9 Things to consider before using a new WordPress Theme

If you have been using WordPress you probably know that there are thousands of very nice and freely available themes that you can use to skin your WordPress blog. What you might not realize, though, is that you should take a look under the hood of a theme before you put it into live duty on the blog that you have worked hard to build. Here are some things to take a look at:

  1. Sidebars – Widgets or Hardcoded

    The drag and drop nature of the WordPress Widgets are much easier for the casual blogger to manage but many power users prefer the old fashioned hard coded sidebar system. If the theme you are considering is not widget ready and you would like to use widgets you will need to add the necessary code to activate the widget system. Here are a couple of useful links for making a non-widget theme widget friendly.

  2. Page Navigation Bar Dynamic or Static

    If the Theme you are considering has horizontal navigation links to pages it will be helpful to determine whether the links are coded for specific URLs or if they will be automatically generated based on the pages that you have created for your blog. Changing hard coded links to dynamically created links may require changes to both your CSS Style sheet and your header.php file.

  3. Page Navigation for sub-pages

    If the theme generates the horizontal navigation links for your site automatically you may also want to know how sub pages will be handled. Depending on the way the navigation is coded and how the CSS stylesheet is constructed you may either find your subpages listed on the same level as your top level pages, listed as CSS dropdown menus when hovered over, or completely omitted from the horizontal navigation.

  4. Adsense or other Advertising built in?

    If the theme comes with adsense code already included keep in mind that it’s not going to bring you any income if you don’t change the publisher code to your own information. The way this is handled varies from theme to theme. Some themes will have a file that contains only the publisher code so that the code can be change site-wide easily. Also remember that it is against the Adsense terms of service to display more ads from more than one publisher code on the same page so if you plan to insert your own ads in another way you need to be certain you have either change the code in the hard-coded ads to match or to disable the hard-coded ad spots.

  5. Built in RSS Feed Links in the meta data

    I’ve come across several blogs with problems with the RSS links on their sites. Often, the visible links on the site are correct but the link in the meta data is wrong. Since many people will subscribe to a feed in ways that will utilize this meta data URL instead of the visible feed URL on your site it’s important that this be accurate. The code for this is usually located in the header.php file in your theme. and should look something like this:

    <link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”<?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?> RSS Feed” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘rss2_url’); ?>” />

    This code pulls the information for the feed URL from WordPress rather than having it hard coded. Much better, in my opinion.

  6. Tag Support

    Tags, not to be confused with categories, are a great way to organize your content in a variety of different ways. They are also very SEO friendly. WordPress 2.3 introduced integrated support for attaching tags to posts. Many older WordPress themes do not have this option integrated.

  7. Gravatar Comment Support

    With version 2.5 of WordPress came integrated support for Gravatars, centrally accessed avatars that can be displayed accross all Gravatar enabled blogs. Being a new addition to the core of WordPress most themes do not have support for this feature built in.

  8. Theme Creators footer links

    It’s important to know how the theme creator has licensed thier work and what they will and will not allow you to do in terms of modifications and link removal. Nearly all free themes will require that the footer credit links be left exactly as they are in the original theme release. This sometimes includes sponsored links. There are two possible locations in the theme files that the licensing information and limitations can usually be found, either in a readme.txt file, or in the first parte of the style.css file. Be sure to review this information so that you will not find yourself in copyright violation with the theme author.

  9. Funny business in the code

    Most theme authors are honest people sharing their work either for publicity or simply out of generosity. It is always a good idea, though, to check through the code of each file in the theme to catch any potential spam that might be hidden in the code. It probably won’t display on your site but the code could be lurking in the corners. If such code does exist on your site you could, quickly, find yourself banned from search engine results.


DSCN6279WIth my recent announcement that content related to kids and blogging will be getting it’s own space I felt that I should take a few moments to talk about my plans for I’m doing this as much for myself as for anyone that might be reading this blog. This site will always be a starting place for all of my ideas. Some of these ideas will grow and prosper, most will likely be short term subjects that will never gain enough of my interest or my readers attention to move to the next level. My initial ideas for how to integrate my enjoyment of customizing WordPress are beginning to evolve. I have found that it is difficult to create an income from the market that I would most like to reach. That is, individuals and small businesses that would like to have really customized WordPress installations but would not be able to afford to hire a real professional to get them started. So, instead of offering direct services to do the work of customizing a WordPress installation for just a few people I would rather provide tools that will set them up to be able to do it themselves. This means down to earth instructions and tutorials for all types of WordPress related things. My goal will be to write in a voice that a non-techy can understand. This is actually a challenging thing. It’s very difficult for a technically minded person to write in a way that non-technically minded people can really understand. It’s very easy to slip into lingo without even realizing it’s happened.

