BloggingPro » WordPress Themes http://www.bloggingpro.com News, plugins and themes for blogging applications Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 9 Vital Considerations Before Purchasing or Downloading a WordPress Template http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/06/23/how-where-buy-wordpress-theme/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/06/23/how-where-buy-wordpress-theme/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 01:36:52 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=30488 One of the most important steps to take when launching a website is deciding a theme or design that is perfectly suited for your style, goals, niche and target audience. For me, this decision making process can take up to 3 weeks before I finally chose a direction and idea that I am confident and comfortable with. Even then, there’s a chance that I may end up feeling for a change because of a new development and perspective. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial step in brainstorming and developing your site. Whether you’re designing it from scratch or purchasing a template.

wordpress themes

Having been in web development and online publishing for a while, I’ve come across the good, bad and ugly in WordPress theme development and design; and have seen many site owners spend money on templates they live to regret.

Here are 9 important factors to consider before spending the cash or getting attached to a theme that ends up being a complete waste of time.

1. Is the Design Compatible With Your Goals & Target Market?

Think about what you will be trying to achieve through your website and how you will want to interact with your readers and potential customers. For example, if your blog is about photography, don’t purchase a theme that doesn’t have portfolio page options, fancy lightbox effects or does not offer unique control of your image files. Get the picture?

Before choosing your theme, make a rough sketch of what you would want your site to look like with the primary components at the positions you think will be most beneficial for your readers. Always aim for user-friendliness and straight forward designs. Your personal preferences are not relevant, your audience’s opinion matters greatly.

2. Administrative Functions Included

If you’re not a developer and not comfortable with dabbling in code, then you need a framework that allows you to seamlessly update as much of the functionality of your site as possible.

If you’re going to be spending money on a premium theme, ensure that it comes with theme / customization options that enable you to change colors, header images, logos, CSS styles and add supporting code like google analytics, etc. These features will give you a great level of control over your site’s design without the need to learn too much code required for manipulation.

3. Technical Support & Community

Does the site from which you’re purchasing your theme have a supportive community of developers and users who are ready to answer your queries and assist with problems if they arise? Marketplaces like Themeforest and Mojothemes offer author ratings to give you an idea of how well products perform before purchasing. Ensure that this community is vibrant and take a look at past queries and posted user difficulties and observe how they are handled. If you see many questions unanswered in their forums or blog then that’s a sign of how they treat customers. Stay away!

4. User Manuals & Documentation

Purchased themes must come with user manuals and other types of documentation. These will help you to get started with your new theme easily and the learning curve would be shortened. Some theme developers offer access to view documentation without purchasing. Look for these to determine if you can handle using the template.

5. Theme Updates

Once a theme is purchased you should not have to pay for future updates, improvements and additions. Web development is constantly changing and improving, so there will always be newer versions of your theme released on a regular basis. If the developers want you to pay for updates or just don’t offer any at all, then don’t buy it. Especially if you’re not comfortable with code.

6. Price – Is It Worth It?

The price of WordPress themes can range anywhere between $20 and up to even $100 depending on the type of package you’re purchasing, features and complexity of the design. Price is a good indication of the level of quality to expect. At an average of $60 you can get a really awesome theme with lots of features to start any online business.

Do not spend more than $40 on a theme that does not have customization options which will allow you to easily tweak and personalize your blog. Look for theme developers like Elegant Themes who offer a yearly membership of $39 which will allow you to download all their cool themes.

Free or Premium

It really does not make a difference whether your theme is a free one or if you paid for it. As long as it accomplishes your goals, then you should do just fine. However, premium templates do tend to consistently offer more features, more unique designs and their developers offer more support.

7. Is It Responsive / Mobile-Friendly?

Surely you don’t need an explanation of why your website needs to be mobile-friendly. It’s an absolute necessity for any site you maintain and you should test the demo version of the sites you’d like to purchase on your mobile devices. No excuses here, zero alternatives. Half of your audience will be accessing your site via mobile and the number will continue to rise. Serve them well.

8. Does the Demo Perform Well?

If the theme developer or marketplace does not provide a working demo then chances are you’d be purchasing a broken product. Test the theme extensively before purchasing. A theme developer like Templatic offers complete demo’s of the front-end and template backend for you to test not only the aesthetics but the administrative experience.

9. Caution!

Never download and use themes from sites that are giving away premium themes (which are usually sold by their developers) for download when they themselves are not the theme’s developer. 90% of the time, these themes will contain hidden malicious code that can potentially harm your website’s reputation and performance in Google and sometimes affect user experience.

Always download themes from their original source which is usually from the developer’s website or official marketplace where they’re held accountable for their products.

WordPress Theme Resources

There are quite a few developers online who are simply awesome at developing and consistently release killer WordPress themes on a monthly basis. Below is a list of both premium and free WordPress theme sites. Note that premium sites do occasionally release free themes.

Free WordPress Themes Sites:

WP Explorer
Here are 30 Free Themes

Premium WordPress Themes:

Themeforest
Elegant Themes
Woo Themes
Rocket Themes

Conclusion

Having the perfect theme for your website plays a key role in determining its initial success and developing your image as a publisher and business person. Take pride in your design, keep your readers in mind and always aim for the highest standards.

Which theme are you using for your blog design? Are you satisfied or are you thinking of making a switch or doing an upgrade? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

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Top Free WordPress Themes of 2014 http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/06/23/top-free-wordpress-themes-of-2014/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/06/23/top-free-wordpress-themes-of-2014/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=30448 It’s easy to find WordPress themes these days, but with all your choices, it can get rather tedious. How do you find the best ones?

best-free-wordpress-themes

Source

Today we’ll show you 30 of the most beautiful free WordPress themes of 2014. All of them are free to download and use, and all of them were released in 2014. We took a look at different theme sites to save your time and ensure you can find the most impressive free WordPress themes of 2014 in one place.

For your convenience, the top free WP themes of 2014 are broken into the following categories: News, Personal, Portfolio, Travel, eCommerce and Business. So, whether you need a design for a personal web page, photo blog, corporate blog, news site or even an eCommerce site, you will find it here.

It’s also worth noting that some themes on the list are based on WordPress frameworks. As for eCommerce WP themes, you’ll also need eCommerce plugins to make them work, but the good thing is that both WordPress frameworks and eCommerce plugins are free as well.

If you like any of these themes and want to use it on your site or your client’s site, please click on the links below the theme. This way you will not only see the theme’s demo, but will also learn about its features and how to download it.

Free WP Themes for News Sites

Semicolon

WordPress themes for 2014
Live Demo
Download

Ignite

Ignite
Live Demo
Download

Fullby

Fullby
Live Demo
Download

Dazzling

Dazzling
Live Demo
Download

Free WordPress Themes for Personal Blogs

Circa

wordpress themes of 2014
Live Demo
Download

Sorbet

Sorbet
Live Demo
Download

Tonal

Tonal
Live Demo
Download

Tracks

Tracks
Live Demo
Download

Editor

Editor
Live Demo
Download

Free WordPress Themes for Portfolio Sites

Make

Make
Live Demo
Download

Ambience

Ambience
Live Demo
Download

StanleyWP

Stanley
Live Demo
Download

Portfolio

Portfolio Theme
Live Demo
Download

Meris

Meris
Live Demo
Download

Eighties

Eighties
Live Demo
Download

Free WP Themes for Travel Blogs

Drop

Drop
Live Demo
Download

Sparkling

Sparkling
Live Demo
Download

Pictorico

Pictorico
Live Demo
Download

Fictive

Fictive
Live Demo
Download

Free WordPress Themes for eCommerce Sites

Jewelry

wordpress themes of 2014
Live Demo
Download

Exquisite Style

Exquisite Style
Live Demo
Download

Mystile

Mystile
Live Demo
Download

Travel Store

Travel Store
Live Demo
Download

Socute

Socute
Live Demo
Download

Coffee

Coffee
Live Demo
Download

Free WordPress Themes for Business Sites

Corporate

wordpress themes of 2014
Live Demo
Download

Dream Home

Dream Home
Live Demo
Download

Interface

Interface
Live Demo
Download

Ravintola

Ravintola
Live Demo
Download

Intuition

Intuition
Live Demo
Download

We hope you enjoyed the free WP themes we’ve just shared with you, but please, don’t forget that theme creators don’t usually provide support for free items. Still, most free themes come with instructions on how to install and edit them. And of course, you’re free to replace the default texts and images with your own ones.

It’s up to you whether to use free WordPress themes or premium WordPress themes, but this article proves that some free themes look like premium ones, so why don’t you try them out and see if they meet your needs?

This post was written by Helen Bailey, a Marketing Assistant at TemplateMonster.com; passionate about Web Design, WordPress and Search Engine Optimization; Happy to share her experience with the community.

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15 Functional e-Commerce WordPress Blogging Themes to Start Raking in the Sales http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/04/30/e-commerce-wordpress-blogging-templates-for-sales/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/04/30/e-commerce-wordpress-blogging-templates-for-sales/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 22:44:52 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=30236 WordPress is not just for blogging but is a powerful platform for achieving any imaginable goal online. The business of blogging is evolving and if you do not yet have a plan of action for monetizing your blog beyond advertising, now is the time to start thinking outside the box. Start running your blog like a business offering real services and products. The accumulated content on your blog is of greater value than you could imagine and brainstorming a little with content you’ve published so far, you’ll find opportunities to create information products or showcase products in your niche of which you could even benefit from affiliate sales. e-Commerce WordPress Theme Here are examples of 15 e-Commerce WordPress templates to get your creative juices flowing.

Responsive e-Commerce WordPress Themes for Digital Products

These themes are powerful for selling digital products on your blog. The standard blog page designs that come with these themes will serve as a worthwhile upgrade for presenting your articles and ideas. Marketify e-Commerce WordPress Theme Click here to download Marketify. HumbleShop e-Commerce WordPress theme Click here to download HumbleShop. DownloadShop 1_splash_screen Click here to download DownloadShop

Standard Responsive e-Commerce WordPress Templates

Minimal Multipurpose 01_themepreview Click here to download Minimal Multipurpose Theme Kiosk 2.0 kiosk Click here to download Kiosk 2.0 Big Point big point Click here to download Big Point Restaurant restaurant Click here to download Restaurant Techgostore techgostore Click here to download Techgostore Genuine genuine_screen Click here to download Genuine Organic Shop organic Click here to download Organic Shop Frenzy frenzy Clcik here to download Frenzy Nice Theme Fashion fashion Click here to download Nice Theme Fashion Circolare circolare Click here to download Circolare Retro retro Click here to download Retro Swiss swiss_preview Click here to download Swiss

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The Latest Free WordPress Themes (Released in 2014) http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/04/14/latest-free-wordpress-themes-released-2014/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2014/04/14/latest-free-wordpress-themes-released-2014/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=30096 Editor’s Note: This post was written by Helen Bailey, a Marketing Assistant at TemplateMonster.com. Passionate about Web Design, WordPress and Search Engine Optimization, she is happy to share her experience with the community.

