247 – ‘T’ is for Themes

‘A-Z of WordPress’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

Hello, It’s another A-Z of WordPress. The series where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WP. Today is for T for Themes…


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In this age of Page Builders and Gutenberg the role of themes is unclear. It used to be simple:

You installed a theme and it gave some global styling and layouts for your pages, posts, footers and header. They were to create the look of your site, and plugins added additional functionality.

Then themes started to go further. Different php templates could be applied to different Post Types, Custom Fields were added, expanding on the default content editor. Some themes, like Genesis, added fields for SEO. Other themes went further, baking in all manner of things usually covered by plugins, such as sliders and carousels and even Page Builders!

Page Builder plugins initially worked with the content area, but after Beaver Builder released Beaver Themer (a theme builder) back in early 2017, most Page Builders are taking over the layout and styling of dynamic content areas of WordPress.

Although behind the curve, WordPress version 5, came out the with the Block Editor. In version 5.8 it started to move into the dynamic areas of WordPress.

Although presently the Block Editor does not have a layout framework close to what Page Builders have, this seems to be the focus for version 5.9. It begs the question – are themes dead?

…but let’s park for a moment  and talk about the market as it stands…

Types of Themes – The more superficial side of themes

Frameworks for building custom themes (are these dead?)


On the higher level Genesis, Woothemes Canvas, perhaps Headway (defunct).

Lightweight themes

Where the core theme carries out the basic job of global styling and layout. Usually they provide some layout option (like full width for Page Builders). They often have hooks to place content in various places and filters as well.

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GeneratePress, Astra, The Page Builder Framework, Hello, and the Beaver Builder theme fall into these categories.

GeneratePress and The Page Builder Framework allow you to extend the theme via addons.

Multipurpose themes

Where support is in the core for major plugins like ecommerce, LMS’s and membership systems. Lots of option are usually put inside of the customizer.

Blocksy, Neve, Kadence.

Specialist Themes

WooCommerce – Flatsome and Storefront.

Directory / Real Estate / Hotel booking systems work well here as the Theme / Plugin overlap is close to required.

Mega Themes

Avada, Enfold, BeTheme, Bridge.

Themes for FSE with blocks (still experimental)

TT1 Blocks, Blockbase, Q, Hansen.

The beginning or end for themes?

A theme is needed right now, but that could be as simple as an index.php file and a styles.css file. You probably would want a header and footer too.

Is Gutenberg Killing WordPress Themes? Challenges for a Theme Developer in a Gutenberg World.

Probably relevant is this recent post on WP Tavern, which explains that some React developers have been brought on to work on Full Site Editing. Perhaps Automattic are seeing this work as more essential now.


Final thoughts


I’m still really unsure about what the future holds. I currently cannot see a way that Page Builders, like Elementor and Beaver Builder are going to lose customers quickly. The experience of full site editing in their interfaces is ahead of what Core has on offer. With them, the promise is simple, “we can do this, and might iterate on this in the future, but for now, this is what you get and it works really well”. With Core, it’s more, “This is what we’re hoping to offer, but we don’t really know and it might take some time and look really different from what we think right now”.

I think that we need to get to a point where Core offers a Full Site Editing experience and so I don’t really see a place for themes in the long term. The ideal is that you install WordPress and set up some global styles and pick from a bunch of predefined layouts and you’re done. The site is all set up in a wizard and it’ll fit +70% of WordPress users.

I would certainly thinking about the future of themes carefully if I were a theme builder, not because they’re guaranteed to go away, but because IF they do, there’s another option. It must be hard for these businesses, as the lack of clarity is pretty hard, I’d imagine.

That said, it seems like a fully functioning CMS needs to be able to edit the entire site, and it’s confusing how to do that in all previous versions of WordPress, NOT for people who use it a lot, but for people who use it a little. If all-the-things are in one place, all the better, right?


Unless something happens to define the situation I think we will have what we have now. Themes doing what some of the things a plugin should do, and plugins (mainly Page Builders with theme builders) doing what some think a theme should do.

It is kind of funny that we have Bricks – a Page Builder theme gaining so much interest from Oxygen builder users (a plugin that disables themes). It is going to come down to the set of features you offer and marketing more than whether it is a theme or plugin.

I don’t think there is any clue coming from the Gutenberg project as to how they see things working. Except perhaps a phasing out of the customizer (which weirdly has never been used as much as it has recently by the themes supporting blocks). In 2017 it was heralded as a great example of the role of JS in WordPress and folk have caught on to it and DIY’ers love it.

