Wordpress advice?

8 years ago | D. D. Webb (Member)

Hello all! The Gods are Bastards is nearing three months old, I've got a workable rhythm going in terms of writing and updates, and I'm starting to get more viewers now that it's listed here on WFG. So, I'm looking to start improving my site design, and seeking a little advice!

As you can see from the link above, the current site is what I'd consider bare bones. Not fugly, not outstanding, and doesn't really do much to compliment the story. I've got a custom-made header, but that's about all; it took me all of an hour to throw together, and most of that was searching around for a copyright-free image I could use. Of course, there are very successful serials out there with sites that are similarly utilitarian, but on the other hand there's the likes of Twisted Cogs, which I personally consider the gold standard in terms of site design among the webserials I follow. If I recall my bioblurbs correctly, though, Maddirose is actually a web designer, so that should surprise no one. I'm not looking for anything that ambitious, but I am an artist with some experience in graphic design, and my current site does not satisfy me.

So! Eventually I intend to work up my own art for buttons and such, but for the time being I'm sort of handicapped in terms of the Wordpress theme I'm using. Looking at their themes list is a truly daunting prospect; there are so many, and I don't know exactly what I'd be looking for, much less how to find it. Thus, I'm asking for recommendations for a new theme, from those of you who have Wordpress experience.

Basically, I'm looking for something with maximum versatility and moddability that (ideally) doesn't impose costs for taking advantage of its features. At present I'm using the Twenty Thirteen theme, which is clean and fairly versatile, but I do not like its color settings. You can only pick from a limited number of preset color schemes--and only two of those before you have to pay $30 a pop for another preset, unalterable color palette, which I'd consider the very definition of a bad deal.

Here's the basics of what I'm after:

1. Complete color control. I'd like to be able to set specific colors for everything, separately, and not be tied down to one preset color scheme.

2. Widespread image use. Header and background, yes, but ideally the capacity to add images to just about anything. As I said, I'd like to make my own buttons for everything, and I see a pretty simple way to do that with widgets, but not the navigation bar at the top of the page. This is less important; I may decide not to go that route anyway, if the design starts to look too busy. But it's something I'd like to explore.

3. Low (ideally no) cost. I'm all for supporting web developers, but I am a starving artist in all but the most literal sense. Even buying a Wordpress domain name to make my site ad-free is currently above my means; I'm in no position to pay for site design buffs.

And if any more experienced authors or artists can think of important considerations I've missed, I'd be glad to hear it! I've not made a website of any kind in so many years (and it was in such a different venue) that what little rusty knowledge I have isn't even applicable anymore.

Thanks, all!

The Gods are Bastards Cowboys! Demons! Elves!

Read responses...


  1. Khronosabre (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    First question: do you know any CSS at all?

    If you want to break away from preset color schemes and replace buttons and add images anywhere you like, I'm fairly certain CSS is the only way to do it. I've never come across a Wordpress theme that had that detailed of a backend. Custom site needs customized CSS.

    The good news is that CSS is really easy to learn, if you don't already know it. Heck I learned the basics from Neopets over a decade ago. There are plenty of resources out there and especially if all you're doing is replacing a few things that already exist and sit where you want them, you can find any line of code you need already laid out for you. The bad news is that to edit your Wordpress CSS, you're gonna have to shell out for either your own hosting (and then simply edit the stylesheet in your directory) or Wordpress premium or whatever that thing is.

    As far as I know, to get what you really want, that's the only way to do it. Although, when we first launched Caelum Lex and I was too strapped on time writing to fully design the site, I was using a theme called Pagelines (https://wordpress.org/themes/pagelines) which had a LOT of options as well as some code input, but it was just restrictive enough to drive me absolutely nuts to the point I ended up just writing my own child theme from scratch. I had an unpleasant experience with it, but if it's just simple color changing you're looking for, it could be worth checking out.

    (PS the kerning between the T and the A on Bastards in your header is a little wide. Feel free to ignore this, it's just a pet peeve hahah it looks great otherwise!)

  2. Fiona Gregory (Moderator)

    Posted 8 years ago

    I think it's a clever play on words. THE GODS ARE BAST ARDS. Bast= Egyptian cat goddess ARDS = Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. In other words, the gods are a cat's sneeze.

  3. D. D. Webb (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Wow, I'd never even noticed the kerneling... Now I can't unsee it, though. Dang.

    Anyhow, thanks for the input! It sounds like this whole business may be above and beyond the level of what I'm able to do at this point. I am gonna work up a new header anyway, however, still not really happy with the current one.

    The Gods are Bastards Cowboys! Demons! Elves!
  4. MaddiroseX (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    "Gold standard" oh stop you'll make me blush :)

    Your list of requirements was almost exactly the same as mine when I started Twisted Cogs: color customization, image usage, low cost (for me "low" meant "free"). I spent days combing through the themes available for free, and unfortunately came to the conclusion that it's just not in the cards. I ended up using some gross tricks to theme Twisted Cogs the way I did.

    I knew I wanted TC to "feel" tan/brown like parchment or an old map. If you'll notice, there's actually no color in the site at all that isn't drawn from the images. I'm using the "Modularity Lite" theme, which is essentially white text on a semi-transparent backing. All of the color comes from my header and from the background image.

    As far as using images for links, I'm actually still working on this one myself. I have a nice bonus-chapter-ticker graphic, some little gears and the like, that I know will get me a TON more clicks than my current static text, but haven't quite figured out how to use 'em yet.

    Honestly, for the amount of control you want (and I'm thinking more and more that *I* want too), the only solution is to host your own wordpress distribution. I'm not sure if anyone is interested in the step-by-step of that process, but there IS cost associated to it ($10-$50 depending on your host). What's stopping me right now is the fact that I'd have to move from "twistedcogs.wordpress.com" to "twistedcogs.com"; I'm not entirely sure how many readers I'd lose in that switch.

    Spurs & Seraphim (ongoing) | Beta Key (complete) | Twisted Cogs (complete) | Orbital Academy (complete)
  5. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 8 years ago

    I've got a half-finished Jekyll port of the theme I used for Winter Rain. Could finish it in two or three hours, if I had motivation (I was going to start writing again, but other projects have taken precedence). Jekyll lets you keep your content on your local disk as a directory of Markdown (text) files, then publish the formatted site to your webhost. I was planning on using Discus for comments. If any of you are interested, let me know and I'll get off my ass.

    @Maddirose: you should be able to configure twistedcogs.wordpress.com to redirect to twistedcogs.com, which would save you losing any readers.

  6. MaddiroseX (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    Huh, you're absolutely right Chris. It costs a $13 fee to do so, but that might very well be worth it. Thanks for the info!

    Spurs & Seraphim (ongoing) | Beta Key (complete) | Twisted Cogs (complete) | Orbital Academy (complete)
  7. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    I use a free theme called Builder for all of my serials I host. The main thing is, you WILL need your own host and domain for some of those controls you want, i believe.

    also, you need an rss link. ;)

  8. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 8 years ago

    holy double post batman


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