Here’s another article about free WordPress themes, but this one is special in its own way. Read on and learn why it is so.

Although there are so many free WP themes on the net, you would prefer to choose from the latest of them, right? So we’ve made a list of WordPress themes which are not only free, but were released in 2014. This ensures that you have the most creative of the newest themes online.

While working on this article it became obvious to us that web designers offering this kind of freebie keep an eye on the latest web design trends. For example, they build responsive WP themes. Also, many of their themes are perfect examples of flat web design.

I should mention that some of the themes on the list can be downloaded right away, while others require a registration before you can download the files. Still, registration is free, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.

Of course it’s your decision whether to use a WordPress theme or a custom design for your WordPress site, but the best thing about the themes featured below is that you can get them free!

If you are ready to see the newest free WP themes, please scroll down and enjoy! However, we should note that a screenshot does not show the true beauty of a WordPress theme. Therefore, we suggest that you click screenshots one by one and find more information about each theme, and of course see its live demo.

Ravintola

Responsive Portfolio Theme

free wordpress themes

Legend

Corporate

free wordpress themes

Elegant

free wordpress themes

Bizz

GoPress

free wordpres themes

Blogly

free wordpress themes

Graphy

Onetone

free wordpress themes

Undiscovered

free wordpress themes

StanleyWP

free wordpress themes

DW Timeline

Onesie

free wordpress themes

Cubby

free wordpress themes

Wilson

free wordpress themes

Hemingway

free wordpress themes

Fullby

free wordpress themes

Pisces

free wordpress themes

Aquarius

free wordpress themes

We hope this article will be helpful to many of you, especially web designers, photographers and other creative folks looking for free WordPress themes.

We welcome your comments, so please don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you want to share your opinion on what you’ve just seen, or if you know some other WordPress themes which are available free of charge and released this year.

Looking for the best responsive WordPress themes?

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Best Responsive WordPress Themes From ThemeForest http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/11/27/best-responsive-wordpress-themes-themeforest/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/11/27/best-responsive-wordpress-themes-themeforest/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 12:00:09 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=29184 Responsive WordPress themes are all the rage these days, and rightly so. While not everyone might be joining the responsive design bandwagon, there is a strong case to be made for this school of thought. After all, with people gaining access to the Internet using devices of all shapes and sizes (well, maybe not shapes, but definitely sizes), a web site owner has to do what he can to ensure that the viewing experience is pleasant across the board.

That’s where responsive design comes into the picture.

If you are looking to tweak your blog so that you can present a responsive experience to your readers, let us help you by showcasing some of the best responsive WordPress Themes from ThemeForest, one of the hottest sources of themes today. ThemeForest offers a wide selection, from Parallax WordPress Themes to Joomla templates.

Creation

best responsive wordpress themes
This minimalist WordPress theme was created for businesses who want their message to come across clearly. If that’s your goal, business or not, Creation will do a great job.

Pont

best responsive wordpress themes
The creators of Pont describe their theme as a “multi-purpose” one. With a host of page templates to choose from, unlimited colors, 18 background patterns, 2 slideshow types, 37 included cufon fonts, drag and drop menu builder, sidebar video support, portfolio and slider post types, and 50+ shortcodes with shortcode manager, this theme really meets all sorts of needs.

The Times

best responsive wordpress themes
The Times is the perfect WordPress theme if you’re going for a magazine-type look. This is one of the most flexible themes out there, allowing your creativity to flourish.

Panes

Panes
Want something that looks totally different? How about WordPress on one page? That’s what Panes is all about – you’ll certainly stand out from the rest.

Clipboard

best responsive wordpress themes
Here’s another WordPress theme to make you stand out. If you like the looks of Tumblr but want the features of WordPress, you’ll love this theme.

CrowdPress

CrowdPress
Do you want to harness the power of crowdfunding via your blog? Check this theme out, and get started.

Illustrate

Illustrate
Creatives are among the luckiest people these days, as the Internet has given them an accessible platform to showcase their work. If you’re a creative who is looking for the best WordPress theme for your online portfolio, look no more.

Bazar Shop

best responsive wordpress themes
Another popular type of site is the online shop. Entrepreneurial minded individuals simply have to go online, create their store, and make some money. Of course, there are some technical and legal aspects to consider. To make it easy for you on the technical side, take a look at this theme. It is specially designed for online stores, and you’ll certainly have one worry less.

Wedding

Wedding
Practically any event can be announced and documented online, but there is something special about weddings and wedding websites. If you’re gearing up for the biggest day of your life, then you want the best possible theme for that.

Reason

Reason
Responsive. Quick. Customizable. Simply beautiful. What else can you want from a WordPress theme? More so, this theme was designed with the users heavily in mind, so even if you’re not that technically adept, you will find it very easy to use.

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Top 30 Responsive WordPress Templates for Your Business http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/10/15/top-30-responsive-wordpress-templates-for-your-business/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/10/15/top-30-responsive-wordpress-templates-for-your-business/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 12:00:46 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=28947 Globe Icon: WordPress

Starting something new is always quite complicated. Most people think that it is their unique product that is valued by customers, and it is hard to argue with that. But they should also understand one thing – people do not usually go far before judging you. So it does not matter if you have great content on your web page. If it looks scruffy, there is no way you will strike home.

Appearance does matter!

If you are thinking about running your own site by yourself, you probably have already thought about the design. You might have certain experience in the area, but making it from scratch is rather complicated. And it is rather natural for people to expect the results sooner than later. That is why using a ready-made template seems way more reasonable than spending much time and money on developing a new design. We are not saying it is not the way to do it – hand-crafted things are usually valued (many times) more – just don’t forget that everything comes at a certain price.

The solution is quite easy – just choose a template for your website from the list of the best premium templates on the Internet. However, it is the “making the choice” part that can be a hindrance for some people. Nothing is harder than making a first step, simply because it has to be well planned. More so, it is really hard to plan something you are not really good at. People usually go with the majority when it comes to such choices, and the majority choses WordPress.

Why WordPress Over Other CMS Platforms?

If you are taking the first steps in getting to know your CMS better, then WordPress is for you, because it is just easier to operate with. Changing settings and making things look different is what WordPress is about. This CMS is extremely user-oriented, that is why it is so popular. You can make your WordPress design according to your preferences.

The Reasons to Choose TemplateMonster Over Others?

•For the starters, it is all about saving you time and money. Making a theme yourself is complicated, not mentioning that it is rather expensive. In addition, it takes a lot of time for the designers to build a new WordPress theme from scratch. Just remember, time is money!

•If you choose TemplateMonster, you choose the easiest. Downloading the theme and installing it does not take longer than a couple of hours. Moreover, if you encounter difficulties, there is 24/7 support.

•Latest WordPress themes look very stylish, but it is the usability that makes them so popular. TemplateMonster went further and designed a special free framework that is search engine friendly and user oriented. Cherry Framework is fully responsive. You can adjust it to your liking very quickly. It is also very easy to operate, so it will not take you long to adjust to it.

•Getting a template from TemplateMonster gives you a great advantage of having licensed images you could you elsewhere. Take a look at the templates below, what would these WordPress themes mean without such inspiring images?

Don’t Know What to Begin With?

Take a look at the newest designs by TemplateMonster and see for yourself, maybe there is something that you have been looking for? If not, check out their site, as it is the largest provider of Internet templates.

Nice and Friendly Travel Agency WordPress Responsive Template

Building a travel agency is all about being friendly and able to offer what the most demanding client is looking for.
44743-wp-b

Colorful Business Planning WordPress Theme

Business consulting could be many things, but it could never be boring for those who really love their job. So make it look like you love what you do.
44910-wp-b

Powerful and Healthy – Responsive WordPress Website

Being healthy and feeling healthy are two different things. You may not feel you are ill, but being you are healthy is pure gold.
42495-wp-b

Design Agency Cherry-Based WordPress Website

Creative and stylish interior design has to have certain attributes like usability and attractiveness. This template certainly has them.
42065-wp-b

Car Service Cherry Framework Responsive WordPress Theme

Make it look like there is nothing more important to your business than your customer’s car.
41821-wp-b

Tricky Logistics Responsive WordPress Template

Talking about transportation, safety is the first thing people care about. This template is very simple and secure, just like the “old school” most would trust in.
41574-wp-b

Creative Fashion Design Magazine WordPress Template

Wonderful fashion designs and convenient menus are all you need to make your fashion magazine number one on the Internet.
41530-wp-b

Repairing Computers Company WordPress Website

Finding a solution for every problem is what your customers value you for, especially if the navigation of your site allows them to place the order quickly.
40857-wp-b

Friendly Business Consulting Cherry WordPress Theme

40794-wp-b

Number One Business Planning WordPress Template

Being one of many is not what you are looking for? Try this template and show people you are the true leader.
40737-wp-b

Powerful and Confident Construction Responsive WordPress Theme

Creative design is only part of what people could really trust in. Making it safe is really the prerogative.
40425-wp-b

Smart Management Cherry Responsive WordPress Website

Managing the business of others might seem easy, but when it comes to proving it to people, that it is not always the case, so you need a persuasive tool at your hands – just like this template.
40349-wp-b

Nice and Clean Construction Firm Responsive WordPress Template

Running construction business means being under a lot of pressure.
40348-wp-b

Creative and Neat Folio Responsive WordPress Template

Don’t hesitate to call something your own and express all your creativity.
40346-wp-b

Private Dentist Cherry WordPress Website

Being a dentist is putting people’s needs above yours, don’t forget that. Hide your “ego” and make it all about them.
40257-wp-b

Perfect Fitness Club Cherry WordPress Template

Going to a fitness club is certainly not the only way to look good, that is why your design should be very stimulating and encouraging.
40183-wp-b

Progressive Business Cherry Responsive WordPress Template

Being smart does not mean you know all the moves ahead, but it definitely means that you should look like you actually do.
40000-wp-b

Personal Training WordPress Website

Training your muscles is just like training your brain – you have to do it everyday.
39941-wp-b

Simple and Clear Computer Service WordPress Theme

This black and silver theme is the best color choice for the computer repair online business.
39471-wp-b

Amazing Hobby Responsive WordPress Template

Don’t tell me you do not want to monetize your hobby. This template is just what you need for that.
39074-wp-b

Beautiful and Attractive Fashion Responsive WordPress Template

Nice and simple fashion portfolio – worth a thousand words.
38547-wp-b

Simple and Carrying Business Solutions Cherry WordPress Template

Great and innovative solutions are always needed. Delivering them to your customers is so much easier with this template.
38291-wp-b

