San Juan Islands by jppi at Morguefile.com

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!