WordPress is to blogging what Firefox is to browsing. WordPress has become one of the most chosen platforms in the blogging world because of its flexibility. Not only can you expand your self-hosted WordPress blog with the functionalities that you need with plugins, but you can also change the looks of your blog with themes.
There are literary thousands of themes out there. Most are free with the exception of premium themes. The amount of good themes are so much that it becomes difficult for us to choose just one. So, some of the WordPress users develop a habit of changing their blog themes every now and then in the quest of finding the perfect one.
Settling With The Settings to Customize Your WordPress Theme
Problem is, some themes need to be set to fit a specific need; something like displaying feature posts and changing the blog logo. Before those settings are done, the theme would not function/display properly.
That’s OK, actually, if you are the only one who reads your blog. But if you have regular visitors, they too will see the “temporary” imperfections. Repeated imperfections will annoy them and they might never come back. That’s why big blogs rarely change themes (and when they do, they have their own theme designer and sandbox to customize and test the WordPress themes beforehand).
So what can ordinary blog owners like us do to overcome these problems? Should we stick to only one theme for the rest of our blog life, or should we sacrifice our readers’ reading comfort for the sake of experiment?
You should not choose any of those choices. We can still have fun exploring all the available themes and experiment with them without having to disturb our loyal visitors.
Getting Tons Of Themes
WordPress installation comes with two default themes: Classic and Default. They are accessible via the “Appearance” menu.
You can easily add more if you like. Just click the “add New” button above.
Do the searching.
And install the one that you like.
Doing The Test Drive
After collecting many nice themes, the next logical step is to try them all on the blog to see which one fits best.
But before you do that, you should install and activate one plugin called “Theme Test Drive“. You can find and install this plugin right from your blog’s plugin page.
This plugin will allow you to safely test drive any theme on your blog as administrator, while visitors still use the default theme. You can even set the testing theme options in the Admin panel while you are testing the theme.
After installing and activating the plugin, you will get a new menu under “Appearance“.
Click on the link to go to the setting page. You will see that, similar to Plugin Central, Theme Test Drive allows you to install new themes from outside of WordPress Theme Gallery just by using the download URL.
Without the direct download ability, this process requires you to download the theme file first to your computer and then re-upload the file to your blog. If your internet connection is slow and the theme file size is large, the uploading process could be frustrating.
Now let’s go back to the topic. The first thing to do after you arrive at the Theme Test Drive setting page is to choose a theme that you want to test drive.
And enable it by clicking the “Enable Theme Drive” button.
You could also set the access level to determine who can modify the test drive theme. By default, the value is set to 10 (admin only).
After activating a theme to test drive, you will have the test drive theme’s option on the left sidebar, ready to be tinkered with.
To preview the test drive theme, you just simply add “?theme=xxx” (sans quote) to your blog URL, where “xxx” is the exact case-sensitive theme name. So if your blog URL is “http://www.yourblog.com” and the theme name is “XyZ”, the preview page would be “http://www.yourblog.com/?theme=XyZ”.
Open For Experiments
I personally think that the “Theme Test Drive” plugin is very useful for self-hosted WordPress blog owners who love to experiment with and customize new WordPress themes but don’t want to disturb their readers.
Do you change your WordPress theme often? Have you tried the Theme Test Drive plugin? Do you know other alternatives? Share using the comments below.