How I Customized Twenty Nineteen Theme

I’ve updated my blog theme.

I’d been using Konstantin Kovshenin’s Publish for a few years. I like the minimalist design and distraction-free reading.

But the theme is retired by WordPress now, and I don’t fully understand what that means in regard to Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0—whether the theme would still update appropriately. And apart from that, Publish is definitely not optimized for blocks, and I’m learning to love blocks.

So after doing some research, I decided to switch to Twenty Nineteen, which is brand new and optimized for WordPress 5.0 and the new block interface. It’s another minimalist design, but more reader-friendly, I think. And it’s really designed for longer-form content, which is something I think blogs need these days. Twitter and social media, generally, has really removed the need to post quick quotes or single-paragraph post to personal blogs. But then what’s a blog for? I think longer-form, “anchor” content from which your social media posts should emanate—that should form the foundation of whatever story your telling across your online profiles.

But I’m not a fan of some of the theme’s out-of-the-box features. White space is good, but not that much white space. Narrow columns are nice for reading, but not for informational, multi-column pages.

That said, here are some CSS customizations I made to my site—ones I think other users might be looking for, given the comments and questions I’ve seen on WordPress forums about this theme. I’m sharing here because I haven’t found many answers, or other resources, on customizing this theme.

Moving the Cover Image Up

First, I reduced the padding on the bottom of the site header. The stock theme just has too much white space between the header and the content—on a smaller screen (like my Dell XPS13), it’s too much scrolling. I think the theme’s creators agree, too, as they both did the same thing on their blogs.

Here’s the code to reduce the site header bottom padding:

.site-header {
padding-bottom: 0;
}

Increasing Page Width

As I mentioned above, the narrower columns in this theme are nice for reading. But they aren’t ideal for informational pages that include more than one column. I like multi-column pages, so I needed to increase the width of pages (not blog posts).

Here’s the code to do that:

body.page .entry .entry-content > *,
.entry .entry-summary > * {
max-width: none;
}

Removing Those Annoying Lines

Twenty Nineteen is a truly minimalist theme, but for whatever reason, the authors added these small divider lines above every blog post title and page title (see above Welcome in the screenshot to the right). I’m not sure why, as the huge, bold headers are more than sufficient to provide natural, intuitive-looking breaks in the content.

Here’s the code to remove those lines across all of your page titles and blog post titles (but not from the bottom of posts/above the author name, where I think the lines serve a bit more of a purpose):

.entry .entry-title:before {display:none;}

Changing the Font (i.e. what I couldn’t do)

I don’t like the theme’s font. It’s too serif. I want something a little more blocky. Like Minion or Georgia.

I tried to do this with the built-in theme customizer options, but the problem is that lots of this theme’s elements don’t answer to those commands. For example, none of my bulleted list were updating along with the paragraph text. Nor does (as expected) the site sub-title (which I’m not using now, but may want to use in the future). I suppose I can edit each individual block to match whatever font I choose, but that’s a pain.

Any thoughts on how to do this?

The future of social media is…

The future of social media is anti-social media. That is, self-hosted content that only you own and that only you can take down.

I had this thought while sitting in on a marketing panel at WordCamp Jacksonville last month. We discussed using social media to market digital services, and it brought to mind a client of mine who has one of the largest Facebook pages in the world, but can claim only the login credentials for this page as an asset. The page itself is owned by Facebook, who reserves the right to take it down at any time—a fact which drastically diminishes the value of the page to potential buyers.

On Facebook, Twitter and Medium, you do not own your content. There is legally nothing stopping these companies from removing your profile, censoring your published materials, or acting in such a way as to skew and cloud your words.

Further, why do we need these companies? Except for ISPs, you don’t need any company to post content online. And posting your content on corporate-owned platforms, like Facebook, only means it’s less your own and more theirs. WordPress is a great alternative—open-source, shared code that enables you to easily publish online, but that does not permanently tie you into any network.

I’m convinced the future of social media is open-source, self-hosted. This is the next step in the decentralization of media. There is no reason why networking between proprietary domains can’t happen without massive companies like Facebook.

A new theme, yet again

Ok, I’m a little late writing about this, but I got a new blog theme.

Yes, I just did this a few months ago. I switched from Adapation to Ryu because I wanted less clutter on the and more emphasis on my writing. I want what I write to set the tone—not the surrounding colors and widgets.

My new theme, Editor, aligns with that goal, but does allow readers to scroll down through my posts without losing sight of my blog’s menu. In other words, only the right column scrolls. The menu bar on the left remains static no matter what. Losing the menu after scrolling to view my posts was something I did not like about Ryu.

I like this feature. I also like how it looks. I like having the menu on the side of the screen and not at the top. I also like how posts in Editor are tagged and dated to the side of the post content and not at the bottom or at the top (between the post title and the post content). I don’t mind so much if the tags are hidden at the bottom, but the date and categories are things that I think belong before the content.

So Editor it is. For now. I don’t like switching themes all the time, especially as I gain more readers, so I do intend to keep this theme going for the foreseeable future.

That said, I do like the book-ish look of WordPress’s new Twenty Fifteen theme (screenshot below). Very clean. Very readable. It’s overarching structure is actually quite similar to Editor—menu bar on the left, scrolling only on the right (mostly), sleek social links icons.

screenshot - TwentyFifteen

What I don’t like about Twenty Fifteen, though, is it’s placement of post tags and dates at the bottom of the post. I think this frustrates readers who want to know if what they’re reading is current before diving in. They can scroll down and check, of course, but posts can be pretty long and this can be a hassle when you’re trying to read or work quickly. At least, that’s my reaction to this format.

You’ve probably noticed by now that web design is a hobby of mine. Not coding, but critiquing. I spend so much time online—after a while, I really do start to notice how tiny, seemingly insignificant features affect user experience. I used to think it didn’t matter and that most people just cared about the content. Now I think it’s more of a 20-80 ratio, design to content, that affects how viewers will react to web content.

Just my little theory.

I got a new theme

As you can see, I found a new theme for my blog. This one is much more modern. I’ve noticed the big thing in online journalism lately is to let the content (not the environment) set the tone — minimize distracting widgets to emphasize the content. As someone far too eager to fill in blank space for the sake of filling in blank space, this wasn’t easy for me to do. But you’ll notice that the new themes allows me to highlight my social media via buttons on the left, which let me remove the cumbersome “Follow me on Twitter” widget from my blog.

Any thoughts? Web design and WordPress are hobbies of mine. I don’t code, but I love tinkering around with WordPress themes and building websites.