Having been inspired by so many sites and helped by so many bloggers via various online tutorials I consider good manners to document how I accomplished mamajunkyard’s new look and to acknowledge all those who had a hand in the outcome.
As much as I loved the previous colourful and slim Mama JunkYard design I couldn’t help but envy the versatility and practicality of those wide width blogs with lots of white space such as Mshairi, KikuyuMoja and White African. In fact it was White African’s elegant customisation of Michael Heilemann’s Kubrick that led me to K2.
After staring at the design of White African I decided I was going to re-install Kubrick and perform only the basic customisation thereby retaining the best feature of the theme; its simplicity. With Kubrick being the default WordPress theme and having used WordPress for the past two years, I consider myself fairly competent at tweaking it. So when I learnt that K2 was being developed as the successor to Kubrick I assumed that I would find it equally straight forward to customise.
In fairness K2 is built for customisation and is quite easy to modify – if you approach it with the right attitude. I approached K2 as if it was a bog standard WordPress theme and from that point forward I was destined to fail. K2 may have the outward appearance of a theme but in reality it is so much more that that (most K2 aficionados refer to it as ‘mod’)
I experienced my first bit of K2 ‘drama’ whilst tinkering with K2r167 beta. I was fully aware of the problems associated with beta versions in general and I was quite happy to spend time just to getting to understand how K2 worked. After two days of a non-stop K2 crash course I discovered that K2 0.9 had been released replacing the beta version that I had been working on. So it was back to square back one. This experience certainly brought home the one aspect of K2 that I had chosen to ignore; K2 is under constant development. There are people working on a daily basis to put together a more stable version of K2. While this may mean the occasional re-install, in the long run it can only be a good thing because with every version released the developers are getting closer to K2 1.0. (As I type this I notice that K2 0.9.1 has just been released)
Another advantage that stems from the ongoing development of K2 is the extent to which the development team rely on user feedback. There is a Bug Tracker set up for users to report any bugs and there is also a Support Forum to discuss K2 issues. For someone like me who doesn’t know my PHP from my TCP the forums have been a Godsend. Nearly every question I thought of had been asked and answered.
As mentioned earlier, K2 is built specifically for user customisation. Everything that can be classed as ‘front end’ (in relation to K2) is fairly straightforward and a basic knowledge of CSS should be enough to get you your own unique look. The ‘back end’ is what distinguishes it from the average WordPress theme. For instance, K2 comes with it’s own Sidebar Module which is described as being “like WordPress widgets, on drugs… the good kind” So that is one less plugin to install, though installing plugins with K2 is fairly straightforward thanks to its ability to recognise a range of WordPress plugins – such as Extended Live Archives which can be seen in action here. A full list features can be found at the K2 Blog.
Whilst I enjoy all the bells and whistles that K2 comes with, from a customisation perspective I found it a bit intimidating because I had no idea what bit did what and I was too scared to change anything in case it broke. It is possible to redesign K2 without ever delving into its ‘internal elements’ however I find this approach has its limitations. I like to know how my blog works or failing that have a clear understanding of what I should or should not mess around with. Usually I mess with my site ‘just for fun’ and so I don’t mind taking weeks to learn something or even to try out different themes. On this occasion I am working on two separate websites and an unrelated fast approaching deadline. Time is not on my side. This leads on to the number one reason I fell in love with the K2 theme and the community who develop and use K2.
Since K2 is pitched as an advanced template there are many K2 bloggers who are working to ensure that any WordPress blogger can install and use it. They do this not just through the forums but also by compiling comprehensive tutorials on how to customise K2. Paul Stamatiou is just one example. His five part guide ranges from basic CSS to tips on how to improve load time. His along with JTP’s are two tutorials that I would recommend to anyone working with K2.
I know the site is far from complete but I can honestly it has been fun working with K2 and my only regret is not getting into it sooner. I still have a lot to learn about K2 but I am certainly a lot closer than I was two weeks ago thanks to all the people who have provided online support.