So last night, late, I contacted my friend Dean who hosts my (previously fallow) website. In minutes he had me back up and running, and it was time to go searching for a theme to make my site look the way I wanted it to.
Back in the day I spent a lot of time on my site. I even built a custom WordPress theme, learned CSS, how to deal with file managers, and how to make custom logos, icons, and other graphics. I played with Joomla and other content management engines. Eventually I settled on WordPress and a complimentary forum, and I started building. The site was primarily for my writing and my writing group, and we created a lot of cool stuff, inspired each other, and had a lot of fun.
Then the unthinkable happened: I lost everything. The hosting company that I was using pulled my website due to an unspecified ‘security breach,’ and I could not get tech support to help me get it back online even though I was paid up for something like three more years at the time. They booted me off my website and scrubbed my data. Then they went out of business. Pricks.
I felt like all that work I’d done was in vain. I learned an important lesson about backing things up (Well, I wasn’t thoroughly through learning that lesson until a couple years later when I lost about four years worth of photography to a hard drive crash, but hey, I learned). I kept having the urge to start my site back up, change it around, to actually do something with it. I made a couple of attempts–but they were half-hearted.
The point is that I was avoiding getting started on all of this again because it’s a lot of work. I like things customizable; I don’t do well with vanilla-out-of-the-box themes and remembered how the hunt for a proper theme had taken days and days, and in the end I wound up teaching myself to be a web designer because I was simply never satisfied with what was out there and available to be used for free. Why not pay, you ask? Simple: I’m an open-source kind of guy. I do a lot of giving things away open source, and I do it because I agree with the principle. Photography is not how I make my living, it’s how I express myself. The same with my writing, animation, and other things. Could I make money doing any of these things? I have in the past. But I still haven’t given up my day job to pursue these as my primary means of employment. Most of my work I give away with a creative commons license for attribution–which means if you like it and want to use it, please just include my name in the credits of whatever it is you are doing. That makes sense to me. I pay it forward for when I need something, say, software, and can find a free version that is open source. I can’t always afford to make a donation (though I do when I can), so knowing that I have put my own stuff out there with an open-source attitude helps me feel even better about using and recommending other open-source products.
Back to last night. I got the website up and running and started playing with the themes. For hours I tried this and that, was unsatisfied, turned things off and on, tried, failed, tried again, got frustrated, and finally fell asleep thinking well, crap. Now that I’m really feeling the pull of getting my site up and running for real, I’m going to have to dig back into all that CSS and website design stuff, pulling my hair out every time something shows up on the wrong side of the screen or the wrong color. By the time I get done working on making a WordPress theme just how I want it, I’ll be too damned tired to work on my content.
What to do?
I went onto the internet and searched for ‘the most customizable themes for wordpress.’
I dug through a lot of stuff that wasn’t what I wanted. When it was what I wanted, it was a ‘lite’ version, with the option to ‘upgrade’ (pay) for the full version that could actually do the stuff that they had used to lure you into an install. ‘Free’ usually means ‘trial version’ when it comes to anything that might be useful on the internet.
Then, a few hours ago, I stumbled upon a theme called ‘Mantra’ by Cryout Creations. It looked nice. Could be heavily color customized to create a dark grey background (I have an astigmatism, bright themes are a pain when I’m trying to read late at night). So I fired it up and started messing around with it.
Since then–it’s been several hours now–I’ve deleted all the other themes that came with my WordPress installation and installed all five of the themes by Cryout Creations: Nirvana, Mantra, Parabola, Tempera, and Zombie Apocalypse. Heh. Zombie Apocalypse. Nice. Best of all? Completely free. Hundreds of options, well done interface, and tech support? Yeah, sign me up. All they ask is that if I use their theme I leave their attribution in the footer–no problem. Did I mention how attribution licensing is one of my favorites? Just like I want to get credit when I do something cool, I want to make certain that when other people do something cool, they get the credit they deserve.
For the next little while I’ll be playing with the colors and working out which of their themes is best for me. I felt it was important to take a break to write this short bit about how much I really, really like what Cryout Creations has done. And recommend them, if you are as obsessive about the look of your site as I can be. I won’t have to dig into CSS (much), yet I’m still going to get exactly what I want and it’s going to look nice to me.
And that’s all I ever really wanted.