Gutenberg is always going to be great for everyone. David Vongries is really making a point about the lack of direction and backward compatibility which is making life difficult for a supporter of Gutenberg. This is understandable as he’s a one man show. The same issue Elliot Cordon alluded to with ACF (Delicious Brains have been able to finish what he started with their first update since acquiring it). How do solo authors learn all the technology and have to deal with it changing?

Full Site Editing is quite a UI feat for the Gutenberg project and with 5.9 it is just starting to get into layout options that Page Builders accommodated first with their UI’s. Packing a lot of stuff into the WordPress Core.

Unless the Gutenberg project does something to scupper the Page Builders, I suspect they will always stay light years ahead. Big organizations are not as agile and the project does not seem to have the will of the majority of its community. It is limited in what it can forge ahead with. A block editor was talked about in 2015. By the beginning of 2017, work on Gutenberg had started. I wonder to what degree Automattic is willing to keep funding this for WordPress.com.

Gutenberg goes way beyond what can be managed by the WordPress community. The tech stack is higher, as is the complexity of the job. Is this tech so great that the minority who know it will use it for WordPress… or do developers all have to be acquired by Automattic?

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your hosts, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once more. Thanks for coming back. This is episode number 247. Entitled T is for. It was published on Thursday, the 16th of September, 2021. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And in a few short minutes, I'll be joined as I so often am by David Wamsley this week, we're going to be talking, as I said about themes.

We'll get to that in just a moment. But before then, I would love to tell you a few things that are going on in the WP build space first. I'd like to mention that we've got a website, you probably knew this already, but it's [email protected] there. You're going to find all the content that we produce. We do the, this weekend WordPress show comes out, live on a Monday, 2:00 PM.

UK time. You can find that at WP build's dot com forward slash live. And we also put that out in a newsletter. On Tuesday. So we repurpose it and put it out for your delectation on Tuesday. If you'd like to be notified about that and the podcast each Thursday, that you're listening to now head over to WP builds.com forward slash subscribe, and you'll be able to join a mailing list.

Find our Facebook group, YouTube channel, Twitter feed, and all of that stuff. So that's WP builds.com. Forward slash subscribe. Another thing to mention is that we are running the page builder summit. Again, it's actually happening in about a month's time, something like that. It's a page builder, summit.com.

And if you'd like to be informed and get on the wait list, please head over to page, build a summit.com and we will let you. When we produce our list of speakers and so on and so forth, it's looking like it's going to be genuinely a really good event. Again, we've got loads of nice stuff lined up. So once more Pagebuilder summit.com.

If you would like to find out about deals in the WordPress space, we've got a boatload of them curated on one page it's WP builds.com forward slash deals. I keep likening it to black Friday, but every day of the week, WP builds.com/deals will get you coupon code. Plugins themes and all sorts of other things.

And the last one that I want to mention is WP Builds.com forward slash advertise. If you would like to get your product or service in front of a WordPress specific audience, a bit like AB split test. Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time, the AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes.

You can use your existing pages and test anything against anything else that could be buttons, images, headers, rows, really anything. And the best part is it works with element or beaver builder and the WordPress block editor. So go check it out and get a free demo. AB split test doc. Alrighty, let's get onto the main event of this week.

It's David Wamsley and myself having a chat tea is for theme. We're going through the alphabet, as you're about to find out we're near the end. Now, as you can tell, we're going from a right the way through to Zed or Z, depending on where you are in the world. And this week we are tackling the subject of themes, which is a really critical component in WordPress.

You can't really run it with. Theme or can you, what have things done in the past? What have they enabled us to do? And what does the future look like for themes? It's a little bit of a difficult time. If you're a theme developer, what with full site editing and all of that coming around the corner into core.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the podcast.

[00:03:50] David Waumsley: Hello. It's another eight is out of WordPress, the series where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress today is T four themes. So nicely we're running out of letters. You

[00:04:04] Nathan Wrigley: noticed we started this. It felt like yesterday with a is for, I don't even remember what we did for eight, but we did a is for apple or something like that.

And and, and here we are on T fast approaching the end of the alphabet. Good grief.

[00:04:18] David Waumsley: I know this one's a tricky one, because what a theme is what we're going to get into. But maybe we'll start a little bit with a kind of history of themes where we got to where we started off. So in the beginning was the word press.

