Podcast Episode

269 – All About the WordPress Themes


Is there a plugin for that?

With more than 50,000 plugins in the WordPress repository, it’s hard to find the perfect one. Each week, I will highlight an interesting plugin form the repository.

For more great plugins, download my 50 Most Useful Plugins eBook.

What The File is the best tool to find out what template parts are used to display the page you’re currently viewing!

Listener Feedback

Chad from OptimWise left a comment on last week’s show about customizing the theme options after creating the child theme.

All About the WordPress Themes

How do I know I need a new theme?

  • Is your theme responsive?
  • Does your theme look dated?
  • Are there things that just don’t work anymore?

Where to find themes

Be careful with where you purchase, especially if you will need support. The free themes on the repository won’t have much support and with ThemeForest, the support will be limited as well. Definitely read the reviews before purchasing.

What should I do with Demo Content for the site?

If you are starting a brand new site, then I recommend importing the demo / dummy content if it’s provided. This way you will be able to look at how the theme utilizes shortcodes / widgets / templates. With the demo content, you can simply replace the dummy text with your text.

If you already have a site that you are changing to a new theme, then I recommend installing the demo content on a separate WordPress installation. It’s still valuable to see how the theme works, but you don’t want to muck up your current site with extra posts, pages, media, menu items etc.

Create a Custom Theme

If you are adventurous, you might want to create your own theme. You can either start designing something in Adobe Illustrator, or you can find an HTML theme on ThemeForest and turn it into your own theme.

Some advantages of doing this:

  • You won’t need to program dozens of color schemes
  • No settings panels are needed, making the theme load more quickly
  • No extra bloat from features you won’t use

Thank You!

Thank you to those who use my affiliate links. As you know I make a small commission when someone uses my link and I want to say thank you to the following people. For all my recommended resources, go to my Resources Page

Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today's episode we're talking about WordPress themes right here on Your Website Engineer podcast episode number 269.

Hello, everybody welcome back to another episode of Your Website Engineer podcast my name is Dustin, like that announcer said, and today we're going to be talking about WordPress themes, just some random things that kind of -- it's like four or five questions it's kind of all built in along the discussion that we've been having all of this month, kind of talking about themes and what to do with themes and how to deconstruct a, a theme. Last week's episode was all about taking a theme that we may have modified and turning it into the parent theme and child theme, so we're just going to continue that talk.

I do have four Word Press announcements that I want to share with you, so let's go ahead and drive into those real, real quick. The first one is Jetpack 3.9 has come out, you may have seen this notification pop up in your WordPress dashboard, but site maps, a new Skype sharing button, and more, that's kind of the title of this release for Jetpack. And basically now it has a site map's module so it allows you to, to build a site map, and generate a site map for your website very, very simply which is pretty cool. It also has a new Skype sharing button, so if you're interested in sharing your posts via Skype -- I'm not sure exactly who want to do that, but that's another option that's out there, and now there is a social menu is now available for theme developers, so this basically means there's a new location that people can build into themes to display the, the social sharing buttons on your website.

So sometimes they have those social sharing buttons that appear down in the lower right-hand corner, or the upper left-hand corner, or somewhere along the lines like you can build those into a menu so you can easily add the widget areas or the different buttons that you need, so that's pretty cool, and then there's a lot of other new features that are built in to this version of WordPress. So if you're interested in finding out more there's a link in the show notes episode number 269 for how to get directly to this article, but Jetpack 3.9 has been released.

And the next announcement that I want to share is all about testimonials for WordPress, and what does that mean? This is something that Matt Melomig posted on his blog just a few days ago and it says that the Word Press or testimonial page has been lacking. There hasn't been a lot that's out there. And so now they're actually like pulling in tweets and different things, I think they're starting with tweets right now -- with -- that have the hashtag, I love WP. And they're going to start showing up there. And so they build a brand new page, it's found at wordpress.org/about/testimonials, and you can start seeing it different, different like little twitter cards that are there. It's pretty cool. It's a pretty neat experience to be able to see that and see people that are sharing and telling the world about how awesome WordPress is.

