I’m more like Brian Gardner than I care to admit.
I’m often dissatisfied by the feel of a site, my own included, and for a long time I’ve been ‘not quite right’ with the theme here on Half Elf. Oh, sure, it works, and I love the open whitespace, but … I wanted something else. Since I spend a lot of time looking at other sites, and especially Genesis Theme Devs, I had a vague idea of what I wanted. Even if I have no plans to change my site (and frankly I never plan this stuff) I want to be able to help people when they say “I want a theme that does this!”
- Less cartoony
- Font Icons
- Easy to configure front page sections
Begin the hunt! Begin the hunt!
This was a close race. I’ve been looking at the themes from Web Savvy Marketing for a while, and I was this close to taking one of those and editing it, when I thought “I don’t want a slider.” I will note that if the only thing bad I can say about a theme is that it has a slider, then that theme is doing something right. While I have an idea about that hunter theme or maybe Colin, none of them were quite right. They were all so close it hurt.
Then I stepped back and looked at my list again. Font Icons was easy, since I wrote Genericon’d after all, and everyone else had these photo backgrounds and neatly blocked sections that resized, and while I had something close, I kept screwing it up when I went to edit it. Maybe what I needed was something that stopped me from doing that?
I doodled out a sketch of what I wanted: Title, menu, welcome box, Call to Action section, list of posts. That’s pretty much what it looked like from the top down, so I needed to find a simple, direct, theme that did all that and let me jiggle the CSS if I wanted to.
Enter Carrie Enter Carrie
There’s this awesome person I know, Carrie Dils. She fell into my web of friends when she had a horrible experience at a meetup a year ago, and was told she wasn’t welcome to speak because she was someone’s competition. When that post hit my feed, retweeted by a friend I knew and trusted, I remember spinning my righteous anger into full gear and asking this (then) total stranger for information so I could pass it on to the Official WordPress Meetup Peoples.
Before I did that, though, I read her posts (just to make sure she wasn’t on the wrong of this argument, hey, it happens) and found a delightful, intelligent, witty, and skilled theme dev. Themes! My Kryptonite! Carrie (perhaps accidentally) leveraged her situation into talking about collaboration at WordCamp San Francisco in 2013, and by that time she had ended up on my list of awesome people I want to hear from regularly about things.
So I thought I’d pop over to her site and see what she’d done with Modern Portfolio (oddly the same theme I was using here at the time). I liked what she did, but it wasn’t quite right for me. I wasn’t enjoying the three column latest posts, since mine kept goofing the alignment with different length post titles and excerpts. But what should my wandering eyes appear? A link to her theme: Utility.
It does what it says It does what it says
Seriously it does exactly what it says. I picked a photo I took of a palm tree outside my office/gym earlier this year (which a friend was putting on cards for me for something else) and gave the green color a little kick. With built in button CSS classes, I was able to ditch my own and while I do have some of my own custom CSS going on, it’s because I have a couple plugins that need some extra love.
In the end, it worked how I wanted to, and fast. Normally when I change my sites, I get to a point where I say ‘Eeeeh, close enough.’ With this one, though, I spent about two hours (while working, so really maybe an hour) moving widgets around, replacing a couple plugins, and then I said “Oh. That feels right!”
This was, I feel, a choice that was well worth the work.