Revisiting WP.com for my “Working and WordPress-ing” notes

It has been more than a year since I made my last post on this site. At the request of some dear friends, I thought I give the control panel of my site at WordPress.com another look to see if I can continue with my experiments.

I am quite pleased to find a number of niceties and functionalities.

1. On new themes: I counted five pages of 30 theme thumbnails per page. I am not sure if there are 150 themes in there as some of thumbnails keep repeating, but anyway, I found some beautiful themes and some, premium themes too (meaning, you need to pay to use the theme).

For a change, I decided to use Greyzed, a dark and grungy theme with drop-down menus and a widgetized footer. (Updated: 2011-09-29: What you are viewing now is a Rusty Grunge by Chris Wallace. I will write in my next post why I dropped Greyzed – after only a day!)

2. In the editing page, there is now a “Writing Helper” which allows you to use an existing post as a template and Request Feedback for getting feedback on your draft before publishing. (It’s good that the Share A Draft plugin for self-hosted blogs had been ported to WordPress.com.)

3. Also under Appearance panel, there is “iPad” which when activated displays “a beautiful app-like experience to visitors browsing with an iPad.

4. Under Appearance, there is also this “Extras” which you can switch on or off by simply clicking on “Update Extras” for your selected option. If activated, your blog will be displayed with a mobile theme when viewed with a mobile browser.

Obviously, this is an alternate to “iPad” for viewers who do not use an iPad like me.

5. Under Settings, there is “Webhooks” which I passed over as I am not into “hooks” yet. (Perhaps, later.)

6. Under Widgets, I found a number of new apps. Depending on which theme you use, you can put these widgets to enhance the appearance and functionality of your blog. From memory, these are the new widgets: Facebook Like box, Flickr (or has this been there since last year?), Twitter (I am sure this was not there before because I even posted “How to twitter your WP.com post”), Vodpod videos, del.icio.us, and Authors for multi-author site, obviously.

These are my impressions. I will probably have a closer look at some of the recent changes to WP.com so I can share my observations with you. Meanwhile, it would be great if you can start exchanging notes with us by sharing your impressions and comments.

Changing themes is part of the exercise

romyc-wordpress-gridFor those who were following me from day one, 10 days ago, you would have noticed a big change in this site.

Yes, I am using Sadish’s MistyLook, except for the header image which I customized using other themes images. Not that there was something wrong with Derek Punsalan’s Grid Focus theme. In fact, it is one of my favorites for other self-hosted sites. I switched to a new theme as part of the exercise. I wanted to have a feel of how it is to “re-skin a blog” at WordPress.com.

Well, it was not that difficult after all. It took me only about 10 minutes to move to a different theme and re-set the widgets to display the same information.

Next time our friends ask me how it is to blog at WordPress.com, this is one story I can tell them.

By the way, is this theme XHTML 1.0 validated? I did check it and it is.

Updated 13 October: Experimenting with INove by mg12.

How to select a WordPress theme

After successfully logging in to my account (and responding to a prompt to change my system-generated password in the profile page), my first task is to select a theme.

Others would probably start entering a post but me, I just want to make sure that I have the right design for me to proceed with my blog. I don’t know about you but having the right theme somehow sets the mood of my blog.

To select a theme in a WordPress.com-hosted blog, step into the following:

Step 1: Select Appearance > Themes on the left panel of your dashboard.

WordPress themes

WordPress themes

Step 2: Browse over the 76 themes (that’s the number of themes as of to date).

NOTE: Unlike in a self-hosted blog, you have only very limited options to change the layout and looks of the theme. But still, you can customise the theme. For my blog at WordPress.com, I chose Grid Focus by Derek Punsalan as it is the closest to my self-hosted blog in terms of layout and design.

Step 3: Press the Activate link to select the theme you like.

You can change the theme anytime you want. Whilst the Preview mode will give you an idea of how your blog would look like, still I prefer to actually Activate it so I can run other tests which I will explain in subsequent posts.

Try other themes repeating Steps 2 and 3 until you find the right theme which reflects your writing style, content and aesthetic preference.

That’s all there is.

Updated October 22: I have changed themes twice already after this post. Current I am experimenting with NeoEase’s Inove WP theme.

How to blog at WordPress.com

For the last few five years or so, we have been using WordPress as a blog platform or a CMS in most of our websites. Being an open-source, we can tap onto the creative and ingenuous works of WordPress community of bloggers, developers and designers to produce easy-to-manage websites.

As a result of our 24/7 encounters with WordPress, we have developed a knowledge base of information on how to select themes, install plugins and other customisation works which we are sharing with others with self-hosted blogs.

The expert-information needs of those with blogs hosted at WordPress.com however are different. Compared with self-hosted blogs, WordPress.com-hosted blogs are understandably restricted when it comes to design customization and plugins installation and usages.

It is in this light that we have created a blog at WordPress. Hopefully, we should be able to get a better understanding of how to run a blog at WordPress.com from which we can help our friends on how they can best maximize and optimize their blogging efforts at WordPress.

Our next entry: How to select a WordPress theme

Updated 22 October 2009: After this first entry, we have posted 15 other observations on how to blog at WordPress.com. Thanks to those who have sent their feedback using the comments box in this site or through our private email.

Updated 11 November 2009: Upon the request of some friends, we have re-published this and other articles in A Matter of Sharing | How to blog at WordPress.com