Let's see what else in the news. There was an article over on Torque Magazine, that's torquemag.io and it was talking about five niche WordPress conferences that you can't miss in 2015, and I just wanted to run down those real quick just in case you were interested in these sort of topics. The first one is a day of rest. It wasn't have a -- that's held on January 28th -- that's, that's like coming up here in the next few days and that will be in London, so that's -- the first one is a day rest. The second one is being held on March 3rd and 4th, and it's called PressNomics and that is in Tempe, Arizona. Wooconf is another one, if you have an eCommernce website and if you're interested in learning more about WooCommerce and all the extension, all the plugins, that is going to be held at April 6th through the 8th in Austin, Texas, that one I will be attending as part of the support ninja crowd and I'll be helping people debug their websites and fix things right there at the conference.

Another conference that's coming up is Prestige conference and this happens in Minneapolis and this will be on May 24th and 25th. And then the last must, the ones that you can't miss, the niche conferences are, it's called LoopConf, and it's coming in 2016, there's not a lot to be known quite yet. Last year it was in Fort Lauderdale, and it had more than 200 attendees. And so one thing to note about these, these types of conferences that they're not WordCamp, so WordCamps will run you, you know, the entrance fee is anywhere between you know ten to $50 to come for anywhere from one to three days whereas anything like this a conference like this is going to be more like an actual conference, it's going to have probably paid keynote speakers and paid speakers and it's going to cost you know, a few hundred dollars to go to them, but if that's something that you're interested in you definitely want to check out that link in the show notes as well. That kind of highlights those five different conferences.

Let's see anything else? Oh and the last thing that that I wanted to point out is WordCamp date and the tickets are now available, so if you're interested in driving to Dayton on March 3rd and 5th, or 3 and 5th, that doesn't even make sense, March 4th and 5th, that's a Friday and Saturday, you can come see me and a bunch of other happiness engineers will be here from Automatic there's going to be a lot of people in the community and we're excited to just have a bunch of you know, kind of kick off the season. I know that it's happening about the same time as PressNomics, and so if you're interested though like in the Midwest you want, don't want to travel all the way out to Phoenix then definitely if you're within driving distance I highly recommend coming out to WordCamp date, and it's only $40 to attend, and there's going to be a lot of great sessions, a lot of great speakers that are going to make this event amazing, so those are the announcements that I wanted to share this week.

And now let's move on to: Is there a plugin for that section. There are more 42,000 plugins and so each week I just want to highlight one plugin and I'm going to do my best to never repeat a plugin, this one may be a repeat, but it was one that I had to give a recommendation to today, and so I thought, hey, I'm going to share this on the show. And it is called: What The File and What The File is, is a tool to find out what template parts are being used to display your currently viewing. So if you've ever tried to modify a WordPress theme before, if you've always wanted -- you know, if you've ever wanted to try to you know debug some code and try to figure out where it is in the code it's always a big pain because maybe you think it's on a page, and then you go to the page.php and it's not in there 'cause it's calling a function from somewhere else and you -- it's really hard to find.

Well this plugin gives you a, kind of a drop down menu, it's kind of an area right there in the top of -- in that admin bar, that's called What The File and it shows all the different files that it could be -- that pieces of the puzzle are on that page, so I've used it before especially when debugging a brand new theme that I don't have a lot experience with and it is a pretty cool them. It's got more than 10,000 active installs. And so I definitely recommend if that's something that is interesting to you and is something that you would be interested in using. So check out What The File, and you can just Google that or put that in the WordPress repository and search for it.

Okay, before I get into the, the main topic today I do want to just bring up -- there was a little bit of feedback left from last week's episode, and Chad from OptimWise.com, he left a comment on last week's show and I completely forgot about it so last week we were talking about how to like pull out your custom changes from your website and turn it into a child theme, and then I just said go ahead and active the child theme. And I completely forgot that you have to reconfigure all the settings for the theme because the, the theme settings are based on the theme itself. So if you go from a parent theme to a child theme you have to re-do all of those settings. Now, a lot of, a lot of themes that are out there just have the ability to export and import which makes it super easy, but if not you're going to have go ahead and either take some screenshots, or you're going to have to just copy and paste or have different tabs open.

