Until last spring, I used a designer for my websites who would interpret my vague descriptions of what I wanted for my site. She was really good at taking the bare specifics that I offered and translating them into a design. However, she’s not really designing anymore, and my work has changed substantially. I’ve been doing some very basic design work for a few years — designing pages and formatting articles. And I understand how things work on the back end.
So when I went to design Sarah by the Sea, I decided to do things differently. Instead of a web designer, a good friend who is an artist and a graphic designer designed the logo. And for the format, I decided to try doing it myself. But since this is my first attempt at customizing a site like this, I decided to go with a free theme with lots of room for personalization. Though there are many user-friendly paid themes and frameworks out there, I wasn’t ready for the commitment of a paid theme. So after lots of researching and digging through free themes, I found Presswork.
Presswork is available through WordPress’s built-in theme download interface so it’s a cinch to find, install and try.
The Pros: Though Presswork is a free theme, it has a lot of opportunities for personalization. You can choose one, two or three columns. You can change the column sizes. The colors throughout the design can be changed at will. There are several font options for both titles and text and you can control the text size. The page elements can be moved around within the framework of the design (there’s a drag and drop interface to do so!). And the header/logo banner can be easily changed.
On the whole, this is pretty user friendly. With a little hands-on learning, you can figure out how to tweak this design to fit your site’s needs and make it fit your desired color scheme.
The Cons: There are limits, as is to be expected. Though you can move the parts around, you can’t really customize where they sit on the page. I would love to inch my header up more and to push the navigation bars closer to it. I’d also love to have more font choices (particularly from the standards — like Helvetica). Also, I found the customization to be a little buggy when I was attempting to switch between headers, which was somewhat annoying but resolvable with some refreshing.
The Bottom Line: If you want to dip your toes into the concept of designing your own site without incurring the cost, try Presswork. With it’s a user-friendly interface and good amount of customizing options (for a free theme), it’s a great introduction to the wonderful world of DIY WordPress themes. However, overall Presswork is still pretty basic and will likely result in the seeking out of more powerful (and not free) themes and frameworks.
Disclosure: I am not being compensated for this post or for talking about Presswork. All opinions are my own.