These variations are also the reason people feel reluctant to switch themes. They might not find some of the features of the old theme in the new one. That’s why some people go with personalization. Those with money to burn can have their own theme developed, while the adventurous types (with the thinner wallets) might want to go the DIY path and try to generate a simple theme or modify one.
Another possible solution is to build and customize your own theme around a solid theme framework. One of the best in the field of theme frameworks is Thematic.
The What & The Why
What is a theme framework? To get a clearer picture, let’s imagine it as a human body. You can put different clothing on it to change the appearance, but whatever wrapping you put on the skin will not change what the person can do.
Those who have tried to build their own WordPress themes will quickly see the advantages of using a theme framework as the basis of their design. Instead of building everything from scratch and struggle to match the look and the functionalities by trial and error, the developers can just focus on the design knowing that they can easily turn on/off all the features already provided by the framework.
Using a theme framework will reduce the workload and require less time to finish than trying to assemble all the pieces by yourself. The learning curve is also not as steep to common WordPress users as there is less technical stuff that users need to master.
In terms of features, Thematic has a set that will put many premium themes to shame. Here are some of them:
- Ready to use as a minimalistic WordPress theme or as a blank canvas which the CSS artist can paint on.
- Fully search engine optimized, so users don’t need to spend much of their precious time tinkering with SEO.
- More widget-ready areas than most common users will need. There are 13 areas in total, users can choose and activate the areas according to their preferences.
- Multiple layout options for 2 or 3 column designs.
- Options for multi-author blogs.
Another advantage of using Thematic (or any other theme frameworks) is the child theme concept. A “child theme” is a term used for a theme which is developed around a theme framework, a.k.a “Parent theme“. If you want to design a WordPress theme using Thematic, you should modify only the child theme and never touch the parent.
In the simplest definition, creating a new child theme around Thematic is simply creating and editing a new “style.css” file to define how your theme will look and override the parent theme. To be able to do that you need basic CSS and HTML knowledge, but no PHP coding is required. The easiest way to do this is by editing the basic child theme that comes with the Thematic installation.
Granted, not everybody has the willingness (and/or the time) to build their own theme, even with Thematic standing at their back. But, if you think you are up to the job and want to know more about developing a child theme around Thematic, you might want to visit the Thematic Customization guide and WordPress Child Theme Basic to familiarize yourself with it.
Meet The Children
You can see how far developing a theme around Thematic could go by looking at the available ready-made child themes. One child theme that really blows my mind is “Gallery“, a theme designed to show off the portfolio of graphic artists.
Similar to the basic child theme, other child themes are also very customizable. But you should pay attention to the license that comes with it as they are the creative results of someone else’s work. Not all the child themes can be freely modified. What you can do is use them as a source of inspiration to build your own theme later.
To use a child theme (either the ready-made ones or your own creation/modification), you have to install both the child and parent in your WordPress blog. So the first thing that you have to do is download the Thematic framework and have the child theme that you want to use ready.
- Go to the “Themes” menu under “Appearance“. Choose the “Install Themes” tab and click on the “Upload” link.
- Choose the Thematic zip file that you have downloaded and click the “Install Now” button to upload it to your server. Repeat the process for the child theme.
- Now go back to the “Manage Themes” menu and activate the child theme.
Looking at the child themes, it’s clear that the design possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination. It’s a great environment for theme designers to play in.
Due to the limited choices of ready-made child themes, ordinary users who only want to use ready made themes without any plan to build their own might not want to go with Thematic. But for those who want to build their own full-featured WordPress theme easily, using Thematic is one of the best options that they can take. Let us know what you think of it.
Image credit: Smashing Magazine