How to Create a WordPress Theme – Part 2

OK, if you look back at Part 1, you will find I listed choosing a Column Layout first on the To Do list. However, do you always do your To Do’s in order? Not me. Well, actually, it’s not my idea. In researching the whole column/page layout concept for today, it was pointed out there were some other important items to consider first. In a recent guest post at ProBlogger, Matt Coddington from NetBusinessBlog shares the Important Elements of Blog Design & Layout.

Matt emphasizes the importance of focusing on Content, User Experience and Compatibility.

Content refers to your actual planned content for your blog. Do you write long posts or short? Do you include a lot of graphics? What size do you use? Then of course you can through in what other gadgets do you want to include in your posts or sidebars? All of this stuff takes up space. Ask yourself for each item included, is it important or can I do without it?

User Experience focuses on user issues. I don’t know about you, but while I like hi-resolution screens to be able to pack more content into a smaller space, I’m getting older… I’ve worn glasses most of my life, and find now that even with a current prescription, I prefer my fonts a little larger. So, do you have young readers, or old? We have to think about accessibility for users using screen reader devices, or screen magnifying devices for limited vision. As well as navigation accessibility considering both the limited vision user and the mobility impaired who may have difficulty using a mouse to navigate.

Compatibility is related to what devices do you want you content available on. In the past, it was difficult to have content appear in a similar arrangement, if viewable at all, by the major browsers without significant tweaking and tricks. Today it is easier thanks to Web Standards, but the problem has not been eliminated. There are also new platforms, such as cell phones and other mobile devices that are being used.

My Analysis

Applying the thoughts above to my plans for this blog, I come up with these considerations.

Content: I feel I need a wider column for my core posts. Many have included code examples, and I’ve had to make notations about wrapping lines and the like that would be clearer when displayed as one. I wold like to use more screen shot examples in a larger format, as long as file size is reasonable–which is based on actual content of the graphic. I tend to write fairly long posts, and having full posts on the home page is something I may need to reconsider. I had long ago come across “Mullet”-style blog layout by Jonathan Boutelle, and was re-introduced to it while researching this entry. (That’s where you have teasers to a few recent entries, with links to full posts, then a long list of the previous posts, say 50+ on the home page.) Then there’s the liquid vs. static layout argument that tends to lean toward liquid for longer posters and static for short. Michael Gray has a nice analysis in a three-part series on Maximizing Profits With Website Design and Layout.

User Experience: I tend to blend this all encompassing term mostly into usability. The personal issues I mentioned above, combined with accessibility & usability techniques must be a consideration in layout and choice of design details, like fonts and their default size. Allowing for the wider column I’ve already mentioned, gives me the flexibility to increase the default font size for ease in reading. I’m liking these choses already! This was a great exercise!

Compatibility: As mentioned, web standards is the only way to fly today. By designing a site that is functional when all the fancy stuff is turned off (CSS,JavaSciript, etc.) you end up with a site that is accessible from a multiple number of platforms. Taking it another level and providing custom CSS for those mobile devices that can use them, just improves the user’s experience.

With those thoughts on our brains, we will move on tomorrow. Perhaps really to thinking about the layout…