I don’t know precisely where this blogging journey will lead me. I do know that blogging, in general, seems to be an ideal way for me to share my thoughts and ideas in a way that weeds out the junk and allows the good stuff to develop. I hope that a few people will find what I have to offer interesting and helpful.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

Getting Back on Track by Splitting Things Up

How many blogs would a weblog blog if a weblog could blog blogs?This blog was intended to be, primarily, my professional showcase. A place where I could display examples of freelance work that I do and also explore some new ideas as they arose. Last week, though, I suddenly found myself extremely interested and excited about something totally unrelated to customizing WordPress installations or creating Microsoft Office templates. My son started blogging. This started me on a quest to see what others had to say about the idea of kids under 13 years of age having their own blogs. While I have heard from a handful of parents with young bloggers, my searchesm so far, have come up a little on the weak side. There are a few blog posts here and there. Many of them were written 3-4 years ago. The blogosphere has changed and grown in that time. Clearly this is an area that is not as saturated with blog content as some of the other subject areas that I’m interested in. Instead of being yet another blog reporting on every little move WordPress makes I could really have something valuable to contribute that isn’t being hammered to death.

So, I have a new plan. I want to write about kids and blogging. I think that this subject has enough potential that it should have it’s own space. I want to create a site rich, community focused, site with resources for parents that either already have a young blogger or are interested in learning about the benefits and challenges of having a child blogger. This site will, hopefully, feature lots of guest writers, and be packed full of tips and suggestions on all types of issues related to kids publishing their work in a public format. This site, initially, will be focused on the parents. I’d love to have things to offer the kids directly and I think the site could easily develop into a resource for both kids and parents. Parent involvement, however, is really what I want to emphasize in the beginning.

Look for some announcements and possibly a poll or two related to the creation of a new site dedicated to kids and blogging. I have a domain name in mind and I am planning to contact a designer to help with the theming of the new site. My instinct is to throw something together tonight and have it live by morning. I’m going to try, however, to slow down and give things a bit more thought and planning. I’m very open to feedback and would welcome any comments or suggestions on this subject.

Creative Commons License photo credit: dullhunk

Another quick poll: Monetizing a Kid's Blog

I’ve been thinking about whether or not it would be appropriate to put carefully selected advertising and affiliate links on a blog written by and for kids. Please share your opinions on this subject!

[poll id="3"]

Kids and Blogging: A Call for Parents to Respond!

PC is my best friendAt the end of one full week of blogging with my son I am seeing some things that work, some things that don’t, and a lot of things that will develop as time goes on. I started writing a Top 10 type blog post and then stopped myself. After all, I have a grand total of one week of experience observing how my son approaches blogging. So instead of claiming to have advice to offer others I would rather gather information from others that are doing this!

With that said, I would like to start gathering stories and experiences from other parents with young bloggers. Here are some things I’d be interested in hearing.

  1. At what age did your child begin blogging?
  2. Was starting a blog his/her idea or did you suggest it?
  3. How involved were you in the beginning
  4. How involved are you now.
  5. How often does your child post?
  6. What types of things does your child write about?
  7. Is the blog public or private?
  8. What blogging platform is the blog using?
  9. Do you have any advice regarding kids and blogging that would be useful for other parents that are considering it for their own children?
  10. If you are comfortable, leave the URL of your child’s blog. I would love to share it with my son.

Alternatively, if your child does not have a blog tell me about how you think blogging would (or would not) be a good thing for kids to be involved in.

You can leave a comment on this post or use the contact link at the top of the page. I hope to get a lot of responses! I think the information gathered here will be very useful as I plan to spend a lot of time writing about this subject over the next several months (and hopefully beyond!)

Creative Commons License photo credit: iwannt