How to Become a Better Blogger 6: Theme Evaluation

albeo theme screenshot
albeo theme screenshot 
depo masthead screenshot
depo masthead screenshot

Lately I have been evaluating my current and previous theme with a mind set on changing to one that’s more effective. You may have noticed that wordpress.com has just introduced two new themes and that I’m using one of them. This theme called Albeo is a nice theme but I would prefer a magazine style theme that places my blog content above the fold. The only magazine style theme we have at wordpress.com is DePo Masthead which was launched today.

While surfing the net and educating myself about what criteria are important when considering the effectiveness of a blog theme, I was delighted to find what I consider to be an authoritative post on the subject to share with you. And, I’d like to ask you to join me by undertaking a theme evaluation. Please click the link below and read on.

Step one: Please read Evaluating the Effectiveness of Your Blog Theme.

Step two: Take a very close look at your blog own theme and then evaluate it based on the following 12 points. The word “effectiveness” is the key word when assessing the following points:

1. Is it search engine friendly?
2. How readable is the content?
3. How useful are the sidebars?
4. How will readers find your best content?
5. How is the quality of design compared to other blogs/sites in the niche?
6. How is the color scheme?
7. Is the theme unique?
8. How quickly does it load?
9. Does it quickly communicate to new visitors?
10. Is the comment section inviting?
11. Are pages being used effectively?
12. How intrusive are the ads?

Step three: Please answer these 4 discussion questions

  1. Did you think the article I linked to was useful or not?
  2. Do you have any additional points that were not covered and that you would like to share?
  3. Do you have any articles on the same topic that you would like to share?
  4. Will you be making any adjustments to your theme based on your evaluation?

Related posts found in this blog:
Blog Design: Which colors do you use and why
Why having a well designed blog is important
Widgets: Less is More
Swing into Summer: New Themes and Headers
How to structure a reader and search engine friendly blog
Building a blog with readers in mind

 

35 thoughts on “How to Become a Better Blogger 6: Theme Evaluation

  1. Not in order:
    Yes _ I think the link you provided was very informative. Though some of it may have gone over the top of my head, it is swimming around somewhere waiting to be explored further! I tried to follow a link in that post regarding comment sections and making them inviting but it led me to an ‘oops’ page. (FYI) It happens a lot to me.

    I can say my biggest dilemma is SEO as there is so much to cover still for me – so to translate that to my blog will take time. I tried webmaster tools to do all sorts of things I did not understand, but figure the more I do it the more likely I am to figure it out.

    I have no further info to add.

    I find the theme I use suits its purpose… for now – however as I mentioned cannot comment on the search engine friendly aspect…I like the look of it and think it does the content justice from an aesthetic point of view and seems fairly easy to navigate. Honestly not a hundred percent sure. THAT is the hard part: balancing the look; feel and ethos of the blog with the technical aspects of computer speak. I am a fiddler as you already may know and am learning from your well informed articles to focus more on technical aspects, BEFORE fiddling the small stuff!

    I may have to leave well alone until I learn more though, as I have been reading and reading for months already, and I feel unequipped and bewildered on the technical side…I guess it also comes with just doing it?

    Thanks for another good read!

    Ps – I read you have not been well? I hope you are recovering fully.

    1. I don’t dwell deeply on the technical side. If you are using a WordPress.com theme good SEO is a given. Here’s all you need to know about SEO on WordPress.com:
      http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/seo-on-wordpress-com/

      These 5 videos introduce how Google discovers, crawls, indexes your site’s pages, and how Google displays them in search results. It also touches lightly upon challenges webmasters and search engines face, such as duplicate content http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/03/22/5google-webmasters-video-tutorials/How to apply basic SEO to you content will benefit your blog as it will increase traffic from targeted readers. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2011/10/21/two-seo-videos-for-bloggers/

      I am recovering. Thanks.

  2. Yes,I know how theme, is a very strong issue with my readers-I have tried,the new superhero and sidekick for my blog,loved it and seems quite nice,but Iwould need, to chenge the backround,If i was to use them on my blog,however,therethere does not seem to be that optioon unfortunately,can you please advice?thanks

        1. I have seen your post to it. Themes Staff will eventually answer us and I’m not in a hurry to change until I know the theme is functioning properly.

