Mobile Is as Mobile Does: Finding a Responsive WordPress Theme
Goodness, it’s been a long time, since I’ve checked in here. I’m afraid I’ve let things languish just a bit last year. What was I doing? Well, as elaborated previously here and over at the Gecko’s Bark, I spent 2012 in Sai Gon, Viet Nam, teaching English and dealing with my torn quadriceps tendon. Following those adventures I took some time off for extended holidays.
Now I’m currently back in Thailand — I know, judging from the last time I lived in Thailand full-time, one might be surprised to read these words. But Thailand gets under your skin, I guess, just like Viet Nam. Things are going smoother this time around; there’s not substitute for experience.
Anyway, while I considered another teaching gig — and may in the future — right now I’m studying Thai language and have returned to the journalism fold, currently as a freelance writer and editor. I’ve also been getting back into photography, having replaced the equipment that got hocked a few years back.
In the midst of all this, having recently done a small website for a client — a WordPress installation — I decided I needed to revamp Jeff Chappell dotcom. I’m not at liberty to link to this client’s site for various reasons — non-disclosure agreements and such — but in the process of getting the site up quickly, I chose a free WordPress theme titled, aptly enough, Responsive. With the expanding plethora of mobile devices accessing the Internet these days such as smartphones, tablets and whatnot, themes and websites that can respond natively to the smaller screens and the various length-to-width ratios that come with them are de rigeur.
Actually I was really impressed with Responsive; it looks great on a laptop screens, full-size monitors, mobile phones and tablets, both 10-inch and 7-inch — no matter how you hold them. This is all done natively; no separate mobile theme or plugin required. Looking good on mobile devices was a must for this particular client, so stumbling across this free theme was a happy event.
I looked into using Responsive on this site, as well as several other good free themes out there, such as Fanwood. But the problem I have with these themes is the same thing that compelled me to use a paid theme for this site in the first place; I wanted to be able to control which posts showed up on specific pages using their categories without having to modify the theme’s php files. Another requisite for a theme this time around was being able to modify it, at least lightly, without having to use a child theme; I wanted to be able to insert custom CSS from within the theme’s options in WordPress. More time spent on content and less time spent on mucking about with code is a good thing.
These things are a bit much to ask for a free theme, although Responsive does give you the option for custom CSS, as well as other customization options not always found with free themes. These options actually made it perfect for the aforementioned client, who wanted a static but easily-updated homepage with dynamic content, such as YouTube videos.
Anyway, for myself and Jeff Chappell dotcom, it was back to ElegantThemes. If you’re reading this and wondering why the site looks a little wonky at the moment, that’s because I’m in the midst of converting the site to use Elegant’s Chameleon responsive theme. Between being able to enter custom CSS, it uses WordPress native options to change colors of backgrounds, fonts, links and what have you — on top of being able to specify specific blog categories to specific pages.
In the past I’ve chosen not to use the sliders that ElegantThemes seems to embrace (along with a lot of other theme designers), but now that the underlying code is native to WordPress these days, they work much smoother than they used to in the recent past. Furthermore, it works well when viewed on a tablet or other touch-screen device, for obvious reasons.
So pardon the construction dust; it should be settled and cleaned up shortly.
Postscript: Why am I using such a ridiculously sexist “under construction” image on my portfolio site? Well, this image actually figures in an interesting earlier post about image tags, SEO and website traffic. That doesn’t make it less sexist, however, I admit.