January 5, 2010

Grace Photoblog Theme v1.2 – A Review

Posted from: South Carolina

I recently had the pleasure of tossing up a very quick WordPress site as a Christmas present for my mother-in-law, who does some gorgeous South Carolina nature photography. As her client list grows, she made the decision to put down some digital roots over at

We were going for cheap, fast, and simple, simple, simple, so in terms of a design, I settled on the blissfully free Grace Photoblog Theme developed by the UK’s own 7879 Designs.

Price: 5 out of 5

There’s only one f-word I like better than “Free”. And that’s Fibrous Astrocyte.

Functionality: 4 out of 5

Grace comes with a couple of delectable features: an optional “featured content” image rotator that pulls posts from a pre-determined category and displays their attached images on the homepage; and a auto-resizing thumbnail script that, um, auto-resizes thumbnails.

There was some “hrm”ing, some turning the box upside down and shaking it, and some re-re-re-referencing the Grace homepage comments to get the rotator kicked off, and I gather that a few other users had installation issues, but it did work. If you’d like a demo of the rotator, it’s been disabled on, so check out the live demo courtesy of 7879.

The thumbnail script works like a charm, with each post only requiring one image upload. Grace takes your main image, tosses it up at the top of your post, makes a thumbnail out of it, and drops that thumbnail into the home page. If you’d prefer to control the look and feel of the thumbnails yourself, making them by hand, the Grace admin panel lets you toggle auto thumbnails off and on.


Out-of-the-box Design: 3 out of 5

The beauty of Grace Photoblog is the simple media engine that drives the theme, and in the fact that the photographer’s work, not the web design, is what the theme highlights.

Grace puts the photographer’s creations front and center, with a default capacity for 900px width for each photo – that’s a maximum size I couldn’t find from any other free theme, particularly while the photo is still residing inside the template (not linked off-site or in another tab / window). In terms of photographic display, I think Grace has everything a photographer likes to see.

But an overlarge header that drops photo content too far below the fold, ultra-basic CSS, and a dubious grungy background make Grace in desperate need of some pre-launch tweaks.

Ease of Modification: 5 out of 5

Though the out-of-the-box design isn’t all that much to look at, Grace doesn’t need too much work to look sharp. I made four extremely fast mods to this theme:

1) Took the header height down to a manageable size.
2) Added a dark wood background
3) Added the “wp-pagenumbers” plug-in, which replaces the default WordPress “<< Previous – Next >>” links with proper page numbers.
4) Dropped in a new logo.

Grace landing page before:


Aaaand after:


And then I gave myself a Girl Scouts sloganeering badge for coming up with Grace: the easy-bake oven of WP-powered photoblogs. Eh? Eh? All in a day’s work.

So, in conclusion…

Awesome for: Photo-centric sites with bare-bones content and navigation, or for use as a “blank slate” engine to design on top of.

Not so much with the: Integrated design.

american tech writer living in beijing. chinese user interface consultant. crafter of pretty digital things. haver of nebulous ideas.
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