Matt Weeden, who presented at the Denver WordPress Meetup on September 25, warmed up the crowd by giving us an overview of WordPress’s free themes: how to find, install and activate them. If you don’t have WordPress.org yet, you can see the selection on their theme page. With more than 1200 themes to choose from, the hard part is narrowing it down. This can done by searching by keyword, author or tag. By selecting any of 38 variables in five categories, you can further narrow the search.
Matt demonstrated some of the features on the WordPress dashboard, using two free themes as examples: Twenty Ten (default) and Atahualpa. Free themes can be customized to varying degrees, using options that are built into them. The consensus among this group was that Twenty Ten is one of the most adaptable of the free themes.
Corrinda Campbell then introduced us to one of her favorite premium themes, Headway, and taught me a new website term: framework. It’s kind of like a theme, but different. I think it has something to do with added flexibility and options. As it was explained to us, it makes it easy to adjust the look of the page and adapt your marketing strategy without having to change your theme. If anyone reading this can help me understand this a little better, please post a comment.
Headway’s distinguishing feature is its visual editor, which takes all the guesswork out of design changes because they appear as you make them. No need to “save draft” and then “preview changes.”
Other Headway gems include leafs, which are content boxes you drag and drop wherever you want them, and you can customize them to appear and function countless ways. The best part, for me anyway, is that you need no coding skills whatsoever. Very cool! All that and more makes the price of Headway ($87 for a single site/$164 for multiple) seem like a bargain.
Dan Nickerson was next on deck with a demonstration of the Socrates theme, which he designed with Joel Comm. The beauty of this premium theme is in its simplicity and its purpose for monetizing a website. And who doesn’t want to monetize their site?
Dan went through every step starting with downloading WordPress, to installing and activating Socrates in less than two minutes. Seriously. The 10-minute video on the Socrates site covers the same steps, and includes a demonstration of the various features Dan showed us for further customization. You’ll also find pricing information on the site – you definitely get your money’s worth!
For me, working with WordPress reminds me of when I was little and learning how to color. I started by using the primary colors. Similarly, WordPress.com provided me with a few basic choices, making it fairly simple to learn the fundamentals. Then, when I wanted to experiment more, I graduated to WordPress.org with more plugins, and more options for free and then premium themes – the box of 48 and then 64 colors. With each step up, I discover yet another layer of creativity.