Oh, Themes. That's all we had in the beginning of WordPress though. Wasn't it? You need, and still is today. We need, what is technically a theme to run WordPress? So everything was a theme in the early days. Yup.

[00:04:49] Nathan Wrigley: Yup. And yeah, like you said, it's just two simple little files that you need. And without those you're in dire straits.

[00:04:56] David Waumsley: Yeah, no, just one index file on one styles dot CSS file defines a theme. And then after that, it's up to anyone, whether they want to carry on building from the theme up or from the plugin. So mostly we're talking about semantics here, but I think. The early stages of it. And the, I you've told me this before, the reason that WordPress appealed to use, because it looked nicer, you could just install a theme and things were looking pretty in the first place.

And I think that's where themes came in and that we still, I think do, what do you think theme is? Do you still think it is primarily there to style the look of your site? Yeah.

[00:05:35] Nathan Wrigley: That's what it should be. Obviously that's not what it is because the world and his wife carried on and fiddled with it and made it into a whole bunch of stuff which we'll get into.

But in my mind, the aspiration would be that anything to do with the way it looks. So the stuff that you're are used to pick up is the theme and anything to do with the way that it behaves. So the stuff that goes into the way it looks is the domain of well content, WordPress itself and the plugins. So would be my definition.

And I think the world would be an easier place if every everything stopped to that. But of course it didn't where it was. You know, there's almost no difference between what a plugin is and what a theme is on a sort of nuanced level. And so the two overlap, you've got themes which do a whole bunch of plugin functionality and plugins, which do a whole load of theme functionality.

And so it's confusing and it must be really confusing for somebody who comes to WordPress and just wants to know why do I need a theme? And what does a plugin do? Because they're basic. The same.

[00:06:43] David Waumsley: Yeah. I feel like my journey feels a little bit like it's the one that would be expected if you were part of the WordPress community.

So I didn't really see what was going on with marketplaces, like theme, forest, and they were advancing stuff. So I generally wandered into those early themes. First one's with a premium offering and then moving into kind of Genesis. So there were basic things there and they did what I thought a theme should do.

So the style sheet was styled, and then you added in your child theme to be able to style that, change the styles of that original style. And that was there and it took care of. Basic formatting the layout skews me. I'm gonna need to cough pages and you'll post. So they were taking care of all the PHP templates as they needed to be.

Then of course, we're rapidly changing away from those. And that's what I knew. But then even there, even with something as simple as Genesis, this kind of what called itself a framework, because effectively lots of snippets allowed you to do things and they were sharing those. But even there, it nudged its way into.

Some SEO in that was, should have been the domain of a plugin. And you know, as we saw it then, so it's just interesting, but yeah, ThemeForest, on the other hand, they've always gone down this kind of big route of, you go and buy this one thing. They need to sell one product don't they, it, you need to have a theme.

So it makes sense that all of the plugins that you're going to need for that theme are either going to be baked into it or are going to be an instant. Yeah. And I

[00:08:22] Nathan Wrigley: guess in a sense, if you could rewind the history of WordPress, it might be, it might have been a good idea to really separate those two things out and make it absolutely incumbent upon theme developers that they just touched to the way it looks on plugin developers, the way it behaves.

But but yeah, you're right. It curious that you know, you use things like Genesis it's just ever so slightly straying into plugin territory with SEO and it almost feels like it isn't, but then you've got plugins and themes. Let's say, for example, on the Genesis generate press side of things, where they separate that out.

And you've obviously got your premium version where the plugins. That you can install the ad-ons, the pro side of things. They definitely do deal with the way it behaves. And the theme itself is just about the way it

[00:09:13] David Waumsley: looks. Yeah, it's very, I think it sticks to that original view of what we thought themes were about.

It's held true to that and, but It's really isn't it's page builders taking off really. There was a F a bit before 2014, but from 2014 on, I believe the page builders have really taken on to this present day. And as soon as you've got BeaverBuilder particularly. Yeah, developing the beaver theme, which was a theme builder, then every page builder after that since it's really pretty much got that.

So now theme building is something that's done by a plugin on the whole. So we've

[00:09:54] Nathan Wrigley: got to the point really, where if you install a page builder you have everything that you need to create the way it looks and the way it behaves. Obviously there's going to be additional things that you wish to add as plugins to create additional functionality, but everything's all in one.

