My Madison Bistro Gets a Makeover

by Sara on August 20, 2009

The worst feeling is knowing exactly what you want but being unable to find it anywhere. This calamity has happened to me a few times over the past decade of my life, the most recent case involving a search for dinnerware. I could have drawn you a sketch of what I wanted the plates, bowls, and mugs to look like. But no, I could not find my vision anywhere.

Instead, I now have four sets of dishes.

Over the past few months, I’ve felt that familiar stirring of wanting a change, only this time, my blog was the target. Again, I could envision exactly what I wanted, but I didn’t have the budget or patience to hire someone to design and code it for me. Reading some of the horror stories out there certainly didn’t help.

So I started playing around with my free theme and started looking to see what else was out there. I figured I’d have to customize whatever I found, but I was okay with that. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much, and whatever I did find hadn’t been updated in a long, long time. I didn’t want to be relegated to an ancient version of WordPress, all because of my theme.

During my search, I kept coming across this theme called Thesis. Everyone who had it seemed to love it, as they kept talking about how easy it was to customize. I looked at various blogs with an install of Thesis; some had definite similarities (which I expected, considering the starting point, design-wise, was the same…and we are not all masters of coding), but some looking nothing like the out of the box product.

What especially intrigued me was the “updates for life” guarantee that came with the theme. I worked in software sales for close to a decade, and I preached the importance of an update plan to all of my clients. Hell, with my previous theme, I learned first-hand how things would no longer work once I upgraded WordPress. It wasn’t the designer’s fault – I’m very grateful to her for providing themes free of charge – but she simply didn’t have time to continually update themes she provided at no charge.

Finally, I took the plunge and bought Thesis. I’m not going to lie, the first two days were…a little trying. No longer was I modifying existing style sheets, where the code was laid out all nice and pretty for me, now I had to figure the code out myself!

Except I really didn’t have to. The folks in the support forums will help you with pretty much anything, and whatever you can’t find there, you’ll probably find on their own blogs. I found article after article describing how they wrote their code, so I could just kind of go back and modify what I wanted to, until I got the look I had envisioned all along. And what I couldn’t find on those sites, I found on a CSS coding site – everything I could possibly need, it was amazing.

I decided to write this very non-food related post because I know how long it took me to solve this theme dilemma, and I thought others might go through the same experience at some point. But within days, I’d gone from wondering what I got myself into, to being one to recommend this theme. I’m not going to lie – at first, I wondered if I had made a mistake, because the most complicated thing I’d programmed up to that point was my VCR (yes, I still have one but rarely use it, which is why I can never recall how to set the clock after the power goes out). But then I asked myself, where could I possibly have paid $87 to get a new look for my site within a couple of days?

What’s really cool about Thesis is that all of your customizations go on one custom style sheet, you don’t touch any of the other code. So really, it’s kind of hard to break, because you can always just delete whatever your previous customization was. Thesis also utilizes a series of “hooks,” which I had trouble wrapping my brain around at first, but basically means you can enter a very simple command to say where you want to place something. I used a simple hook to indicate that I wanted to use my own header, and then indicated where I wanted the header to go. Same thing for my navigation menu bar below the header. Once I actually “got it,” it was the coolest thing I’d seen in a long time, because it made my life so much easier!

If this post was at all helpful to you, and if you should decide to give this theme a try, you can click on that “pretty” little yellow square (I hope you caught the sarcasm – while the yellow is very noticeable, it’s not very nice to look at) over on the right side of the page. I do need to let you know that if you click on the link from my site, I do get a referral fee, but your price remains the same regardless of where you purchase the theme. I’m so happy with my new theme, I wish more bloggers out there could have received the referral due to my purchase, because they were instrumental in letting me know what this theme could do, and with helping me to accomplish that.

If you have any questions about the theme or my experience with it, just drop me a note in the comments section. I hope you found this information to be useful!

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