Before setting up this blog I had spent a fair amount of time mulling over how I should style this blog.  Three options came to mind;

  • Create a style from scratch
  • Use a free theme and heavily modify it
  • Just use a free theme

I thought I would take some time put my thought process on paper and share it with you.

Create a style from scratch

Creating a style from scratch is the hardest option, however it is the most rewarding. 

You can get your teeth into the code that your blog engine uses and you can push the boat out with bells and whistles. At the start I thought this was the road I wanted to go down. I have been under the hood of sites many times making both small cosmetic and functional changes, but I have never had to sit down with any part of it from scratch and work my way up, and I thought this would be an excellent challenge.

The main thing that stopped me from doing this was creative ability and the need to get something up and running quickly. I am not a designer, it is something I am trying to improve upon but at the moment I only have the most basic knowledge of what makes a good design. I didn’t think it would be fair on my 3 readers to have them endure endless changes to the layout whilst my technique improved!

Use a free theme and heavily modify it

I have seen this being done a lot and with very mixed results. I dismissed this out of hand because I think in the time it takes to heavily modify a theme (by which I mean change it enough so as to make it your own) then I think you may as well of started from scratch.

It seems fairly lazy in my opinion to take the foundations of what someone has made then chop and change it to suit yourself.

Just use a free theme

This is most definitely the laziest option, however it is also the one I went for and the one I am going to defend (not that I feel I really need to!) here.

Using a free theme has many advantages; you can install it and have it set up in literally a couple of minutes, all the browser testing as (hopefully) already been completed, you can get all the benefits of have a good designer work on your site but without any associated costs.

It also has a couple of disadvantages; You learn nothing, you end up with a site that is bound to look like at least 100 others.

I am going to sidestep the learning nothing issue by promising myself that I will be making my own design from scratch someday. [Edit – This was posted in 2009, since then I’ve made several iterations of this site, all my own work!]

What should you do?

It really depends on what your strengths are, what you want to learn and what value you can bring. If your main business is creating a webapp to track widgets, the blog theme isn’t going to hugely impact your business and you would be better off sticking to something quick and easy.

If you are a designer showing off websites you’ve made, you better hope you aren’t using a free design!

Why not read some more of our Web Dev posts?