Two meta blog posts in a row is a sure sign of a blog in peril, but I'd thought I'd give Alastair a nod regarding customizing the Sandbox theme.
My last attempt at a custom theme resulted in a great deal of bit rot, so when looking for a new theme I really shied away from anything that required any maintenance effort on my part. I thought that meant I had to find a theme that meet all my functional and visual requirements at once -- seemingly a tall order.
Until I discovered child themes.
Great googamooga -- child themes for the win. I recommend reading through Demetris' How to make a “child theme” for WordPress post for all the gory details, but my resulting
wp-content/themes/ directory looks like this:
themes/sandbox/the standard Sandbox theme, unmodified. (Sandbox 1.6 as of this post.)
themes/sandbox-madbean/my child theme.
themes/sandbox-madbean/style.css(copy as of this post).
themes/sandbox-madbean/functions.phpan override to add my own footer (copy as of this post).
display:noneto hide sections I didn't want. In the past this is what would have prompted me to make a full custom theme. But I can live with just hiding the divs.
add_action()in functions.php to add my own footer text.
Demetris has another excellent post An easy style-switcher for WordPress on using Theme Switcher Reloaded. After disabling WP Super Cache, Theme Switcher Reloaded allows you to override the theme used in a session-sticky manner.
However, I couldn't get it to work with a child theme. So I developed my theme in a copy of Sandbox, then converted that diff to a child theme. <!-- WP Theme Credits -->