It's going to be kind of a nightmare to get all of the settings from the old site, which was the parent site to the new child themed site, it might take a little bit to get all of those settings over there if they don't have an import and export, but you're definitely going to need to do that. You're probably going to have to set up -- re-set up the widgets as well. Just because those are theme dependent as well, so I completely overlooked that. Thank you, Chad for reaching out and letting me know, and that should have been in last week's episode.

All right, today I just want to continue our discussion a little bit about themes and I just have a few questions that came up via responses to an email newsletter that I sent out, so I thought I would just kind of tackle all of the theme ones together, and just kind of -- just run through them real quick and answer about four or five questions all about themes. And so with that let's go ahead and divide right in. The first question that came in was how do I know if I need a new theme? And there's a lot of different questions that I could ask you to kind of trigger like, is this the right way to go? The right path? Is it time to update a theme? And so a couple of things that I thought about, is your theme responsive? If your website currently doesn't respond to the size of the device you have to pinch and zoom if you're on a mobile device to really read the text, or get to the right menu, or things like that, then it's probably time to update your theme and get a new responsive theme.

Most of the themes now that are built and designed here in 2016 are already responsive and there's nothing you have to do, you just basically set up it and configure it and it looks perfect on all three device sizes; that's the phone, the tablet, and the computer. And so if you don't have a responsive design it may be a good time to take a look at getting another theme. I know in years past, like last year, or two-years ago when I started the re-design of yourwebsiteengineer.com it was going to take way more time and energy and effort to try to build a mobile version of a site that has been launched and was four or five years old, so that was a good time to look for a responsive theme.

Another thing you may want to think about is does your theme look dated? You know there's a lot of new technology that's been out in the last couple of years and you know, some of the, some of the websites now are like these full page scrolling things, they've got this parallax effect so when you scroll like the image kind of stays, stays moving in the background and kind of slides, and it's kind of an interesting effect, but you know, like that's not necessary on every website, but if your website looks you know like it's dated you know does it look like it was designed in 2000, then maybe it's, it's another good time to update your theme, kind of do a little refresh. You don't necessarily have to like rebrand everything and get a new logo, change colors and stuff like that. You can do a simple overall and a simple refresh which would definitely help out the look of your website.

Another thing you want -- might want to think about is, are there things that don't work anymore? Or are there things that you'd really like to enhance on your website? You know maybe it's hard to find certain things you know, maybe the menu structure doesn't really work with the way that you want your menu to work, maybe you know like the colors are off, maybe -- you know there's a lot of things that you may say, oh I should probably fix this, or oh I should probably fix this, and maybe this needs to be fixed, or maybe this should be better. You know, if you have those types of things and those types of concerns it might be time to just get a new theme and just make it all work from scratch the very first time.

Now again I do -- I want to let you know that choosing a new theme is not like an arbitrary thing, like yes, we can go out and find them -- we're going to talk about in a second where we can find themes, but it's not super easy just to go and like pick a new one off the shelf click a few buttons and then you're up and running. Like it takes a while to configure a theme, get it just right, you know, get everything working exactly the way you want it, so this isn't a decision to take likely. Like, oh, this weekend I'm going to build a new site. Well, unless, you know you want to block out the entire weekend you know you might be able to get it done, but it does take some time. It takes some thought, you know, to try to figure out what you want on your site. How you need things rearranged and things like that, so definitely take that into consideration.

But you know, when you need a theme -- new theme you probably never really need a new theme. It's all about you know, would you rather have more esthetics? Do you need to have more opt-ins? You know, does a new theme help that? You know, all those types of things you want to think about when it's time to think, do I need a new theme.