          1. I see that answer too but there are so many bloggers waiting in the Support Forum threads for help that I will help them first before I try out the theme. :)

        2. Hi there,
          It tried both Superhero and Sidekick and I like both. But I did not like either one as much as I like this theme so I did not change.

  3. @SBA
    The issue of the size of the title is no longer a problem for me as the length of my title and subtitle when placed on the same line meant a suitable size reduction – whew!

    Thanks for posting the three reference links. They are all right on point and very useful.

    I agree that adding the “related posts in this blog” links to the end of each post is helpful to users and that’s why I add mine manually to each post. They bring to the readers attention deep links to earlier posts I have published.

    I also agree that choosing a theme with a right hand sidebar is a superior choice to a left side sidebar as when choosing the former the post content is what the spiders index first.

    Lastly, I want to say that I really enjoy our relationship. It’s great to have a blogging friend that’s working towards achieving the same goals but focused on the Blogger platform rather than on the wordpress platform.

    Thanks so much for participating and best wishes for better blogging.

  4. @Teck
    Thanks for the update on the Depo Masthead theme. I have been taking note of the changes Staff have made to the theme and have employed all the features available now. At this point I feel quite satisfied with the end result.

  5. @sayzlim
    I read your post and was recognized the feedback from some discussion we had on the forum. IMO you covered all the most important points, in an organized and interesting way. Great post! I stumbled it. :)

  6. On your discussion points: Yes,I found the article very useful, a good check list for any theme. It lacked enough detail for the “Is it search engine friendly?” section. The linked site talked only briefly about html title, meta description and page headings. I’m not quite sure what the last one is (is this the post title on a separate page) — if so I know it needs to be search friendly and not just ‘cute’!

    The only additional points might be to add content pointers at the end of each post the way you do. Some even put the RSS email sign up there. This is a good strategy for visitors landing off search engines. Vandelay’s sidebar is fantastic in putting thumbnails and titles of popular posts. As for search engines, I know you have pointed out the advantage of using real words for links (instead of urls). On load time, be careful of widgets that may slow you down. Also I’ve read you should have the posts on the right side of the blog so they load first. As for ads, make sure they blend into your theme’s colors.

    Your discussion post was the right incentive to take a hard look at how my theme stacks up. Yes, I’m making some adjustments: must add the proper html title and meta tags and be more consistent with tags for search engines; prune the sidebar which is not stale but a little too distracting; and visit the design forums since it’s hard to evaluate my own design, especially the color — like asking “do I look fat in this dress?”

  7. Just a quick update Staff has now added a text field
    so we can now add wording like Home. So the home word will
    display instead of our user name displaying at the top.

    For anyone that is wondering how to find the text field
    Dashboard, → Design, → DePo Options,

    Thanks for commenting I appreciate your faithful readership, your support through this difficult time re: my head injury, and your comments too. :)

    You’re Welcome! TT, I hope you feel better soon. :)

    Teck

  8. @Teck
    Hello there. Please take note that I’m well aware of everything that goes on in the wordpress.com support forum … I can see all the changes being requested and the updates from Staff on DePo too. :P

    I have also read Blogging for Dummies. And, we agree that Albeo is an attractive theme. I like it and if I did not prefer a magazine style theme I’d be using it still.

    Re: Depo Masthead. Please see what I said to sensico about the searchbox location. Also the blog title has now become a permalink and can be used on any page other than the front page to return to “home”. On the front page the blogger’s name above the title is the “home” link.

    Thanks for commenting I appreciate your faithful readership, your support through this difficult time re: my head injury, and your comments too. :)

  9. @sensico
    Hello there. Thanks so much for reading my post and taking the time to leave a comment.

    On some things we agree and on others we don’t. For example, you have said: “I would like to be able to fit more blog posts on the page, kind of like the Hemingway theme but with sidebars on the left or right not on the bottom.” I have never been a fan of the Hemingway theme or any theme that displays only front page excerpts. Although I know many bloggers like to have a series of excerpts on their front page, as a reader it peeves me right off if I have to click a second time to read a whole post, unless the post is a long one and a “read more” tag has been inserted.