Simple Black and White Folio WordPress Theme

There is nothing wrong with using a simple concept, especially if it is black and white classics.
38290-wp-b

Customer-Oriented Car Service WordPress Website

Don’t think that customers do not feel if you care about them or not. Being friendly is easy with this template.
38179-wp-b

Best City Portal Responsive WordPress Theme

Diverse content and easy navigation are the first signs of the well-thought city portal website.
37712-wp-b

Business Mentoring Cherry Responsive WordPress Template

Always be in the center of what is going on with your clients. This is the best way to find the right solution.
37481-wp-b

Tasty Recipes Responsive WordPress Theme

A little soul added to every recipe makes it the most delicious meal you have ever tasted.
37322-wp-b

Charity Cherry WordPress Theme

Charity is always a way to give back what the world has given you in the first place.
37305-wp-b

Unique Photographer’s Portfolio Responsive WordPress Template

It is part of every photographer’s job to make it all look very presentable. No matter what the artist is “selling”.
37199-wp-b

Nice and Clean Hotel WordPress Website

Running the website for your hotel means being friendly to everyone, so keeping basic colors could be a perfect fit.
37176-wp-b

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The Most Popular Premium WordPress Themes http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/08/23/the-most-popular-premium-wordpress-themes/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2013/08/23/the-most-popular-premium-wordpress-themes/#comments Fri, 23 Aug 2013 11:30:05 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=28514 Most Popular WordPress Premium Themes  infographic    WPTemplate.com
WordPress certainly has a lot going for it, and themes are not the least of it. Anyone who has dabbled with the platform will know that there is a plethora of themes out there, some free, some not. The discussion as to whether one ought to stick with free themes or to get premium WordPress themes is as old as, well, WordPress itself, and for some, it is not over.

If you are looking at going for premium WordPress themes, I reckon you will not be disappointed in the long run. While I do believe in using free themes when possible, there is something to be said about using premium ones. In any case, this post is not about convincing you to spend your money. That’s assumed. ;)

The guys at WPTemplate have created an infographic that highlights the most popular premium WordPress themes, and it is our pleasure to share it with you. Working on the assumption that you are ready to invest in a theme that will serve you well in the long run, we present the infographic below.
Most Popular WordPress Premium Themes
WordPress Templates

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How I Created a New WordPress Theme in 5 Hours http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2012/12/12/how-i-created-a-new-wordpress-theme-in-5-hours/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2012/12/12/how-i-created-a-new-wordpress-theme-in-5-hours/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 17:26:00 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=26755 WordPress LogoLast month I found myself with my back against the wall: My theme was falling apart.

In June of 2011 I had switched my site to the Headway Theme Framework, version 2.X. The changeover, initially, went very well. The theme was wonderful on the test site and, despite a hiccup or two in transferring it to the new main site, things were up and running quickly.

But problems slowly began to arise. The theme would occasionally have errors where the settings would change or elements would be added, causing sections of my pages to be repeated many times over. Most of the time the problems were minor and easily fixed, but they were annoying. However, over time the problems began to escalate.

After setting up the theme, I was at a major plagiarism conference in the UK when my site broke completely and became unreadable. The smaller errors started to become more common and it began to feel as if I was doing patch jobs on the theme weekly or more regularly.

I tried addressing the issue with both my host and with Headway’s support but none of the changes, including increasing the memory in my VPS, seemed to help. The people at Headway encouraged me to upgrade to the 3.X branch, saying it was much more stable and resource-friendly. However, there’s no upgrade path to go from 2.X to 3.X, meaning that doing so would require starting from scratch. In my mind, I didn’t have the time to set up a new theme and the patches, while annoying, were not time-consuming.

But then things went from bad to worse. In one day the theme went down three times and, the last time, temporarily took the entire database with you. Though I have good backups of my database, nothing causes a moment of panic quite like realizing that 8 years of hard work may have just been erased.

Fortunately it wasn’t, but with errors now as frequent as coffee breaks, I knew something had to be done quickly. So, that evening, I set out on one of my most ambitious WordPress-related tasks, creating an entire new theme in one night.

Picking My Battles

Headway LogoSensing that there might be a much more serious collapse on the horizon, the most important thing was to get my site stable. Unfortunately, that meant making some sacrifices.

Specifically, there were three points I had to surrender on before I started:

  1. Using Headyway 3: Though my experience with Headway 2 was definitely not the best and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to using a new theme, I knew the theme framework well and Headway is designed for speedy development above all else. If I was going to do it in one night, I couldn’t take the time to learn something new.
  2. Duplication, Not Reinvention: While I could tweak my theme and change a few things around, I couldn’t reinvent the wheel either. By trying to copy what I had, I was sticking with a look that seems to be working for me and avoiding a lot of time-consuming testing.
  3. Complexity: My original theme had many nuanced elements that could not be easily replicated with Headway 3. Rather than getting bogged down in minutia, it was better to find easier ways to get the features working and then add the polish later.

With the limitations in mind, I ended up with the very unambitious goal of recreating my existing site in Headway 3, but with the very ambitious time frame of that evening.

The Process

To start the process, I installed Theme Test Drive so that I could work on the new theme while visitors would still visit the old. With two computers side-by-side, I left myself logged out of one so that I could feed myself information from my existing site and plug it into the new theme.

From there, I knew I had to make three separate layouts for the theme to work:

  1. Home Page Layout: The home page of my site.
  2. Single Page Layout: The page for all posts and all pages.
  3. Archive Layout: The page for tags, authors and all other layouts that list multiple posts.

Fortunately, Headway makes it very easy to get started with a new theme as you actually draw layout in a grid. I quickly sketched out the home page layout, mimicking closely my existing website but adding about 100px to the width. After setting up each of the sections of the layout, within about 30 minutes I had a pretty good replication of the home page of my site with a few problems.

First, the way Headway 3 handles excerpts is much more limited than Headway 2. I could not recreate the two-column look easily with Headway 3. Second, my slider would need adjustment to fit to the wider site. Everything else, however, translated pretty well other than styling tweaks.

I set about trying to fix the excerpt problem and realized that the only practical solution, short of coding it myself, was to pick up the paid Excerpts+ leaf. While it’s a great plugin and a nice addition, it seemed a bit like building a sandcastle with a bulldozer.

Though it started out as a reluctant purchase, it ended up working well as I was able to get the excerpts I wanted quickly.

From there, I set my sights on the other pages and followed a similar pattern. However, there I was able to start with the home page layout and just eliminate and add what was needed. Pretty quickly I had all three pages working, though almost none of the styling was done and there were many elements to add.

This was where the two computers came in handy. On the non-logged in machine I looked up the CSS elements I had and recreated them one by one in the new template. Piece by piece, the new template came together.

Now, after just a few hours, the new theme looked almost identical to the old but the devil was in the details.

Finishing Up

There were two problems still preventing me from going live. One was that my slider still did not look right and the second was that the search function wasn’t in the correct place.

Unfortunately, neither of these problems were going to be crackable that night. The slider I use would not let me adjust the width of the right hand side. Though there was an option for it, the highlight (which displays when the post is in the main window) would not update with it, making it look broken. Though I felt it would look best with the right-hand buttons extended at least some, I had to put all of the additional width into the main image.

The search box, previously, was a part of the navigation bar but the hooks feature that made that possible in Headway 2 is not available in Headway three and workarounds resulted in ugly results. I decided to just move the search bar to the top of the page and be done with it.

With the help of my wife, we began to test the site, loading up a variety of pages in the new theme and fixing any errors we saw. Fortunately, there wasn’t much to address but we did notice some minor CSS bugs, such as some links not showing up red and linked subheads displaying oddly.

When it was ready, about 5 hours later, I pushed the new theme live and asked others via Twitter to let me know if they saw any issues. No further problems crept up. Though I noticed and squashed a few other minor bugs over the next few days, for the most part, the theme has held up well.

The Epilogue So far

It’s now been about a month since I did that frantic bit of development. The new theme has held up well and few people even noticed the change (or noticed it enough to mention it). The new theme has also not had any problems and, bit by bit, I’ve been adding back in some of the spit and polish of the original theme.

I’m honestly not sure how long I’m going to keep it though. Given the problems I had with Headway 2 and the franticness that went into this more-or-less forced upgrade, I’d like to switch to a different framework when it comes time to do a full overhaul.

In the meantime though, Headway 3 seems to be working well enough. There have been no issues that have caused the theme to break, even when other server issues arose, and the theme even took a major traffic spike on the chin without an issue.

The main thing, right now, is that the danger has passed and I can now take my time deciding what my next move should be.

In the end, my only real regret is that I didn’t take this action sooner. I held out for an upgrade path between Headway 2.X and 3.X while I found myself patching my site regularly. It was a stupid decision.

If I had only done this a year ago, I would have saved myself a lot of headache and panic.

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5 Nightmare Scenarios for Your Blog http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2012/10/31/6-nightmare-scenarios-for-your-blog/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2012/10/31/6-nightmare-scenarios-for-your-blog/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 19:24:05 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=26606 It’s Halloween in the United States (and much of the rest of the world). As such, people are gathering together for parties, going trick or treating and telling scary stories.

In that spirit, last week on Performancing I discussed legal nightmares that can happen to you and your blog. Specifically, there were three scenarios that, while sounding like nothing more than legal theory, actually happened to one or more bloggers.

In that spirit, here are five more practical horror stories to keep you awake when it comes to your blog. Best part of all is that I don’t have to give specific examples because each and every one of these have happened not once or twice, but hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

So if you’re wondering about the gruesome ways your blog can be mangled, kidnapped or killed, here are just five of the more common (and more sudden) ways to consider.

1. The Ghost Blog

If there’s one thing that Halloween reminds us of, it’s our own mortality. Today we are living, breathing and thinking creatures but that could completely change in an instant. But ghost stories tell us that, in some cases, we can live on, at least briefly, as ghosts of our former selves, mere shadows that terrify the living.

Such is true with blogs as well. Blogs, as with all websites, are surprisingly fragile creatures. Database crashes, hard drive failures, natural disasters, human error, etc. can all destroy a website in seconds and leave only a trace of it, the caches, behind to wonder the Internet like a ghost.

Though various backup and cloud technologies have made websites more durable, in an Internet where cheap shared hosting is still the norm and most webmasters forget to backup their sites, it’s not uncommon for sites to simply disappear from the Web, never to be heard from again.

That is, save the whispers of the dead.

2. The Invisible Blog

The idea of the invisible person has been a part of science fiction for at least 1897, when H.G. Well wrote the famous novel “The Invisible Man”. Invisible man stories always raise interesting questions about what it means to be a person and what life would be like if no one could see nor hear you.

However, that’s nearly the exact plight of many blogs on the Internet.

The problem is very simple. By far the most common way to discover a new website is through the search engines and the largest search engine, by a long shot, is Google.

