Help me improve by critiquing my themes. You can critique just one theme or more. You can also critique my blog (what you don’t like, what you like, what you want to see etc). You can even critique the way I respond to questions (and my text posts).
I don’t care if you have no clue about coding, at least you can help me figure out what people like and different styles I could try. However, please note that I would like constructive criticism. Give me reasons, ways to improve, along with the critiques. I will publish publicly unless you tell me otherwise.
So I, um, practically freaked out when I saw this because there is just NO WAY I could critique Cindy’s themes because they are all so wonderfully unique and beautiful and gorgeous and I was worried that I’d just fangirl over them THE ENTIRE REVIEW. But nevertheless, I will try my best, here goes…
Current Blog Theme
The typography is excellent (as always) and the overall design is lovely. The only two iffy aspects I have about it is the colour scheme and the accessibility of the navigation links.
I’m not a fan of the background colour in combination with the sidebar image and link colours but I love the extra padding and the way the ask-and-response format is (the icons, the dotted underline, the italics etc).
The design of the navigation is great though I think if it was more straight-forwardly labelled (explicitly for each tab), it might make an easier navigation. I often forget exactly which tab each type of link is under and I have to wait for one tab to load before I can see all the links and go to the next one.
Design of Public Themes
Okay, I attempted reviewing your themes one by one but you have so many themes this review is probably going to end up being a 10 000 word essay. So for your earlier ones, I reviewed them one by one because I think they could do with some revisement.
Theme 1. Purcell
It’s absolutely wonderful for a first theme. I love the drop-down menu and the fact that it’s three columns. The only thing I have about it is the placement of the columns, there’s a huge awkward space between the sidebar (on the left) and the main column.
About the font choices, everything is in Consolas, except for the post titles (which is in normal Georgia) but having the font bolded for the title (in the sidebar) seems out of place (bolded Georgia versus normal Georgia is a huge difference).
Theme 2. Witness
Not my favourite theme of yours. The drop-down menu bar at the top is nice but there’s a space between the menu links and the title which feels “unfinished”. Also, the menu doesn’t appear on Firefox so make sure you check cross-browser compatibility next time!
Not fond of the font combination either. The italic serif titles in combination with the normal serif title and the sans-serif fonts are a little unfitting together for me. It just doesn’t have an overall sense of mood that really brings it all together.
Theme 5. Specter
I think this theme is just mediocre. I don’t particularly like the colour palette for the preview, it doesn’t leave a very strong impression on me; I think it’s a little too washed out and it clashes with your photos. I’m also not a fan of the thin borders around the side images, it doesn’t make the side images stand out. As well, having no text labels for the links (until you hover over them) makes the blocks seem a bit random. Otherwise, the general layout is nice and I have no complaints about the typography.
I noticed from theme 7 (Beasts) and so on, the navigations/menus get more and more complex and each theme is very unique and sleek. The amount of attention to detail and effect to your themes are astounding which is what makes your themes so original.
However, I think you already know this but sometimes, the complexity of the design and effects makes the theme too intense. I particularly think you went slightly overboard with Masamune, Earl, and maybe Yarodomo and Menma. I think the key point is to stick to the basic layout and then make one effect super unique and stand out. Don’t worry about it being boring or whatever, sometimes, simple themes are the best.
For example, I can see Yarodomo being equally lovely with only the icon box links (more to the left) OR with only the links bar (more to the right) but with both, it’s too complicated.
For Earl, I can see it with just the top sliding description and the links can be included in blocks in the black bar (beside the picture of Ciel) or in the description itself. But the combination of the long bars of links AND the sliding description is too excessive in effects.
For Menma, I like the permalink box hover effects and the sidebar box but together, there’s too many boxes. Especially since they are side by side, it doesn’t feel concentrated and consistent/balanced enough. Maybe if the sidebar box was a top menu box, it might feel more centred. Or if there was no box for the permalink hover, it would feel simpler.