So the point where you start to question. Is the purpose going forward of a theme. If everything has been abstracted and you don't really need to interact with it on a theme setting level you do question. And of course, we'll come into that. What's the future. And more recently, a few posts were put out by people who make themes, questioning what's going on and who's in charge.

And what's the.

[00:10:38] David Waumsley: Yeah, our themes dead with this wants to come up so many times. So we'll park that one. Shall we? While we talk about that, what we think are the different types of themes. So this is rough and ready, but we started with kind of sections. We thought about frameworks first. So when I thought I might be a bit of a wannabe developer in the early days, I heard of these kind of frameworks where you could build your own themes.

In fact, I built my own theme from a blog post years back. Also frameworks like underscores, which really would just for the coders where you could just build from that. Did they read that?

[00:11:14] Nathan Wrigley: What do you just followed the tutorial? Did you back in the day, build yourself a thing?

[00:11:21] David Waumsley: It was really simple. I wish I could remember the guy's name.

I don't know what happened to him hugely popular. When I went into WordPress about sort of 2006, 2007, he just seemed to be the only person writing really handy articles on, working with things that I could understand as a non-developer can understand how to put one together. Yeah. And then you

[00:11:44] Nathan Wrigley: figure out who that guy is, then I'll stick it in the show.


[00:11:47] David Waumsley: Oh yeah. I'll try and find him. Yeah. And there was something I've not used. Have you used it underscores?

[00:11:55] Nathan Wrigley: No. And I keep hearing it. I keep it not so much now, but I heard about it just kept coming up over again. Busy life, normal working conditions may not, I just didn't have time to fiddle with it.

So I don't really know what its promise was and why people were raving about it.

[00:12:13] David Waumsley: Yeah. And I think then. Classless frameworks, which is really just a fancy word for a theme. That's got a few potentials Genesis there was woo themes canvas, which was also trying to be a framework where you would, the idea whilst there was a basic theme.

And that would allow you to do stuff. And then you would do the rest through child themes because when themes came out, initially, I don't think in the first couple of years of me using WordPress, anybody ever said to me that a child theme is a good idea, cause no one was really expecting to do the kind of updates that we have these days.

Yeah. Yeah. I was

[00:12:52] Nathan Wrigley: curious as to what makes in your head, what made what's what is the key component of framework that separates it from something else? Oh, of I if I upset the applecart here.

[00:13:04] David Waumsley: No, it's just that I've never been able to quite answer what I think it just sounds it's marketing, I think, but what really?

There wasn't much there with the Genesis. It puts in. I guess a whole bunch of hooks and filters or things that came in within that framework. Something that we now expect to be in most themes, which probably wouldn't have been in the earlier themes. So I think that's the element, the fact that you can hook in and develop around this basic theme and most of the.

Genesis and canvas, it was up to you to then take that framework and then build your own themes over the top of it. So you could often use in a collection of their community snippets, you could build your own PHP templates and do much more with them. So I think that was the road and the route was then that you had this master theme, this framework, and then all your work child themes were no longer a place where you just put in a few tweaks to your CSS.

You actually read that. The basic framework for Genesis was simple, very simple framework of CSS. And then all the work that you did was in the child. So it's wrestled to what most are now. No. So yeah, I think that's probably why they called it that, but it's potentially rarely, and I think, the themes canvas trying to compete with that, it it was already out and then it thought framework sounds good.

We'll go with that. I think I see. So do you feel that

[00:14:35] Nathan Wrigley: there's still life in this idea? Themed frameworks. Are these still a thing? Do you still take notes of all of this stuff? Obviously Genesis has been acquired and yeah. Okay.

[00:14:48] David Waumsley: Yeah. I, but I think even from, from the point of view, they've given it way, haven't they Genesis, I think they've bought the whole package of that theme as a basic starting point.

But I think in the way they've retired. A lot of those themes and they'll be block based in the future anyway, with their plans with them. So there'll be adopting and books. So I think in the way that I understood those frameworks, yes, that's dead. But I think. I think it could be wrong on this, but I think they set this idea.

Now we expect that we to have huggable areas in our themes where we can add in content. And I think that wave of themes, those frameworks that brought in that concept, which has been taken on by. The likes of the next one. So the next category are lightweight themes. People like generate press, perhaps Astra the page builder framework.

Hello for Elementor and maybe beaver builder theme as well, which I use may classes those basically again, the same idea. It was, it was interesting

[00:15:50] Nathan Wrigley: Just for a brief second, going back to frameworks. I, I came to WordPress at a time when Genesis was already out. And so this whole hooks idea already a thing.