However, Google is a notoriously fickle mistress. Known for dropping or deeply demoting sites in its many updates, shake ups and algorithm changes.

But it doesn’t take a Google shakeup to make your site invisible, human error can result in your site blocking the search engines, essentially making it invisible to them.

While many of these problems can be fixed easily and a site can recover, it can be frightening to realize that no one can find your site, anywhere. That, in turn, raises an interesting philosophical question: If a site exists but can’t be found, does it really exist at all?

3. The Zombie Blog

These days, thanks in large part to George Romero and Night of the Living Dead, we equate the word “zombie” with the undead. However, for most of history a zombie was a living person turned into a mindless drone, an unthinking, unfeeling slave to their zombie master. Movies such as “White Zombie” take this approach.

The same thing can happen to your website. Blogs, basically are applications that display content, usually pulled from a database, in a certain way. But like any software, blogs are vulnerable to attack from the outside.

Spammers, virus authors, pranksters and others are constantly searching for blogs that they can take over and use for their ends, whether it’s posting spammy links, spreading malware or just deface them.

The consequences for this can be dire. Google tends to quarantine hacked sites by either removing them or reducing them in the results. For visitors, things can be even worse as they run the risk of becoming infected themselves or being subjected to unexpected and inappropriate content.

Though most sites can recover if they have a good backup, the best defense is a good offense and that means good security procedures and constant vigilance against possible attacks.

4. The Disfigured Blog

Horror movies, like all scary stories, are filled with tales of disfigured people, often caused by tragic accidents, who despite their outward appearance, have a heart of gold but are still shunned by society. “Phantom of the Opera” being, most likely, the best known example.

But while it’s tempting to say that, for a blog, content is king, that is akin to saying “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”. It’s a theoretically true, but still somewhat naive statement.

Appearance is important that is doubly true for a website, which is a visual medium. But website themes are evolving and are no longer static themes filled with dynamic content. Increasingly, they are more like plugins, using the database to determine your site’s appearance.

This opens the door to a new slew of opportunities and problems. Database corruption, crashes, error and problems can leave your site disfigured, mangled. But even if you don’t use an advanced theme, any third-pary elements you include can suddenly break or change, causing your theme to fall apart.

It’s entirely possible that you could wake up one morning and find that your site is not how you left it. Shocking both you and your visitors into wondering what happened.

5. The Dead Blog

In horror movies, death is rarely final. Villains and heroes alike often find ways to come back from beyond the grave, whether it is for a sequel, a final showdown or just to scare the audience one more time.

However, in real life, death is much more final and blogs, like their owners, die every day. Most are abandoned by their owners, left to freeze to death in the cold, uncaring blackness that can be the Internet.

Other sites are shut down more directly, with accounts being closed and sites deliberately shuttered. Though this may seem the more humane way to end a site, it’s often much worse, leaving a deluge of broken links across the Web and harming other sites that were referencing it.

These sites, and the errors they create, are missed deeply by those who try to visit it. However, some times, even online, they can be resurrected though here it doesn’t take a voodoo curse, instead, it just takes a webmaster, either the same one or a different one, who wants to give the idea another try.

Bottom Line

The bad news is that all of these nightmares are fairly common. The good news is that they are all, more or less, relatively avoidable. With good backups, solid security and dedication to your blog, you can either avoid or easily recover from most of these scenarios.

So if you want to sleep better at night and not have nightmares about what could happen to your site, the best thing you can do is be smart about how you run it. If you take reasonable precautions to protect your site, you’ll likely avoid any major disasters.

That being said, it’s still worth being aware that all of the work you’re doing amounts to zeroes and ones on computers across the world. Your work can turn out to be nothing but dust in the digital wind.

In short, what you spend years to create could be taken from you in a second. That’s just the nature of the digital world.

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PressWork, A Free HTML5 Drag & Drop Framework for WordPress http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/15/presswork-a-free-html5-drag-drop-framework-for-wordpress/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/15/presswork-a-free-html5-drag-drop-framework-for-wordpress/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2011 10:13:29 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=22863 presswork-front-end-editor-smallWhen somebody uses the tagline PressWork is not only a framework… we’re setting the standards for premium themes too! on the paid WordPress themes section of their website, eyeballs are caught and we here at BloggingPro like to have a closer look at things.

PressWork is a new and free, WordPress theme framework, developed by c.bavota and Brendan Sera-Shriar A.K.A. digibomb.

PressWork, A Drag & Drop HTML5 Framework for WordPress

PressWork in its most basic form is an ultra-clean and well organized theme but the magic truly is in its features.

PressWork WordPress HTML5 Framework

PressWork is the latest in an ever expanding group of theme frameworks for WordPress but comes with many unique and handy features.

  • Front-end Editor
  • Drag & Drop
  • HTML5 and CSS3
  • Google Fonts

Using PressWork: 15′ Minutes Only with PressWork

To have a closer look at PressWork I took my rarely updated Frankylicious and switched to PressWork, modifying the site with the PressWork features.

Frankylicious is an image heavy site, with only few words, built on TDHedengren’s light-weight Notes Blog Core theme which I customized rather heavily. Below a screenshot of a typical on Frankylicious entry to compare what we could do in only 15′ with PressWorks.

Frankylicious standard design

Using Donncha’s Theme tester plugin I decided to play round with PressWorks and limit my ‘play time’ to only 15 minutes. After that time, thanks to the front-end editor I should have a new look, ready to set a new standard.

Installing PressWork

Installing PressWork was as simple as uploading the zip file from within the WordPress Themes dashboard and activate it.

But not quite.

PressWork Double Activition Procedure

The team behind PressWork has made the rather annoying decision to integrate a double activation procedure, in order to activate the front-end editor which is not automatically activated upon install of the theme.

As can be expected the theme itself is activated already and PressWork has added a link to the theme admin in the Admin Bar. More annoyingly, the theme also highjacked both favicon and the site’s header.

Hijacked header

Upon activating the front-end toolbox, we are greeted with an infotorial overlay, briefly explaining the toolbox and the new link in the Admin bar, as well as being redirected to the home page, with PressWorks now active.

PressWork Infotorial

One of the great elements about PressWorks in its basic state is that the theme does guide the user through setting up the theme and info messages are omni-present. Especially for all widget and menu areas.
The theme itself is rather reminiscent of the look we know from many a GenesisWP or Thesis design.

PressWork also comes with out-of-the-box activated index/archive page navigation1

PressWork out of the box pagenav

Starting to Work with PressWork Front-End Editor

The most compelling feature for the user not wanting to hack their way round a theme/design or create child themes is the front-end editor in PressWork. Let’s see if we can try to recreate the Frankylicious design.

Front-end editor options

Once all options of the Front-end editor activated, PressWork displays inline information for every page. People who are used to look at code will quickly feel at home and recognize the setup. I had wished that more colours and indents were used though, similar to several browser extensions for developers or source code viewing. Right now it is often difficult to notice what starts where and ends where as can be seen in the following screenshot.

PressWork Front-end Editor Options Activated

While working with WorkPress was easy and allowed several options, soon I was to be put off by the limited feature set of the WorkPress front-end editor and realized to that to customize I would have to dig into code.
It needs to be said that all options presented in the toolbox do exactly that and are very easy to use but the customization level is rather limited.

Header Options

The first thing I wanted to do was to get a similar feel of header for Frankylicious, and unless I were to resort to uploading a header image2, there was no way to move blog description next to the blog title.
I was also disappointed at the limited font options. The integration of Google Fonts is a nice and great feature but I think that people might want to customize their typography more at times and also have more options to change colour of links in certain areas.

Conclusion

First of all I must say that I did not manage to copy the Frankylicious design with the WorkPress drag & drop editor but there is lots of positive to be found PressWork.

The WorkPress front-end editor and drag & drop features excel in simplicity and make creation standard website designs for WordPress easier than ever. Make creating HTML5 design easier than ever before.
There’s no doubt about: PressWork will soon become popular, especially among owners of multiple sites who like to maintain designs very similar or just want HTML5 code for their site.

It would have been nice to see more options in the front-end editor, especially for the homepage and single sections of a site but generally WorkPress is a great and easy to customize framework.

Users wanting to customize their design more and also change location of for example post meta, or further customize the typography, might quickly become frustrated due to the simplicity of WorkPress’ front-end editor which at the same is where its main beauty is. Opting for a theme framework comes with advanced options but one can expect to have to start digging code.
If the team behind WorkPress wants to offer advanced customization options, it would be nice to integrate a Theme customization page in the WP Theme options, allowing to make more CSS and design changes. That way the beautiful and simple Toolbox retains its touch and users have more options without having to start digging code.

Get PressWork

You can get PressWork for free at the PressWork site. The theme is also busy preparing several paid themes for WorkPress, which will be sold at $59,95 for all themes.

  1. But I’m not entirely convinced by the look of the PageNav – and could not change it in the Toolbox either
  2. Which needs to be done in the WP Dashboard under theme options -> Header
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Free WordPress Google+ Themes http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/12/free-wordpress-google-plusthemes/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/12/free-wordpress-google-plusthemes/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2011 03:19:02 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=22842 Google+ has been very popular and the people who have signed up for the still closed Beta service, tend to like it. It is too early to say whether Google+ will stick and disrupt the social scene or even SERPs, but active designers have already released Google+ themes for WordPress.

Two free Google+ themes for WordPress have been released already.

WordPress Google+ Theme by Hacktrix

WordPress +1 Theme by Hacktrix.

WordPress Google+ Theme by Tricksdaddy

WordPress Google+ Theme by Tricksdaddy.

Both themes are very clean and reminiscent of the Google+ look.

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15 Awesome WordPress Home Pages http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/06/15-awesome-wordpress-home-pages/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/07/06/15-awesome-wordpress-home-pages/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2011 10:20:43 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=22764 WordPress, which was just released in version 3.2, has always been at the forefront of creative design and we continue to see many great WordPress designs. Too often WordPress designs are immediately recognizable because of the linear, blog home page. For this entry we looked for greatly designed home pages of sites using WordPress.

OctavoDesign

Artdog

The very bright and colorful homepage of octavo designs is all about scrolling. Not only does the main image scroll down when hovering over it, the whole home page does scroll horizontally.
If you don’t believe this site is made with WordPress, check the source code.

ArtDog

Artdog

The website of ArtDog Gallery clearly showcases work from artist exhibited on the home page and dynamically resizes with the window. A JQuery plugin is used for the image grid.

Justine Ungaro

Justine Ungaro

The home page of photographer Justine Ungaro‘s home page has only one aim and that is to make the visitor marvel at Justine’s awesome photography. Header and footer are kept simple and don’t get in the way of the pictures.

The site navigation is integrated stylishly and expands upon click on the arrow at the top right of the pictures.