As for Masamune, having the two rounded border images and then the bar links and the rounded description box and rounded permalink hover, there’s too much geometry clashing. If it was just that one circle image and bar links and the description is part of the circle image, it could work. If it was just the long rectangle image with rounded edges plus the description (with the links inside the navigation), the geometry is simpler too and it would look less messy.
So in short, try to keep the geometry minimal and stick to one or two major effects. Too many shapes and edges and things sticking in and out (as you hover) might drown out the content of the blog. Just like you should wear your clothes, not let your clothes wear you… it’s similar to themes. Complex themes may be fascinating at first but after a while, it starts to overwhelm the blog content.
It would also seem that Okedo, Tonight and Perle is also rather intricate but the difference is that these ones have less geometry clash and there’s only one or two major hover effect.
Otherwise, gosh Cindy, the individual effects in your themes just look phenomenal. They’re very creative and quite distinctly, “something gyapo would do”. And the font choices (in your later themes) are just immaculate.
Functionality of Public Themes
I think accessibility of links is something you might want to reconsider… in some of your themes (particularly bullet, beasts I and II, and sunkei), the links “blend” into the background of your sidebar which requires the visitors to search for it. It sort-of makes things harder for people so maybe you want to include an option for the colours to be a different colour. Just so the themes can be more functional and easier to navigate.
Content of Blog
Great organization. I love that you gif all the processes in your tutorials, it always helps to have a visual instruction and I admire your effort. Super jealous of how fast you just whip out your themes, it seems your muse is ENDLESS ;) It’s motivating and inspiring for me too.
In terms of resources and tutorials, seeing as you practically only started a month ago, it’s understandable that you don’t have that much. But the politeness and thoroughness of your responses to your messages is commendable!
The two things I think you should look into are toning down the complexities of your themes and the functionality of the link styling. Perhaps future projects are to revise older themes?
Anyways, I adore your themes and your creativity absolutely inspires me and your rate of production makes me determined to make more themes as well.
I am so happy you decided to pursue web design as your future career. All the best of luck with that!
(PS. You could also consider expanding your blog, into maybe a hosted website and offer more tutorials and such. It could act as your beginning web design portfolio. )
Publicly? Smart girl ;) that way, you’d get promotion whether or not I give you a nice critique because people will be curious either way. Anyways, welcome to the theme-making scene! Hopefully, the review will be helpful. So let’s get started!
Current Blog Theme
So I see it’s my own theme and I’m flattered you like it enough to use it as your blog theme. I don’t really see a point in criticizing my own theme; I admit this theme isn’t the most popular one but I am very happy with how it turned out and it is one of my personal favourites because of the unique style.
Regardless, I highly recommend theme-makers to make their own themes for their theme blogs. I can never understand why theme-makers (or designers) would use other people’s designs on their own site instead of making their own. Your blog is your advertisement. Don’t use the space to advertise other theme blogs. You need to think of your theme blog as a part of your portfolio, exhibiting what you have to offer.
What better way to showcase their talents then to wow their visitors upon the immediate visit to their theme blog? The first impression is very important so it’s always great to go all out and design a fantastic theme for your theme blog to attract your visitors.
Design of Public Themes
First, I want to talk about the presentation of the themes. I notice that on the theme page, the previews are not all the same size. I always emphasize consistency. People tend to like consistency. Consistency conveys professionalism, organization and aestheticism. So I suggest you to update them to all the same size and format.
I think you definitely have a good handle on what your target audience likes and the general basic theme features that are on high demand.
I am currently using Google Chrome and some of the fonts are not showing up, so I recommend that you go through your themes on different browsers and testing them out.
Since you only have five themes, I’m going to give a brief critique on each.
Theme 1 - Seriola
It’s pretty good but I feel like there is a lot of awkward spacing. In the permalink box (between the notes and dates), between the main column and side column, the sidebar column and between each post box.
