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Hey! I'm Stephanie of Grinning Like An Idiot. Grinning Like An Idiot is me whenever I do something that makes me happy, whether it is sewing, painting, vacationing, a funny interaction, just life in general. Read More

New Year, New Look!

Did you notice anything different? Did you double check the URL to make sure you went to the right site?  I’ve been working on a revised theme/skin since October, something clean, easy to find stuff and visually pleasing to you all.  And frankly, I’ve been blogging for 2 years and I wanted to redecorate my website. :)

The result lead to a number of tips that I’d like to share with my fellow bloggers because there are things I wish I would or wouldn’t have done.

My criteria for new theme was:

  1. 3 Columns (I had only 2 before)
  2. Slider (I like the feature image sliders)
  3. Easy to Use (I’d rather write and create new stuff than deal with code)

Here is the before picture and what I didn’t like:

screenshot_88

And then when I started looking, I discovered something called “Responsive Themes”, which means the website changes based on the size of the device that accesses it.  So if you pinch and zoom on your iPad or something the website automatically changes to two columns or one column – pretty cool right!

I then sought the advice of fellow bloggers.  KevinandAmanda.com uses Thesis or SouthernKissed.com uses Genesis as the WordPress platform, both of these bloggers are fantastic, so  rather and focusing on the platform I focused on the theme/skin.    As a result I found this skin, it’s called “Media Magazine” from wpthesisskins.com that works on Thesis.  So I purchased Thesis and bought the skin.  After this investment, I was committed.

What I would have done different – not bought Thesis.  The documentation is through a forum, there isn’t a lot of documentation of what you are going to buy and it appears to be easy (drag and drop boxes), the demos tout how easy it is -blah-blah-blah; ok, fellow bloggers, is there anything easy about what we do – no!   Thesis is a lot different when you actually start using it; yes it is drag and drop, but there are other concepts like “boxes”, “content boxes” and other stuff.  While it is easy for drag and drop,  it is NOT flexible unless you’d really dig into the code, and Google a lot how to make some of the plugins work (and some don’t work with it) – intuitive? It is not.  For example: Disqus was a developer modification and requires specific instructions to have it work with Thesis.  Because of this I wish I haven’t implemented Disqus yet and would have stuck with WordPress’s inherent platform and found a skin that worked with it.

The one saving grace for this whole transition was the person I worked with through email at  wpthesisskins.com!  They were extremely patient, and while there was a bit of a language barrier, screenshots broke through those issues and we were able to resolve either my user error or a programming issue.

If you decide to move to a new theme, regardless of platform, here is what I did and would recommend:

  1. Get another domain to test on (I may use mine later for a real site)
  2. Login to your FTP client (I use CyberDuck – it’s free), download your, theme, content and plugins and then upload them to your test site matching the folder structure.
    1. This is really important to ensure that the look and feel will work with your current active plugins, content and comments.  I was surprised at some of the quirks with the new template.  Had I not tested, it would have caused a whole other issue.
  3. Then test, test, test!  I’ve created the following testing workbook so you have a checklist of testing activities and so you may also document the issue and pending resolution. DOWNLOAD.
  4. Create a new post, create a new comment , verify every widget/plugin you use, edit a post, modify the layout, verify and test.
    1. If you run into problems, then Google the issue to try and fix it.  If that doesn’t work, then contact the makers of the skin: you bought it they should support it.
  5. Get a backup of your blog through your host.
  6. What I’m really glad I did: I paid someone (wpthesisskins.com) to migrate my ‘production’ site to Thesis and their skin.  I coordinated with them the schedule so that I could back up the data, not write any new content, and set time aside to deal with the aftermath.
    1. What was awesome, they did it while I was sleeping and when I woke up, all I had to do was modify a couple of the pieces which took me two hours.  And it cost me $50 for the migration – totally worth it for me because  I hadn’t done this before and didn’t want to mess something up so badly that I would have to fix it – I’d rather someone else have to deal with that :).

The end result, yep still grinning like an idiot:

screenshot_11

Now the big question – what do you think?  Do you like it?

This is not a paid for post,  I do not have any affiliates.  All of the above are my thoughts and experiences.

  • Jennifer H

    I’ve been thinking about a slider, but wondered if it would slow my site too much. Happy New Year!

  • Sara P.

    I love the font for your header title! I’m glad you got rid of the slider – I don’t like those!

  • Julie

    Congratulations on all the changes – everything looks great!

  • http://TheFoodieArmyWife.com/ Constance

    It looks great! I did the same thing, about a week and a half ago. All new look. Much cleaner and easier to read.

  • http://thetravelingpraters.com/ Tonya @ The Traveling Praters

    It looks wonderful. I can’t believe you did it all yourself! I wouldn’t know where to begin. I tinkered with code when I was on Blogger, but I wasn’t brave enough to continue on WP.

  • faigie

    This looks great. I am so in the same boat as you. I just redesigned my site myself as well. I use Headway which is similar to thesis and genesis. I didn’t end up using a skin or theme, because they didnt have any I liked and I ended up doing the whole thing myself. I looked at tons of blogs to see which parts I liked and had lots of help from support at the headway forum. What a job!!! (if you want you can check it out http://www.eduart4kids.com)