Is Rams the ideal blog layout?

Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but ear­ly Decem­ber Word­Press has released a new ver­sion (4.1) of its blog­gers plat­form. As usu­al, they used this upgrade to also intro­duce a new default blog lay­out: Twen­ty Fif­teen.


On the blog of Ernst-Jan Pfauth I read that he looks for­ward to this new lay­out because he finds Twen­ty Four­teen a bit too dark in col­or set­ting. I agree with him. But that’s not what I want to dis­cuss today. For me it’s anoth­er remark he makes:

Ear­li­er this year I ditched my hand­made theme, because there just wasn’t a way to keep up with all the require­ments that come with peo­ple using hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent screens for access­ing your blog.

I mean, I love to geek around with Word­Press Themes and CSS, but doing it just as a hob­by isn’t enough any­more to guar­an­tee every vis­i­tor of my blog a good expe­ri­ence.

Now I can’t say that I have a hand­made theme. To do so I lack the knowl­edge and skills of HTML / CSS / etcetera. How­ev­er, I rec­og­nize as some­one who likes to play around with the many blog themes avail­able for Word­Press that it becomes very hard to near­ly impos­si­ble to cre­ate some­thing which give all of your vis­i­tors the same look and feel, regard­less of the the devices they use.

More­over, it seems that the ide­al lay­out does not exist. Or at least for me remains hid­den. Always there seems to be a short­com­ing that I, at best, can almost solve with a plu­g­in or by chang­ing code in the php and css files. Almost, but not quite. At worst I’m not able to solve it all and have to live with it. What I man­age to do for sev­er­al days. Until the grow­ing annoy­ance makes me decide to start look­ing for a replace­ment theme where this dis­turb­ing ele­ment no longer reveals.

But where anoth­er flaw is intro­duced. And we’re back to start all over again.

Ernst-Jan has giv­en up. He choos­es to set­tle for the default lay­outs Word­Press has avail­able. I tend to fol­low in his foot­steps. That’s why I installed Twen­ty Fif­teen yes­ter­day after­noon to give it a try.

I loved it for fif­teen min­utes. In that peri­od  I didn’t suc­ceed to change the insane­ly large font that is used for block quotes in to a for­mat that seems more nor­mal. Dis­ap­point­ed I put the Char­lene theme back.

Then I remem­bered hav­ing read an inter­view with Anders Norén who referred to a theme he had made which seems to have many sim­i­lar­i­ties as com­pared with the Twen­ty Fif­teen theme still under devel­op­ment around that time:

Norén seems to be equipped with a nev­er-end­ing foun­tain of inspi­ra­tion for new themes. His Rams theme, which bears a few sim­i­lar­i­ties to the upcom­ing Twen­ty Fif­teen default theme, was inspired by Dieter Rams, a Ger­man indus­tri­al design­er who is well known for his inno­v­a­tive, unob­tru­sive, and time­less prod­uct design.

Maybe the block­quotes were bet­ter designed with­in the Rams theme, I thought and start­ed to install it:


That was late last night.

What are my find­ings so far. To begin with Rams is very min­i­mal. This not only applies to the design, but also to the set­tings. Apart from the stan­dard col­or scheme that is green but can be changed, there is noth­ing to adjust. Oh of course, the menu you can change as well. But that’s it. You have to do with what you get. And what you get is very good when you ask me.

The left side­bar shows only the menu, and more impor­tant­ly, does not scroll but has a fixed posi­tion. I think it’s very rest­ful. Although the default green col­or is debat­able I have decid­ed to keep it this way. Because when you change the col­or it also auto­mat­i­cal­ly updates the col­or of hyper­links in the text.

As you prob­a­bly under­stand by now the block­quotes are match­ing my taste oth­er­wise I would not have writ­ten this blog post at all. Nowa­days, you usu­al­ly see a ver­ti­cal line in order to dis­tin­guish a block­quote from the rest of the text. That is not the case with Rams. Norén has cho­sen to use the quo­ta­tion icon. It’s not my pref­er­ence, but for now I leave it like this.

Com­pared with the Twen­ty Fif­teen theme the left side­bar is real­ly far left, mak­ing sure that on a big screen, the atten­tion stays focused on the text and the side­bar more or less dis­ap­pears from view. Which is anoth­er sub­tle dif­fer­ence which I like. Same thing with the meta-data at the bot­tom of the blog post. Default this is hid­den but can be accessed by click­ing on the ‘ham­burg­er’ icon. Again a choice for focus on the text and no dis­trac­tion.

All in all I am much more sat­is­fied with Rams than with Twen­ty Fif­teen. Con­trary to all the pre­vi­ous lay­outs I used there is no need so far to change code, install addi­tion­al plu­g­ins or any oth­er fine-tun­ing. Could it be that the ide­al blog lay­out for me real­ly exist? Or am I just in a gen­er­ous mood now I have a few days of vaca­tion?

[Lees in het Ned­er­lands]

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