Custom CSS frustration
I’d had in mind that I might just merge the two, but it turns out that WordPress.com doesn’t offer the DNS flexibility that I needed, so that route was quickly backed out.
Next up was the tricky area of look and feel. WordPress.com has some great themes to choose from, but limits the kind of full customisation that you’d get from hosting your own WordPress for perfectly good security reasons (unless you’re a VIP blogger). To balance things up it offers the (paid for) option of Custom CSS so that you can get control over look and feel. You can start with any of the existing themes, or use the SandBox theme, which is essentially a blank piece of paper. I’d done a little CSS hacking before, though I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but trying to clone the look and feel of our web site turned into a miserable experience:
- Firstly the documentation is next to useless. There’s a forum dedicated to CSS, but just about everything in it leads to some condescending ‘CSS has a learning curve’ type comment. It seems that nobody has bothered to pull together a simple HowTo for newbies – this is how you get you logo in the header, this is what you should do if you want a sidebar on the right rather than the left etc. The best I did find was Mark’s Classic CSS explained.
- It didn’t take me long to trip over the WordPress Theme Generator, which is very neat, but turned out to be a bit useless as the themes it makes are for people doing their own WordPress hosting. It would be fantastic if such as tool existed to generate CSS to sit on top of SandBox, and frankly it’s a disgrace that WordPress.com don’t offer something like this to help people get started.
- It turns out that SandBox isn’t documented in a WordPress.com friendly manner. Or if it is then (as Douglas Adams might say) it’s ‘in the cellar, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard“‘. The best I could find was Lorelle’s all the styles for the SandBox theme – a dated list of what’s there, with essentially nothing to say how to use it. There’s lots of detail in the readme, and more on the project home page, but I must confess that this was hard to parse, and seemed to be intended once again for those making custom theme’s for their own servers rather than custom CSS for WordPress.com.
- I was mighty impressed by the SandBox theme competition, the results of which seemed to somewhat work when I tried them as Custom CSS, but I remained thwarted by simple things like column placement.
In the end I pretty much gave up. Having found that the Vigilance theme had almost all of the customisation I needed (thanks Drew) it was time to return to productivity rather than pain. Maybe I’ll cough up the $14.97/yr so that @clarkjch can have his favourite font, but then maybe not.
Filed under: blogging, could_do_better, grumble | 5 Comments
Tags: CSS, Custom CSS, SandBox, theme, WordPress, WordPress.com