Creating your own theme

If your blog is being hosted at WordPress.com, you can probably skip this article. On the other hand, if you have WordPress hosted site, this article may intice you to host your own customized blog instead.

After spending many years in the Web Design field, I held the belief that building websites with Dreamweaver was the way to go. Flash was a close second, since it is much more visually entertaining experience. However, building sites with these tools takes specialized knowledge, and without these tools and knowledge, you (the customer) will talking with your web developer on a pretty frequent basis.

This was before I realized the influence that WordPress has had on web design field in recent years. Being able to build a nice simple blog website you can update yourself, that has lots of functionality built in, that can be created in a matter of minutes, without extensive knowledge of HTML or CSS, and all for free; what more could you ask for?

One thing you could ask for is a theme that looks exactly the way you want. Given the limited number of themes available on a WordPress hosted site, this can be a lot to ask. If you are good with CSS and have some spare time on your hands, you could pay a small fee and have access to the CSS style sheets within your WordPress site. However, if that doesn’t sound like you, what else can you do? A couple options are to hire a web developer to do it for you, or buy a copy of Artisteer.

Over the past few months I have seen lots of advertisements for this product, so I decided to purchase a copy and give it a go. Considering that a copy of Dreamweaver costs several hundred dollars, $50.00 (aprox) for a copy of the home/student version is a bargain.

After installing the software and opening it up, I was faced with a nice WordPress sample and some options; a lot of options.

Artisteer Screenshot

I already had an idea of what kind of look I wanted for my personal webpage, but I decided to see what kind of options were available, just for the heck of it. I clicked the “Suggest Design” and viewed the next design theme.

As I checked out the next theme and the subsequent ones that followed, I was fairly impressed by how good most of them looked. Of course the occasional theme missed the mark in my opinion, but even those ones could still be modified to something quite nice. One pet peeve I had was the overuse of textured backgrounds, but that’s just me.

Next, I decided to get into more depth as to what I wanted. I chose the size, a left sidebar, and a menu bar below a 200 pixel header. Things were looking as I planned, until I tried to enter in some pre-determined custom colours. To my frustration, the three main colours I chose for my theme did not show up as planned. The software used various shades of the base colour, but not the actual colour itself. However, after using the software a little longer, I realized I could set the actual colour of the individual elements myself.

After looking at what I had created, I still wasn’t happy with how it looked, and took advantage of the “Suggest” buttons. As I went through each menu option, I tried one after another until I found one I liked, then moved to the next option. To my surprise, the orange and black colour scheme really appealed to me.

Artisteer menu screenshotAfter finalizing my theme, I looked for a nice picture for my header. Since my theme was orange, I tried to find pictures that contained those colours. I also found a nice picture for the article section of my home page that matched my colour scheme. Now came the big test – publishing my new site.

After exporting my theme from Artisteer, I uploaded it on to my server, and just like I had hoped, it showed up as a new theme on my blog. With a simple click of my mouse it was activated, and looked great. How easy was that?

I have to say, my previous method of spending hours looking for the best theme I could find, then more hours customising the CSS seems like a waste of time with this software. Of course buying this software doesn’t guarantee you will have a great looking theme, but in the hands of someone with a reasonable sense of colour & design, it’s possible to produce something that looks pretty nice in a relatively short span of time.

Finally, here is what my finished site looks like:

My blog