WordPress.com photoblogging themes reviewed

When searching for a theme for my photography blog, I tried many different themes. I will not review every photoblogging theme WordPress makes, but here are my thoughts on the ones I tried:

  • AutoFocus is only good for posts with featured images, and even then the images are cropped in ways that make them unrecognizable. No post formats, I guess. No bylines on front and results pages, either.
  • Ideation & Intent is great for photoblogs, but not much else, because who wants to have a sidebar called Photos if you don’t have a lot of photos? It does show bylines on main navigation. It has no post formats, but if all you post is photos, that’s fine. Colorful and clean with the orange and blue text on white background, and very image rich. I love it for my photoblog.
  • Mixfolio is only good if you have featured images for every post; otherwise, you get a black rectangle that says “Featured Image Missing” on each preview on front and results pages.
  • Petite Melodies only looks good if you have featured images for every post. It shows no bylines in navigation page. It has no post formats.
  • Portfolio (a Premium theme) has all kinds of customization options, bylines, and no post formats.
  • Vintage camera has no bylines and no post formats.
  • Yoko shows no bylines in front page and results pages — except for on image and video posts! — but has post formats gallery, image, video, aside, link and quotes. I’m using it for my singing and signing blog, which is mostly videos.

WordPress.com themes that display author bylines

Update:

This post is superseded by Blog 2014: Free WordPress themes that display bylines.


Original Post:

(You can skip to my findings if you like.)

To get the best search results for your blog, you will want to verify authorship with Google. Google requires web pages to have bylines such as “By Daniel Greene” or “Posted by Daniel Greene” to verify authorship. If you want to verify authorship of your whole blog, you need to have your byline on the front page. When I went to sign up for authorship, Google showed me that some of my blogs did not show my byline. I soon realized it was due to the themes on each blog. I found that by changing the theme to one that showed my byline, I was able to get Google to verify my authorship. That’s when I started trying out various themes to see which ones showed bylines.

After some random trials, I decided to search for existing knowledge. One blog post titled WordPress.com Changes Bylines for Authors said of WordPress.com, “bylines will only display now if there are at least two authors who both have at least one published post in the blog” (timethief, 2012). The author cited a WordPress.com News post titled More Custom Headers, Color Schemes, & Theme Improvements (Steward, 2011). I read it and I saw nothing in that post about displaying bylines. Another blog post titled Author and profile displayed or not (Panos, 2009, 2011) had a detailed list of themes up to December 2011. Since timethief’s findings did not match my own, and since Panos’ list did not include any themes from 2012 — a prolific year for the WordPress.com theme team! — I compiled a list of my own.

The way I found out which themes showed bylines and which did not was to preview themes on my main blog, danielgreene.com. Starting on the front page, I looked for a byline at the top of the first post on the front page and at the bottom of the post where some of the themes put the byline. When I found no byline at either the top or bottom of the first post on the front page, I clicked on the title of the second post to see if the byline showed on the post page. In most cases, themes that didn’t show bylines on the front page did show bylines on the post page, but a few themes showed bylines nowhere. Here is where the (free, not Premium) WordPress.com themes of 2012 (up to September) display and don’t display bylines:

Front page and post page

  • Able
  • Grisaille
  • Ideation & Intent
  • Origin
  • Blaskan
  • San Kloud
  • Retro-fitted

Post page only

  • Sight
  • Ever After
  • Lovebirds
  • Balloons
  • The Columnist
  • Yoko
  • Skylark
  • Oxygen
  • Ari
  • Sunspot
  • Sundance

Neither front page nor post page

  • Mixfolio
  • Triton Lite
  • Twenty Twelve
  • Vintage Camera

Please comment if this was helpful or if you got different results than I did.

Why I split my eclectic blog into five specialized blogs

For 16 years, I tried to combine my personal and professional lives into one blog (“website” for the first 10 years). I combined my various professions into that one blog, too. It got so broad and wide-ranging I called it Daniel Greene’s Blog-o-rama. Why did I do this? I figured I was a Renaissance man and I should embrace it. Why splinter myself? I wanted integrity. Also, when I created my website in 1996, it was all I could do to write the HTML and CSS for the pages on that site. Then, even when I transformed my site into a blog in 2006, it wasn’t  easy to maintain more than one blog. Over the years, however, blogging platforms like WordPress have made it easy to create any number of blogs and manage them all in one place.

A number of factors led me to split my blog into several blogs. One motivation was that I found a blog called StreetLeverage focused solely on interpreting. There is nothing personal about the blog; it is written by several bloggers, and is purely professional. It began publishing in August 2011, and it seemed to be having great success by the time I found out about it in February 2012. I felt a twinge of healthy competition, because I wanted danielgreene.com to be seen as a professional blog about interpreting and translation, and I realized I needed to change things to make that happen. I wanted people to be able to follow my blog, never having to be put off by irrelevant posts. In order to draw people to my blog as a professional resource, I realized there had to be a greater draw than just me and my name. As a friend and colleague of mine told me:

I read your blog because I am interested in you — because I know you. I don’t mind if you write about interpreting and photography and singing and technology and personal things, because those are all activities that make up you. But I read blogs like streetleverage because I know that every time I read it, it will be about interpreting. I know I can count on it to be about one thing. If I didn’t know you, and I saw your blog posts on things other than interpreting, I would probably stop following.

Knowing that I wanted my professional blog to be focused and credible, I registered the domain terptrans.com and renamed my blog TerpTrans. DanielGreene.com is the same blog; the URL just resolves to TerpTrans. Now my blog is specialized and professional, and all of my non-interpreting content is on other specialized blogs. I put all my photography onto photography.danielgreene.com, all my singing and signing videos onto singingandsigning.danielgreene.com, all my communications & media articles onto messagesandmeans.danielgreene.com, and all my personal reflections onto beingreene.danielgreene.com. It’s not a matter of hiding things away; rather, it’s about giving the visitors to each blog an experience that is reliably consistent.

If I could give two words of advice to someone starting out blogging, I would say specialize; then diversify. If you want to write about a wide variety of things, start with one. Pick a good blogging platform such as WordPress that you can grow with. Focus your blog on one specialty and blog about that so you can create credibility and gather followers. Then, if you find yourself wanting to write about more than one thing, create another blog! It’s easy and free (and domain names are reasonable too). Take it from someone who lumped everything into one blog for 16 years — it makes more sense to specialize. Each of my blogs is now earning a following of people interested in the subjects I write about, and I am finding communities of others who write about the same things. It is better to diversify than amalgamate.