And I really didn't appreciate how revolutionary it was at the time that you could do all these things and put things in different parts of the site and those people who use. For example, Genesis seems to be the one that comes up in conversation all the time. That really revolutionized the way that you could do things for the first time with a let's call it copy and paste, snippet of code.

You could suddenly create layouts, which were much more complex and bespoke. And you could put this piece of content over here and this other piece over here, and it allowed you to do things and feel like you were building a unique theme with just a few little copy and paste exercises. Really.

[00:16:43] David Waumsley: Yeah. Actually it sounds a bit quaint now because think about it.

Most of what you were doing with Genesis was using widgets and this little areas where you slot in your WordPress widgets. So it really does seem silly now. And that's why I think they're dead because obviously blocks are taking the place of what widgets used to do in Genesis. So it will be different.

It's a different. Yeah. Yeah. Anyway, sorry

[00:17:10] Nathan Wrigley: I interrupted you. You'd gone on to mentioned lightweight things like generate press.

[00:17:14] David Waumsley: So I think it's hard for anyone coming in now. I've seen a lot of people ask the question it's about which themes and they're trying to compare different types of themes.

And I think those ones I mentioned are probably still in that tradition, as you say, were they. At the core, they keep it very lightweight, based, simple. In fact, they generally competing to make them as lightweight as possible, not adding in any JavaScript and have very minimal CSS to provide that basic framework.

And then mostly the rest is added. To add ons that they add through their pro pack versions of those, but they're still very usable and they really don't carry by nature, any support for other major plugins out there. So they're just stand as a basic. Canvas really. And they allow you to use either Guttenberg or page builders, in the content area and give you the basic things you might need over your style in such as being able to put your pages full width so you can accommodate a page builder, but that's it, that's all they do at their core.

So I, I see those as a lightweight themes of course, they wander into the plugin terrorist. Would that add ons? I,

[00:18:28] Nathan Wrigley: I kind quickly settled, I say quickly and we'll get into the, like the mega themes a bit later and theme forest and all that. Upon arriving at WordPress, I had a brief foray with mega themes and, very beguiled by the way.

Like I say, we'll come to that, but I quickly settled on the idea of using these lightweight themes fairly early on, on just like the fact that there were a minimal selection of options. And once I'd set them on, I was familiar with, were they all. I was happy and it got out of the way, everything, more or less, everything that I added in as a plugin seemed to work.

And more importantly, for me, as soon as things like beaver builder began to become popular. Exactly. As you say, they offered the capability to essentially tick a box and go full width. And as soon as that was done, the page builder could pretty much do anything you liked in the content. Yeah.

[00:19:27] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. And I thought, they are my favorites. They're lightweight themes that as things stand as we are at the moment, because I'm still a page builder user, I think I always will be. And I, I want this, minimal stuff as possible for, I don't want to do many updates. I wanted it to be as stable as possible.

So the idea that I can add in what I need as I need it. So I'm drawn to these and I could easily move from any of these basic core ones because. Of the theme builder now is doing much of the major styling. So I'll just use it for my fonts. Yeah. Yup. Yup.

[00:20:00] Nathan Wrigley: Fonts, basic styling and so on. I'm always curious as to what must be the, I don't really know how the, the developers of these, so you've got Tom from generate press and you've got David from the page builder framework and so on.

It must be difficult trying to separate yourself out in the marketplace and illustrate why. Yours is better than the other rivals. I know that they're very friendly towards each other and they don't go into that whole flame wars nonsense, but it must be difficult to say, well, over here we do less of this.

And well, over here we do less of this. We've got way less over here, the new house which is like usually the opposite of marketing. It's more, we've got more, we do all of this great stuff. Just curious as to

[00:20:46] David Waumsley: yeah, and that they've gained a lot with the promoting of the performance element of it.

I think with many of those the interesting thing is when we go into what I'm, a new category, a more recent category, I'm calling multipurpose themes that I borrowed this actually from somebody else who did a video talking about one of these and what I'm calling the, so the examples would be Blocksi Neve, cadences, a few others out there, which I'm forgetting.

Oh, I forgot doesn't matter. But these are very similar. The performance they sell themselves on that, but also what's quite different about them is they're all available on the WordPress repository, but they come in with support added in four major plugins for e-commerce for learning management systems for membership.

