design in darkness

Having started out, some time ago, as a Blogger blogger, I appreciate how much better – I’d say more intuitive, but I’m not sure whether blogs are intuitive at all – WordPress is for free blogging. I’m not sure what Blogger looks like now, but in those days there were no automatic options for categories/tags, everything had to be put into the template manually beyond the defaults, there were no comments feeds, you could upload/embed media but it took more than clicking a few buttons, etc. And the system wasn’t all that reliable.

All this is to say that I haven’t considered going to another platform for years, and since I’m not prepared to get my own domain and hosting – doesn’t seem worth it at my level of readership/posting frequency/use – I’m not going anywhere. But I’d really like some more flexibility with the theme. I know there are security reasons for disabling javascript, so while it’s frustrating not to be able to add some outside widgets, I’m ok with that. And I know you can edit the CSS if you buy an upgrade.  WordPress helpfully provides themes where you can mess with the CSS and preview your designs, but you can’t save them without paying for the privilege. But I’m not looking to do anything that extensive.

I’ve been unhappy with my old theme for quite a while. The front page looked fine, but the archive and category pages didn’t display the full posts – just excerpts, ellipses, and links to the rest of the content. So last night I finally decided to mess around with the built-in themes.

All I want in a theme is the following:

  1. Customizable header for an image. A blog called “by the wayside” needs a picture of some kind of landscape, preferably with some kind of road in it.
  2. No italics for blockquotes. I know you can mess with the span style tags to do this manually, but it’s a pain to have to enter extra code each time you blockquote. You should be able to toggle the italics on or off and blockquote with the same one-click button every time – that’s what the button is there for.
  3. Full display of posts in the archive/category pages. As a bonus, “more” tags could be expanded automatically in the old pages, but it’s not a big deal.

That’s it. You’d be surprised how few themes satisfy these three requirements. But some do, so I don’t know what the excuse is for so many others not doing so. (They don’t all have to be this way.) There are quite a few themes with custom headers, but few of those made it past the blockquote/archive problems.

I think I’m ok with the new theme I’ve picked now. The header’s a bit thinner, so I found a new image. It’s a bit cluttered because of the cropping, but I think it works. I might pick something else later if it catches my eye.

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