As you probably noticed, DollarShower.com has a new skin! It’s been close to three years with my previous theme that I had developed myself and to be frank I started getting bored of the same. Though it was an extremely fast loading theme, it was getting more and more difficult to maintain it with the numerous changes that I did over the years. (A programmer’s plight of supporting own code that he doesn’t understand anymore!)
Now let us talk about the new theme. Like many other WordPress bloggers, I was myself a bit confused as to which route to take i.e. A framework based theme (i.e. Thesis or Genesis), a stock WordPress theme or a custom made one. At the end, I decided to go the framework route and then it was a toss-up between Thesis and Genesis framework. I finally landed up with the Genesis framework (probably I liked a couple of Australian bloggers who use the Genesis framework!)
Well, this is the first time that I am using a theme framework and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that I don’t need to see a lot of theme files to edit. In the case of Genesis, most of the complex code that is required to manage the UI of a WordPress theme is actually hidden from you. The child themes built on the Framework uses only a few hooks and a stylesheet (yes you can have as little as three files in the theme folder) to do the customizing.
In my case, the child theme was built based on the code snippets from various free themes and main styling from a free theme by copyblogger. I in fact, put a number of hooks into it and added several features that I want to use in the future.
Salient features of the Genesis Framework
The following are some of the advantages of using the Genesis framework (which comes with a bare Genesis theme that actually works)
- Multiple layouts to choose from
- Clean XHTML transitional code that works equally good on all leading browsers
- You don’t need to touch the framework code for anything that you want to customize – but you just use hooks and filters
- (Claims to be) highly search optimized – It’s too early for me to believe that completely
- Free upgrades to future releases of frameworks
- A number of high quality child themes to choose from that offer great typography and readability
- The genesis theme framework help you remove at least three or four plugins from your WordPress installation as their features are already integrated into the framework. For example, Feedsmith, Pagenavi, MobilePress are some of the plugins I could remove because those features are already in place in the framework
The Genesis framework (with the bare child theme) is priced at $59.95 and if you want to buy one of those great StudioPress themes along with the framework, it would cost you typically $79.95 (for both theme and Framework). I guess, that is not a bad deal for quality coding and support.
What’s not so good?
Well, I got my first shock after migrating to the Genesis framework and my child theme in the form of a broken site! Unfortunately, the 1.8.0 version of the framework required WordPress 3.3.1 while I was still on 3.1 (My test version though was on 3.3.1 and I didn’t notice any issue while developing the theme and testing). Obviously they had to mention it very clearly (as a warning) somewhere in the documentation or even do a compatibility check. I had tough time digging into the WP database directly and reverting changes.
Secondly, while these theme frameworks are good in terms of stability and compliance, they are also a bit boxy in look and feel. Somehow, these brains behind Thesis and Genesis marketed the idea so well that very orthodox looking, boxy weblogs are now a trend! And if you want to spice up a theme framework with a great looking child theme, you need to actually write a lot of CSS script and it will still highlight the bone structure underneath.
Thirdly, I have had the habit of inserting ‘stuff’ here and there within the theme code. If you want to do something like that in a child theme, you have to learn a lot about hooks and filters. For example, I am still trying to figure out how to style my ‘Suggested Articles’ differently using a custom widget (or something other than a widget in between other widgets). It’s not going to be easy going forward, I think.
And finally, I am not sure if these themes are any good for getting a lot of AdSense clicks. Well, I tried many of their standard layouts but still not settled with the ONE that I feel is the right! May be it’s too early to conclude on this front as there may be custom development options on Genesis (at a cost)
A little bit more about THIS theme
Well, I am glad that I spent quite some time on this theme (due to which I couldn’t even blog for the past two or three weeks). Some of the good things about this theme include:
- Highly mobile responsive: You can run it on ANY mobile device and it would adjust itself. I have tested it with at least 5-6 mobile devices varying from Blackberries to Androids to iPhones and it just work fine.
- Cross browser compatibility: I tested it on four of the leading browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari) to make sure that it’s rendered exactly the same way on all of them.
- Valid HTML: Continuously tested it on the homepage at each stage of development (single posts have minor compliance issues)
- Very light theme: Though not as light as my old theme, it is still a very light theme
Well, I am not done yet. The new logo is still not ready. And there are social bookmark widgets, ad blocks etc yet to be designed. Despite that, I guess overall the work is near completion.
Need your feedback
Let me know if you have any comment or suggestion on this new theme. I think the readability and responsiveness of the new DollarShower theme is much better than the old one. I need to still work with the caching plugins for performance but till then, let me know if there are any visible issues or pain points.
And those who are interested in moving to a theme framework, Check out Genesis today!