// Internet Duct Tape

WordPress.com Theme Review: Shocking Blue Green, Blix, Regulus, Sandbox, Kubrick

Posted in Technology, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on September 12, 2006

As I mentioned here, I’m going to be going through all the WordPress.com themes one-by-one and evaluating them. For the first go I chose a few of the best themes: Shocking Blue Green, Blix, Regulus, Sandbox, and Kubrick (aka WordPress Default).

After a break, an overview of Shocking Blue Green, Blix, Regulus, Sandbox, and Kubrick themes plus a big table comparing the features.

My favorite was Shocking Blue Green (that’s why I use it for my blog). I like the simplicity of it, even though it’s missing a lot of key features like Custom Header Images and Page Templates. What I like most about it is that it doesn’t have any serious bugs.

Blix is another good one. A major prob is that wide images distort the layout of the blog. It’s one of the few themes to support a Contact Page Template (hopefully that will be fixed soon). It’s pretty nifty how preformatted text will get a scrollbar if it goes past the width of the page. It does have some intricacies different than other themes that may cause issues (like Post Excerpts showing up on the main page). It has the distinction of being the only theme in this review that implements Page Order correctly.

Regulus is one of the most popular themes with a lot of features like Theme Colours, Sidebar Orientation, Custom Image Header, and Page Templates. Unfortunately it does too many things wrong for my taste: small font, link colour same as text colour, plus a lot of sidebar issues.

Sandbox is the new theme that is great for CSS customization. Unfortunately it doesn’t look so great without changing the CSS. Hopefully more people will base new themes off of Sandbox in the future.

Kubrick is the WordPress default template, and while it must have been great in it’s day, I can’t stand the small font and how it squishes large images to fit into the main page or sidebar.

Subscribe to engtech’s WordPress.com Theme Review series. Updated weekly.

Hover your mouse over the question mark (?) to see an extended explanation of what that category means.

Themes were only tested with the latest version of Firefox. Internet Explorer 6 has too many CSS bugs to use it for checking. For example, with Internet Explorer if you have a word or image in the sidebar that is too wide, the sidebar will break.

Theme Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Theme background (?) white white white white white
Theme text (?) black black black black black
Theme link text (?) light blue green black (underlined) blue crimson
Links are very distinct from text (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Links are NOT very similar to text (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Visited links are different colour (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Visited links blend to text (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Theme accents (?) green, gray green, cyan, orange (missing from spreadsheet) none blue
Theme image (?) none none none none none
 
Major features Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Screenshot (?) Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot
Layout width (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Custom image header (?) No Yes Yes No Yes
Number of sidebars (?) 1 1 1 0 to 2 1
Widget support (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Page templates (?) No Yes No Yes Yes
Categories link to wordpress.com (?)          
 
Resolution Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
640×480 (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
800×600 (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
1024×768 (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
1280×1024 (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
 
Header Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Blog name (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Blog tagline (?) No No Yes Yes Yes
Custom image header (?) No Yes Yes No Yes
Top navbar support (?) No Yes Yes No No
Navbar works with too many pages (?)          
Navbar has a Home button (?)   Yes Yes    
 
Footer Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Powered by WordPress (?) bug001 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Logout (?) No Yes No No No
Jump back to Top (?) No No Yes No No
Entries RSS (?) No No No No Yes
Comments RSS (?) No No No No Yes
Link to XFN.org (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Does not display happy face (?)          
 
Main Page Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Max image width (?) Screen 450px 460px Screen 450px
Wide images behaviour (?) Chop Chop Chop Chop Squish
Font typeface (?) Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif ‘Lucida Grande’, ‘Lucida Sans Unicode’, Verdana, Sans-Serif undefined Lucida Grande’, Verdana, Arial, Sans-Serif
Font size (?) 0.76 0.75 0.625 0.9em 0.625
Post titles capitalization (?) first letter as typed as typed as typed as typed
Next / prev page (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edit post (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dates above/below (?) above first post below post above first post above post above post
Displays post author (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Author name is linked (?)          
Displays categories (?)          
Categories above/below (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Categories link to wordpress.com (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Comments above/below (?) below post below post above post below post below post
Comments line jumps directly (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Show excerpt instead of post (?) No Yes No No No
HTML tag style bugs (?) None None bug011 None bug014
Blockquote shows paragraph breaks (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Horizontal rule (HR) is styled (?)          
Pre text has horizontal scroll (?) No Yes No No No
Images display bugs (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Image has margin (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Image has border (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Table has margin (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Table has border (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
MORE tag (?) (more…) (more…) (more…) Read More >> Read the rest of this entry >>
 
Single Post View Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Sidebar displays (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Edit post (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Next / prev post (?) No No No Yes Yes
Next / prev by post title (?) No No No Yes Yes
Comments (?)          
Displays edit comments link (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Displays trackbacks different than comments (?) Yes Yes No Yes No
Display old comments when Off (?)          
 
