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How to select a theme Part 1

a collection of thumbnail images of themesYou can locate many articles and videos on selecting WordPress themes and what you will find is that they are all focused on software. They are aimed at those who have access to template files and can hack them, and they tend to be for either make money bloggers or business bloggers or both.

In fact many are sponsored themes produced for targeting a specific market. Most instructions I read were aimed at creating page based structures I refer to as mock websites.  The substance is focused on business branding, placement of advertising space, and use of SEO plugins.

Such articles are almost useless to bloggers blogging on WP.MU mulituser blogging software. There is no blogger access to template files underlying themes,  no FTP access,  neither themes nor plugins can be uploaded, and blogger initiated advertising is not allowed on blogs. versus

Most bloggers begin by selecting a theme from the >  Appearance > Themes section in their dashboard based on eye appeal.  Update: There is now a Themes Showcase and live demo site with a search box for feature filters.

Over time each blogger learns how to use the theme features to present their content in a way that suits them. No theme will  suit every blogger and as blogging and commenting progresses discoveries of different features in other themes surface. That often leads to a changing themes on their blog following A Mid-Life Blog Crisis.

Although we can change themes with the click of a single button, doing so can lead to having to make many adjustments that may affect readers. This article is Part 1 of  a three-part series of articles for helping bloggers take a step by step approach behind the scenes to test new themes in a mirror blog before making a theme  switch.

Every blogger needs a test blog

You can register as many free  blogs as you wish at and then use them as you wish. Once you have registered a test blog and  set the visibility to “private” to keep out search engines,  you make it into an exact replica of your main blog AKA a “mirror blog” and use it for testing themes, lay-outs , widgets, and any other new items you are considering adding to your main blog.

The benefit of having such a test or mirror blog is you will  feel no sense of urgency or concern when testing other themes and items because your readers will still be viewing the main site.  After testing  you can switch to your main blog, select the theme you have tested,  click the “activate” button, and reinstall widgets in moments.

Registering another blog

The unique identifier is the email address used when registering blogs. All blogs registered under the same email address appear in the drop down menu of the “username” that created them.  If you want to have your test blog registered to your username when signed into click this register a blog link.

If you do not want your test blog registered under the same username then log out of  and register under a new username and give a different email address.

Don’t forget to set blog visibility to private. I would like my blog to be visible only to users I choose.

Creating a mirror blog

In order to create a mirror blog you will be exporting content and blogroll links  in separate files of the main blog and importing them  into your test blog.

1.   In the Main blog > Dashboard > Tools > Export

When you click the button below WordPress will create an XML file for you to save to your computer. This format will contain your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags.

Once you’ve saved the download file, you can use the Import function on another WordPress blog to import this blog.

Click > Download Export File button

Save the file to your desktop

2.   In the Mirror Blog > Dashboard > Tools > Import

To get started, choose a system to import from below:

Click > WordPress Import posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, and tags from a WordPress export file

3.   Export/Import BlogRoll Links

There are two methods re:  export and import of blogroll links.

4.    Text Widget Contents

You  can copy and paste the contents of your text widgets on your main blog into text widgets on the test or mirror blog.

Continued in Select a theme Part 2 and in Select a WordPress theme Part 3

26 thoughts on “How to select a theme Part 1

  1. As I realized too late I needed to log out before creating a second blog, is there any way to undo this? So either export my second blog (delete and restart is under the same name?!) or transferring my second blog to its own “identity” (with separate email add and gravatar)?

  2. This was great. I have been trying to import my blog to another for some time…and this was so easy to understand and do…thanks TT

  3. Thank you for this! Silly me trying to test new themes without having any of the same content to test it on. I’m gonna do this right now. :D

    • I’m sure you will be glad that you did. Make the visibility private one your mirror blog and test themes and layouts and widgets at will. I couldn’t do without my test blogs. :)

  4. Update: for instance, if I choose theme Choco by CSSMayo

    – I can add/remove Widgets
    – add Menus
    – Extras are same for all
    – chose 3 Theme Options colors (tabs color)
    – change Background pic and color, but not the other pics (text backgound image, for expample)
    – fonts edit with Typekit Fonts where 1 month is free
    – Edit CSS but can not save it!

    Am I getting this right? Thanks! :)

  5. Hello again, what a great site you have! I’m reading it now :-)

    Please confirm whether I understood correctly, when I pick up theme, I can not change fonts on a theme, colors, size…? So, the only thing I can do is to add widgets? Is that it?

    Thanks again! :)

  6. Pingback: Giving in to the seven-month itch: two blogs and one Facebook page later | Ignore the squirrels

  7. Excellent info.
    I have a couple of extra blogs that I created and only used a couple of times. I think I’ll make them private and use them to goof around with the themes. Thanks!

  8. HI TiTi,
    I did it…i took the plunge..and changed my theme :) I feel like I just moved into my new home…and I love the fresh new feel :)
    Let me knwo what you think. And I did do what you had mentioned here..about a mirror blog. I tested and changed and tweaked for nearly a week..before I actually took the plunge.
    I await your second part on the themes.
    Much Love,
    p.s. thx 4 the mail :) still grasping it all…

    • @Zeenat
      This morning I visited your blog and saw the theme change. It looks wonderful. It’s colorful, clean and well organized.

      Taking a week to tweak theme choice in a mirror blog is the stress free choice and I’m so glad you chose that path. You know in advance exactly what you and your readers will be seeing when you finally click “activate” on the main blog.

      Depending how my work day goes I ought to be publishing Part 2 of my series later today.

      Love and peace,

  9. @TimeThief, I really like the idea of a “mirror” blog. I’ve used a test blog with a few entries, but I could never get the exact feel of what the theme would like on my actual blog. A mirror blog is a far better idea! Thanks for this very useful idea.

    • @Sandra Lee
      By this time you have become an expert at theme changes and I’m delighted to see your progress with CSS editing Bueno. I really like that theme except for one thing – the awful huge Impact font used in the Blog Title. You got rid of it – yay! Before I signed off last night I visited your blog and is looks so fresh and inviting. Well done!

  10. Wow! Although I did think to create a test blog before my recent theme change, and did think to test my sidebar widgets with the copy and paste method you described, I must admit that the export import thing never occurred to me at all! Instead, I actually went to the trouble of recreating some representative posts by copying and pasting from editor pane to editor pane. While this helped, it did leave me wondering if I caught everything!

    I’m not sure what good it would do me now, but I’ll certainly remember this for the next time! :-D

    • @izaakmak
      When changing themes unless you know exactly what the displayed image widths are for both the existing theme and the new one you can be faced with a big editing job. Also you may have text widgets that fir nicely into your current sidebar only to find the sidebar width is either narrow or wider in the new theme. I could could go on at length but I’ll save that for Part 2 or 3. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it. :)

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