The Kickass-ness of the WordPress Default Theme


If you’re reading this post via a RSS Reader (don’t forget to subscribe!) then you don’t have to jump to the actual blog post as you’re not missing anything much, especially if you’re familiar with the Twenty Twelve default WordPress theme, but here’s the gist: I’ve changed the look of my blog… again.

Yes, yes. It’s only been less then a few months since my last redesign and I’m already moving on; or, I suppose I’m moving back.

Instead of a custom design that I’ve put together myself (or my previous team) I’ve opted to use one of the default themes that comes pre-installed when you download the self-hosted version of WordPress.

But especially now I feel like this is not just the best choice for me but also the only choice that I can honestly make and here’s why:

The Integrity of My Message

I firmly believe that everyone should become a writer in whatever unique way that they’ve been created. I’m not saying that you need to become a writer in a full-time capacity but rather that you should systematically spend time putting thoughts down on paper and learning how to generally communicate better. 

I have shared my own personal manifesto (of sorts) as to why I blog but I believe the value that I’ve found is universal – that you can become a better communicator, a more fluent thinker, and even improve your own personal brand as an outcause. In short, there are so many positive thing that can come from you publicly publishing your thoughts and experiencing what it’s like to receive critique and response.

But more than that I believe that your message and the actual content itself is vastly more important than the presentation layer that surrounds it. In other words, I believe that the design of your blog needs to take a significant backseat to your writing. Unfortunately, most people get hung up on the design aspect of their blog and never get to actual writing. That’s nothing short of tragedy.

I’ve shared countless times both here on this blog as well as publicly in talks that I’ve given and individual coaching sessions that you must remove all barriers between you and the “Publish” button. Everything else is secondary; more than that, it’s not even worth thinking about if it stops you from publishing your thoughts. Remove it, get rid of it, abandon it at all costs.

For the life of my public writing I have painstakingly considered the presentation layer at every turn and labored significantly to design an attractive blog that would complement my writing. I know what it’s like to sink hundreds of hours trying to find that “perfect theme” or even building my own from scratch.

But I realized that it’s harming the integrity of my core message and that I must follow my own belief structure so that I can encourage the most people. If I really believe that design plays second fiddle to the content then I want to embody that as fully as I possibly can. In doing so I can not just “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.”

Thus, it was only appropriate that I install and use one of the WordPress Themes that come out of the box and disregard design entirely. It fits and feels really good and even though I’ve been doing this for so long I can breathe a very refreshing sigh of relief knowing that not a single minute of my day needs to be spent on design considerations for my writing.

There’s Always Room for Simplification

In addition, I’m entering a new period and season of my life and one that’s exciting and a bit scary. In addition to scaling my current venture, Pressgram, I’ve shared some big personal news about my Autism recently that’s also very exciting and very, very scary. I’ve also been scaling back my global technology usage in all areas (especially reconsidering my use of Twitter) and I have realized that the ratio of signal to noise is still too wide.

Consequently I wanted to simplify my life even more and continue to reduce the cognitive dissonance that I have in every facet of my life. I bet you could use a little simplification as well.

Technologically-speaking, what’s nice with this design change is that it’s from a trustworthy source and it continues to be updated by the core WordPress Theme Team. Even though I have a history of building my own themes and am very comfortable with doing so I feel that it’s one more thing that I can remove from my plate and reduce the responsibility of keeping my own theme up-to-date.

Design-wise, as well, the presentation layer is as simple as it comes with a 2-column approach and minimal aesthetic distraction. It harkens back to the original aesthetic that I fell in love with when I first started blogging on a classically-understood web-based CMS and when I boil it all down I honestly discover that I don’t need much more than this.

And, I’m not fond of the Twenty Thirteen or the upcoming Twenty Fourteen theme either, but that’s just personal preference more than anything.

A Clear and Focused View of the Future

Something I do consistently is make sure that whenever I start something new I really try to start fresh without much baggage from the previous season, or as much as I can try. Moving to this new design allows me to fully disengage myself from a previous life that was surrounded by WordPress Themes – I mean, sheesh, I started a “premium” WordPress Theme business!

And although I loved that season and I still love WordPress (naturally) this allows me a very-much needed clean “break” from that life and allows me to focus on what’s coming up ahead.

In addition, I spend an inordinate amount of time developing software right now and it’s really the last thing I want to do after a long day than to jump back into another environment and tweak and build my blogging theme. I’m just exhausted by that point and this allows me to not think twice about it and just do the good work where I need it done.

But the neatest thing that happens when you clear out the “old” and make way for the “new” is that you’re in the best place emotionally to entertain new opportunities, one’s that you did not know were on the horizon nor were you even aware of as a possibility in its own right.

Life is really funny like that but it seems to be a principle that often works; as you explicitly make room for newness (even if you don’t know what that “newness” is) you allow those things to magically happen. I could use a bit of “magic” in my life right about now.

One Part Contrarian, Two Parts Rebel

Of course, there’s something that’s really cool about going left whenever everyone else is going right. I do not consider myself a complete contrarian but I do enjoy doing things differently. When the world is obsessed with the design-layer of your blog theme I am challenged to think differently about it and see if what I’m doing is as effective as I believe it to be.

I like the freshness of an old design, a mainstay of the WordPress design aesthetic, and I like to represent it well. Call me a rebel or just call me a blogger who doesn’t give shit about design; I’ll take both.

So there you have it. There’s nothing new to see here but at least you know a little more about the “why” about my hat-tip to nostalgia.