Ages ago, when I was 14 years old, I used to love listening to the band Queen. I studied every lyric and became especially intrigued by a Queen song called The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke.
The song contained words that my 14 year-old brain had never heard (senatorial, pedagogue, satyr, tatterdemalion, junketer, quaere, harridan, ostler). I looked them up in a dictionary and started using them in everyday speech and in my essays at school.
Freddie Mercury’s song was inspired by a painting of the same name by an artist called Richard Dadd. I researched this and found that I could see the real painting if I went to London because it was hanging in the Tate, (and still is).
The painting depicts a Fairy feller of nuts, whose job it is to crack open a particularly difficult nut. This causes great excitement to the crowd of fairies watching him do it. Hence his master stroke.
My Day Out With Neil
So with my close school-friend at the time, Neil Matthew, our day out to London was planned in meticulous detail.
We lived only 30 or so miles outside London so it was a 45 minute stopping train ride and then hours at the Tate staring at the painting relating to each other everything we knew about the Queen song and applying the lyrics to it, discussing it in detail, trying to imagine what Freddie Mercury must have thought, grabbing something to eat, buying some Fairy Feller Master Stroke postcards, and then going back home.
Perfect day. And that’s exactly how it went.
And Your Point Is???
I’m aware it was a very long time ago, but I am pretty sure that at no point did Neil nor I ever consider the frame.
We went to all this effort to see the painting, and thereby vicariously share in Freddie Mercury’s artistic dialogue via this intellectual exercise. We never once considered nor did we discuss the frame, only the painting it contained.
Further, I am 100% certain that Queen’s lyrics do not reference the frame.
What Does This Have To Do With The Genesis Club?
I received an email inquiry last night from someone who wanted to know if the Genesis Club could help them learn to create the WordPress theme of their dreams. I’ll call him Ben.
He came across in the email as a really nice chap and sounded in many ways, like the sort of person I’d want to have in the club.
The theme that my prospective student Ben desired was one that he had not been able to find amongst the many theme designs already out there.
Ben wanted a grungy, retro theme and had rather expertly, I thought, drawn up his vision in Photoshop.
What came across in his email was how passionate he was for his subject (an engineering subject with strong artistic and aesthetic leanings) and although I have no way of telling, I got the impression that he had a lot of experience.
I can’t show you the images he sent to me as they belong to him, but suffice to say that the theme was grungy in the extreme and reminiscent of those (like the one shown above) that used to be popular seven or eight years ago.
A web designer had already told him that this type of theme is almost impossible to make responsive. But he still wanted to know if he could learn to build it himself and if the Genesis Club was the right place to learn how to do it.
I think Ben could learn to build this type of WordPress theme. I also think that if he were to embark on that design journey, he’d find out the hard way that it was a huge waste of time and may even turn out to be a major contributor towards the failure of his project.
Ben said in his email.
Although I’ve considered just using a more-typical WordPress template to get the blog started, I really want this look I describe because I’m confident … it’ll really stand out and attract a lot of interest, which will lead, indirectly, to more new clients seeking me out … both locally and far away.
I don’t agree. I think if he pursues this path, he’ll learn a rather painful lesson in online disappointment. The reason I decided to write back to Ben with a blog post rather than a personal email is because I already know how this turns out.
Because I am not telling him what he wants to hear, he won’t join the Genesis Club as we are not even close to being on the same page. Ben will move onto to the next idea on his list to help him achieve his dream theme goal.
Consequently, any time (time is something I’m short of) I spend emailing him personally is wasted as no-one else gets to read the response and the one person who could benefit from the good advice I’d give may not take it.
I made a promise to myself that this year I will reply publicly to questions like this. It means next time I get asked something similar I can just point them to this blog post.
Don’t Over-Think The Theme
The WordPress theme is nothing more than a pleasing frame. It should go largely unnoticed. Just like the frame surrounding the Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke in the Tate.
Years later do I remember the frame?? Did Freddie Mercury write his song about the frame?? Do people make pilgrimages to the Tate to see the frame? Is there or was there ever a buzz around the frame?
The frame can protect the content, display the content, be largely supportive of the content, but not at any time harbour pretensions of being the content. The frame is not the content.
Complex over designed themes get old really quickly. They provide a unique setting for content – but they’ll overpower the content and cause you headaches when they go wrong. Further, technically they are extremely difficult (I think pointlessly difficult) to do, so if you are a WordPress beginner you stand no chance.
The Truth Is Hard To Hear
The Genesis Club is about dispelling myths and getting you going on the correct WordPress path. It’s not about indulging theme dreams of Disney proportions.
Beginners who are excited by the idea of publishing their thoughts on the web often get caught up in the design of the framing. Some listen and dump those ideas fast and get on with their content. Others are hard of hearing.
I know you may not want to hear this but it is true. No-one will visit your site for the frame, they visit for the content. If your frame is overly complex or difficult to handle or heavy or stupid – at worst it will prevent people from seeing your content. At best will make you look like a silly billy.
Choose a simple theme, make a few easy tweaks to personalize it somewhat and colour it up to suit your business colours – and then concentrate on building your audience with your content.
Building an audience will take a huge amount of work, will require a lot of fingers in lots of pies, and will involve your site being usable on a huge range of devices.
The task is big enough already without making it more difficult with a theme that is difficult to build and impossible to manage.