Value of Experience

I spent yesterday updating Van Gogh My Pet for the holiday season.

Van Gogh My Pet was the first website I used the awesome Thesis theme for WordPress as the basis for the design.

Back then, the reason I chose Thesis was because it allowed the customizations that I make to the theme to be stored in only two files in just one directory.  This makes my design invincible to updates to the theme and WordPress.

Before I discovered Thesis, I would edit a theme that I found for free to make it look how I wanted. I knew, though, that this was an inelegant way of doing things. Should the theme ever need to be updated (when I would inevitably need to update WordPress), I would need to adapt everything, either editing the updated version of the theme or–if there was no updated version of the theme–finding a new theme and starting from scratch.

Turning the basic Thesis design (left) into my vision for Van Gogh My Pet (right) was a fun, exciting and difficult task.

When I was building Van Gogh My Pet, I understood that Thesis allowed me to customize the look and feel completely.  But I didn’t understand how Thesis employs its very thorough system of hooks to allow you to make your WordPress site dynamic–meaning the content that appears in sidebars, the header or footer can change the look of your site, the content of your widgets, the ads displayed and more. It was through playing with Thesis hooks on this website that I really understood that the sky is truly the limit.

I was embarrassed today as I updated my code for Van Gogh My Pet and slowly accepted how little I understood if Thesis‘ power back then.  I realized that the sidebars I assumed could not be used due to my constraining design, could have been dynamically highlighting content at the bottom of the page.  Sure, I’m getting by with just inserting a graphic or two, but I winced when I realized that I had put the nav bar on the left inside a widget in a sidebar instead of a custom container!

This is all very geeky talk, but I’m a geek and one that really, really loves clean code.  Someday I’ll take the time and redesign Van Gogh My Pet to maximize the amazing functionality Thesis brings to any WordPress site.  For now I’ll just be thankful that my skills have evolved.  Back when I frantically put the finishing touches on Van Gogh My Pet, I didn’t even know that it’s construction would make a future-me-Thesis-expert flinch.  But that, I’d wager, is a common fate for all life-long students of the geeky arts.

Jennifer is available for Thesis consulting and web design.  Learn more at

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