Today is a big day.
After running theMandolinTuner blog for its first six months with a look n’ feel I liked at the beginning, little by little I came to realize its limitations and the deficiencies:

  • It is not ‘responsive’, i.e. pages are not displayed well at mobile devices
  • The site width is not ideal, it should be wider to make reading big posts a better experience
  • It looks static. Every time you visit it you have the same experience, i.e. it lacks a slide show to be displayed at the front page
  • The site style is not very artistic. This is of course a matter of taste!

So, I think it is about time to take theMandolinTuner to the next level, and apply a new Look n Feel. If you own a site, or if you are thinking to create one to promote you works and you band, my experiences may be useful, so keep on reading, it may save you time and effort!

Note: The new theme is going to be applied a few hours after I post this blog, so if you don’t see it yet, check again!

Update (11/02/2013): New Theme is active. Running tests to check that everything is ok. If you face any problems, please leave me a comment so I check it out! Current list of problems discovered so far:

  • Home page not working properly – FIXED
  • Mandolin Parts post: CSS not working. Images are not displayed.
  • Mandolin Chords posts: Some slideshows are not displayed – FIXED
  • Mandolin theory lessons: Lessons are cut, not displayed properly.
  • Social Media: Links to theMandolinTuner facebook, twitter etc. are broken.

Update (14/02/2013): Decided to drop the new theme due to problems and replace with new prepium (i.e. paid) theme. Things look better, but I still have to solve some issues…

Why Applying a New Style on a site is not simple?

Changing theMandolinTuner site look n’ feel is not a simple task, and most importantly it is not risk-free!

This is because theMandolinTuner uses advanced tools in order to provide the level of experience I think should be expected from any music-related site. For example:

  • Audio is reproduced using HTML5 in order to avoid incompatibilities with mobile devices (Apple) and in order to make it future-proof, for the day when Flash becomes obsolete.
  • Tooltips on pictures such as the ones displayed over the Mandolin Parts post, are created with Custom Stylesheet (CSS) to make appear on all browsers and devices.

Therefore, any upgrade has the risk to ‘break’ the site.

Which Themes did I review?

Searching for a theme to be applied on theMandolinTuner was not easy or quick. I must have reviewed a thousand themes in the process, and at the end I got my wife and daughter to say their opinion as well, in order to make sure that the new site will be aesthetically pleasing, or even better striking!

Early on in the process, I shortlisted the themes from SMThemes, for their great variety and looks. Nevertheless, SMThemes have more than 120 themes available to choose from. I spend a whole day to review them all before creating the shortlist provided below.

The criteria I used to review themes were:

  1. Text and background colour for posts. I do not like white text on black backgrounds, it is difficult to read. I also do not like gay text on a white font, my eyes hurt after a little while, from the effort to read.
  2. Responsive site. This actual describes a site that will automatically resize to be displayed correctly on mobiles, tablets and desktops.
  3. Beautiful looks. The site must look beautiful and appealing.
  4. Suitability. When visiting a music site, you are in a different mood than when you are visiting a technology site. The style should fit the purpose.

The process I followed was:

I created  a matrix that I used to record for every theme the above attributes. Once the matrix was complete, I could easily filter out the ones that did not fulfil the criteria. The result is displayed below.

Best SMThemes for music sites

  1. InDaClub – the one I use
  2. Photobank
  3. Musica
  4. StylishCars
  5. Creative
  6. Forrealty

These are artistic-like themes. Notice that the StylishCars theme is intended to be used for Car Magazines (!), but I think it is a good fit also for music sites.

Best SMThemes for technology sites

  1. Simpleone
  2. Medical
  3. Planshet
  4. Photopress
  5. Onion
  6. Photography
  7. Bizpress
  8. WpHolster
  9. Blackwine

These are fine-looking ‘clean’ uncluttered themes, that are a good fit for technology sites. Why do I mention that here? I have recently created www.snmpcenter.com blog for my other passion, Network Management and SNMP. So after this review, I selected also the SimpleOne theme to use on technology blog.

Before and After

This post was written before the new theme was applied. If you are reading this post in the future, and you are curious to see how the blog was before the change, check the pictures below:

Before:

Mandolin Tuner v1

 

After:

I will place a photo here, once the site is ready!!!

Call for Action

If you have a mandolin band, or you are a mandolin player and you would like to create your own site, this is very easy. With the above instructions, you can select a beautiful looking theme for your site. The whole procedure of creating a site is very fast, note it took me just four minutes to have my new blog www.snmpcenter.com up and running.

I think this is the time for you to go ahead and create your own mandolin site.

If you would like me to give you more details about how I created my blog, leave me a comment. I would be more than happy to help!

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