    Re:Depo Masthead, you have said:”…the search widget is at the bottom and wouldn’t really be a focus point for easy navigation for the readers…”

    On this we agree. I would prefer to have the search box on the front page and I would also prefer to have entries and comments feeds icons there too. IMO the huge waste of white space at the top of the theme could have been used to accommodate both.

    Re: Depo Masthead. You also said: “Either way I’m not a total fan of bottom sidebars. I think they could do a lot with this theme.”

    On this we will have to agree to disagree. I like fat footers and am happy to be shed of the sidebar. Over all I’m happy with the changes that have been made to the theme. There are only a couple of small things that IMO require improvement.

    I hope you come again to read and comment. Best wishes for better blogging. :)

  10. I want to offer additional reading (for your spare time!):
    1. Smashing Magazine talks about when/why switch to the magazine style: I like the idea of variable size excerpts (smaller for older posts) and using the sidebar of more post thumbnails & titles. I know you’re experimenting at this point but I agree the top lettering is so large, it might defeat the purpose of ‘above the fold’.
    [not sure if I can use html tags in your comments so here’s the full link] http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/08/28/magazine-themes-usage-and-considerations/

    2.This post breaks the design into nine elements with great examples so you can follow along and compare with your own blog:
    http://www.blogdesignblog.com/blog-design/how-to-blog-design-style-guide/

    3. This one from ProBlogger talks about design for individual blog posts but the concepts work for the overall (magazine) look:
    – First impressions, Grabbing Attention, Reinforce Content,
    and Connect with Web Reading Habits (scanning)
    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/09/09/how-to-polish-posts-individual-blog-post-design/

  11. You might want to consider writing for webmonkey. Is this a compliment? Yes, although webmonkey might not be a prime example. Sometimes people need a refresher on the basic fundamentals of web design. Nice job.

  12. Great article,

    I also have been going to the library, lately to studio up on blogging so I can improve my content one of the books I read and liked so much that I went and bought was Blogging For Dummies,because it teaches the basics and advance stuff about blogging.

    One of the chapters is about content & theme design… The book teaches about on how to pick a theme that is friendly for the readers with easy navigation as well as setting it up to be search engine friendly.

    I really like what theme Albeo, has to offer in this field compared to the other themes wordpress.com has to offer IMHO so far Albeo, offers a very fresh look as well as easy navigation for the readers.

    I’m also very interested with having a magazine type theme but
    Depo Masthead, was a big turn off for a few reasons the 1st reson is the navigation for example is the search widget is at the bottom and wouldn’t really be a focus point for easy navigation for the readers I do how ever really like the comment feature that Depo Masthead, has to offer. the 2nd reason this theme was a turn off for me is there isn’t a home button built into the theme which I have mentioned in the forum to staff.

    Teck

  13. Yeah, I like the link you provided, very helpful.
    I find that my blog design is as effective as its going to be. I would like to be able to fit more blog posts on the page, kind of like the Hemingway theme but with sidebars on the left or right not on the bottom.
    As far as this new theme is concerned, I think if they change the third column into a sidebar then it would be a little bit better. Or what I would love for them to do is have this theme but instead of showing the full blog post, have excerpts like in the Hemingway theme…that way your sidebar would be a little more obvious and you can have more blog posts viewable instead of going through the archives. Either way I’m not a total fan of bottom sidebars. I think they could do a lot with this theme.

  14. I like what you have done with your theme. It’s very crisp and clean looking. I had no difficulty navigating or reading. You ought to do an html check on your front page though. I did one and you have some errors to clean up.

    Thanks for recommending the book. I will see if my local library has it or if they can interlibrary loan it for me.

    Thanks so much for the visit. Best wishes for happy blogging.

  15. My blog recently went through a design over-haul. The problem was that my sidebar was getting way cluttered and I decided to go for a second sidebar.

    I put a lot of faith in books actually and when I need help or inspiration I’d head down to the library and browse through the books.

    I found design and layout help in one such book, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird. I recommend it to any creative designer and also those wanting to brush-up on the basics of layout.
    And so far I’ve had positive reviews in the comments as well as on Twitter. And traffic seems to have dramatically increased.

    The link you provided was very useful and I am happy with the results of my re-evaluation.

    At present I am experimenting with advertisements in my sidebar and where to place them. No, it’s not for retirement. I’m earning 1 cent a day so far LOL !

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