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Let’s Talk About Themes, Shall We?

Setting up a blog is kind of like buying a house: first, you have to decide what neighborhood you want to live in. (Welcome to WordPress.com. You’ll receive your fruit basket shortly.) Then, you have to figure out what kind of home you’d like to have — that’s the theme you choose. Finally, you fill this new home with stuff — or, your content. Step number two can be a bit tricky, so that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Let’s pick a theme!

If your blog’s appearance is something you care a lot about, explore our different WordPress.com plans — some, like the Premium plan, come with advanced customization options and unlimited premium themes.

I'm not sure we have a theme that matches up with this one. (Photo courtesy of YardSale.)

I’m not sure we have a theme that matches up with this one. (Photo courtesy of YardSale.)

There are many themes — 200+ — so you have a lot of options. It might feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a particular vision. Maybe you want a minimalist loft, like Publish. If you have a big art collection to showcase, perhaps you need a gallery like Hatch or Gridspace. If you want a home with personality, maybe you need a space that’s bold and stylish, like Resonar; or whimsical, like Balloonsor clean and elegant, like Libre.

Decisions, decisions! And within each of these broad categories, there are multiple options. Your loft could be dark and edgy like Vertigoor clean and bright like Watson. Maybe your photographs will share space with the written word, so you need a design like React.

(It’s enough to make you want to move back into your parents’ basement.)

So what are some guiding principles that will get you into the perfect place? Let’s stop torturing the real estate metaphor and get to some concrete tips. Here are the big three to consider when you’re choosing a theme:

Your style.

No matter how popular your blog becomes, no one is going to spend more time on it than you, so make it a place that is comfy, good-looking, and reflective of you. You might admire the bold typography of Blog Simple, but if you’re personally drawn to the softer look of Toujours, you’ll be happier with that in the long run.

Why? Let’s beat down another metaphor: I might admire the woman who can pull off a perfect pair of skinny jeans, but when it comes down to it, I’ll only ever be comfortable in baggy trousers. If I put on the skinny jeans, I’ll be self-conscious and will spend all night tugging at my clothes to get them just so. Eventually, I’ll give up and leave them in the closet (my closet can attest to this).

So it is with your theme. Pick something that doesn’t speak to you, and you’re looking at lots of tweaks to try and make it feel like you. Eventually, you may find yourself blogging less and less, and all because you won’t admit to yourself that what you really love is the colorful, in-your-face look of Eighties. Set yourself up for blogging success by picking a theme you’ll like looking at every day. (Or, if you’re like most of us, a dozen times a day. You know you do. There’s no shame here.)

Your content.

If you have an idea of your blog’s focus when you’re starting out, you can narrow down the world of available themes. If you love photography and know you’ll post images in your posts, consider themes that will showcase them, like Harmonic and Snaps. If you haven’t touched a camera since your Polaroid bit the dust but you love writing poetry, there are themes that make your text the star, like Syntax and Manifest. There are also themes for specific purposes, like Soundcheck for your band’s website, or Restaurant for your — you guessed it! — restaurant.

True story: if you search for Creative Commons photos of "confused house" on Flickr, you find a lot of sheep. (Photo courtesy of infomatique.)

True story: if you search for Creative Commons photos of “confused house” on Flickr, you find a lot of sheep. (Photo courtesy of infomatique.)

What if you’re not sure what your site will be, or you envision yourself posting a bit of this and a bit of that? First, welcome to the 99% of bloggers. Second, the theme world is your oyster — there are plenty of themes well-suited for housing different types of posts. Chalk! Trvl! Passenger! Twenty Sixteen!  Take a look, see what kinds of visuals you’re drawn to, and then consider our third pillar: your time and energy.

Your time and energy.

Our themes are designed to be easy to work with, but some can handle more customizing and futzing that others. Some, like the festive Cheer, are pretty much going to look how they look. Others, like Hemingway Rewritten, will let you upload a custom header image and make other tweaks to your homepage. Still others, like Zuki, have a variety of layout options for your front page and are highly configurable.

How much time and energy do you want to put into your theme, as opposed to the content you’d like to create? Be realistic about what you want to do. The last thing we want is for you to feel frustrated by your site — we want you to stick around and publish. When you consider a theme, look at its features and customization options, and let that be a factor in your decision.

Perhaps this is your style; we won't judge. Well, maybe a little. (Photo courtesy of McBeth.)

Perhaps this is your style; we won’t judge. Well, we might judge a little. (Photo courtesy of McBeth.)

There’s more to building a site than picking a theme (and note that you can also upgrade to WordPress.com Premium to make every little last detail just so). Still, your theme will be the skeleton on which the rest of the site hangs, so make sure it’s one you love. If you’re still trying to find The One, head to the Theme Showcase and take a look around (and use the filters at the top to narrow your search).

Bonus secret!

Maybe you want a seasonal holiday theme. Maybe you’re changing the focus of your site. Maybe you’re just indecisive. In any of those instances: you can always switch themes. Just go to My Site → Themes, search for and select a new theme, and click Activate or Purchase (both accessed under the three dots icon). This might not be something you want to do every week, but there’s no harm in trying something new or giving your site a fresh look.

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  1. I used the theme “Chunk” by Automatic. I am a weird, all-over-the-place, first time blogger. I post photos, with and sometimes without written word, so, it felt perfect. Also, the simplicity of it is what attracted me. Once I am not a broke writer-in-the-making, I want to upgrade to “Minimalist” because that was my favorite Premium theme. CIao

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  2. I’m new to blogging and like the Chateau theme I chose for my combination of writing and photos. It’s clean and elegant. My entries can be slotted into four categories: Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love. After reading your post, I may try changing the theme at some point. For now, it works. I love seeing what others are doing with the same theme. Everyone’s an original!

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  3. I have changed my theme several times, & am now back with the one I started with, haha. It’s fun that we can opt in & out so easily, though I learned pretty quickly to have the header pic & ideas about the ‘layout’ ready to get on with as soon as the change happens. And I found too that the theme very definitely affected my attitude about blogging in general. AND, one of the best things about changing themes is you learn way more dashboard skills, since many of them have different options, requirements, etc.

    Good times!!

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