About The iPad

About the iPad

About the iPad benefits a design optimized for mobile devices and the number of columns dynamically switches depending on the screen width of your browser or mobile device.
Except for a minor issue with the footer, the site also displays very well on the mobile Webkit browser in Android.

IDi Journal

IDi

The home page of the Catalan Idi uses a great and colorful homepage to indicate the next events in the Catalan community.

Pollier

Pollier Constructions

French construction company Pollier who specialize in constructing with wood, manage to give the website visitor immediately a warm feeling, exudes touches of wood, on their home page.

Ten18 Photography

Ten18 Photography

American photographers Ten18, who met via eHarmony, make sure that the user immediately knows what they do and how to follow them. The home page gives a brief glimpse into their portfolio, with an nicely expanding animation, and list their Facebook and Twitter profiles very prominently.

Imagineria Creativa

Imagineria Creative

Texan Design studio Imagineria Creative has an creative, original way to greet the visitors of their website. At first the background text ‘Hello’ might not be clear but it is a great way to great everyone, all while staying focused on what they do: design creatively.

Card Observer

Card Observer

Business Cards gallery Card Observer displays the most recent entries on their home page, all while smartly including two rows of ads. While we are no big fan of the disturbingly animated ad thumbs, we like the integrating of the Moo.com ad.

Transformology

Transformology

Besides smooth colors Ken Mann’s Transformology has a great flow and the flow of the home page is at the same time an awesome navigation through the site. The home page is rather long but consists of elemental blocks to the site and deserves to be totally analyzed.

Eggleston | Farkas Architects

Eggleston | Farkas Architects

The Eggleston|Farkas Architects home page is an exercise in simplicity and grid design as well as showcasing awesome work while still offering a great navigation to the user.

Lombard Chambers

Lombard Chambers

UK based barristers’ chambers Lombard Chambers welcome the website visitor with a simple home page, including every section of their work on the home page. The home page is kept short and excerpts of the latest news entries can be seen upon click.

The Best Colleges

The Best Colleges

The Best Colleges has a rather simple home page setup, reminiscent of the regular blog setup of used by most WordPress sites but we like the welcoming animation on the web site’s home page.
The Best Colleges also has a extensive best college rankings.

King Scooty

KingScooty

Another WordPress design with animation on the home page is KingScooty the home of graphic designer Scotty Vernon.

Komodo Media

Komodo Media

Komodo Media‘s contrast rich design is a classic we couldn’t leave out. Check out the awesome foliage density slider and how the last.fm album thumbnails are integrated to the design.

Bonus Sites

The following sites are part of our network, but we are proud of the work done by our BusinessLogs lead designer, Sophia Lucero.

Infographiclabs

Infographiclabs, Custom info graphics design

BusinessLogs

BusinessLogs, WordPress Web Design

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Blogging Pitfalls: Why You Should Update Your Themes (and Use Child Themes) http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/06/08/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-should-update-your-themes-and-use-child-themes/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/06/08/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-should-update-your-themes-and-use-child-themes/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2011 16:39:45 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=22591 Twenty Eleven ImageMost bloggers and webmasters who use WordPress understand that you need to keep their core files up to date and also update any plugins that they may have. Fortunately, WordPress makes the process of doing so very easy and painless, usually just a click away, and most users seem to do it without thinking about it.

Unfortunately, most users don’t feel nearly as strongly about their themes. Among many WordPress users, there’s a mentality to equate “theme” with “design” and it is unfortunate because modern WordPress themes are much more than HTML and CSS. PHP, JavaScript and tighter integration with WordPress means that themes are capable of much more than laying out a page.

To drive this point home, prominent WordPress core developer Mark Jaquith said in a recent talk at WordCamp Phoenix 2011 that “The themes of today are pretty much like plugins in terms of what they can do.”

In short, the functionality of themes and plugins overlap greatly as even “basic” themes include additional elements that manipulate WordPress by adding new options and settings.

However, while all of this new functionality is a great thing for bloggers, especially those who want to easily design a great site, it’s bad news for security. WordPress themes are a potential security risk, just as with any plugin, and they require maintenance and testing to make sure they are still safe.

Unfortunately, few people give their themes such weighty consideration, possibly leading to major problems down the road.

The Pitfall

The pitfall to this issue is actually fairly straightforward. Since WordPress themes can run code in a way very similar to plugins, they can also create security issues very similar to plugins. This includes both issues for the WordPress installation and, potentially, issues for visitors of the site.

However, many bloggers still think of their themes as nothing but a collection of static HTML and CSS, even though themes often times add settings, manipulate the database and take other actions that clearly show their power.

To make matters worse, unlike with plugins, most bloggers do at least a modest amount of customization to their themes. This greatly complicates the process of updating them as any update would, without precautions, overwrite the changes and require the editing process to start all over again.

In short, even though themes often contain the exact same security issues as plugins, they are often much more difficult to update and many bloggers aren’t aware that they even should.

Because of this, notifications in WordPress that you should update a theme often go unheeded, even when there are serious security issues. This leaves many bloggers vulnerable to attack and can cause one’s blog to be compromised.

This, in turn, can have very dire consequences, especially if an outside attacker finds away to exploit the vulnerability and run unauthorized code. This can let them manipulate the site and make alterations to it at will, including use it for phishing attacks, to distribute malware or just generally cause havoc.

It’s a pitfall no blogger should risk falling into.

How to Avoid it

The first key to avoiding this pitfall is being aware of it. Understanding just how much scripting and how much potential danger is in and treating it with the appropriate amount of weight is critical to not leaving yourself open.

The second key, obviously, is better coding practices from theme developers. Theme developers should, generally, follow the same coding practices as plugin developers, a point Jaquith was making in his talk, and should use the same APIs for security reasons.

However, neither of these issues prevent themes from having security holes and neither address the ugly mess that can be updating themes. As discussed above, user customizations can make updating a theme a nightmare, forcing one to go back through and re-implement the changes they made.

The solution to this problem is child themes. Child themes are themes that get all of their functionality from their parent theme but keep the user customizations within their files. This means that all of the coding and potential security issues are in the parent theme while the user changes are in the child, making it possible to update the parent theme, fixing any security issues, without losing any of the changes.

The idea is remarkably simple and has been used widely by various WordPress theme frameworks, such as Genesis, to make it easier to change the look and feel of a site while keeping the main framekwork easy to update. This is why Automattic and the core developers of WordPress recommend this approach.

Unfortunately though, few themes make active use of child themes nor do they encourage their users to do so. However, it is very trivial to create a child theme for your site and should not add much to your development time if done correctly.

In short, if you are setting up a new site with a new theme, it is crucial to both be aware of the danger that insecure themes can create and take the steps to make sure that your theme is easily updated, namely using a child theme. If you do that, your site will be a great deal more security and likely have fewer issues with security.

Bottom Line

Of course, all of this is just a small part of the theme security picture. For example, the biggest theme security risk currently is not the installation of an unintentionally insecure theme, but using a theme with malicious code built into it deliberately.

This is why you should only use themes either from the WordPress Theme Gallery or directly from trusted third-party providers, not from intermediary download sites. Not only does this ensure that the code is clean, but it also ensures you can easily update the theme later.

Similarly, you may want to use a plugin like Theme Authenticity Checker (TAC), which scan theme files and look for malicious code. Though these plugins are far from perfect, they may help you vet new themes you put on your site and let you know if your theme has been altered without your knowledge.

In the end though, it’s past time for WordPress users to get serious about theme security, at least as serious about it as they are plugin security. The difference between the two is so minimal now, that ignoring the security of themes is foolish and very likely to land your site in serious trouble down the road.

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Blogging Pitfalls: Why You Can’t Ignore Blog Design http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/04/13/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-cant-ignore-blog-design/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/04/13/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-cant-ignore-blog-design/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2011 20:46:35 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=22001 There’s a saying on the Web that tells us good content can survive an ugly site. This means that, if you put up great content or otherwise provide a valuable service to your visitors, they will continue to come by even if your site is a bit of an eyesore.

To that end, the Internet is filled with examples of sites that do just that. Craigslist has thrived despite its minimalist layout, as has Drudge Report. It seems to many that site design is of no importance at all.

The problem though, is that it is not nearly that simple.

While content is certainly more important than your site’s design, your look, feel and presentation are all key parts of your site’s image and that, like it or not, is very important to your site’s potential success.

Simply put, though great content can survive a bad site, there’s no reason it should have to. Fortunately, this is a pitfall that can be easily avoided and, when done so, can even help your site grow faster than ever.

The Pitfall

It’s a simple truth that visitors make judgments about a site the moment they visit it. Within seconds of a page loading, they’ve made judgments about the site including general perceptions about how much they “like” the site and how it makes them feel.

This happens before they read as much as the first word on your homepage.

While these feelings can be reversed, the truth is that most visitors won’t stick around long enough to have their opinions changed by you. Simply put, changing minds takes time and most visitors are only going to be around for a few moments. You can’t even rely on familiarity to help you out as it can take dozens of exposures for that to work.

If you have a bad site design, people are going to read your content through the filter of the impression it left on them. For example, it seems unprofessional to your readers, they are going to treat your content as being amateurish. Thus, even if your content is of high quality, it may come across as flawed and weak, just because of what surrounds it.

Of course, there’s a lot more to having a good site image than merely not having an ugly template. If your template looks like hundreds of other sites out there, that will make you seem amateurish and may even cause some of your readers to confuse your site with others that share the theme.

Likewise, you can have an attractive site but, if it goes against the message you’re trying to send, it can still frame your content in the wrong light and hinder it from getting its message across.

As such, it’s important not just to have a “nice” or “attractive” look for your site, but to have the right one for what you are trying to do specifically.

This, however, can be tricky to pull off, especially if you don’t know exactly what it is you’re trying to do with your site.

How to Avoid it

The best designs, generally, are the ones that you notice the least. The goal of a good design is not to be pretty or “wow” the visitor, but rather, to direct the visitor to the content, put them in the right frame of mind to read it and help them do so easily.

Creating a site design that does all of those things, however, can be quite a challenge. The reason is that, in addition to the other design considerations that can interfere with you building your ideal site, finding the right look for your site requires a great deal of inflection and honesty about what you want your site to be and what it is.

To get started though, here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are looking for a new template:

  1. What kind of content am I writing? Is it journalistic? Comical? etc.
  2. What elements are on other, similar sites that users might expect to see on mine?
  3. What are some sites in my niche or style, that I like and might want to emulate some?
  4. What are some things that are unique to my site and will identify my site to others?
  5. What do I want my readers to take away from my work and how can my design help that?

Once you can answer those questions, you’ll likely have a good vision for what you want your site to be like and can start looking for themes and designs that fit with that vision.