Already packed into it, which these other lightweight themes don't. So they're in core, they are multi purpose. And I think what distinguishes these as well as the fact that they've oddly given, most of these are quite new and we knew. The plan for Guttenberg is to move away from the customizer.

These are really gone to town on the customizer. So for all of these extras that they've got these major plugins, yes, they've got support and styling for those in their customizer.

[00:22:03] Nathan Wrigley: I always find it interesting when you look at the promotional materials for these things and know, that it supports this LMS and it supports this membership solution.

And so on. I always think that must be a really difficult decision for them to make, because what's popular today might not be popular in a couple of years time. And you know, it's hard to, it's hard to judge, but also you are in a sense you're pushing away. People who use a different LMS.

'cause you've selected this one as your favorite one. And we're promoting that. That's the one that we combine with and everything just works out the box. You're pushing people away and saying if you've got different LMS, we're not suitable for you. It just, again, just adds to complexity for the people trying to sell

[00:22:48] David Waumsley: these.

Yeah. And I mean, I think these new patients builders they've really challenged. They are brilliant. If you're a new person, you've got no coding skills you're not going to touch CSS and you just want to get started quickly. Boxy need and cadence and all of these, they just make it so easy.

You can sort out your head of and footer with its own, way of being able to lay out things. I think bro blocks, you came up with and the, stunning stuff it's so easy to use, but yeah, and the very performance in terms of their front end. So it's hard to, I think, distinguish these new wave from the lightweight themes, which they're also competing with.

So you could very easily not see a difference between say a cadence and generate press, but I think there is a massive one in the sense of what he's aiming to do, the company behind. Thomas trying to keep it very lightweight and that the cadence is trying to keep it very, I believe easy to use by non coders.

And I think, it means that their decisions are entirely different. So I stay away from the multi-purpose themes, because like you say, I think once they've added the support for a particular LMS that they're going to, they can't remove it. Can, they it's their full time and they might need to add.

Yeah. And it came up. Yeah, yeah. And they have to keep updating all of those, but otherwise, you know, it's not, so once it's depends who you are. So if you're handy with a bit of CSS and you want to keep it simple, then you're definitely going to. The lightweight theme route. And if you don't have any of that and you want to make it quick and easy, you probably go to the multi-purpose theme side of it.

But I think that the downside of that, even though it makes it a lot easier, it's just more to update. So potentially more things to go wrong. Yeah. Good

[00:24:38] Nathan Wrigley: point. It's a fair Def it's a fair distinction. If you go for something which we've categorized as lightweight, you probably have less to worry.

In terms of updating and consistency and so on, but you also, you don't have that support. So you'll have to deal with that yourself. But if you go for one of these in inverted commas, multi-purpose themes, a lot of that will be supported, but you're just going to have to hope that they support it forever.

If that's you, if that's what you choose.

[00:25:03] David Waumsley: Yeah. Yeah. And they'll keep increasing what they have to support. So it'll make it more difficult. You know what they get back from the theme. So it's always been the way isn't it, the more you have to support them, the more difficult it is, you need to get the money back from it.

So those simple themes that are appealing as well, as long as they're still marketable to people, to me, to keep things simple. Yeah.

[00:25:25] Nathan Wrigley: No, that's a really interesting point though, that you've just made in that you are a one of the lightweight theme developers you. You really have positioned yourself in the market is, the, the less we do the better, if we can make you make the file size half a kilo bucks smaller, we've really succeeded.

And they've made that vessel badge of honor, it's their MVP. It's what they do. Whereas the other ones going in a different direction, you are, I think just by the fact that it does some of these things, you're maybe thinking that in the future, it needs to do more of these things. And so there might be commercial pressure from their audience, their clients.

Yeah. Extra things. Whereas the lightweight ones, the truly lightweight ones that you would imagine that the there's more pressure to take out as much as possible and just keep it as lean as possible. And don't give into the people who are asking, can it support this and can it support that? So just a really different marketing strategy and probably a really different client base than a bunch of the audience that they've got are going to be asking for different things.

[00:26:35] David Waumsley: I think so. Yeah. And I think by they keep it simple and they're all about the code quality. Then they're going to appeal to people like me. And, I've got clients who don't expect their sites to disappear. After a couple of years, they expect me to support it. And earned from that, for the next 10 years.

So I'm going to lean to that because. Spend a little bit of time, maybe doing some things with CSS myself initially on the build and have little to update or worry about as time goes on, but I can completely understand, DIY as want to move in your it's going to be so much easier with blocks in eval, cadence, and the other ones I forgot to mention.

