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March 29, 2011 / dlw43

Changing Fonts on a WordPress Blog

Over the past two days, I’ve been participating in a threaded discussion on WordPress.org’s help forum.  The topic is fonts, and I am the original poster.  I thought my problem would be summarily resolved in one reply, but I was wrong.  I didn’t get an easy answer, but I did use the opportunity to turn the experience into a 1496-word post (essay? meditation?) for my blog.  Even though my problem was never fully resolved, the process itself became the reward.

It all began about a week ago, shortly after creating my very first blog.  I was in the design phase of the process and wanted to try out a few different fonts.  More specifics on this later, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to change the fonts, so I posted on the WordPress.org forum asking for assistance.  The reply I received required further information from me, so I provided it and went back to waiting for an answer.  After a few rounds of post, read, reply, and repeat, I began to notice that there was an accompanying emotional pattern: I posted my question, excited to learn something new and solve my problem.  I received a timely reply that asked a question instead of answering mine but also provided me with an informational nugget that seemingly moved me closer to final resolution.  The new knowledge spawned additional questions, which I duly added to the thread and which restarted the cycle. Things went on like this for a while.  It was interesting and edifying, and I probably would’ve kept it going for a lot longer had I not been informed that I was on the wrong website.  That seemed to put an end to things in fairly short order.  Details later, but first an explanation of the post itself, which seems unconscionably remedial.  I mean, what kind of blogger can’t change her fonts without asking for help?

I was, in fact, able to locate font area myself.  It was on the Dashboard inside the Appearance box under the name “Typekit Fonts”.  That the sole point of entry to deal with one’s fonts is also the name of a font company did strike me as a bit proprietary at the time, but my main concern was changing the font, not the font provider.  My first click on the Typekit Fonts link took me to a page where I was shown a big button emblazoned with the words “Sign up in seconds”.  I clicked on this and was taken over to Typekit’s website where I went through a registration process and received a “Kit ID”.  I then copied the ID and and pasted it into my Typekit ID box back on WordPress’ Typekit Fonts page.  I headed back to Typekit’s site again, this time to peruse fonts.  When I picked out a font, I clicked Add to Kit and the TypekitEditor was launched.  The very first step in TypekitEditor asked me to select my WordPress theme from a drop-down list.  Therein lay the problem, as mine wasn’t one of the ten themes listed.  At this point font installation stopped.  The next step was to figure out if and how fonts can be installed into unsupported themes.

TypekitEditor ostensibly has a backup plan in place.  Right underneath the “Choose your theme” step, there is a small, italicized note that says: “Don’t see your theme? Learn more about using fonts with other themes.” I clicked on “Learn more” and was taken to another screen, but the only relevant information on this screen was the following statement:  “You can use Typekit on other themes, provided you are comfortable with HTML and CSS; read more about adding fonts to your site here.”  Seemed like I should play through, so I clicked on “here”.  I was taken to step-by-step instructions for creating a Kit, which can then be installed into a blog.  Again, there was no information about the use of Typekit fonts with unsupported WordPress themes.  In fact, the page had little to do with WordPress at all, noting, “if you’re using Typekit with a blogging platform such as WordPress.com…you can copy the Kit ID…into your blog’s settings instead.”  In other words, if you use WordPress, you can disregard everything on this page and just put the Kit ID into your blog’s settings.  What does that have to do with using unsupported themes “if you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS”?

At that point, I decided to seek help.  I went to the WordPress.org forum where I learned a good deal of useful information, including the fact that I had been in the wrong forum the entire time.  I had been posting in the WordPress.org forum, which is for blogs that aren’t hosted by WordPress.  The WordPress.com forum is for the WordPress-hosted blogs, like mine.  When I first went to the help forums, I noticed that the .org and .com discussion areas were separated, but I didn’t stop to think about it; I was in a headlong rush to get my answer and get on with my blogging.  What I have now come to understand is that blog administration for .org and .com WordPress users is very different.  WordPress.org users can access and edit files that .com users can’t even see, let alone edit.  At that point, it made sense to me why I couldn’t understand the suggestions and implement the instructions given to me in the .org help forum.

The .org forum, however, did lead me to my Edit CSS page.  It was on the Dashboard in embarrassingly plain sight, and after spending some time with it, I thought I might have finally figured out the solution to my problem.  I combined the oblique information from Typekit’s unhelpful help pages with the fabulously specific but possibly inapplicable information from the .org forum and came up with an idea.  I decided to copy the Javascript generated by Typekit from the “read more about adding fonts to your site here” page and paste it into my Edit CSS page in the specified box.  Now, I thought, I should see some action. I clicked on the preview button.  Nothing happened.  My fonts remained the same.  I doggedly repeated the process a few times, refusing to believe it wasn’t working.  Still, my fonts remained unassailable.  I began to notice that every time I went back to repeat the code-pasting and previewing process, my changes had been erased and WordPress’ informational notes were back in the Edit CSS window.  I considered the idea that the problem may be my inability to save CSS edits.  That idea was nixed when I became alert to the note at the top of the CSS editor screen that stated saving CSS edits required an upgrade.  Would an upgrade solve my problem?  It shouldn’t, I thought, since previewing edits doesn’t require an upgrade. Sometime between my pasting in the Edit CSS window and my posting on the help forum, a comment was made on my blog informing me that Javascript in the Edit CSS page is not allowed because “the [WordPress] software strips the code out to preserve security”.  That’s when I knew the time had come for me to give up my quest to change fonts.

The outcome of the escapade is a familiarity with the WordPress software that likely would have taken me, a non-techie with less than one week’s experience as a blogger, an exponentially longer period of time to reach.  That being said, I wonder how many people have needlessly gone through the same process.  My font mishap was not due to user error.  Typekit’s website could and should have stipulated that only .org WordPress users are capable of using fonts with unsupported themes, which is the reality of the situation. Actually, I’m not even sure if .org users can use Typekit fonts with unsupported themes.  In order for that to be true the Typkekit-provided Javascript would need to work they way it’s supposed to, and also the .org administrators would have to be allowed to use Javascript in their CSS file.  WordPress, for its part, should note on the CSS Edit sheet that .com users, even if they purchase an upgrade, cannot make Javascript edits.  Here’s a thought: If WordPress and Typekit are as tightly integrated as they appear to be, shouldn’t that integration benefit WordPress users rather than hamper them?  Typekit should support more than ten WordPress themes.  Considering how many themes are available, Typekit offers confinement, not support. The Typekit support pages that deal with this issue should be rewritten.  Either have a workaround or don’t, but don’t claim you have one when you do not.  When it’s time to issue an upgrade, WordPress might want to consider taking a less proprietary stance on font providers.

My next attempt:  Facebook, Linkedin, Digg, Twitter button adding, finding out what purpose and whom half those icons serve, and figuring out if I need to have Twitter, etc. accounts to be able to install them on my blog.

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