Okay, Dustin, now the question may be where I should find themes? Where are the theme shops that are out there that will allow me to buy a theme off a shelf and just get up and running, or even get free themes. The first place I want to talk about -- and these are some of my favorite places to get themes. You know there's hundreds of places that are out there, but if you don't want to invest a lot of money, if you want to get started, you know, for the inexpensive, I would recommend going to the WordPress repository and looking at the theme directory, now granted there's you know, hundreds and hundreds of themes there, but there are some that look really nice.

I'm just browsing right now and there's some really ones -- there's a couple that I'm like wow, these are really pretty nice and they're all free. It shows when they were last updated, how many people are using that theme, and you can download it, or preview it right away so you can see what that looks like. It looks like -- I mean before in the past I used to say like the WordPress theme directory was just kind of like, ah, you know they were kind of -- there were themes that were nice, but there weren't really, really good themes. There were just, you know, they would get you by. But now there's a lot of really nice free themes on the WordPress repository that look really good, they're responsive, and they could do perfectly well for you as your, you know, as a brand new theme for you.

Let's see what else, the next one I want to talk about is Woo themes, and of course, Woo themes is one that I'm going to recommend 'cause that's part of the Automatic company, but with Woo themes there are a lot of themes that are there. There's themes that are free. There's, there's a new one called Storefront, so if you are interested in having an eCommerce store, Storefront may be perfect for you. It's built for shopping carts and then there's a few child themes that you can by on top of that. WooCommerce, or Woo themes also has some free themes that are out there, and so you have the ability to go and you know, pick a different -- you know pick a free theme, try it out, see if you like it, but then the paid ones are anywhere between looks like for a child theme it's like $39 -- anywhere -- then if you get a little bit more expensive ones that go up to like $79 for a theme licence.

So you're going to -- you're talking when you buy a brand new theme from somewhere one of these theme shops it's going to cost you know, somewhere between -- I don't know $50 -- 50 -- or this -- in this case $39 to about a hundred dollars or so -- which if you think about it all the time and effort and it takes to build a theme from scratch like that's a steal of a deal even for a hundred, like, so Woo themes is another place that you can look.

So we've got the WordPress repository, we've got Woo themes, another one is Thrive Themes. We talked to the owner and the co-founder a few days ago, or a few episodes ago and this one is really good if you're interested in coming up with a theme that's fast, and it focuses on getting people to sign up to an email newsletter, so those are the kind of the main features that thrive theme has. And you can go ahead and check that out at thrive theme.com, they've got a bunch of different themes there, so you want to check them out.

Another one that I've -- I really kind of like the themes, they're really pretty themes and they work really well is tesalthemes.com, and they have premium WordPress themes that you can, that you can download. They've got more than -- let's say 50, more than 50 themes, and they sell a lot of them, at least that's what they're, their front page of their website says. So I'm pulling up some of the different themes here just to see what the prices are, of course, it -- they're making it super easy to do that, but as we look here one of their, one of their themes is -- I'm pulling it up now, $48, so like $50 for a theme, and so that's definitely something that you can check out if you're interested in looking at it.

And another thing to think about when you're changing themes is like find one that you really like, you know, you want to find it visually that, okay, this works. I can kind of, I can kind of -- in my mind take a look at, okay, this is what -- I would put this image here, and I would this, I would do that. That's something to think about when you're browsing for these different themes.

Another theme shop that you may be interested in is elgantthemes.com, and they've got a bunch of themes. They've got 87 different themes to look through. And so that's another place that you can look.

And the last place is one that I used to recommend a lot, I'm not recommending it nearly as much anymore mainly because like some of the -- it's, it's kind of hit or miss whether you get a really good developer or not a good developer. But themeforest.net has a bunch of WordPress themes inside the category WordPress, and they've got more than 6,000-WordPress themes and they range anywhere between probably $30 and 50, or so it looks like most of them here on this first page cap out at about $59 it looks like, so some, somewhere between 30 and $60 you can get a WordPress theme.

