When I first learned to code, I programmed WordPress Twenty Twelve child themes. This approach worked really well for quite some time. But, as I became a better developer and improved my understanding of my clients’ needs as well as SEO, I knew it was time to update to my framework to something more custom and robust.
With previous themes, I designed and developed them so that they could have a magnitude of uses – website, portfolio, selling digital downloads, and of course, blogging. But here’s the thing – since I’ve started my studio, 90% of my clients have always been bloggers. Occasionally, I would take on an e-commerce site or portfolio site, but the overwhelming majority were bloggers. My premade themes were not really built for my core customer.
Thus, when I decided to retire my old themes and launch new ones. I wanted to make themes specifically for my clientele – lifestyle bloggers. Instead of offering a bunch of broad functionality within the theme, like Woocommerce. I focused more on the framework and customizations that bloggers need.
Curated Home Page
Unlike my previous themes, Olivia, Penelope, and Sophia include a featured post area where the blogger can showcase certain posts. These areas can be utilized to promote sponsored content, giveaways, or thematic posts. Each theme comes with several widget areas for added functionality – Instagram, category posts, and affiliate widgets. These themes are no longer your standard blog layout (although they can be utilized in that way), they come with the full of features and options!
I hated the limitations of my old themes. With these new ones, I made sure that you can customize the colors, adjust the number of posts on home and archive templates, and use different layouts and post types. With a good framework, these cosmetic changes can take a premade theme from looking standard to one-of-a-kind.
Within the post, certain features can be turned on/off, such as post date, categories, tags, author link, and even related posts. Even though I recommend not including the post date in the post layout, I did get a few requests for it. Including the date is actually a bad SEO practice (just FYI).
An EXTRA SCRIPTS section allows bloggers to add custom scripts, such as ad networks and Google Analytics, to the theme without interfering with the theme code.
Each theme comes with two post types – full-width and with a sidebar – and three page types – full-width, with a sidebar, and a recipe box. Full-width and sidebar layouts are pretty self-explanatory. They can be turned on and off depending on what the client wants. As for the recipe box page template, it’s a way to showcase posts within a certain category. It’s the most popular structure for food blogging clients and recipe posts (appetizers, main dishes, salads, breakfast, etc), but other blogging niches can use it; for example, outfits, travel posts, etc.
Each theme allows the blogger to customize the layout on the home and archive templates. Archive templates are the author, category, tag, and date layouts – you can read more about them here!
Home template layouts are the following:
- Full Post is similar to the full post, but it is truncated to improve user experience, SEO, and site loading speeds.
- Grid Layout includes the post featured image and post title. Sometimes other information like date is also included (but that can be turned off)
- List Layout is similar to the full post layout but smaller and more condensed. This list layout includes the featured image, title, excerpt, and sometimes a category or date (optional).
- Full Post then Grid Layout does just that! The first post is a full post (truncated) and then the subsequent posts are grid style.
- Full Post then List Layout is similar to the previous selection but with lists.
With archive templates, the layout is similar except the last two options. The “Full Post then List Layout” doesn’t work well for archive templates. So, I created a thumb option to choose from instead. With the home and archive templates, you can determine how many posts you want to showcase, respectively.
Shop The Post Feature
Each theme comes with an Additional Details section in the post editor. This allows you to check which posts you want to show up in the featured post area. It also allows you to add specific affiliate links and widgets that will be called out in the post. This way the products you are featuring in your post do not get lost.
Proper HTML Markup
The structure and build of a site is a big factor, especially with Google Search Console. One of the things I didn’t like about TwentyTwelve was the class structure of different post types. With my themes, since I’m determined how the theme uses different post templates, I’ve ensured that the structure followers proper markup and SEO best-practices and hierarchy.
What You Can’t Do
Even though there are more customizations with the themes, I’ve limited a few things intentionally!
- Fonts: You can customize the fonts if you know HTML/CSS. I plan to write a post showing how you can do it properly. This feature was one of the limitations that I wanted to restrict. Bad typography can speak volumes to bad branding.
- Featured Post Area: You can add or remove as many posts as you want to this section, but the format of it is always the same. For example, if you like the three post layout of Penelope, you can’t apply it to the Olivia theme. Only Penelope has that layout option.
- Header: Each one of these themes is designed with an SEO-friendly and user-experience friendly header. I’ve condensed them to be at the navigation bar to not only save retail space but reflect current direction of web design.
Custom Sites Moving Forward
With the launch of these themes, I’ve decided to build all of my custom sites with this functionality. Honestly, very few of my clients have changed their layouts over the last 4 years. However, building my sites in this function will give more longevity to their themes. They can adjust the colors as they grow, tweak layouts, and add scripts easily.
Building off of that, I’m always surprised when I see designers/developers quote projects based on the number of pages, not templates. Themes are built using templates – page, 404, archive, search, shop, etc. These templates allow clients to apply the same template to new content as their brand grows. A quick example of this is Cathy from Poor Little It Girl’s Petite Fit Guide and Nordstrom Sale Guide.
Since a lot of things changed with these themes, I’m not sure a blog post can answer all of these questions. I added four new YouTube videos that showcase some of the backend – an Installation Guide and video tours of each theme. I plan to add more videos focused on WordPress over the course of the next couple of months. I’m shooting for one video a week.
Want more WordPress tutorials? Check out these posts!
Interested in working together? I’d love to hear about your project!