It happens every so often. Time for a new look on the blog. Most of the redesigns are hand-coded but not this one. I decided to use a commercial WordPress theme: Thesis.
It takes a lot of time and effort to build a WordPress theme from scratch. Most of the effort is in coding the CSS and getting all of the page elements to work out — column widths, typography, image handling, color. Thesis allows me to design from within the admin panel without using text editors and ftp tools. I can quickly and easily change design elements on the fly and not have to worry about a lot of coding.
When I build my own theme, I am the only person using that theme. Not much of a community. There are roughly 40,000 users on Thesis and the community is quite vibrant. Good support material and responsive online support.
I am not a full-time web developer or web designer. I keenly follow design trends and I enjoy learning about the finer details of things like CSS and PHP. But it is a fast moving space and it is much more effective to leverage the talent of the community and focus on the reason for the blog in the first place: staying in touch with family and friends. Using a commercial theme will keep me current on the WordPress platform and allow me to leverage new features and capabilities.
I can still manage my online brand through a commercial platform like Thesis. I can still decide on the layout, typography, color, images — in effect I am still producing a unique design for the site. For this refresh, I decided to go more towards the minimalist approach and to simplify.