Website design and I have had a long, contentious relationship. It’s not quite so bad as love-hate. More like love-fear-terror.
I love the idea of creating a cool-looking website.
I fear I can’t do it.
And when I try, I break the site and that creates a sense of terror.
I’ve done everything. When I started PlanetPeschel in the late ’90s, I was building web pages using Dreamweaver 3 from Adobe, typing in HTML code. When blogs came along, I joined Blogger, but making changes was like clearing a minefield using a pogo stick. Movable Type and Blogger were in their early stages, but I liked having more control over my code and chose pmachine (now called Expression Engine).
That’s when I learned that the one thing I shouldn’t be responsible for is coding. I loved doing it, but learning how involved dealing with documentation written by coders. I picked up what I could and filled in the holes using the “insert a piece of code and see what it looked like live.” Which is a lot like building a parachute by jumping off the Empire State Building with a bed sheet and four ropes.
Finally, WordPress. Pretty stable. Pretty easy to test things without destroying your website. The plugins were good, when they worked. Documentation was still wonky, but I had at least something I can build from.
Now we come to themes. WordPress’s free themes are adequate for the task, but basic. Perhaps they don’t want to compete too much with designer themes. Or I could be cheap. Or, I didn’t want to sink money into a theme when I wasn’t comfortable with my ability to manipulate it.
There were a couple of companies that I looked at. Elegant Themes, DIY themes, and Studio Press looked appealing. In fact, if you search for WordPress themes, you’ll find tons of possibilities. I couldn’t decide, and rather than sink money into a potentially losing proposition, I chose to wait.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to review Themify’s themes I came across their blog post. I had visited their site several times after coming across MelJean Brooks’ site (my wife loves most of her books, she’s reading “The Kraken King” now). In addition to offering the usual nifty themes, they had something called Builder that seems to imply that you can build individual pages in different ways. In the Venn diagram, I had found a company with appealing offerings with a price point that can’t be beat. I asked to join their review program and they accepted.
The only problem I had was that they wanted a review within a month. I was in the middle of preparing for Art on Chocolate, so I had to delay starting this one until that was done.
Not a Review
So instead of writing one review, I want to write several that give a running commentary of my attempts to work with Themify, sort of looking over my shoulder and cringing in places.
There’s a few things that I want you to understand before I begin:
First, just so you know my skill level, I know something about computers, something about software, something about programming, but I’m self-taught. I’m sure there are amazing gaps in my knowledge.
Second, I’ll be writing this in real time. I’ve had one session with Themify, so here’s the post about it. When I work with it again, I’ll write another one.
Third, I’ll try to highlight the assumptions I’m making about this software. I’ll probably make a lot of mistakes (I’m good at that). Don’t assume it’s Themify’s fault.
Fourth, all of these screengrabs are bigger, so click on them if you need the larger version. Use the Back Arrow key at the top of your browser to return to the post.
After getting the confirmation e-mail with the code to buy the theme, I visited their website and learned that I could pick up two themes. If you buy one, you get another one free. Cool! I have two websites to overhaul, so I’ll get one for each. For Peschel Press, I chose Tisa, which is MelJean’s theme. After a long look at the options, I chose ThemeMin for the blog.
Here’s what I didn’t know until now: Themify also offers three of their themes for free: Basic, Koi, and iTheme2. It would have been silly to pick them for my second theme if there was another one I wanted just as much, but I didn’t realize that until I bought the themes (see what I said above about my making assumptions?).
Next, I went into my WordPress dashboard and uploaded Tisa’s ZIP file, just like I would any other theme. It ground away for awhile, a little longer than usual, but I was patient and it loaded successfully.
The quick starter guide mentioned that it has an auto update feature. Which you get to if you activate the theme.
Except I don’t want to activate it yet, since I have no idea what will happen. So lets look at the live demo.
EEEEK! Too big! Scroll down a tad.
At least that looks better. Seriously, that’s not bad at all. The odd positioning of the book covers below the “Peschel Press’ Offerings” headline is a problem with the TablePress plugin and not Themify. The menu bar at the top of the page has all of my links displayed, but that has happened with every theme I’ve loaded. You have to change the navigation menu, which . . .
I can’t find the option. It doesn’t appear to be there [I was wrong, as you will see]. If I choose the “Advanced (More Options)” tab, it kicks me out to my website design. Fortunately, the back arrow saves my bacon by bringing me back.
So, let’s activate the theme instead and go down the settings. Pretty obvious; until we get to “Welcome Text”. Huh? Type in “What is the Welcome Text?” and see. Scroll down, see Footer Text 1 and Footer Text 2, with a note underneath: “Enter your text to replace the copyright and credit links in the footer. HTML tags allowed. Enter an empty space will remove the text.” Nice to see full sentences to clue us in.
Let’s see what we got.
Oooo. The illustration is still way too big (and it’s out of date; the craft show was in November). Gotta fix that.
So that’s the welcome text at the very top of the page. I’ll take that out, but in the meantime, I need to fix that navigation menu. So where is it?
where is it!
where is it?
there it is!
OK, now I see why it’s there. It’s at the bottom because you probably only want to set it once. What I missed (and you don’t see it in the screen grabs, is that when I was looking for it, the “select” option wasn’t in the box. The box was blank. I was looking hastily, and missed the “Main Navigation” title.
Next, I’ll add the social media links. Wish I knew for sure what they want. Easy for Twitter and Facebook, but Google+? I assume it’s my posts page. https://plus.google.com/u/0/+BillPeschel/posts.
They make getting there easy, there’s a link already in place once you open the “Social Widget” window below (which I didn’t, which is why you don’t see them there).
I used the drop-down menu (not shown) and typed in all the links.
So where do they appear and what do they look like?
A line of pretty small icons at the bottom of the page. I’m not happy with their location. I’ll look into fixing that later. For now, it doesn’t look bad, so I can live with it.
I think that’s a pretty good part of the experience. I understand that a page has to be tweaked, but if the individual elements look terrible, then I have to fix it right now, not later once I’m more familiar with the process.
So let’s fix that map. I would guess I can scale it down from 730 x 730 to 360 x 360 pixels. In WordPress, you see the code for your art in HTML. It can look like this:
[img src=”http://planetpeschel.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/011-winter-arts-show-300×188.jpg” alt=”011-winter arts show” width=”300″ height=”188″ class=”aligncenter size-medium wp-image-9323″ /]
Usually, I can change the “width” and “height” numbers and that changes the size of the picture. That works here, right?
EEEEEEEEK! Fixitfixitfixitfixit. This is live, going out across the internet!
Trash it. I call up the post and stab it like I’m killing a zombie.
How does the page look now?
At least the news story is current.
Eventually, I figure out part of the problem. I was using WordPress’ 2014 theme, where choose a piece of art and tag it so that it would appear in the slideshow. Under Tisa, that option vanishes. I have no idea yet how to fix this.
So I’m scrolling down the Quick Start Guide and I come across a reference to featured images. One click and here I find:
Then I remembered, from seeing a video about the Themify Custom Panel, that each post had one. So I pull the page out of the trash and scroll down and find this.
No image. So where does Themify pull this out? All right, I’ll attach it, update page, and find this:
So that’s where I’m at. I have the theme loaded and that’s about it for the moment.
At this point, I don’t know how to deal with the slider at the top of the page. I really wish I knew how it worked and what photo dimensions it prefers.
But on the whole, I like the way the site looks right out of the box. That gives me enough room to breath as I figure out what to do next. I’m looking forward especially to using the Themify Custom Panel.
Next, I’ll make a short punch list and dive back into Themify for another round.