How to Add Featured Posts to Sidebar on WordPress.com’s Gazette Theme

VSATESTS |      VSATESTS uses the Gazette Theme 

              …is my test website for trying out styling and coding changes before using them on my REAL websites:

VSATIPS  |  a blog that provides helpful hints and useful tips for everyday technology

VSATRENDS |  a blog that provides useful insight & tips about lifestyle trends and daily living

Background About Why I’m Writing This Post:

First a little background about VSATESTS:   I’ve struggled with Themes at WordPress.com a lot.  Why?  Well, first there are just way too many of them!  This is probably a good thing overall, but for someone with an ADHD + OCD personality like mine…the sheer volume of variety can end up being a huge time drain.  In fact, that’s one reason I created VSATESTS!  

My Main Uses for VSATESTS:

  1. Test out different themes
  2. Test out stylizing features…especially as I’m learning to code more in HTML & CSS
  3. I write posts to myself  as notes which I can refer to when I need to look up some HTML or CSS code
  4. Test out WordPress.com features that I want to see the results of before risking using on them on my main websites

Even thought VSATESTS is published, it never really dawned on me that my site would ever be visited by anyone else.  Consequently, it’s kind of mess…or rather it was!

Recently, I added a link to another blogger’s post for my own use.  It was to a wonderful blog written by someone named Lorelle, who I suspect began as an independent blogger, but I think may be part of the WordPress team now.  She visited VSATESTS and provided some useful advice about what I was working on that day.  You can see what I’m talking about here.  That’s when I realized that by publishing my site, I was making it available to the the world at large!

I mean, I did know that already.  I know that I could change the ‘published’ to ‘draft’ but I purposefully did not do that because there are differences and I needed to see what the current thing I was testing out would look like after it was published publicly.

But, in doing so, I now feel obligated to at least make this site potentially useful to others too…so I took a stab at cleaning it up some.  While doing that I realized that there were a lot of problems here at the VSATESTS site that I think my be related to the Theme itself.  Each Theme has it’s own learning  curve.  

A Little About the Gazette Theme

First off, I learned that you can always easily discover what theme a website is using at WordPress.com but scrolling to the very bottom of any post and looking in (usually) the bottom right hand corner.  By clicking or tapping on the Theme’s name you’ll be taken to that theme’s website.

Problems That I’m Having With the Gazette Theme

The Gazatte theme uses a Featured Content sort of widget at the top of the screen.  I’ve not been able to figure out much about how to use it other than this.  It has one setting that is managed in the Customization area.  You can add a certain tag onto select posts and then they will appear in the Featured a Content area.  This area seems to cover up either the site’s header image or the Featured image for a post…I’m not sure which yet.  But I need to research this more because occasionally I arrive at a page or view that is really messed up and I believe it’s because of this Featured content functionality.

During the cleanup process I realized that this part of my site wasn’t working properly, and another part too.  The second one is a right hand side widget that should display top posts and pages I think. Even though I have plenty of posts, there were none displaying in this section.  So I researched why not and found out that in order for something to show up here, you need to have actual visits to the posts.  Since no one ever really visits my site and I think that explains why there were no posts displayed there.

But I think I was wrong!  Here’s why.  In order to generate some visits to my posts…visits that WordPress.com would count as true visits and not made by moi…I enabled the Privacy View mode on my iPad’s Safari app.  (Incidently, you can do the same thing when using Chrome by using Incognito.)  

To enable Privacy View on an ios device just do this…

After viewing quite a few posts…some of them multiple times while in Privacy mode…absolutely nothing has changed with the Top Posts and Pages Widget.  In fact odder still is that the only post that appears there is this one!  Or rather, my most recent post.   Which, by the way, as long as I’m complaining about things does not show up in the Recent Posts menu either.  Clearly, this theme is completely different than the other’s I’m more used to using including 2010 and the Writr Themes.  

But these problems also illustrate one huge issue within WordPress.com I believe.  The answer to many people’s questions is often ‘switch to a different theme’…but switching themes is both a big learning curve, and not usually the answer either.  As I’m beginning to learn.  In fact I have a post on vsatests just about testing themes and how the site appears is what I was focusing on…but I now know that is the last (week maybe not last, but close to last) thing that I should be focusing on here!

2 Messed Up Webpages Using the Gazette Theme

Below are 2 links to really messed up webpages on my blog.  The first is the main Link to this blog.  The second is to a post. In both cases there are posts and text that floats over the main header image for the site.  In both cases I think the effect looks awful, and I’m not sure it’s even worth my time trying to figure out how to fix it.  Or if I should just switch to a different theme yet again!

In the 2nd instance the thing that’s a bit different is that I added a featured image too.  But I’ve done that here as well, and while I don’t think it looks great…at least I don’t have the floating text problem!

The Main Link to vsatests is the one that shows the really messed up view of the site

Testing Out Adding Colors to Fonts Using HTML

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