As you can tell by the ubiquitous ’90s-era nontransparent animated shoveler graphic at right, Netninja.com has been under construction this weekend. Everything looks fine now, but this is a warning that there may still be some loose coverplates hiding sparking wires. You see — today, I installed the Thesis theme engine for WordPress. What does this mean? For most folks, it means almost nothing. There is a slightly new look with a bit more spit-and-polish. Blog posts were shuffled to the
/blog subdirectory (http://netninja.com/blog/) and the website’s root (http://netninja.com/) serves as a better table of contents. Beyond that, little has changed.
“So, then, why’d you change?”
For this, we need to take a little history lesson. Back when I started experimenting with WordPress in lieu of LiveJournal, about 3 years ago, I found a theme I liked. The term “steampunk” was not in popular use yet, but I liked the style and found a great free wood-and-brass WordPress theme. As WordPress matured over the years, releasing better versions with more features and fancier user interfaces, I discovered the dirty secret of most free themes:
The majority of free themes are abandonware, created once by a web designer for a one-off site or to expand her portfolio and are never looked at again
As WordPress matured, the free theme that I was using did not. The failure mode for this theme, and most others, was non-graceful. Each newly added feature brought more quirky behavior from the theme. I finally abandoned it, unable to find a suitably themed replacement, in favor of creating my own. I started with the theme that came with WordPress and mucked around with its stylesheets using Firebug until I arrived at something that looked reasonably like the theme I had previously used.
This, too, worked great for a while. Then WordPress released a newer version with a newer base theme. As I recall, the biggest difference was with nested comments, but there were a significant number of minor differences as well. I once again had to go through the exercise of migrating my CSS changes from the old style to the latest. I had used that for a while and have been happy, but I now understand that version 2.9 is on the horizon and do not wish to repeat that exercise.
With that history, I can now answer “why did you change to Thesis?” I run a number of plugins on this site. Several of them have PayPal donation links. I have even donated to a few of them. And yet, I see no themes with such donation links and few (if any) free themes with an active, supportive, userbase. I have peeked at a number of for-pay themes out there, but Thesis seemed the most robust and upgradably hackable (that is, hackable with the least amount of effort each time WordPress and/or Thesis gets updated). Given the choice between spending a lot of time fixing my theme each upgrade, not upgrading, or shelling out some money for a professional theme, I chose the professional theme.
P.S. I know a lot of people hype the SEO aspects of Thesis. I appreciate that out of the box Thesis does its due diligence like putting the post keywords in the HTML keyword meta tag (something that the default WordPress theme, surprisingly, does not do). However, I am not an SEO nut and am not excited by all the SEO options attached to each post.
P.P.S. One of the most vocal Thesis supporters in the PDX community is Aaron Hockley of Social Photo Talk. I am not a photographer, but I have followed his posts on Social Photo Talk because many of them make good blogging sense for non-photographers. If you click over to that blog and get Thesis through his yellow affiliate-link banner over there, I’m sure it will make him happy.