Blank Slate

Daring Fireball: Blank Slate talks about basing your work off a template vs. starting from scratch. I think both can be valid, there are enough (over 1000) WP templates out there that finding one that’s close enough to what you want and customizing from there can be a great way to bootstrap and get started quickly. But longer term, invest in design. (This reminded me I have a long todo list for this site to catch up with.)

9 thoughts on “Blank Slate

  1. Whilst I agree, to a point – the entire article John reference’s is based on an assumption that wordpress is easy to spot and by inference that everyone should be a pixel-pushing savant.

    It misses the point that what we view, is based around XHTML and CSS, which can be pushed into amazing shapes – who built the underlying engine becomes somewhat redundant.

    And really, RSS readers tend to mask any design flaws.. 😉

  2. I agree and disagree as well.

    There are indeed thousands of amazing templates but you get to a point where you don’t really want to look like a template.

    My site, for example, is unique in and of itself. Completely designed from the ground up, there’s no template backend to it.

    Other sites I’ve made though, yes, they are a template and I’m ok with that. Some sites I just prefer to be unique, exclusively.

  3. Um, you understand that the article isn’t talking about designing anything for WordPress? The author even says that they’ve never investigated WordPress, and some other points are a bit off base, though interesting. Just very “WordPress-helpful”, IMHO.

  4. It is good to have your own style, but it is not good idea to be much different than the other blogs.

    I know users mentality: they like to see something different, as a look (view), but not different as usability.

    To make a template for WP that is completely different is risky.
    Take for instance this web site: no side bar… oh dear, now I have to explore all the top buttons, and go to the top always when I want to move on other page…
    Short side bar: why the hell this man does not use the empty space for giving me some more accessibility.
    Too many columns: what now? do I have to waste my time for exploring menus.

    Think as a user, not as CLEVER designer.

  5. Customising existing templates is a case of simple economics for most of us. While getting a bespoke design would be lovely, few of us have the skills or want to invest the money to pay a designer.

    Visual branding *is* important but people with design skills often overlook how challenging good design is to mere mortals just as geeks overlook how technically challenging some aspects of blogging can be.

  6. I’m one of those who has a decent eye for design, but without the chops to work at the bits and bytes level of the execution. So I go for the best system of templates I can find and am learning to push them. I’ve done WP, Squarespace, Blogger and some time with Six Apart. Hardly exhaustive. On this site, if you were not choosing to pitch WP, I don’t think I’d know that it was necessarily that engine behind it. But I would know it was some engine. The dead giveaway is the inability, in any of them that I’ve found, to change the top header from page to page. Not sure why that has been off limits. Your design of the top is elegant and inviting to be sure. But after a few page looks, it can get old, or just too much for the page. Mine do as well. Perhaps such a feature can get into the design conversation. It seems such a natural design option, given how print has worked for a zillion years.

  7. This is the very topic of my first post on my new WP site, just a few days ago. I did some web design back in the day (i.e. 6-7 years ago), learned HTML, and was getting comfortable in CSS, when I landed a series of print design gigs that found me abandoning the web.

    I chose WP as the platform for my blog, in large part because I would be forced to refamiliarize myself with CSS, and learn some PHP skills (but mostly because of the community that has sprung up around WP). Still, I wanted to get a site up, and intend to make it the same way I did my first HTML sites many years ago – start with a template, and modify elements until a desired effect is achieved. For me, creating a design from scratch is the easy part, realizing it via PHP and WP’s structure makes it necessary for me to take the approach that I am. By the time I get the design I want, I should be able to “start from scratch”.

  8. Having done a few totally custom site designs on WordPress (see my Powered by WordPress post), the one suggestion I’d make is that it’s be nice if WordPress came with a “blank slate” set of templates, not unlike the way Apache httpd.conf files start out.

    So, the blank slate templates would included all of the functional features is minimal and generic HTML, with no CSS, and good inline comments. Anything beyond basic features could be commented out to start with.

    IMO, the hardest part about customizing any CMS / blog engine templates is figuring out what block of code does what, and (especially) what are things that can be removed from any template file. That, and knowing which templates are producing which pages (e.g., in WP, am I looking at archive.php or index.php right now?).