine post 83 Beautiful WordPress Themes You (Probably) Haven’t Seen. Odd, isn’t it?

So, have you found a good theme? Here are the steps to install a theme:

  • Download the .zip archive.
  • Unzip the archive.
  • FTP the folder inside of the archive to this location on your blog:
  • Login to your blog’s Admin panel.
  • Click the “Presentation” tab.
  • Click on the new theme.
  • Go to your blog and enjoy the new design.

You may like the new design as-is, but what if it needs some tweaking? You need to be comfortable editing XHTML, CSS, and images (or you need to know someone who does). This is not a tutorial on any of those. However, some themes (like the Gridlock theme) use an image as a logo, rather than displaying a plain-text name pulled from your blog settings. What do you do about that? You can’t have your blog saying “Gridlock” at the top instead of your blog’s name. Easy. If you look in the theme’s images folder, you’ll see that the image is called “logo.gif”, and that it’s 430×90 pixels. All you have to do is create a new image of the same size, put your blog’s name in it, and save it as logo.gif. The theme’s creator nicely gives you editable .PSD files for Photoshop to make it easier. If you’re not up to editing images, or XHTML, then you’d best pick a theme that won’t require editing.

If you simply must customize that great theme you found, then by all means, learn XHTML and CSS. I recommend Elizabeth Castro’s book “HTML, XHTML, and CSS, Sixth Edition“. If you need to edit images, pick up a copy of Photoshop Elements, Photoshop’s much cheaper cousin.

Well, that’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for a tutorial on Posting.

Starting a Great Blog Part 6 – Posting