WordPress.com’s themes: a painful subject

I have been using WordPress for around five years, in both its WordPress.com and self-hosted forms. I currently run, or assist those running, close to ten different WordPress blogs of both flavours. It has improved continuously, the community is great, the folks at Automattic are passionate, helpful and generous. I have recommended the platform to countless people, both as a blog and as a general purpose CMS.

So it pains me deeply to have to write of my one persistent disappointment: the themes available on WordPress.com.

Every now and again, I browse through the themes available, hoping to find something that really suits my blog … and every time, I am freshly disappointed. It seems most of them have been contributed by generous amateurs who have worked hard to create themes that are serviceable, or were serviceable four or five years ago, when most of them originated. Not only are most now at best mediocre in contemporary web design terms, but more seriously, many are frequently broken by the content one tries to present through them. Far too many of these themes are quirky – there are few relatively neutral themes.

The greatest irony is that the backend of WordPress , the Dashboard, is now ever so beautifully refined and elegantly designed. It’s a bit like having a Rolls Royce engine in a fibre-glass dune buggy. (Okay, I exaggerate.) But a pity that to see your blog at its best, you have to stick your head ‘under the hood’.

I would probably pay for the WordPress CSS upgrade if I could install my own theme – but inexplicably that’s not an option.

Were it down to me, I would commission 20 really good themes from excellent web designers, test them to breaking point and beyond, so that they really do handle all content elegantly, and consign most of the existing themes to a “legacy basket”. Or just use more of the many excellent themes available at WordPress.org.

I use The Journalist, for which, thanks, Lucian Marin. But I’m afraid here too, I have grumbles. Firstly, putting comments at the top of posts is just way counter-intuitive. I always forget where to find them myself, and this is my blog! And then, there’s too little padding around photo galleries, so type crowds up against them. The borders on linked pics are just … not nice. And the blockquotes just break when text is wrapping around pics. (This last issue I wrote to WordPress about. Instead of fixing the theme, someone inserted newlines in my post … first disappointment in WordPress service, ever.)

The craziest part of it all is that having truly superb themes would only improve WordPress’s reputation even more, and increase the pull of the platform. So why not just fix ’em, guys?

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
This entry was posted in General, Tech stuff and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to WordPress.com’s themes: a painful subject

  1. yogini says:

    Hello David.
    I found your blog while doing some tag-surfing around WordPress. You’ve put it all together quite nicely here. Stay with it.

  2. Sheri says:

    We’re listening to your feedback! Stay tuned. And keep an eye on the WordPress.com news blog for announcements. 🙂

    Sheri
    WordPress.com Happiness Engineer

  3. Elena says:

    I like the theme you are using. I tried it as well, it was one of the better ones I liked. It definitely works wonderfully for you. But a great post as well, I found that it is indeed hard to find a theme that is clean and without a glitch….

    Elena

  4. Thanks, Elena!

    I notice that since I wrote this post and Sheri replied from WordPress, the padding around photo galleries, has been increased. So that’s a little progress!

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