Damn and blast. My first tentative foray into customizing the style sheets of this blog’s WP theme (“Mandingo,” if you’re curious) has not ended not in abject failure. But it’s close enough thereto that if I merely changed the word to “abjekt” on the product packaging (cf: “Cheez-Wiz,” “Froot Loops”) it’d still sell just as well and I wouldn’t run afoul of any truth-in-labeling laws.
I dug into the template files and tried to make a couple of simple changes. Trying to change the font of these paragraphs was confounding. Clearly I don’t understand the hierarchy between WordPress’ default stylesheets and the various .css files in the theme’s folder. I’d make what I assumed was a very simple and straightforward change and I’d really have no idea what would happen. The font would change, but to a generic serifed face instead of the Georgia that I’d selected. Font sizes remained fixed, but I could adjust the line spacing. Etc.
The thing is, I have no idea where to insert my style changes. I thought it’d be straightforward (there are a bunch of .css files in the WordPress theme editor) but logic failed me and then trial-and-error failed me and even staring at the screen impatiently had little or no effect.
“Would it be simpler just to build a new theme from the ground up?” I wondered. “I know CSS, I know enough PHP to fit in at a PHP bar on the sketchy side of town, and I’m really, really talented at stealing and using other people’s working code. And building a brand-new theme has always been a long-term goal.”
So I did a little research into theme-building. The answer is: no. No, it would not be simpler just to build a new theme from the ground up.
The only practical answer that I can see (given my goal of making this site 100% feature-complete by the time my iPhone book hits the shelves) is to not muck about with these things at all. To only customize this theme via the large array of options available in its Theme Settings page, and by swapping out images as documented in the theme’s info pages.
It rankles that the best solution (for now) seems to be to only customize the theme in ways that the theme allows. But I grudgingly acknowledge that reinforcing and expanding my own considerable ego is only the second- or third- most important feature of this new site.
Besides, Mandingo is pretty damned customizable. At minimum, I can change the color palette completely and create custom headers and graphics, so I ought to get this site within a nine-iron of where I want it.