Sidebar Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Number of sidebars (?) 1 1 1 0 to 2 1
Sidebar location (?) Right Right Right or Left Adjustable Right
Sidebar header capitalization (?) Lowercase As typed As typed As typed As typed
Sidebar image width (?) 180px 200px 200px 200px 190px
Wide images behaviour (?) Chop Run-off page Chop Chop Squish
Sidebar widgets support (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sidebar widgets bugs (?) None None None None None
Text widgets have outline (?) No No Yes No No
HTML tag style bugs (?) None None bug008 bug012 None
Bullet for Unordered Lists (?) No No Top-only Yes Yes
Numbers for Ordered Lists (?) Yes No bug No Yes
 
Pages Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Sidebar displays (?) Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Selected page is hilighted (?)          
Pages with hierarchy (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Page order displayed properly (?) bug002 Yes bug009 bug013 bug015
Page edit links (?) Yes bug004 Yes Yes Yes
Page comments (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Page Templates Supported Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Archives (?)   Yes   Yes  
Displays page text (?)   No   Yes No
Displays post titles (?)   Yes   No No
Displays page titles (?)   Yes   No No
Displays categories with archives (?)   No   Yes Yes
Links / Blogroll (?)   No   Yes Yes
Sort by categories (?)   No   Yes Yes
Image replaces link name (?)   Yes   Yes Yes
Only displays Visible On links (?)   Yes   Yes Yes
Target field used (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
XFN microformat in rel attribue (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Description used in title attribute (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
RSS displays (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Notes displays (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Rating displays (?)   (missing from spreadsheet)   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Displays page text (?)   Yes   (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
2 Column Page (?)       No  
1 column of text, no sidebar (?)          
2 Column Archives (?)   No   No  
1 column of text, no sidebar (?)          
2 Column Links (?)   No   No  
1 column of text, no sidebar (?)          
 
Categories Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Category hierarchy (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number on same line (?) Yes bug006 bug010 Yes Yes
Category description used as title (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Do not display empty categories (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Display parent if child exists (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
 
Blogroll Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Sort by categories (?) Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Image replaces link name (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Only displays Visible On links (?) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Target field used (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
XFN microformat in rel attribue (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Description used in title attribute (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
RSS displays (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Notes displays (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
Rating displays (?) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet) (missing from spreadsheet)
 
Custom features Shocking Blue Green Blix Regulus Sandbox Kubrick
Colour themes (?)     Yes    
Header Colour (?)         Yes
Sidebar orientation (?)     Yes Yes  
Sidebar is at bottom of page (?)       Optional  
Title orientation (?)          
“About me” information (?)     Yes    
Home Link Sidebar Widget (?)       Yes  

Did you find this useful? If so, please support this project by linking to http://engtech.wordpress.com/tools/wordpress/wordpress-theme-reviews/ so that more people can find out about it.

 

Shocking Blue Green Bugs

  • bug001: Footer: Powered by WordPress.com footer colour same as background colour.
  • bug002: Sidebar: Page order is not used for displaying pages.

 

Blix Bugs

  • bug004: Pages: There is no link on a Page for editing that page when logged in.
  • bug006: Sidebar: In category/archive widgets the “number of” displays on a different line, instead of same line.

 

Regulus Bugs

  • bug008: Sidebar: Blockquote (<BLOCKQUOTE>), Heading2 (<H2>), Ordered List (<OL>) and Link (<A HREF>) tags do not have any formatting in sidebar text widgets.
  • bug009: Sidebar: Page order is not used for displaying pages.
  • bug010: Sidebar: In category/archive widgets the “number of” displays on a different line, instead of same line.
  • bug011: Sidebar: Heading5 (<H5>) and heading6 (<H6>) are styled the same as Heading4 (<H4>).

 

Sandbox Bugs

  • bug013: Sidebar: Page order is not used for displaying pages.

 

Kubrick Bugs

  • bug014: Posts: Heading1 (<H1>) is white text on white background and will become scrambled if text wraps.
  • bug015: Sidebar: Page order is not used for displaying pages.

