My blog’s overwrought theme

Everything in my life has become overwrought, overthought, overdone, and needs to be unwound.

Today, I’m dealing with this blog at copingmechanism.com. A few weeks ago I decided to go back to using WordPress (again), and dammit I’m going to try sticking with it this time. But, I don’t like any WordPress themes. There are thousands of them, and I can never find one that works for me. Oh, I find a lot of them that make me say, “Ooh, cool!” and install immediately and say, “There, that’s nice!”

The theme I was using up until this morning is “Hive” and it’s a fancy, nice-looking theme.

Magazine layouts like Hive’s are more suitable for occasional full-on articles and that’s not really what I’m doing here. I just want to share some stories, post some quoted links, and show off a few photos. I want things to look nice and be easy to read and navigate. You know, like blogs used to be before WordPress and SEO and relentless self-promotion decided we all needed giant hero images and featured posts and animation and just more of everything.

Hive is nice, and does some nifty things, but this makes it all feel like too much for me right now. Too much JavaScript, too many clever typographical tricks, and way too much animation. I could spend time figuring out how to dial it all back, but what I really want is a reverse-chronological list of full blog posts that readers can easily scroll through without a lot of hoo-ha. It shouldn’t be so difficult to find something to help me do all this without building something from scratch myself.

For now, I’m going fall back to my old stand-by theme, Independent Publisher. It’s not perfect, but it’ll get the job done while I work on something better.

Update April 17, 2021: I may have found one I don’t hate: Graphy. Trying it now.

37 Comments

  1. @pimoore I love Blot, but I started wishing for a 1-stop shop for my blog: Easy photo posting/sizing, galleries, comments, analytics, webmentions, all basically built-in. WordPress makes all that easy. Too easy! :). Baty.blog is still on Blot, but is idle at the moment.

  2. @jack I hear you. I like WordPress for the ethos and philosophy but it has gotten too complicated as a true blogging platform. I restarted my old blot account and am liking it. Especially when I need to fiddle with a word or two and can fix it on Dropbox.

  3. @jack Yes, that’s the problem I always found with WordPress – the themes are designed to be looked at and admired, rather than used. But it sounds right to stick with WP. Even I’m thinking of going back to it after handrolling webmentions and comments on my static site, which has been built on Jekyll for 6 years.

  4. @leonp I much prefer the idea of static sites. Baty.net was run on Hugo for a long time. In real life, though, it’s harder to live with. I started a new test blog with Hugo yesterday, though, just in case 🙂

  5. @jack @leonp What always kept me from wanting to use WordPress the most was twofold:

    not wanting to self-host or administer a server
    fear of security vulnerabilities, especially for plugins if they stop being developed or don’t receive timely patches

  6. @pimoore they’re both problems. There are ways to harden up your install, even on cheap hosting, but dealing with that sort of stuff is dull. The godawful markup, css and JavaScript of some plugins, the clunkiness of the editor… I might be talking myself out of the idea.

  7. @pimoore @leonp Makes sense. Self-hosting has gotten easier with things like the 1-click stuff at Digital Ocean. I’m (barely) good enough at server admin so I muddle though. The security issues are real. I try to mitigate that by using as few plugins as possible and only choosing those I feel I can “trust”. All of this would go away if I used a static site but 🤷‍

  8. @jack @leonp @hjertnes I’ve got the chops to self-host, but I just never wanted to take on that responsibility, and good hosting plans are more than I want to pay each month. To my mind, Blot/Micro.blog strike a perfect balance between low friction to post, cost, and control.

  9. @jack for the best. My static site just eats Markdown, which is the best editing experience, I reckon. I was quite happy publishing stuff without comments for 6 years, but then the indieweb came along.

  10. @leonp why wouldn’t more people be using that option instead of self hosting, is it a speed and performance issue on wp.com? That also still wouldn’t solve potential plug-in security issues, even if it removes the need to admin the core software.

  11. @jack self-hosting WordPress recently convinced me am not ever going to self-host any blogging platform myself. I am tired of maintaining my writing and the place where I write.

  12. @jack On themes, I have a got a decent theme for myself and first thing I do with any platform is modify css to get it close what I have (I have had a similar look with Hugo, Blot, WordPress and now with Micro.blog). If a platform doesn’t allow modifying css, it’s not for me.

  13. @jack It took me an absolute age to find a suitable theme. I was after a minimalist look that looked good with or without featured images, similar to the look I had with Ghost.

    I asked @gr36 who modified Graphy. I’m currently using Graphy Pro but can only change it within the limits of the customiser. I have no doubt I’ll tire of it and search for an alternative, especially for a dark/light switcher. But am happy for now. The theme market is all about features and gimmicks, while many themes I liked seemed abandoned years earlier.

  14. I don’t use WordPress although I’ve been thinking of switching over to it for some time. I’m also not sold on any of the themes that I’ve seen so far so if I did make the switch, I would start with a basic theme and create a child theme tailored to my liking. I think that’s the best and probably the most secure way to go.

    Static sites can be good but dynamic content is underrated. A lot of bloggers seem to dislike comments but they’re my favorite feature in blogs that include them, which is a big reason why WordPress seems appealing. Third party services aren’t a good substitute because they have total control over your blog’s comments and they don’t work for those of us who browse without JavaScript. There are also several other content management systems out there for those who don’t like WordPress, and some of them seem more focused on security such as Banshee. Some are even built with showcasing photos in mind.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts on this. You’re right that there a few good options out there. I’ve mostly concluded that WordPress, while not great at anything, is pretty good at most things. I agree about comments, but it depends on the site and the tone of the conversations. I’ve been fortunate that most commenters here are helpful and fun.

  15. @pimoore I guess if you’re going full, purist indieweb you wouldn’t use wp.com for the same reasons you wouldn’t publish to Medium first?

    If anyone’s going to stop your wp site getting hacked, it’ll be wp. I think you can only install from a subset of plugins available in the wp directory, too, so I assume it’s as secure as can be.

  16. @leonp it looks like you can only install plugins on the Business plan or higher, which at $33 USD per month ($41 CAD) is more than I’d want to pay. So I’d be back to self-hosting which I’m just not interested in. That being said, I’d use WordPress before I ever used Medium.

  17. @pimoore ouch, that’s pricey. Yeah, way too much for a personal site, especially since I’ve got used to paying, erm, zero for the last 6 years on Netlify! The just perfect system that allows for notes, essays, photos, webmentions, comments, portability and a simple editing UI doesn’t seem to be out there yet.

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