Yes, for sure. Okay. Specialists themes. Okay. What were you thinking? I was thinking like woo commerce. We have over on the theme forest side of things, flat something which I haven't used now. I did from a GPL club go and download. It wants to go on a level where I named the

[00:27:34] Nathan Wrigley: podcast. Now, David we're under contravene

[00:27:37] David Waumsley: all the walls.

Okay. I was just fascinated by it because it's got quite a good reputation, but yeah. Why it has is because it was one of the thing. Fibrous has always been producing some themes specific to woo commerce, but I think it was one that did it quite well and seemed to cover most people's needs has been running for a long time.

Of course, though, is the official commerce theme, which is storefront, which we don't really hear much about these days or at least not in our circles. Sorry. I mean, that's an interesting thing because of the fact what we just talked about actually with the multi-purpose themes of those themes now are adding all the support you need for that particularly Astra in what had classes, a lightweight theme as done a lot of support.

But there are the, still the specialist ones. And then there are, of course other things like directories and real estate and hotel bookings where you buy the, usually on theme forest, but. Eh, there, there swear. It makes sense. I think for a theme to be the thing you buy and then all of the stuff is added to it.

Particularly hotel bookings. I've talked about this before, where it's a real problem. If you drop, try and get a bookings plugin, and you want to do the same thing, on most of those where you're selling various different properties at different times, people expect to go to a front page and be able to do a search and it show what's available.

You can't do that without the theme and the plugin working together. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,

[00:29:12] Nathan Wrigley: you're right. It's a really, there are clearly use cases where the metaphor that I used at the beginning of plugins are for content and the way things behave and themes are for the way things looks clearly.

This is a nice little overlap. Somebody figured out that this functionality can only be achieved on the sort of theming level. I think it's still in my mind. It's it would be ideal if it could be done in another way, but obviously you'd get you'd end up purchasing and installing two things, which is a bit of a Kluge, but yeah, fuck.

This, this whole area is I feel. Ripe for going wrong though. This whole sort of specialist team is where you get the big mega themes that do everything. And they try to cram everything in and that the overlap between, oh, the content and way it looks really are all sort muddled up and it becomes difficult to know what's handling what

[00:30:11] David Waumsley: yeah, I think set up and I think with the specialist teams, if you, if you do need.

Then the functionality that runs a search or organizers thing as a directory, which is more plugin functionality, then you do need to have control over the style in or where that's positioned in there. And real estate is the same. It's got the same kind of search in. And I think it makes sense for they aren't they they're all in one package.

They've got to start with a theme because you need one of those. So they do make sense, but like you say, let's move on to the next category. Mega. Great.

[00:30:46] Nathan Wrigley: We were just looking at the numbers on ThemeForest for the one, which seems to be the mega theme to end all megathemes, which I've never used. It's called a Varda and man alive.

Is it still doing.

[00:31:00] David Waumsley: Yeah we, we mentioned this in one and I can't remember which episode we were doing, what letter we were on, but we did, we were looking at the numbers and I remember that I hope I'm not misremembering, but it was in the top five of most installed themes on WordPress. Built with the one, their statistics.

So it is big. We just don't know about it often in our communities, because we tend to be based around what's in the WordPress repository most of the time. So

[00:31:29] Nathan Wrigley: just to give me some sort of impression of what this is, it's 700 and 700 plus thousand installs and every single one of those heart say every single one, clearly there's people who will figure out how to jailbreak it, if you like, but.

They're all paid for every single one of them comes with a $60 license. I don't know how that licensing works, whether it's an annual thing or my understanding when I last look was that you paid at once and you've got support and updates for a limited period of time with an extra sort of $20 add on or something.

But you know, that's a very profitable business that they're turning over about two and a 2,200 licenses a month. So it's an incredible. Profitable enterprise. But we, we had a look and we couldn't work out how you would actually use it. It's got this great promotional stuff about all the wonderful things that it can do, but we couldn't see how you would actually manage that because the the advertising material didn't really show us, but just goes to show, I had assumed that theme ThemeForest.

It wasn't doing as well as it once was purely because of where I've now got, but I'm totally wrong thing. ThemeForest if you are in the top two or three or four themes, it's an incredible marketplace.

[00:32:45] David Waumsley: Yeah. And we've got, yeah. And enfold B theme and bridge are some of the big ones aren't they? That I see a lot of people in you know, more I see in the beaver builder community, but I see a lot of people who've come from those two BeaverBuilder later and that's been their routine.