Balance is the first thing I want to talk about. Sometimes, asymmetry in layout of a theme creates contrast and is interesting. But for the most part, symmetry in smaller details is important, especially between text and objects (such as icons, permalinks etc).
I think the placing of the permalinks close to the sidebar disrupts that balance because you have the large blocks (post boxes) and sort-of large box (sidebar) then the small blocks (permalinks) in between. The overall geometry doesn’t compliment because there’s an awkward “break” between the main column and the side column.
Also, I must accentuate consistency. If you decide that you want a bite of padding in the post box, try to carry that throughout. Meaning, you need to incorporate about the same amount of padding in your sidebar as well. And about the same width in the margin.
I like to think of everything in terms of “style”. When coding a theme, you’re “selling” the theme to an audience so you have to be convincing and of course, consistent.
If you’re going for a style that promotes a regal, spacious feeling, incorporate wider margins and padding to everything. For example, in my modern romance theme, I was attempting a contemporary, box-y, spacy feel. So I put in lots of padding into EVERYTHING.
The header is fairly wide, all the boxes for the links, navigation buttons and permalinks are around the same height, the padding of the posts are about the same as the margin between the posts etc. It’s consistent and helps give off the style I was going for. Don’t style something half-heartedly, you won’t win anyone over that way.
Theme 2 - Spaceboxes
It’s a bit weird how the description/links/title in the top menu is centered and there’s just a randomly placed userpic to the side. It seems a bit unbalanced. I would also say this theme needs a little more funk. Something more to make this theme special compared to all the other themes that have topbars and one column.
Theme 3 - City Complex
One of my favourite themes of yours. I like the rounded edges, the navigation, dashed line in the sidebar and the multi-columns. I recommend sprucing up your preview though; stick with a colour scheme, post more photos/content to show your visitors the potential of your theme.
For example, I was going for a bright, chic look for my destiny theme and so I used purple/pink/yellow as colours for my links and reblogged some vibrant, minimalist art. For my oltremare theme, I was going for a monochrome, angsty, asian hipster look so I reblogged photos congruous with that theme.
You’re not just a designer showing your themes, you’re a designer selling your themes so make them shine. I mean, people using your themes and all… it is sort-of like a business.
Theme 4 - Polyester Heart
Nothing much to complain. It’s a bit generic but I think it’s very accessible to all visitors, something that’s always a keeper. Be careful of your font compatibility though! The apple font isn’t showing on Google Chrome. And also, remember what I said about consistency in spacing, there’s a slight problem about that in this as theme as well.
Theme 5 - Deadend
This is another of my favourites. I especially love the effects of the drop-down links and the expanding of borders as you hover of the links. But again, really SELL THE THEME. Stick with a “theme” and market it. People don’t always see all the possibilities in customizing a theme so you have to do that for them. Just like how certain blogs have certain styles (photos they would or wouldn’t blog), stick to a style for each theme and really live up to it.
So overall, three pointers: watch your spacing, balance and just really showcase your themes by refining your previews. It’s all about style and consistency.
Content of Blog
You haven’t been in the business for very long so it’s not expected that you have loads of stuff. Definitely recommend tagging extensively from early on, it will save you so much trouble when you’re organizing the tags so that your visitors can browse resources by tags. Definitely check out my ultimate guide for theme-makers for any tips on setting up your blog.
Be original and try to look for some resources yourself. Reblogging is good, but it’s even greater when you find a gem that nobody has shared yet on tumblr. Or if you took the time to create your own resources (write tutorials, make masterposts ~ people love those, guides, tips etc).
You’re off to a great start! Definitely don’t despair if you don’t get a lot of traffic… everyone starts out as a nobody at first. I remember when my theme blog barely got any visits and my inbox was ALWAYS empty… now I have to control the huge influx.
I think the major thing you need to work on is the presentation of your themes; the previews and the style. But other than that, keep up the good work!
