It started as a mild interest, turned into a hobby and became an obsession – WordPress.
Having seen colleagues hunched over screens long into a late shift blogging on all sorts of topics I decided to dip my toe into the water.
As a journalist trained in print but ‘forced’ (not a lot of arm twisting involved) over to multimedia for my latest job in the Middle East, I knew I would not come out of this with a scrapbook of cuttings but raw images, audio files and footage from a faraway land.
And so I took the plunge and decided to build this portfolio site/blog, which I quickly add, is still very much under construction.
Like all newcomers to WordPress, the biggest headache was deciding on a theme. If I was a photographer or full-time videographer then the choice would be simple.
Graph Paper Press seems to have the market cornered here with Modularity, Widescreen and their freebie Workaholic – which I tried for a while and came close to settling on. On the downside, you are ‘locked’ into the theme but, what the hell, it’s all about the content.
However, nothing really fitted my niche. I have recently moved across to multimedia but have almost a decade’s worth of articles, many of which I will have to reproduce manually due to poor archiving online.
I wanted a minimal-looking theme that could handle multimedia but also held its own visually in the medium I know best – print.
I tried Theamtic Power Blog, which has a good support network but too fiddly for someone with an extremely limited knowledge of CSS, and a couple of other freebies that just didn’t make the cut.
Looking at the Thesis demos I was very impressed by the backend options, ease of use and support network. However, it was the look of the themes that put me off. Unless you had a working knowledge of CSS or were willing to get a child theme (in which case, what is the point?) then – to me – the blog you end up with looks similar to a lot of others. That ‘look’ also reminded me of the free Theamatic theme.
I am sure it is an excellent framework, it’s just not the one that felt right for me.
Looking at its nearest rival Headway, I was immediately impressed by the visual editor and the seeming ease of use. Drag and drop seemed so much better than try, try and try again.
After stumping up the fee (with a discount through an affiliate site) installing the theme was a breeze. After the initial shock of the basic starting screen, it screamed ‘potential’ the same way as seeing your WordPress screen for the first time, I set down to working with the big USP – the visual editor.
After a bit of nip and tuck, I soon had the site looking something like the one I had in my head.
A big problem I had with the free themes was customising the navigation menu. I wanted to run a portfolio site and a blog with the minimum of pages. This would go ‘home page’, ‘blog category’, ‘portolio category (with drop down menus)’, ‘About page’.
On one of the many videos about Headway I viewed before buying the theme, one user showed how easy it was to link categories to pages and drag and drop them wherever you want. However, the ‘enable’ button on the navigation editor, which worked when I first sat down with the theme, stopped after about an hour. This meant I could move pages around in the visual editor but couldn’t save them.
Initially I worked around this and concentrated on adding some content to the site but it got to that point where the page navigation had to be addressed.
I knew before I bought the theme that the support community was not as big as the one for Thesis but I was pleasantly surprised when, after posting a request for help, one of the moderators got back to me in a matter of hours.
After giving details of my WordPress and Headway versions and plug-ins operating, the moderator, unfortunately, could not offer any solution. I was pointed in the direction of a plug-in that arranges menus.
When I said this defeated the purpose of the navigation editor in Headway and didn’t really address the underlining problem, I was told to email the official support desk. So far it’s been more than 24 hours and no one has come back to me.
As you can probably tell by now, I’m not a member of Headway’s affiliate programme, nor would I want to endorse any particular product to that extent. I started this blog purely as a showcase and a platform for exchanging ideas.
What I would say is this, in the four days I have been using Headway I have been – largely – very impressed. I have managed to do far more in a fraction of the time on WordPress than on any of the other themes I tried (I didn’t try Thesis so I can’t compare).
I was able to customise the CSS in the footer and create a single drop down categories menu, which isn’t quite what I was going for, on the Headway Tips site. However, the support network still seems to be in its infancy.
I really hope they can sort out the support because I have really high hopes for this theme as it has the potential to open up blogging and the web for a whole new wave of people – it’s that easy. Apart from the problem with the navigation button, it’s done everything else it promised with minimal fuss. And it’s fun.
Over to you Headway…