Blogging 101: Love Your Theme

cropped-fancy33.jpgToday’s assignment: try out at least three other themes — even if you’re happy with the one you first chose. Try one you’re drawn to, and one you would never use. (From Blogging 101)

Again, I have to skip, because I did that when I started this blog. I love trying out themes and playing around with the options the different layouts offer. I played with the themes again when I did the branding exercise for Creativity, Innovation and Change. And so, today, I shall chat about why I chose the theme I use, and what will take up much of my time over the next few weeks. Because something happened which may be insignificant to you, but is very uplifting and encouraging to me.

My mood is very good today, so is my self-esteem, because I was asked (as many other well-performing students were) if I wanted to help out as a Community TA on Duke’s next English Composition I online course on coursera.

My first thought was: no way, I’m far too busy. But then the thought haunted me. I love these free online courses, I like to give something back. I slaved my way through the course in early summer of this year, had much fun and met interesting people on the way. And some of them got the invitation, too. They were also debating themselves, but long story short: all three of us applied, were accepted and come Monday we shall explore the deeper secrets of the mysterious coursera monster. It takes some shuffling of focus, but most other courses can be repeated and maybe, just maybe, I had signed up for too many of them anyway.

I never knew how much fun learning in a group could be, and how rewarding. Isn’t that quite the contradiction? When we read about online learning, we usually imagine someone isolated in a half-dark room, dimly lit by their computer screen, trying to make their way through the course material and only interacting with the machines. Not so. All the online courses I’ve seen so far offer the option of discussion with peers, TAs and sometimes staff. It is up to the learner how much she or he uses that option. It can be a very social and enjoyable experience. And, I hope, helping as a CTA will be similarly enjoyable.

Now to the theme. When I chose a theme, I want to express myself, show what the blog or site is about, and have it fit into a design that is easy to maintain, easy to read and pleasant on the eye. Font, images, colours, side-bars, widgets, all this is important to me.

But even more important is the way the readers experience the site. Browsers display fonts differently. People have varying eye-sight, some people are color-blind. The author of a site needs to consider these factors. If you want your readers to stay and read, they shouldn’t have a headache after reading three paragraphs. And they should find their way around the site easily, that’s why I like sidebars and categories.

The theme TwentyEleven is giving me everything I want. At the moment I am not willing to pay for a theme or customization, since I am not certain if this blogging thing is something I can follow through with the way I’ve planned it. Maybe someone says something nasty and I lose my drive. Maybe I can’t keep up with my posting schedule, maybe this, maybe that… And so it is a free theme for now. The only thing that bugs me is the grey bar on top of the header image, which I could only remove if I paid for the customization. And so it stays for now.

Apart from trying themes often, I found that looking at what other people did with the themes offered can be most inspiring. That’s why I’m thankful for today’s assignment: many people ask for feedback and you get to visit their blogs and look at the interesting ideas they came up with. Unfortunately this is also eating up a lot of time. And that’s why I’m getting to an end now, before you, dear reader, fall asleep.

Fitting in with my theme, I’ll give you a link to Alexander Gerst’s Flickr account. Alexander is a German astronaut who currently works on the ISS and every day posts the most marvellous views from orbit on the little blue bubble in space that is the only home we all have. Enjoy his site and follow him on facebook or g+ if you’re so inclined.
This post has been brought to you with far too much passive voice. Oh dear…

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