Choosing a theme…

wordpress_logoThis was probably the most difficult part of my process to this point. How did I want to present the information the police department was going to put out.

I knew a standard “blog” format was not going to work. There just wasn’t going to be enough information flowing out to support that format. What I consider a standard “blog” format is like this site. A column with articles and a column or two on the side with links, quick static information and such. The keyword is columns.

Magazine formats were probably the way to go but which one? There are numerous ones out there that look sharp. There were a couple of stumbling blocks however.

  • Ease of setup – It had to be easy to set up
  • Ease of maintenance – It had to be easy to maintain. Man hours needed to be at the absolute minimum
  • Ease of posting – This was crucial since I was going to ultimately rely on non-tech types to post their own information on the site

The other “hitch” came when it came to purchasing the theme. Municipalities generally operate on a purchase order type system. Internally, we would process the paperwork or request and generate the purchase order. The PO would then be sent to the vendor who would send the product out. Once the product was received with an invoice, the PO would then be paid and the vendor would receive his/her check.

The problem is, most vendors in this field are guys who work at “real jobs” during the day and design themes in the evening. Some may have actual business licenses. Few, have filed W9 forms with the government and have an assigned TAX ID number (besides their SSN). These things are required, at least for my purchasing department to produce a purchase order.

I had narrowed the field down to three different themes. I knew I was going to use one of them, just didn’t know which one. I contact the three vendors via email. Since none of the themes were available for testing, I asked them if I could have the full version to set up and test, based on my word that we wouldn’t go “live” with the site until they were paid. They all agreed and sent me the appropriate files.

I ran through the testing on each theme. Updating articles, modifying the core files a little bit and basically going through a complete set up on each one.

Setting up a magazine theme is quite a bit more intensive that setting up a standard blog theme. Most blog themes you simply upload them, make a few quick changes to the content on the sidebars and you are up and running. I have changed the theme of this blog at least 5 times since I started writing it.

Magazine themes on the other hand use common functions of WordPress in uncommon ways. Categories, pages and articles all display in non-blog like fashion on the site.

To close this particular installment out, I will say that I settled on Brian Gardner’s Revolution Magazine theme. This theme is no longer available but he has many new themes available at http://www.revolutiontwo.com. I personally can not recommend his products high enough.

As an additional note, when I began talking with Brian about payment for the theme, he sent me an email donating it to the police department. No charge. Very gracious and professional man to deal with. Again, I personally can’t recommend him high enough.

The other vendor I dealt with was Nathan Rice. Same thing. Professional and very gracious young man with a lot of talent. He has designed many many themes, both premium and free for WordPress and the blogging community. The only reason his Proximity Theme didn’t get chosen for that application was because it was just a wee bit trickier to set up. Not bad. Quite easy for me. But the next guy that comes along… In fact, I liked the theme so much when Nathan offered a midnight Twitter sale (ask me about this); I jumped on the opportunity to purchase the theme for my personal use. You can see it in action (slightly tweaked from the original) at my Scott’s Morning Brew blog.    Note:  I have reverted back to a regular blog style theme on my personal site.

Choose your theme carefully.  You don’t want it to be a chore to get a new article up, but you want it to be flashy enough on the front end to draw visitor’s attention…  and hold it.

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