Now one thing to take in note when you are purchasing from here, or any of these theme shops like you want to make sure that some sort of support comes with it and so with, with ThemeForest that's probably the one thing to really think about, their -- those developers don't have like active forums or teams of people that help to support different themes, so you know they can support only so many people and you know if they have hundreds of thousands of people buy their theme then, yes, they make a lot of money and they're excited about their money, but they don't have time to support all the little issues that people may have, so that's something to think about when purchasing a theme. So that was kind of what I wanted to share. Those are the five, six places that I wanted to share of where you can find themes. And there will be links to all of them in the show notes for episode number 269.

The next question came in, it said what should I do with demo content for the site. So some themes actually come with demo content. You know you look at the preview and you can see that beautiful looking website and it looks really, really, nice and you're like when you open up your "box" you, you, you turn on your theme on your site like it's so boring, it's so bland, and you can't figure where goes like that's what demo content really, really helps. So if you're building a brand new site I just recommend installing that demo content just put it on there and then that way you can kind of look and you can see how each page is set up and what different short codes are used, and stuff like that. And then you can just go in and simply replace your content with your text. So if you wanted to change the address you know, you put in your address instead of the dummy text address. So that's what I do if you're starting brand new from scratch. And then I guess once you're kind of -- your site's all set up if there's anything that's kind of lingering, like there's extra pages, or that you don't need that were part of the demo just go ahead and delete those, just get rid of them and so you can just do that if you are starting from scratch, if you're starting fresh.

Then if you already have a website and you're just doing a refresh and update then what I recommend is that you just install the theme on your main site, or the place where you're making the modifications and whatnot, and then start another brand new WordPress site and then import the dummy content there. The dummy content gets kind of tricky when you already have pages and you already have posts, you already have media, like you don't want to have to go in and try to filter through and find all the stuff that's the dummy content, 'cause it's just kind of a pain and an a nuisance and so then you kind of have two-WordPress sites running side by side and then you'd say, oh, how do I set up the testimonial page, and then you would go to the blank WordPress site with all the dummy content and you say, oh you put short code in and the testimonial content works. So then you could go over to your website that you're designing and you could put that in, so I kind of use that as a learning ground. It's kind of a place for you to go in and just kind of tinker around, you can see what it is on this other site that's kind of temporary holding spot for all the demo content, and so that is something that I recommend as well.

And then one last person asked, how do you create a custom theme, or what the thought process behind a custom theme and if you're super adventurous if you want to really get into -- dig into the weeds and learn WordPress inside and out, you can create your own site. You can start by designing an illustrator and then you have to get your, your website into HTML, so you always have to get to that middle HTML step, and that what is, is hard part. I've never actually taken a website from illustrator and turned it into HTML I've always just went from HTML into WordPress, and so if you're interested in just taking a WordPress site or building an a WordPress theme from something that you purchased online, like I love buying HTML websites on themeforest.net, they're much cheaper, but then I can program them and I had add the settings and the functions and everything that I need to make it work perfectly for me.

Some of the advantages of doing this is there's no need to program dozens of colour schemes. You don't need hundreds of different types of widgets. You don't need all of the sliders that come with themes. You, you can remove -- you don't have to remove anything like you just add the things that you need. You don't have to have you know, nine zillion different fonts, you know, that need to be loaded with Google fonts and it just makes your website a lot quicker, no settings panels are needed, all that good stuff. And so that's the way that I kind of go ahead and approach building a website these days is I buy the HTML and then I turn it into my own WordPress theme.

So those were the, the things and the, the talking points that I wanted to share today. There are so many, so many nuances that come when we're talking themes that I just wanted to share some of these kind of questions that I've got in the past, and so think about it, this year, is it going to be a year for a website refresh? Are you going to do little tweaks? Are you going to completely overhaul it? Those are some of the things to think about in 2016. So that's what I wanted to share with you today, and we're talking about something new next week. And until then, we'll talk then. Take care. Bye-bye.

    • Bob S Reply

      Your list of theme sites seems rather glaringly incomplete without Studiopress and Themify.

      Apr 29, 2016

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