In Praise of Understated Themes

Been visiting a lot of WordPress sites lately—an occupational hazard of the beat. I have to admit I’m moderately astonished at how many WP bloggers choose gaudy themes that scream for attention to the design, often at the expense of the content.

I don’t want to point fingers, but you know the symptoms of the type:

  • Gigantic heading fonts
  • In-your-face bright colors
  • Flashing ads that seem like the modern equivalent of blink tags

Now often there is good information contained on these sites, but sometimes you wonder whether the design is really serving the content, or the content is there to bring attention to the pictures (or more precisely, the ads).

Now of course one great thing about blogging is Attracting Attention to Yourself. If we just wanted a diary to keep our thoughts together, we’d probably just buy a blank book and put pen to paper, or get some use out of our favorite word processor. No, we want to have (crave, even) readers. And the experts tell us posts should be brief (I think mine have gotten shorter over the years) to accommodate short attention spans. But the big fonts and graphics that seem to overwhelm all else … underwhelm me.

Notes from the Metaverse has had approximately two themes since moving to WordPress.com some years ago, and I think I changed the header image in the current theme (Regulus, a really old theme from Ben Gillbanks) once. I really like that there’s not much to the theme besides that header image.  This allows you to focus on the content. I’m a little flashier with the colors over at the other site with Caribou, from James R Whitehead at Spectacu.la, but I’m playing with a new one, The Erudite, from Matt Wiebe that seems to be more like me.

One of the other great things about blogging is that you get the opportunity to improve your writing skills by “publishing every day” (or at least every week or two). So take advantage of that opportunity. Don’t be tempted to devalue your writing or information-gathering skills by grabbing that ostentatious theme. Let your content shine, and the readers will come.

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