San Juan Islands by jppi at

Playing with WordPress Themes

As I’ve noted elsewhere on this site, I like the Arras theme but I am still new enough to WordPress that I continue to look around.  As Captain Jack Sparrow might say, “I’m in the market, as it were.”  I tried a number of interesting themes yesterday – the most promising were Dimes, Dominate, and Cover WP  – but I noticed that I was having problems with Arras.

Removing Theme Fixes Server Error

If I reset the theme to Arras, and changed a setting, and returned to the theme options page, the settings would not be properly saved.  In the end, I received the dreaded

500 Internal Server error

After a bit of searching and trying steps involving:

  • renaming the .htaccess file and creating a new blank one without any WordPress-related content (no impact);
  • removing the Arras theme from the /wp-content/themes folder (alternative to deleting it entirely) which forces WordPress to the  “default” theme or a white blank page if you do not have the default theme installed.  If you get this far, you can probably reach the Dashboard.

The last one worked for me.  I renamed the Arras folder, accessed my Dashboard, and then selected an alternate theme.  When I downloaded and reinstalled Arras, it worked fine.  However, it deleted the renamed Arras folder, so I lost all of my customizations.  They were backed up but since it was just the user.css and some other minor tweaks (which I’d documented in posts), I just recreated my work.  If you do this, I would copy the Arras folder entirely out of your WordPress folders.

I don’t think this has anything to do with the theme so much as that (a) I was testing out a couple of themes and (b) I had been adding some plugins and removing others.  Something went sideways during this process, so a reinstall of a theme is a minor point.

Tweaked Areas

Another new version of WordPress Popular Posts had been released, so I reinstalled that and re-added my tweak to that plugin.  I realize it may not be necessary but I need to revisit the plugin’s custom HTML settings to see if that is where I should be handling it.  I also fiddled with the CSS:

  • in the header, to make the top menu bar deeper and to move the search bar up into it (margin-top: -40px;).  I also played around with the look of the links and a hover effect;
  • in the sidebar, to spread out the content in the widgets, adding a dividing line at the bottom, colorizing the anchor links, and so on;
  • I enlarged the featured items slideshow and lengthened the content exposed in the excerpts for the other posts.  Previously I had tweaked the read more buttons but I’m not sure I’ll bother this time around;
  • to embed Google Web Fonts.

I’ve now created a WordPress page on my site (it’s private to avoid it being searched, but you can grab it directly) that contains the user.css edits I make so that, in addition to my business continuity backup, I can quickly refer to and recover if I do something stupid again in the future!

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.