However, it’s important to not just pick a theme and run with it. With so many sites out there, any attractive theme that you find, especially for free, will likely be used on dozens, if not hundreds, of other sites. Many of those sites will be more popular than yours and others who visit your site will likely recognize the look from elsewhere.

It’s important to use a good theme as just a starting poing and take the time to make it your own. This is where knowing HTML and CSS can be a huge help as you can make a few simple changes to your theme and come away with a radically different look.

The other option, of course, is to choose a theme framework that makes it easy to either edit the look of your site from the backend or just use child themes that can give you a completely different look.

But no matter what method you use, the goal is to get a look and feel for your site that fits your content and the message you’re trying to convey. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a situation where your content has to fist apologize for your theme and make up for it rather than build upon the positive feelings it has helped procure.

Bottom Line

Your site’s design doesn’t have to be perfect, expensive or award-winning to get the job done. It just has to be effective at giving your content a platform to speak for itself without dragging it down.

While it is true that good content can survive a bad design, a bad layout gives your visitor a negative impression of your site before they read word one and forces your content to claw your reader out of that.

Just imagine how much positive your reader’s experience would have been if they had started from a good place and began with a positive image of your site.

To really soar, your blog content needs to cut all of the dead weight attached to it and, sometimes, that means changing the theme as well. A positive user experience is just too important for your content if you want it to be given a fair shake.

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Blogging Pitfalls: Template Fail http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/04/06/blogging-pitfalls-template-fail/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/04/06/blogging-pitfalls-template-fail/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2011 14:19:28 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=20322 Here’s a scary thought for most bloggers. At some point, most likely, you’re going to screw up your site in a very bad way.

Computers are finicky things and your site is no different. With one wrong move you are more than liable to blow your site up, making it either extremely ugly or entirely unusable to your visitors.

This can be a very frightening and embarrassing thing. Not only is it a failure that creates a tremendous panic when it happens, it’s a very public blunder that, quite literally, the entire world can see.

But while there’s no shame in making a mistake with your site and borking it for all to see, it’s a pitfall that is still well worth avoiding if you can. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that you don’t fall into this trap and that, if you do, you can get out of it easily.

The Pitfall

A classic site fail can often start in the most innocent of ways. Wanting to add a new widget to the sidebar, needing to fix a small CSS bug or wanting to install a new plugin or feature.

However, it’s easy to forget that code is a very delicate thing and even a small change can lead to big results. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we’re editing our sites there’s no “undo” feature and we can’t simply go back to what we had, forcing us to reach in and try to find and fix the problem.

That too, unfortunately, carries its own risks. A lot of times bloggers find that, when they try to fix the mess they’ve made they instead make a bigger one, creating new problems that have to be addressed.

This can create a pretty nasty spiral, one where every “fix” leads to a new issue that has to be addressed and creates a fire that grows out of control. It can sometimes get so bad that a blogger has to either revert back to the original theme, redoing all of the edits they made to it over time, or simply switch to a new one, completely ruining the branding and recognition that came with the previous theme.

It’s a difficult pitfall to deal with and it is one that will bite almost every blogger at some point, at least in some way. But what separates those who suffer a sleepless night from those who correct the problem immediately is how one prepares for it and the mindset they go into code editing with.

How to Avoid it

The simplest way to avoid this pitfall is to have a test site, perhaps at http://test.yourdomain.com, keeping it live with a duplicate of your database, your theme, your plugins, etc. This gives you a safe environment to try out your changes before porting them over to your live site.

The problem with setting up and maintaining a test site is that it simply isn’t practical for small changes. While a good idea and even critical for making larger changes to your site, maintaining two copies of your site just so you can test out every minor tweak doesn’t make a great deal of sense unless there is a lot of money or time at stake.

Instead, for smaller changes, it may be better to simply go ahead and work on your live site, but be smarter about how you make the changes.

The key is to make your edits mindful that they could possibly wipe your site off the map. Rather than approaching site edits like a painter trying to create a masterpiece, see yourself more like a bomb squad technician trying not to blow yourself up while defusing a warhead.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep you from doing just that:

  1. Work on One Thing at a Time: Edit one thing on your site at a time and then test it thoroughly before moving onto the next. This way, if something does go wrong you know exactly what caused it.
  2. Copy Before You Edit: Before you edit your template files, be sure to copy the contents of the current file to a text editor. WordPres, Blogger, etc. do not have a template “undo” feature so, if your change screws up your site, you can easily retrieve the old code and revert back to it before trying again.
  3. Be Mindful of Plugins: Remember that plugins often times manipulate your theme and in ways you can’t see when editing your theme files. Exercise caution when installing new plugins and upgrading existing ones.
  4. Stick to the Script: If you’re adding code provided by a third party, unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t edit the code before pasting it. Whether it is a stat counter or a Facebook fan box, changing the code is a big risk.
  5. Learn HTML, PHP and CSS: Finally, it helps to know at least the basics of HTML, PHP and CSS. You don’t have to be able to code a whole site from scratch, but know enough to feel comfortable editing the code and be able to spot problems in formatting. That will go a long way to preventing simple mistakes.

In the end, if you are mindful of the risk and take steps to mitigate it, you probably won’t have a serious problem. Even if the worst does happen and your site is a mess, t’s trivial to bring it back and undo the damage if you were taking precautions going in.

As such, there’s a lot of reasons why your template might break, but not a lot of reasons why it should stay broken for very long.

Bottom Line

For most bloggers, this is a pitfall that they step into only once. A single frustrating, sleepless night of code editing and panic is usually enough to teach the lesson.

However, it’s a lesson that no blogger should have to learn the hard way. As a pitfall, it’s easily avoided and mitigated though few bloggers, when starting out, see the danger for what it is.

The reason is that a blog template has less in common with a Word document and more in common with a computer program. It isn’t just a format for your text, though that is in there, it’s also a set of instructions your server has to perform. Get those instructions wrong and your site doesn’t work.

Once you have an appreciation for that, avoiding this pitfall becomes much easier to do.

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Premium WordPress Themes: What To Ask, And What To Avoid http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/02/01/premium-wordpress-themes-what-to-ask-and-what-to-avoid/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2011/02/01/premium-wordpress-themes-what-to-ask-and-what-to-avoid/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 22:04:42 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=21400 When it comes to shopping for premium WordPress themes, there are often hundreds (if not thousands) of choices users can choose from ranging from the inexpensive to a few that might break the bank.

Regardless of what your budget is, there are several things you should inquire about before purchasing the WordPress in order to avoid getting burned (even by a reputable theme designer).

Multiple Browsers Please

Browsers are like Pizza, everyone (as in your readers) has a preference on not only which type (i.e. Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, IE, etc.) but also versions as well.

The last thing you want to do is run through browser compatibility tests which can take hours (if not days), especially when one considers legacy systems such as IE7.

Instead of spending time trying to figure out why one widget works in Chrome and Safari but not Opera, you should instead verify that the theme works in various browsers (note: you can do this by testing out the designer’s demo theme via Cross Browser Testing or Browsershots).

Legally In Good Standing

While often overlooked, one thing you want to do is make sure that the WordPress theme you are purchasing adhere’s to the GPL license, especially if you are building a business around your blog or website.

Premium WordPress themes should either be fully available underneath the GPL license, or adhere towards a split licence which means the PHP files are GPL but the CSS, images are proprietary (i.e. you can not freely distribute the code to your friends).

Note: Be sure that when you purchase a premium theme that you are buying it from someone who is legally able to sell it to you

Simply purchasing a theme from the “cheapest seller” could result in you buying a product that may not only be filled with mal-ware, but lack support as well.

Support Thy Customer

Buying a premium WordPress theme without support would be just as foolish as buying a brand new smartphone, car, or computer without a warranty.

Regardless of how advanced your premium WordPress theme is, chances are you will probably want to make advanced modifications to your template or even need help troubleshooting issues that crop up (or even minor bugs that the theme designer missed).

You should always look for premium WordPress themes with a minimum of 90 days of free support after purchase, although from experience the best ones offer 1 full year of support after the sale.

Third Party Payment Systems

Although this may seem trivial, it’s always wise to purchase premium WordPress themes via a third party payment system like Paypal or Google Checkout, regardless of how many “money back guarantee” policies the theme designer has.

This is done to protect your credit card just in case you experience buyers remorse after purchasing your WordPress theme, or (even worse) you accidantly purchase a premium WordPress theme from a scam artist.

Note: Truth be told you should always use third party payment systems when purchasing anything online, unless it’s a large corporation with an excellent business record.

Any Other Advice?

For those of you who have purchased premium WordPress themes before, what advice would you give to someone seeking to buy their first WordPress theme?

Feel free to share your wisdom with the rest of us below!

Image Credits: Digital Trends, Vladimir’s Blog,

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Blogging Pitfalls: Why You Need to Know HTML & CSS http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/12/08/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-need-to-know-html-css/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/12/08/blogging-pitfalls-why-you-need-to-know-html-css/#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 18:48:35 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=20986 Keyboard ImageIt wasn’t that long ago that starting up a website required a great deal of expertise, time and commitment. There was a reason that those who created sites in the early days of the Web were stereotyped as “dorks” and “nerds”, it was because you had to know HTML, the ins and outs of site construction and at least a decent amount about how the Web worked just to get a basic site off the ground.

However, for Web development, the march of technology has been toward simplicity and ease of use. Blogging and Web publishing in general are both more approachable than ever. Not only can one set up a Facebook account in minutes but they can do the same with a WordPress.com account or a Tumblr blog as well.

In short, anyone who wants to publish a blog can easily do so and almost no experience is required, just the ability to fill in a short form and write some new content.

But this doesn’t mean we’ve gotten away from HTML and CSS being a requirement for creating a successful site. Not knowing these languages can be very detrimental to your site and not only keeps great content from finding the audience it deserves, but can actually cripple your site in ways you can’t predict.

Simply put, if you don’t know HTML and CSS, at least to a minimal extent, you are holding your blog back and gambling with its future.

The Pitfall

To be clear, advancements in blogging platforms have greatly reduced the importance of HTML and CSS knowledge in running a site. Not only is it possible to set up a site without looking at any code, but widgets, customizable themes and plugins now make it possible to do a lot of the more common coding tasks without cracking open the theme files.

But while this is great, there are also problems with it.

The first is that, when you can’t edit your theme by hand, you are limited to what is provided with it. You can only make the changes and additions that are built in. Even though some themes can be very flexible, it also means that your site will wind up looking like the other sites that use the same theme and there isn’t much that you can do about it.

Second, there are some things you simply can’t add via a plugin or widget, such as many external services, tools and other changes that require you to add the HTML code by hand. Though the process is trivial, if you’re intimidated by HTML it can be a trying experience.

Finally, and this is possibly the most important, is that things break. If your theme begins to have trouble, images start to break or a service you were using stops functioning properly, you need the ability to leap in and fix the theme. Otherwise, your site might appear to be broken or, even worse, generate nothing but an error.