9 Responses

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  1. timethief said, on September 13, 2006 at 5:39 am

    @engtech
    I’m thanking you for doing this work.

    If you’re as picky as I think you may be then here are three nit picky little spelling errors to correct.
    Theme background- Sandox and Kubrick – you typed “while” but meant to type “white” in both cases.
    Blix bugs bug004: Pages: your typed an extra “t” into the word editting.

    Keep up the good work. :)

  2. timethief said, on September 13, 2006 at 5:48 am

    Here I am commenting a second time to get my pet peeve aired. It’s about font size *she bangs her head on computer screen*. For pity sake why do theme designers choose these teeny, weeny, itsy, bitsy font sizes? After a decade of reading them we will all be wering glasses with magnifying lenses. There ought to be a law that fonts can not be smaller than point 10 ever [she grumbled]. :(

  3. engtech said, on September 13, 2006 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for the typo notifications. I do the spreadsheet in Excel, and I’m notoriously bad at reading the small Excel fonts.

    I misspell ‘editting’ all the time. My mother is ashamed.

    Updated the spreadsheet. I also converted the checkmarks and X’s back to Yes/No because it doesn’t display properly on all computers (stupid Microsoft font issues).

  4. paula said, on September 13, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    As a new WordPress user, I have to say “thanx” – I really appreciate the work you’ve put into this. I was using Kubrick, but have converted to Shocking Blue & Green based on your information. I have lost some things that I liked in the process, but the overall result is satisfactory. Now I have to learn what CSS is and how to use it. Cheers!

  5. Lorelle VanFossen said, on September 13, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Excellent work. I’d add a few things, of course ;-) .

    How many columns (aka sidebars) in the sidebar section as many refer to Theme layouts per “column” not just number of sidebars, something I personally find frustrating. So a 2 column layout features 1 sidebar plus content “column”. It’s not wrong to ignore it, but it would cover your bases.

    Space/margins around images and tables. I think this is a must and much forgotten by Theme authors. Explanation and examples in the WordPress Codex – Wrapping Text Around Images. I HATE squished text against pictures and tables.

    I might have missed it, but did you identify the layout as fixed or flexible widths? That’s a must. I personally hate fixed width, stuck in the center with wasted space looks, and people need to know if the theme has that feature or not.

    I don’t know how you would categorize this, maybe as “covers all post content tags”, but a check to see if every I, B, EM, HR, STRONG, BLOCKQUOTE and all HTML tags typically used inside of the post content area are styled. I’ve found many don’t include styles for italic or bold, which is stupid. Sure, it’s deprecated, but so is ALIGN and that’s the only way to line up an image in WordPress.com. Backwards compatibility with the most commonly used tags is critical, as is the styling of all of these common post tags. I’d group them together with maybe a note on which aren’t styled, or something.

    You also don’t have a category on accessibility. Do all the automatically generated links have titles? Like post titles and next and previous links? Is the page readable without a stylesheet (this is Theme based, not a WordPress.com default, remember). Is there a skip navigation link and accesskeys in use? Don’t assume the Theme author put or left accessibility functions in their Theme. Check to be sure.

    You’ve covered a huge range and this will be slick for covering all the various Themes, but what a tremendous amount of work. I hope you are getting some help here. I know there’s been talk of creating a searchable database of WordPress Theme features and this would be a fantastic list to help create such a database. Wow! I’d also love to see this on the WordPress Codex when you have all the bugs featured out, as that might help others help maintain it and add new Themes as they become available.

    Thank you for taking on such a task and keep me up to date.

  6. engtech said, on September 13, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    Lorelle, thanks for the comments.

    I do cover the Number of sidebars, Theme width, and Covers all posts content tags — but I could reword/reorganize the categories so that information is more apparent.

    It’s not that much work for me to do now that I have the test blog / spreadsheet set up… what I need is people double checking and giving me suggestions :)

  7. engtech said, on September 14, 2006 at 1:18 am

    I also need to test if the meta RSS feeds are using http or feed protocol. Should be feed protocol for interoperability.

  8. engtech said, on September 18, 2006 at 12:55 am

    Man, I think I’m going to leave accessibility out of it for the first run of the spreadsheet.. that’s a lot of work to test. Unless someone has a greasemonkey script out there to autotest.

  9. vuee said, on September 23, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Could you please also check if that stupid smiley face is used? It is used as a Google analytic tool or refferer back to WP.com and can be found at the bottom or off to the edge of some themes.

    Ha! there it is! Just there to the bottom left of your page. Aaargh!!! (how about a blank image?)


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