About WordPress Themes

What to Choose, How to Choose.

There’s a never ending discussion about WordPress themes in forums I visit and meetups I attend. Paid vs. free; custom clones vs. child-parent themes; large frameworks like Genesis vs. stand-alone themes like Twenty Eleven. Here are my thoughts:

Large framework themes make me uncomfortable and a little nervous. It’s the curse of knowing how to code PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc., that you can see the bad engineering choices made in bringing these large theme frameworks to market. Not to put these products down – any significant and powerful software system will have such flaws yet still provide positive value to their users. My main problem is that they are filled with a lot of code that’s entirely irrelevant and wasteful for any given website or client.

Back in 2006, when I started working with WordPress, I made custom websites by cloning the Kubrick theme (now called “Default” and installed with WordPress.) I’ve pretty much stuck with the WordPress provided themes since then because my focus is on finding the right functionality for a client and making sure it’ll work correctly in most circumstances.

I do parent-child themes now for the obvious reasons: to take advantage of new functionality and bug fixes that come in theme updates. Now that I know how to write plugins, I put the code for custom post types, shortcodes, content filters, etc. into one or more custom plugins to preserve that functionality should a client decide to change to an entirely new theme. It also makes it easier to debug plugin conflicts.

I would prefer that my clients not even know about themes. But every couple of years they get the urge to upgrade their website and they ask whether they need a new theme. My response is to change the subject by  explaining the difference between semantic structure (HTML), visual style (CSS) and element behavior (JavaScript). I tell them any of this can be redone within the existing theme. Alas, many of my clients know only what they see and the options for change are showcased by the various themes we discuss.

Twenty Eleven

by wordpressdotorg

Bouquet

by automattic

Sunspot

by automattic

Twenty Ten

by wordpressdotorg

Next Saturday

by automattic

Sundance

by automattic

Classic

by wordpressdotorg

Esquire

by automattic

Default

by wordpressdotorg

Dusk To Dawn

by automattic

Matala

by matt

Coraline

by automattic

ChaosTheory

by automattic

Pilcrow

by automattic

Mazeld

by matt

Toolbox

by automattic

Parament

by automattic

Pink Touch 2

by automattic

Duster

by automattic

Beach

by automattic

Steira

by automattic

21 Recommend Themes

While I’ve not worked with all 21 of these themes, they are included because of my trust in their authors. There are 4 themes from WordPress.org that’re installed with each instance of WordPress; 15 more themes from Automattic, the company that runs WordPress.com, and 2 themes from Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and WordPress’ creator.

What kind of themes do you like to work with?
Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post using the form below.

Larry

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