On a whim, yesterday I changed the theme of this website. I did it for my own ease of use, but the simplified layout now makes fewer points more clearly. Everyone wins!
Reasons I Switched – Simplicity, Ease, and Cost
My Fancy Design Was Too Busy
Previously, I had been using a theme that had lots of bells and whistles (sliders, images that changed size on mouseovers, featured pages, lots of color and typography settings). The front page was fancy…and because the theme had so many fun widgets and things to customize, I had an awful lot of stuff on the homepage. I had so much stuff on the homepage that I suppressed the sidebar that had my calls-to-action (newest book, newsletter signup).
I am embarrassed to admit that the visual clutter was not the motivating factor for my abrupt switch.
The theme got harder to use
I had been struggling with customizing the theme. Some of the things that I wanted to change were not available within the customization panel inside the WordPress dashboard. When I wanted to adjust how the buttons looked, I tried editing a child theme’s CSS, I tried inserting custom CSS in the panel…I had to surf the theme’s support boards and found out that I had to add that the change I wanted was “important!” in the CSS, and even then the change only “took” some of the time. The theme was as complex inside as it was on the outside.
Then, in the last few weeks, the customization panel would blink out. I noticed this when I went to fix an editing error on a page—yikes a typo!. The error was in the featured pages on the homepage, and the only way to edit it was to use the customization panel…and the panel wouldn’t stay on the screen!
To troubleshoot, I
- turned off the other plugins in case there was a conflict.
- changed browsers.
- tried to click really fast before it blinked away (I tried this more times that I should admit).
- searched for the featured page snippet in the theme files, including the database. Likely it was there, just poorly labeled.
None of this worked.
Through trial and error, I discovered that I could trick the customization panel to stay on screen when the theme was in “live preview” mode. So I had to change my site’s theme to a different one and then I could make changes. Ugh. I put up with this oddness, because for me customizing a new theme was enough of a pain that I could tolerate temporary workarounds. Then, yesterday, I had enough.
They asked for more money
I got a friendly letter from the theme vendor (I had started with the free theme and upgraded to a paid theme with an annual fee). They wanted me to know that my premium support would run out at the end of February. I should make sure to reup!
It really didn’t seem like they had been maintaining the theme enough to deserve another payment. When I had tried to monkey with the theme by customizing it, I realized that the theme was doing a whole bunch of fancy stuff in its files that made it really hard for me, a mostly non-coder, to make changes to a child theme. Worst of all, when I went into the admin panel, the theme customization panel still blinked out. I would not repay for defective software. Bad timing on the theme developer’s part.
Simplify to See
I gradually fell out of love with my old theme, and then I suddenly jumped to a new one. I made the commitment yesterday afternoon and republished the site last night. This new theme has way fewer things to customize in its WYSIWYG editor/customization panel. This new theme does not have featured pages, sliders, or resize-on-hover image fun.
After removing sliders and featured pages from the homepage, I realized that the homepage copy was….weak, and I rewrote it. I had not noticed that before.
Too much stuff cluttered the sidebar on interior pages, so I simplified the sidebar. The new layout and retouched copy, although less fancy and photo-filled, better emphasize what I am seeking now – new book projects.
Under the hood, I was able to deploy Google Tag Manager directly (the old theme resisted my efforts). So now analytics tagging will also be simplified. Hooray!
The more minimal layout fits my personal style better. It’s also better suited to visitors on mobile devices. I loved the photo of the snow monkeys in the hot spring, but as cute as they are they were irrelevant to the real message. The one thing that I miss is the orange line at the very top of the page. You might see the orange line return….
What do You Think?
How do you like the new look? Clean and tidy? Or too simple/generic? Anything seem missing?