Though these types of incidents are very rare, if it happens to you and you can’t fix it, you’re at the mercy of those who help you and that can greatly slow down the time it takes to get back online.

In short, if you don’t know HTML and CSS, at least some, you’re both limiting what you can do with your site and putting yourself at risk of not being able to respond effectively if something should go wrong.

These are risks you don’t have to take and shouldn’t if you can avoid it.

How to Avoid It

The simple answer on how to avoid this pitfall is “Learn HTML and CSS”. But the answer isn’t that easy.

There is no real reason to aim to become an expert on HTML and CSS, unless you plan on developing your own themes from scratch or do more heavy manipulation. It is more important that one understand the basics of both the languages, including possibly some JavaScript and PHP, than they be able to answer everything off the top of their head.

So, before one considers going back to school, here are a few quick ways to get just the HTML knowledge you need without spending a lot of time or money.

  1. Online Tutorials: W3Schools has a great basic HTML tutorial for the complete notice that familiarizes you with the basics of HTML structure and tags. Has a similar one for CSS. There are many other great tutorials out there but these are great for learning as you can work “live” and learn by experimentation.
  2. Get a Book: As powerful as online tutorials are, you might also want to spend a few bucks and get a decent HTML/CSS book. Not only is it a great reference, but many learn better from a book and it lets you look at your work and the guide without changing tabs.
  3. Set Up a Test Site: Finally, consider setting up a test site with a duplicate theme at a different URL (perhaps test.yourdomain.com) so that you can dabble with your HTML code without destroying your main site. This is a great way to get practical practice and understanding of your theme without any risk.

All in all, to get the amount of knowledge you need to move forward with your site, you only need to spend a few hours of time. However, it is time well spent as it can help you take your blog to new heights and fix problems as they arise.

Bottom Line

In short, there’s nothing magical about learning HTML and CSS. If you know how to use a word processor or other office applications, there really isn’t significantly farther as much of the results are similar (bold, headings, tables, etc.), you’re just learning how to indicate it in a new way.

Considering the doors that HTML and CSS can open up for your site and the headache it can save later, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Even if you never actually use it in your theme, you’ll be able to not rely so much on the visual editor of your blog and that will let you ensure that posts are formatted exactly right and give you complete control over how your entries look.

In the long run, that may actually be the biggest benefit of all in getting a primer on HTML.

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Why WordPress Bloggers Need To Choose Premium Themes Over Free http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/11/16/why-wordpress-bloggers-need-to-choose-premium-themes-over-free/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/11/16/why-wordpress-bloggers-need-to-choose-premium-themes-over-free/#comments Tue, 16 Nov 2010 23:07:54 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=20730 In an age where everyone is trying to save some cash, many WordPress bloggers will for go the expense of paying for a premium theme and instead opt for the cheapest price available (hint: free).

While there are plenty of free themes available for WordPress users (thanks in part to generous designers), unless one is running a personal blog WordPress fans should always choose a premium theme over a free one (provided you have the funds of course).

Since some users will balk at the idea of paying for a theme in an age where quality software is available for free, here are 3 reasons why you need to choose premium themes over free handouts.

You Get What You Pay For

Although free themes are definitely cheaper than premium, more often than not the support service is as well.

Unless you are a master in the art of HTML, CSS and web design, if you ever need help fixing your theme after a WordPress update or to simply make it compatible across various browsers, you are for the most part on your own.

While there are a few free themes that are supported by their creators, they are under no obligation to provide support to your theme if you need help adjusting the layout or fixing a problem due to an error.

However most reputable companies selling premium themes do provide support for their customers (regardless of how small the error is) and will even release updates in order to ensure themes are compatible with most (if not all) major browsers.

Avoiding The Sea Of Me’s

In an era where everyone and their mother is blogging it can be difficult to distinguish your blog from the “sea of me’s” in the blogosphere.

While writing in a unique voice can help, sharing a popular theme with thousands of other bloggers does not.

Purchasing a premium theme can help your blog stand out from the masses visually without looking like another cookie clutter clone.

Although this does not guarantee that your theme will not be used by hundreds of other bloggers (especially if you purchase a popular template), it does make it harder for your readers to confuse your site with another blogger (or worse a splogger) online.

Anti-Google Juice?

Believe it or not there are many high quality free themes available that are “supported” by their creators but (according to the license) require users not remove certain links from within the footer or sidebar.

While theme creators will often leave links within the footer in order to ensure that they receive credit for creating a theme, I’ve run across many others who will insert affiliate or text links in order to make a small profit on the side.

Although this is perfectly legal for theme developers to do, Google frowns upon this behavior and rewards bloggers with unrelated links (or links they consider spammy) by dropping ones’s page rank.

Even though one could always remove these links if they are skilled in HTML and CSS, doing so could result in legal action (which is never fun as lawyers are expensive).

Premium themes on the other hand are free of these mysterious links, which gives WordPress bloggers one less thing to worry about when launching a blog.

Do You Use A Premium Theme?

If so, what advice would you give to WordPress users looking to purchase a premium theme in the near future? (i.e. price, features to look for or other details you make before choosing a theme)

Feel free to share your wisdom with the rest of us in the comment section below!

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How To Add Support For Menus In Your WordPress Theme http://www.devlounge.net/code/how-to-add-support-for-menus-in-your-wordpress-theme http://www.devlounge.net/code/how-to-add-support-for-menus-in-your-wordpress-theme#comments Mon, 21 Jun 2010 15:12:54 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=18994 Are you running WordPress 3.0 yet? If so, you might have come across a nifty little addition called Menus. You’ll find it on your admin Dashboard in the Appearances section, and here’s a little screenshot of how it looks:

As you can see, I’ve set up a new menu named “Lorraine Menu” here, and added various things to it by selecting from the elements on the left side of the page: a link to Devlounge, links to some pages, and so forth.

Also of note is the message beneath Theme Locations that states:

The current theme does not natively support menus, but you can use the “Custom Menu” widget to add any menus you create here to the theme’s sidebar.

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The Good And The Bad About Working With Theme Frameworks http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/06/02/the-good-and-the-bad-about-working-with-theme-frameworks/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/06/02/the-good-and-the-bad-about-working-with-theme-frameworks/#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2010 15:30:26 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=18523 I’ve been working a lot with WordPress Theme Frameworks lately, most notably Genesis, Thematic and Hybrid, when developing themes. Well, child themes really. There are many reasons why working with child themes is a good way to start developing, but there are also some drawbacks. For me the good weighs out the bad in general, but there are situations where the old straight forward theme development method is just plain faster.

The Good

Building with child themes has a lot of powerful advantages. My favorite are:

  • Development Speed: Having an already working theme as a parent theme, a theme that already has been looked at from a lot of different angels as to what it should be able to do, and already some basic styling in place makes it a lot easier to quickly make some changes via the child theme style sheet.
  • Lots of options: Most Theme Frameworks I know have a lot of options built in. I’m not talking about having a lot of buttons and checkboxes added necessarily, but more-so a robust framework with lots of nifty PHP functions and CSS specificity options to configure.
  • Great communities behind the frameworks Any of the three Theme Frameworks I mentioned earlier make working with their specific Parent Theme so great because there’s is a great community behind it, not afraid to share inventive solutions and best practices.
  • Future Proof Working with a Parent Theme that is in constant state of development also makes it very easy to stay up to date and incorporate all the latest WordPress goodies. For example the stuff that WordPress 3.0 brings to the table.

The Bad

Like I said before, there are some disadvantages on using a Theme Frameworks such as:

  • Bloat: When you’re only creating a small, pretty straight forward site, a lot of the theme functions added by the Parent Theme’s library could be considered bloat en thus not creating a lean and mean theme, which I know you all care about.
  • Forced Direction When creating a child theme you sort of get dictated (and I use that term very loosely) to make heavy use of your functions.php and wrapping your head around filters and hooks can be daunting if diving into PHP isn’t your thing. It may seem redundant to duplicate and and all theme files into your child theme if that’s what you need to do.
  • Learning Curve There is a bit of a learning curve when working with child theme for the first time. Your basic level of PHP and CSS won’t do, you need to step up and start learning.

Why Use Them Anyway?

For me personally, I’m all about options. I love working with a WordPress Theme Framework that allows me to have a very high level of control over how specific I want to be in what I want my theme to output. I don’t mind the learning, in fact I love learning, and when you know your way around the forums you’ll be able to either find what you were looking for or get a working answer of your fellow developers. Plus, having a Parent Theme that is continuously updated is big plus for me.

Have you ever worked with or considered working with child themes when developing on a theme? And if so, do you favor either GenesisWP, Thematic or Hybrid over the other (or any other WordPress Theme Framework for that matter)?

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Twenty Ten: The New and Improved Default WordPress Theme http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/04/01/twenty-ten-the-new-and-improved-default-wordpress-theme/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/04/01/twenty-ten-the-new-and-improved-default-wordpress-theme/#comments Thu, 01 Apr 2010 13:54:28 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=16624 Twenty TenWordPress is gearing up to release a new version, WordPress 3.0, which will house a lot of new cool features and the merging of WordPress MU with WordPress stand alone version. Alongside with this release WordPress will also be shipped with a brand new interpretation of what a default theme should be. For years the default theme has been Kubrick, but that’s all going to change.

I’ve never been a fan of either Kubrick’s look or code, but I must say Twenty Ten is genuinely a great base theme to use for all your WordPress projects, especially when working with Child Themes. Sure it’s not as advanced as say Thematic, but it does produce powerful semantic html and is in general very well SEO optimized. No surprise there because Ian Stewart, the creator of Thematic, was also the one who inspired Twenty Ten with his theme called Kirby, and recently joined Automattic as a Theme Wrangler.

Full Screenshot Twenty Ten

Twenty Ten will feature amongst other things a proper horizontal dropdown menu, great typography, microformats. post thumbnails for custom headers and WYSIWYRG. A very cool feature that makes use of editor-style.css stylesheet which in turn makes sure you are now getting a perfect replica of your blog’s theme when you’re writing in the WordPress’ visual editor. This neat function was introduced by Andrew Ozz and implemented by Matt Thomas (the actual author of Twenty Ten) and I’m sure it will find it’s way very quickly to a lot of themes.

To really get a good impression of what Twenty Ten looks like you can head over the the Development blog of Twenty Ten which, of course, uses WordPress’ new default theme. If you’d like to check under the hood and see what the fuss is all about you can download Twenty Ten by downloading a zip file of the latest bleeding edge version of WordPress (which should never be used on live a live site and only as a test installation). In the wp-content/themes folder you will find the latest version of Twenty Ten.

All in all Twenty Ten to me is a major improvement over Kubrick. What do you think?

