It’s no secret that businesses can benefit from blogging. Regularly updated content keeps the reader interested in what’s going on, gives them a sense of accessibility to the business, and can mean return visitors and potentially clients. But one of the challenges to blogging for your business is the choices you have to make when stepping out. What platform should I use? Should I go with a free theme, or have a custom theme developed?
I like WordPress. I really like WordPress. And strangely enough, there are countless small to medium business owners who are still unaware that WordPress can not only fill their blogging needs, but also serve as a fantastic platform for updating their website as well. The technical phrase for it is a “Content Management System” or CMS. Using WordPress as a CMS isn’t terribly difficult, especially since WordPress was one of the first blogging platforms to use a “page” system where static content could be published.
Brian Gardner, one of my good friends in the business and designer of the very site on which this article has been published, recently released what he calls the “Revolution Theme” for WordPress. Brian was kind enough to explain to me in a chat session what Revolution was all about, and send me a sample copy to crack open and have a look at.
Believe me, this is not your typical free WordPress theme. It’s called “premium” for a reason. There are tons of options available for the intermediate designer looking to have a more functional CMS ready theme, and Brian has done a good job of releasing regular tutorials on the theme’s site. Not only that, the theme has all those typical (and classic) Brian Gardner touches.
A Look Under The Hood
The theme files are laid out normally, just like any other theme … but upon a closer look, you’ll see some files that you don’t normally find in a typical theme (free or paid). For instance, Brian has done a good job of offering multiple layouts for different types of pages. For instance, he’s included templates for a feature page, a news page, and a normal “single” page. Each template has a different layout. And it’s pretty easy to change between layouts too. When you’re authoring a page, just choose a “page template” in the right sidebar. Brian seems to have done his best to make the process simple.
The code itself is good. Every coder has his own system, and I may not have chosen the same tags Brian did, but aside from some semantic issues, the code is readable and structured very well. Even if you’re not too comfortable with code, the way the trees are presented makes it easy to know what to edit and what to leave alone. The template files themselves could have used more commenting, though … preferably PHP comments so they don’t show up in the page source.
A small business can definitely take advantage of Brian’s hard work. The theme can be customized easily by anyone familiar with web code (no WordPress experience necessary). That’s a plus in my book.
The flexibility of the theme layouts makes it desirable for anyone wanting to have a blog and a website integrated into one, or anyone wanting to use a free CMS (WordPress). All you need is a little design savvy and some elbow grease and you’ll be up and running in no time.
The stylesheet (CSS) is well commented. You can’t get lost there :-)
WordPress theme developers could use this package as a means to quickly develop sites for clients. Brian’s already done most of the work, so it can be a great springboard to an easy design. Plus, the $60 USD price tag is a small price to pay for a quality base for a theme to be used to extend WordPress as a CMS.
No plugins necessary. That’s definitely a good thing.
The price isn’t for everyone. Contrary to the name, there’s nothing so “revolutionary” about the theme that you couldn’t duplicate yourself if you’re a decent WP designer. Those “do-it-yourself-ers” out there will balk at the price, for sure.
I would have liked to see a better use of WordPress pages to populate the different content areas of the theme. Brian opted to hard-code them instead. I think this takes away from the idea of using WordPress as a CMS, because to update some content requires editing code. He definitely chose the easier route for his initial release. Maybe a later version will eliminate source editing.
This theme isn’t for the novice, regardless of how easy it may seem to modify. Whenever there is code involved, beginners aren’t going to have a good time. Like it or not, if you don’t know anything about structured markup or CSS, then you’ll want to pay someone to handle the modifications for you.
There are no “theme options”. I don’t really care about this, to be honest with you, but I’m afraid that people are spoiled. I personally refuse to do it, but for some reason, “theme options” are important to people. They want to be able to change the position of their sidebar by selecting “right” or “left” from a drop-down menu. I personally don’t think this is what Brian was going for (the complete novice dependent on the GUI), but the criticism will come eventually from someone. I figured I’d mention it too.
All in all, it is typical great work for Brian. But beyond that, Revolution is a great attempt to pull WordPress up from an exclusively blogger-driven platform, into a more functional, mature Content Management platform. Revolution is certainly a step in that direction.
Why aren’t there more themes like this one out there? I love to see when people (theme and plugin authors) stretching the limitations of WordPress and creeping into uncharted territories. Before we know it, WordPress could be the most feature-rich web publishing system out there. All it needs is users and developers like Brian who are willing to stick their neck out there and try something that hasn’t been successfully tried before.
PS – Could this be the beginning of a premium theme revolution as well?