We all want our blogs and sites to feel like “us,” and there are tons of tweaks that can turn a plain ol’ theme into a bespoke web experience for the discriminating blog connoisseur. Last month, we looked at how one online mag transformed the Oxygen theme; today we’ll check out how one blogger took the third most popular theme on WordPress.com and built something entirely her own.
Say ciao to Mi Piace Kate:
“Mi Piace Kate” is Italian for “I Like Kate,” and we definitely do! Kate’s a graphic designer, cat aficionado, and handcrafting devotee who’s taken the free Bueno theme and run with it. Her blog is a stellar example of how some custom images and a $30 Custom Design upgrade can change a free theme into a million-dollar site that’s totally unique.
Take a look at the standard Bueno home page next to Kate’s:
If you didn’t notice the post date in the colored circle (pink in the original; chartreuse in Kate’s update), you might never know that this blog used Bueno. How did she pull it off? Here are a few of her (not-so-secret) techniques:
Kate sets the tone with a custom header that both tells the reader a bit about her and the blog and sets the tone design- and color-wise:
Uploading a custom header doesn’t require an upgrade; it’s an option for any Bueno blogger (and for tons of other themes, too — 152, to be exact).
Thinking, “But I’m not a graphic designer”? You don’t need to be! Create some simple text in your word processing program of choice and save it as an image, or use a favorite photo that has meaning for you. Voilà! Instant personality.
Kate takes the colors introduced in the header and weaves them throughout the site, from the colored circle around the post date to the lines under her widget titles. She’s doing this via the Custom Design upgrade, which lets her pick the exact shades she loves and use CSS to apply them specifically where she’d like.
If you’re not loving the stock Bueno pink but the idea of CSS gives you the heebie-jeebies, we’ve got you covered: Bueno comes with seven different color schemes you can activate with a click by heading to Appearance → Theme Options, and you can use the Custom Design upgrade to change the colors of fonts and backgrounds even more, no CSS necessary. (If you want to dip your toe into the CSS pool, here’s a primer.)
The bold fonts are what draw a lot of you to Bueno in the first place, but if you’re digging the Bueno layout and would like a different font look, the Custom Design upgrade lets you do that. On Mi Piace Kate, Kate’s opted to use the classic serif font Ambroise for headers and post titles, easy-to-read Museo Sans for regular post text, and the slender and elegant Raleway for titles and menu options. If you’re interested in exploring custom fonts, check out how a few other bloggers are using them and learn how to preview them for your own site.
Fun with text widgets
Kate wasn’t afraid to get under the hood and wrangle her widgets to get the exact look she wanted. Check out how she’s styled her blogroll, right. She’s changed it from a simple one-blog-per-line list to something with a different kind of visual interest that gels with the clean but playful look she uses across the blog.
How’d she do it? By using a Text widget rather than the Links widget most of us use for blogrolls. Since text widgets accept basic HTML, she was able to drop all her links into a widget, separating each with a double backslash. Her custom fonts and colors took care of the rest.
Kate kicks off her sidebar with one of our favorite but underused widgets — a basic text widget with some “about” copy. Again, the widget pulls in all her customizations: colors, text, and CSS, so it’s providing information and context for new visitors to her site while reinforcing the Mi Piace Kate brand.
She’s also customized her widget titles, another of our favorite tweaks: “Links” becomes “I Like to Look,” and “About” becomes “Oh Hello.” No opportunity to inject personality into the blog is overlooked.
Kate uses a mix of design- and tech-sense to create a blog that screams “Kate!”, but anyone can personalize their site with standard options like custom headers and creatively-used text widgets, or use the basic click-to-activate features of the Custom Design upgrade to go a step further. She’s definitely inspired us, and we hope she’s done the same for you!
Feb 14th at 8:50 am
What a great post and WOW for the customized design. Thanks for the insight – always helpful
Feb 14th at 9:38 am
Reblogged this on Misuratatelecom and commented:
Feb 14th at 11:35 am
I love how Kate used the Upgrade to create such a new and self-oriented look. Kate’s personality does in fact show within the design and it is quite intriguing to look at as well.
Feb 14th at 4:09 pm
Feb 14th at 10:45 pm
Cool! Nice blog! She really made it personal!
Feb 15th at 1:39 pm
These posts are so helpful. Thanks so much.
Feb 16th at 6:52 am
Hats off to you, Kate, both for your project and your blog. I’d love to attend some of your events, but I’m a long way away, in Granada, Spain. I would wish you luck, but you’re the kind of person who makes your own luck!
Feb 18th at 6:07 am
Super great tips! Thanks for the muy Beuno inspiration!
Feb 18th at 2:42 pm
Thanks for this very helpful and easy to understand guide to what is possible!
Feb 19th at 2:29 pm
Looks great! I also heavily modified/tweaked the Bueno theme for my site (http://thedomesticman.com/) – widened the posts, added borders being the biggest heavy lifting. It’s a great theme to work with.
Feb 19th at 10:21 pm
This looks amazing! I have to try some of these tips.
Feb 20th at 6:33 am
Reblogged this on bhopkins1991 and commented:
Hopefully my blog looks and feels like me one day..
Feb 20th at 10:09 pm
Thanks for sharing the tips! I’m not brave enough to dip my toesies into the CSS pool just yet but this has given me loads of ideas. My blog looks a lot cleaner now. I’m thinking about other changes but I definitely made a good start tonight. Will definitely reblog this as I know it’ll help others! Thanks!
Feb 20th at 10:11 pm
Reblogged this on Yellywelly and commented:
This gave me ideas about cleaning up the blog and making it look less cluttered. Changing my blog background was a great start. Reblogging this because I know it’ll help others who use the Bueno blog theme…and even if you don’t use the Bueno theme, the ideas are too good not to share!