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WordPress Theme Review: Pico by Hafiz Rahman http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/01/12/wordpress-theme-review-pico-by-hafiz-rahman/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/01/12/wordpress-theme-review-pico-by-hafiz-rahman/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2010 14:41:41 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=14256 It does not happen often, but occasionally you find a free theme for WordPress that is completely *droolworthy*. I have to disclose upfront that I am a big fan of both grid-based designs, especially when they follow a strict and mathematically correct grid, whitespace and Khoi Vinh.

One of the things I expect from a theme is that it doesn’t get in the way and highlights content and especially with grid based design this is something which can easily be screwed up. But the grid-masters know how to display both content and a strict grid correctly. One of the most popular grid designs for WordPress is without any doubt Grid Focus by Derek Punsalan.

There’s a new contender in WP-town for grid-based design lovers!

Introducing Pico by Hafiz ‘WPLover’ Rahman

Pico screenshot

WPLover is a well-known WordPress news-site edited by Hafiz Rahman, who is also a great WordPress news link curator, and the design of WPLover doesn’t hide it: Hafiz loves the grid.
Previously he already treated the WordPress community with several Thematic child themes, all showcasing mainly the content, while using whitespace as a perfect tool, weapon almost, in his designs.

Pico is Hafiz’ first ‘non-child theme’ released for WordPress and how better to introduce a grid-based theme than with a gorgeous grid-based Pico introduction page?

Pico features

Heck, you can be lazier and have no image. You won’t get a thumbnail, but the layout will still look juust fine

Pico follows the popular trend of most modern WP themes from WordPress and comes with several widgets areas, has a featured entry section, in the form of a featured widget, and is optimised for WordPress 2.9 with support for canonical thumbnails.

Pico also has breadcrumbs above the post and has kept the archives page structure of Mimbo, which the Pico code is based on. Personally I much more prefer this list display for archives than the more traditional excerpt pages.
I am sure that many will want to increase the number of listed entries on this page and this can be done in the page-archives.php file of the theme.

Category navigation with a twist

The most prominent feature of Pico is the header based category navigation with category description. Hafiz has documented how to add a similar navigation here on WPLover. The category navigation also has a great way to show child categories.
Although this function works out of the box, it does require some discipline and only works well if your category names and descriptions are short.

Some Minor Remarks

As with most themes I found some really minor issues:

  • The header category navigation works out of the box but I have found it to be troublesome to display the categories I wanted to be displayed, and not the selection Pico chose. But that’s probably because I’m a control freak;
  • On category archives, the thumbnail does not always display correctly;
  • On category archives it might be better to embed the Excerpt Reloaded as the standard WP excerpt breaks off before the thumbnail.

Final thoughts on Pico

I must admit that I love this theme and the light blue colour works just perfectly. I wished I had a blog I could use it on. It is gorgeous, has a solid code base and comes with some great gimmicks (hint: add a sitemap page to your theme). The construction of the home page, with a list of older posts is another detail I love about Pico, and something I have used on my own blog as well. More themes should adapt this approach for home pages.
Just like Ian Stewart’s Kirby, Pico is a theme I would use without any major code changes.

More even, I do hope to soon be able to port the Pico theme to another blog platform but more on that next month (I hope).

You can read more about Pico and download the Pico theme on the Pico introduction page.

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First Look at Kirby, WordPress 2010 Default Theme Concept by Ian Stewart http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/01/07/first-look-at-kirby-default-theme-2010-concept-by-ian-stewart/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2010/01/07/first-look-at-kirby-default-theme-2010-concept-by-ian-stewart/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2010 12:09:16 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=4062 When the WordPress Core Team met after WordCamp Orlando, canonical plugins weren’t the only big announcement for 2010. The other announcement was that WordPress would receive a new default theme in 2010, thus retiring Kubrick by Michael Heilemann.

Jane Wells announced the concept and immediately hinted at what the Core Team was thinking off:

The default theme doesn’t need to be a full-featured framework, it just needs to work well, look awesome, have good code and be a good starting point for beginning themers. We were thinking of a fairly minimalist design that would make it easy to customize.

Basically a ’2010 Kubrick’, a slim and slick theme with modern look and ‘cutting edge code’. Enter Ian Stewart of Themeshaper and Thematic fame. Immediately after the announcement Ian had tweeted that he would make a concept and release what he thinks could be a candidate for the WordPress 2010 Default Theme. Some weeks later his theme, Kirby, was released in the theme directory.

In an introduction post to Kirby, Ian explains the thinking behind his Kirby theme and why it should not be a framework:

…while knowing that most people start their WordPress-theming with the Default Theme and, increasingly, their web designing with the Default Theme—knowing and suffering under that awful pressure and responsibility—how do you make it easy to tweak simply and make it easy to Child Theme—without turning it into a Framework Theme.

Trust me here. While people may be asking for a Framework as the Default Theme they’re not all asking for the same thing. Something as robust as Thematic will have people running screaming away from it. People that want Framework Themes can download Framework Themes. I’m not so sure every new user should have one forced on them.

Kirby, The Looks

I personally am a minimalist myself and every time I need a design for an own site the content has to be central. Content, not images or ads. I actually recently switched to a one-column design/mod on my personal blog, taking out every possible distraction. At the same time, hardly any theme I have worked with in the past has stayed untouched by me, the less changes I need to make the more I like themes obviously.
Kirby does exactly this and I could imagine using it on sites without making any major changes: it’s modern, it’s got appeal and still looks simple, very slick. What Kubrick didn’t do for me and lead me to k2 a long time ago, Kirby does.

It goes without saying that it is impossible to please everyone, but this theme is rock solid already; rock solid, albeit only version 0.3.1. Everyone who has been around for a while in the WordPress scene will recognise elements from other great themes, but the real strength of Kirby certainly is the typography. Kirby does not get in your way and focuses on that what matters most: the content.

What Don’t I Like?

Some elements in Kirby feel whether superfluous or aren’t complete enough yet. But that goes without saying for an 0.3.1 release:

  • I really am not sure if I need to see my mugshot gravatar with every title on the home page. While this might be interesting for co-authored blogs, it seems unnecessary for a single author blog. This should be optional, not a default setting.
  • While ‘About the author of this post’ blocks might have become fashionable and popular, for a default theme this seems overkill to me. On a single authored blog, I think there’s little sense to add this to every post. On multi-authored blogs, this could also be overkill, especially when an author posts more than once/day. I think it would be smarter to move this information to the author pages like we did here on BloggingPro.
  • Archives feel incomplete: personally I do think it would be better to add excerpts to the archives. The standard excerpt might not be the best option because cutting off at 255 characters often delivers a rather bad excerpt and that might have made Ian decide for the actual archives display. But without excerpt, ‘something’s missing’. When opting for this style of archives, I certainly would drop the tags. Especially because some people really overdo tagging categorising.

  • Right now I might be annoying but I do have problems with the ‘Posted in… | Tagged… | Comments…’ structure below posts archive view. As can be seen in the following two screenshots (resized to width 585px) this display can become cluttered. When using it with the popular Sexy Bookmarks plugin there is not enough of space above the metadata paragraph and the ‘Post a comment link’ goes completely lost in the ‘clutter’.
    In the regular view the ‘Leave a comment’ link goes lost as well when more categories and several tags are used. Which WILL happen, people love tagging and many love ‘over-tagging’!.

I do not think that a default theme needs to display post thumbnails in the default settings.

Kirby, The Code

There is no doubt that developers and designers will have an extensive look at the code of every ‘default theme candidate’ and this is actually what I like about Kirby. Some might argue that the functions.php of Kirby too big is but I think there could be even more included. Kirby’s theme functions are well thought out and most things in the functions.php are not more ‘cutting edge’ than Kubrick, with its numerous conditional tags, was.

Personally I hope Kirby will offer the option to activate post thumbnails and also maybe some more options within the theme. It is admittedly a difficult and thin line to walk between being a solid default theme or becoming a framework but popular themes have shown to need several options. ‘Multiple columns’ seems to be one ‘compulsory option’ nowadays.
k2 Has shown that even a custom header image does not have to exclude the option of having a fluid theme and albeit the way ‘Dynamic columns’ in k2 are implemented can be argued about, it is something worth to be considered for a default theme.

The stylesheet analysis, I will leave to the pundits. Probably the stylesheet of the 2010 Default WordPress Theme will still be analysed, dissected, discussed and argued about in 2027 anyway. ;)

Final Words About Kirby

There is not much not to like about Kirby. Kirby takes the best of 2 worlds: solid default looks (‘k2 modernised’), build upon a rather simple stylesheet, without superfluous AJAX and with less issues and a smarter ‘thinking design’ than we know from fe. Cutline.

If not the 2010 default theme for WordPress, I certainly do hope to see Kirby on wordpress.com soon.

Ian’s introduction post to Kirby: link | Kirby in WordPress Themes Directory: link.

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Short Inside View of StudioPress http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2009/09/21/studiopress-facts/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2009/09/21/studiopress-facts/#comments Tue, 22 Sep 2009 01:15:46 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=3194 Jeff appears to have a great article up regarding StudioPress, and it helps answer some common questions about the company, its goals, and direction. If you are interested in knowing what Brian Gardner thinks of his critics, outsiders views on his goals, and his design style, you need to check out this post entitled An Inside Glance At StudioPress.

Who creates the graphical side of StudioPress designs?

95% of the graphic/design elements of StudioPress themes were created by me – while I’m not a trained graphic designer, I’ve been able to learn Photoshop and put together most of our work. We are now beginning to branch out and contract out upcoming theme designs for a few reasons. One, I’m so busy doing other things (like running StudioPress and overseeing all that goes on) and just don’t have the time to design, code, support, and provide tutorials for all of our themes. The other reason, and more significantly important reason, is that we want to offer a variety of designs to our users.

I think that more WordPress theme companies should open up their schedules to talk about what they are doing, who is involved and what they think of the WordPress community. There has long been flack given to Premium theme companies, and I think while that flack has lessened in recent months, a fair number of people still don’t totally understand what makes these companies worthwhile.

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ModThemes.com Launches http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2009/08/25/modthemes-com-launches/ http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2009/08/25/modthemes-com-launches/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2009 01:34:59 +0000 http://www.bloggingpro.com/?p=3175 Looking for a new Premium Theme company to buy your products off of, then you’ll be happy to know Nathan Rice has created a new company called ModThemes.

As you know, I live and breathe WordPress code (pretty much). I’ve written countless tutorials, built themes, written plugins, even submitted a patch or two to the WordPress core. Let’s just say that when it comes to WordPress, I know my stuff, some of which has recently been added as new functionality to the themes at StudioPress.

So it should go without saying that if I’m going to be helping run my own WordPress business, it’s going to be top-notch quality with some solid code. You can count on it.

Looks like it could be a smart move for Nathan and team, if he can crack the ever increasing competition in the market these days.

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