Changing My Blog’s Theme

Last week I changed my blog theme to the free Rival template.

Blogger Template Style
Name:   Rival
Author: Lasantha Bandara
URL 1:  http://www.premiumbloggertemplates.com/
URL 2:  http://www.bloggertipandtrick.net/
Date:   February 2011

The stock theme

It is a magazine style for the main landing page which is what I have been looking for.  Rival had the right color scheme and presented a clean and crisp appearance that I liked immediately.

However, getting this theme setup to be useable, was quite intimidating initially. There is a lot of work to be done inside of the code and I don’t really know a whole lot about HTML.  What I usually accomplish inside the code is completed by trial and error and being willing to experiment, which usually equals breaking something (i.e. making sure that I have a good backup saved for when I mess something up – which is quite often).

Setup

Like many other themes that have this appearance the Rival template is not your typical upload, change/add/move a widget or two, tweak a few colors and then start using it theme.  There is quite a bit of work to do before Rival meets your needs after you upload it:

Getting the header so it looked right, I still am not completely happy with the image, but it is close enough for the time being.  This took a lot longer than it should have, but is a lot closer to what I want, than it was.

Setting up the Navigation bar, figuring where in the template to add the links and then change things around to meet my needs. I still have a few more things to clean up on this section, but they are very minor.

The slider – which I have since deleted. Originally this took quite a while to properly set this up, get the photos to work correctly and the links in the right places and when I decided to delete the slider. it took a little longer than I expected and quite a bit of experimentation to ensure that I deleted the correct code.  I probably didn’t get everything out that I should have, but got it so it looks right on the page.

My decision to get rid of the slider was based on a couple of things: it took too much space above the fold, I found it distracting and it took away from the clean appearance that I was looking for.

Subscription Widget – I changed the RSS image and had to figure which photo service to use which worked correctly when Picassa and Flikr both didn’t work the way I expected. I ended up using Photobucket to link my images to this theme. Changing the wording and links was pretty easy.

Adding the Google +1 button from My Blogger Tricks, wasn’t hard (when I followed the directions correctly), but getting it to look just right and where I wanted it took some experimentation.

How It Looks Now

After all of the tweaking this is what One Foot In Reality’s landing page looks like now.

The reality is that

I am very happy with the results, I learned a lot and found out that the changes that I thought were intimidating at the start were not that difficult once I started doing the work, just time consuming and that you have to be very precise about where/how you put the changes. This has been the most work that I have invested in modifying any blog theme since I started blogging and gives me a better understanding of why people pay to have someone else do it.  With the amount of time I have invested in this theme I have a feeling that it will stay on my blog for a longer period than themes usually do with me.

While my theme is not minimalistic I think it is clean, loads fairly quickly and looks the way I want it to.  I am also using One Foot In Reality’s landing page as my primary webpage, so my blog is doing double duty. This theme also reflects the direction that I appear to be going with my blog.

Now to go back in and see how much of the extra code I can get rid of as a result of deleting the slider – this should be interesting. 🙂

What do you think?

Do you like it?
Are there any other changes that you can suggest to improve my blog’s appearance or useability for you further?
Thanks
Harold