I’m happy with how this blog looks. I’m using the WordPress theme Twenty Eleven, which is fairly unobtrusive and allows me to display my artwork in the header and change the background color (I really like the white-on-green thing). The fonts are nice, and don’t draw attention to themselves. I really like the placement of the title and tagline, as well as the individual page links. Even the default links color is perfect. Someday I’d like to design an actual header image instead of just taking a cross section of my book cover, but for minimal effort I think this site looks pretty good. Here’s a screenshot for reference, in case I end up changing it for reasons I am getting to:
See, there’s just one problem. Twenty Eleven doesn’t display sidebar widgets on individual posts. Those are the things that are just to the left of the post on the main page (click “Home” if you are viewing this as an individual post and don’t know what I’m talking about). It includes things like Follow This Blog Via Email, Sign The Wanderlust Mailing List, Recent Posts, Like Wanderlust on Facebook, and Links to Other Blogs. Very important stuff, especially as part of the purpose of this blog is to promote itself and my work. Basically, I think I’m losing potential follows and likes and clicks because most of my pageviews come from links to individual posts, through Facebook and the WordPress reader. I don’t know what to do about this.
WordPress.com is very limited in theme customization, and I have only been able to keep my frustration with this in check because I found a theme that works so well for me. I want to be able to say, “Twenty Eleven! Show my sidebar on individual posts, please!” and have it be done. I should be able to figure out how to do it, through means of complicated html if necessary, and it should DO it. Unfortunately, this isn’t how wordpress.com works.
I’ve paid money to have my own domain name, but I’m still working within wordpress.com. It takes minimal effort and I get to be part of the community, but it forces me to use certain themes and doesn’t allow plugins (including the one that, if I was running wordpress software independently, would display the sidebar in Twenty Eleven). I’m frustrated because I don’t understand why I can’t make things how I want them. If I like the way a theme displays, I should be able to change the font. If I like everything about a theme but don’t want the title centered, I should be able to left-align the title. I guess the obvious answer is to run the WordPress software myself, but I really enjoy the WordPress community. I enjoy how easy it is for the other wordpressers to follow my blog, and I love following other blogs and seeing their posts show up in my reader. It’s not something I’m willing to give up. The next answer is to just change my theme, but I spent a good hour looking yesterday and couldn’t find one I liked as much as this one for overall appearance, and it’s important to me that overall appearance doesn’t suffer. There’s one more option, and it might just let me have it all: I can buy a $30 a year Custom Design upgrade that allows me full control over Fonts, Colors, and CSS. I think (I’m not sure, but I think) that this will allow me to do things like install that plugin that will show the sidebar on individual posts in Twenty Eleven. Thirty bucks, though. With Domain registration, that’s fifty bucks a year on this blog, and what if I purchase the upgrade and still can’t figure out how to do what I want?
Here’s what I’m faced with. I can
1.) sacrifice functionality by keeping things the way they are, with no sidebar on individual posts,
2.) sacrifice aesthetics by switching to a theme I like less that displays the sidebar,
or 3.) sacrifice $30 (and the freedom of not having to think about anything technical) to purchase a custom upgrade and make everything the way I want it.
What do you think? What’s most important here? Do you have any other suggestions, or know of anything I’ve missed? I was able to add a “Follow Blog Via Email” thing at the bottom of the page that shows on individual posts, but to me that doesn’t seem like enough. Here’s a screenshot of the second-best theme I’ve found that meets my requirements. I don’t like it, it doesn’t make me as happy, but is that even a big deal for any of you readers?