Zero to Hero 8: Partially Complete

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Today’s Zero to Hero assignment involves doing some serious work on pages, and I have to work most of the day, so I’ll go ahead and post my thoughts on it. It is funny that the focus for today is on creating better about pages, because I redesigned Sourcerer’s about page over the weekend. I am trying to follow along and improve both my blogs with advice from the challenge, but I am only posting my thoughts on the challenge here. So, when we get a task like the one today, it’s twice the work for me.

Just in general, I like Sourcerer’s pages, and I’ve received a few compliments on them from personal friends who read my blog. I think The Writing Catalog’s pages need a lot of work, though. The about page, for instance, is nothing but a misson statement and an email address. I already had this on my list of things to do, so I am glad that today’s daily Zero to Hero post provides links with helpful advice for creating better pages.  I notice one thing there that I can’t emphasize enough – don’t let your pages stagnate. If the focus of your blog changes as you grow, be sure and update your About page.

We have a debut post on the re-issue of Detective Comics #27 and the cultural significance of Batman from our resident comics blogger, Jeremy DeFatta at Sourcerer today. If you have a few minutes to poke around while you’re over there, I would love to know what you think of About, Contributors, Awards, and any other pages that catch your interest.

Zero to Hero 5: Thoughts on themes.

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So, in an effort to be a good Zero to Hero blogger, I spent a few minutes trying out different themes today. I didn’t find one I liked enough to change my blog themes, but I have been thinking about a redesign for one or both of the blogs I manage.

When I started these blogs, I used the Truly Minimal theme for a while, because I am a minimalist at heart. I switched to Dusk to Dawn after the first month or so, because I thought my sites needed to be more visually appealing. I liked the look of Sam’s blog and this theme gives me a good combination of features. Plus, I just like the idea of both my blogs having a consistent design, even if the colors and images are different.

Here are the things I was looking for in a theme when I designed the Writing Catalog and Sourcerer:

  1. A single column for content.
  2. A sidebar on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. Flexibility with background images and color.
  4. Clean, easy-to-read typograpy.

There are three features I would like my blogs to have that are not supported by this theme:

  1. Pages displayed a the top of the blog instead of on the sidebar.
  2. Support for more than one custom menu.
  3. Featured content.

And I have a couple of questions for any bloggers who would like to chat about the importance of the blog’s themes:

  1. I see a lot of themes with all the follow buttons, blogroll, etc. at the bottom of the blog. I went with a sidebar because I just prefer one, and because I wanted to be able to display Part Time Monster’s most recent posts at the top of my blogs. How do you feel about this? Am I just being old-school with my preference for a sidebar, and does placing links at the top of the page really make a difference?
  2. Since Sourcerer is so heavy on art and video, it is a perfect candidate for a magazine theme such as Visual. Would you prefer a magazine-look with two or three posts at the top to what I am doing at Sourcerer now?

I tried out several themes today, but I will only mention three.

  1. Bushwick is the one I tried that I would never think of using. It’s ok, but the headlines are too big and the fonts are wrong – they gave the blog a cartoonish feel, and I don’t want that; I prefer my pages to be slick.
  2. Spun just looked interesting, with its grid of circles to display posts, so I gave it a whirl, but my posts didn’t translate well into that theme.
  3. Visual, which I mentioned above, I really like, and Sourcerer looked pretty good with it, but I am just not sure about it at this point.

I would love to read others’ thoughts on themes: both how you chose your own, and what sort of themes you prefer when you go looking for blogs to read. My two pet peeves are that I don’t want the visual elements to be distracting, and I don’t want a slow-loading blog.