Now that I had my blog pretty much functional, I wanted to explore some of the available themes. I was looking for something with a predominantly white background, three columns and widget ready so that I could customize it quickly and add features later on as needed.
Large selection of themes
I spent a couple of hours looking at the large collection at the WordPress ThemeViewer. It has a really nice sorting feature that lets you search based on number of columns, color, widget-readiness, and other attributes. Most of the themes are quite artistically designed, and targeted at different kinds of blogging needs — personal blogs, professional websites, newsletters, and so on. I have been using xmark-101 for about a week, and liked its very practical design. But since I wanted to try and place some AdSense blocks, I figured a theme with 3 columns would give me more flexibility.
The ones that I liked the most were blue-zinfandel-10, intensive-01, oldschool-10, tiga-06 and talian-10. I tried all these, and found that oldschool-10 and talian-10 were the ones that really suited my needs, and between these two, I liked the softer color theme of the latter. So I decided to use talian-10, and went about customizing it.
Using widget selector, I was able to move most of the widgets to the right-side column. Most of it worked quite easily. The Category list did not show hierarchy well, so I changed it to drop-down menu for now, and it actually works nicely this way. The Search tool in the header area wasn’t functional, and I decided to leave it that way for the time being.
While trying to add Google content-based ad blocks, referral blocks and ad-for-search blocks, I realized that there were several place holders already put in the code. That helped to some extent, and for the left-column ad blocks, I wrote some custom PHP code.
Fixing the search tool
When I added a new search widget onto one of the side columns, it worked correctly. But somehow the one that came with the theme in the header area was failing. The error message (“http:// ” not found”) seemed to indicate that the path setting not initialized correctly. I dug through the Talian code trying to figure out what was wrong. Being fairly new to WordPress it wasn’t obvious to me. Then I decided to compare the search tool invocation with the one in the default WordPress theme which was working well for me. Very quickly, I found some differences that I will try to summarize here.
In the WordPress default theme’s sidebar.php, I saw code like this:
<form id=”searchform” method=”get” action=”<?php bloginfo(‘home’); ?>”>
In the Talian-10 theme’s header.php, I found:
<form id=”searchform” method=”get” action=”<?php echo $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’]; ?>”>
I tried replacing echo $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’]; with bloginfo(‘home’); and it worked!!
And that fixed one nagging issue that I was having with my new theme, and after that I have been playing around with the AdSense blocks, and adding some pages and stuff like that.
The new theme
While I liked the XMark theme that I started with, I really needed the ability to use the left-side of the screen to place some widgets and possibly some ad blocks. That is what really motivated me to spend the time looking for another theme. So I spent a few hours looking for a new theme, and all the work to customize it for my blog. I am quite pleased with my current Talian-10 based theme and now I am focusing more on writing content in my blog and less on customizing it. I also noticed that this was one of the most downloaded themes from the site.