Oh wow, so wasn’t really expecting any review requests and then all of a sudden, I get two within two days! Anyways, thank you! Here goes…
Current blog theme
I really like your current theme, it’s probably my favourite theme I’ve seen on your blog. I love all the little detail you put in the coding; like the boxed background behind the pagination links, the drop-down menu for the themes and how you have two hovering boxes for permalinks (one for notes, one for tags).
Typography is pretty much perfect as well, everything seems fairly consistent. The only thing I’m iffy about is the colour scheme but I feel like that’s a matter of personal opinion since I tend to go for more contrasted, saturated colours then ashened colours/hues (which seems to be your style).
I just feel that using ashened colours/hues tend to make everything look more washed out and homey… and I tend to go against that since I’ve strived to make my blog more business-like, sleek and contemporary. However, I do commend you for being able to put dull, unsaturated colours together and manage to make it look good.
Design of public themes
I can definitely see improvement from your older themes to your newer themes. The positioning between the columns has gotten better. Overall, they’re all pretty flawless themes that can work great for animanga or Asian fashion focused blogs.
There’s only one aspect that I’m picky about for all the themes and that is, font consistency. You often use many different styles of fonts in one theme and I think that makes things a little messy. I generally go for 2 (maximum 3) different styles of fonts. One would the body/text font (a generic, simple font like arial, georgia etc), one for the headers (more styled, such as slanted georgia, courier new, custom fonts) and maybe one for links and permalinks (possibly a custom font). It just tends to make the theme more organized and consistent.
I actually get picky to the point that I will consider the style of the font (for example, elegant/retro vs modern) and condense-ness of the fonts I decide to use (for example, I generally don’t use arial and verdana or lucida unicode in the same layout because arial is more narrow… and if I do use arial and lucida unicode, lucida unicode would be the body font and arial would be a header font with usually some sort of styling to make it have a very different feel). I think you’ve actually achieved this most on your current blog theme.
I think the detail in positioning, styling of the navigation menus (sidebar) is your strong suit. I particularly love the innovative placements of things in the sidebar for your Utopia (2), Dreamer (3), Victorian (5), Gate to Heaven (6) and Passion (8) themes. The rest are a little bit generic and feels a bit like base themes and not as original. I feel like for some of the other themes (4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) it seems you’re experimenting less with the detail and more with the positioning of columns. They are a little less stylistic and basic, which, still appeals to visitors because many still like simple themes, but they just don’t stand out as much and feels slightly repetitive as a whole.
Functionality of public themes
They’re pretty much perfect. No obvious flaws in your themes.
Content of blog
You’re one of the theme-makers that’ve been here for a longer time so there’s been an accumulation of resources and so that’s definitely a plus! I love your “teach me how” tutorial series, I just wish maybe, the resources were categorized/tagged a little bit more so it’s easier to browse for a specific type of resource (but I realize, it takes a lot of effort to tag things thoroughly). I also love how you have a seperate page of FAQs for each theme; a very clever idea!
I’ve mentioned this before but you’re definitely a well-established theme-maker and one of the older, original ones (I guess we’re seniors in the business :D ). Your unique, strong points would be the colour schemes and detail you put into the navigation/sidebar styling. your weaker points would be slight lack of font consistency and also the colour schemes (as it might not appeal to some visitors). I think for improvement, you have to explore things a bit more, in terms of colour scheme, font choice and stylistic design. Yes, it’s a good thing to stay in your style but at the same time, be not afraid to experiment.
Hopefully, that was helpful!
I feel like I’m not exposed to enough theme blogs around here and I’d like some inspiration and follow some brilliant theme blogs so if you’re a theme maker and want me to review your themes/blog (which could possibly lead to promotion of your blog), I could give you some constructive criticism.
If you’re interested, message me and also tell me whether you want the review to be published publicly or if you want it sent privately.
Here’s how I will be reviewing your themes and blog:
- Current blog theme
- Design of public themes
- Functionality of public themes
- Content of blog
- Overall comments