And I think those mega themes on ThemeForest survey attractive because they let the DIY get everything for this one price for their single site. For. It's $60 or whatever, how attractive it is. Yeah. You

[00:33:15] Nathan Wrigley: say everything. They, they are very good at claiming to do everything aren't they? And of course, I'm sure like my brief foray, I mentioned at the beginning that I fiddled around with these, I downloaded a few of them and paid for them and put them on some websites but quickly ran into the limitations that I really have no idea how to modify the things.

You get a portfolio. But you can't really do much with it, except add portfolio content pieces. And you click save and it displays itself on the side. But if you want to modify that or change it, all of that was off limits and you needed to dig into the weeds. So they promise a lot and I'm sure they deliver a lot, but I think the difficulty comes when you assume it can do everything and then quickly realize that there's a lot more to it than that.

[00:34:04] David Waumsley: Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, oddly, I went the light theme route and then a certain point, I thought, Ugh, I need to jump on board with these mega themes. They're so appealing. I'm going to try and do this. And I remember trying to rebuild an e-commerce shop with it and it was just, oh, painful because it got so hard.

With all the PHP functionality at when there, I think, you, you mentioned that it doesn't seem to be on theme forest X theme. They've got their own page builder. I haven't, they include it in theirs as well. Yes. And, so I think probably a lot's changed, but my, what I worry about with these is that they are competing.

For top place by offering more than the next person. And because you're only paid this one lifetime payment, there's has to be a point where if sales slow down, then you've added so much that the maintenance or the expectation of the maintenance is going to increase and the money coming in is going to decrease.

So they end up, folding in the end. And that's been my previous experience with the megathemes. I bought a load of them from ThemeForest. All of them have now expired, which is not the case with the themes I've bought, but maybe not the case with these ones. These have been around a long time.

Haven't they have bothered.

[00:35:23] Nathan Wrigley: I don't know how star rating system or the comments and reviews and all of that work on theme for us, but the ones that are pushed ahead and I've got the most installs, the ones that you mentioned, they have very positive comments, and I'm just guessing it's, we're just dealing with a different audience.

Aren't we? That these are people who just want to put aside. Install a theme activate the theme and then crack on and whatever modifications come with it. That's fine. That's as much as I want to modify it and I'm entirely happy with it, but of course that's not you because you are building.

Websites for people and you want really fine and granular control of it. And so this stuff just starts to get in the way, whereas the lightweight themes they get out of your way, and you can build on top of that because you've got the experience but clearly huge market they're satisfying people because ratings are good.

It's just not the market.

[00:36:20] David Waumsley: But, here's the thing and it's kind a moment of embarrassment for me. So one of the mega themes that was built in this e-commerce site with I installed it and I got really almost to the end, almost ready to go live with it. And I gave it a five star review.

I thought it was just fabulous. I thought he did all this stuff. It looked beautiful. I hardly had to do any work. And it was only when I realized, Slow. It was that I started to unpick things and just some small things I needed to do before I went live. And then I couldn't unpick it. And there was so many files and that's the thing, but I got to that point where I really did think it was quite marvelous and I gave it a five star rating.

It was just, those things came later. So I imagine when I look at those five stars, I can understand where they've come in, but. I would, it would be interesting if they were forced to always have to star rate something after it'd been on a live site for six months and then how it would look then.

Okay. Yeah.

[00:37:21] Nathan Wrigley: Couple of things from that, firstly, I'd be really curious if anybody who's building client sites using. ThemeForest as a, I'd be really curious if anybody actually does that and uses those and deploys them and is entirely satisfied. Maybe you've got a real niche that, that it works with. I don't know.

You know, put something in the comments.

[00:37:42] David Waumsley: Yeah. And actually, what we built with, it happens all the time and I do it, but almost Taryn. ThemeForest as a marketplace has been assessing. Totally with these type of things. So going back to an earlier theme I know your thoughts on this one. I bought a very well coded knowledge based theme from theme forest again, which was just perfect for what I needed beautifully done, really lightweight.

And in every way I looked at the code and thought this is marvelous work. So everybody on theme forest, isn't really someone who's just packing full of features. Yeah, no.

[00:38:19] Nathan Wrigley: And if you're a budding developer of themes, it strikes me, you'd be a bit negligent at the outset to just discount it out of hand. It must be a lot of hard work the likes of, David Vaughn, grease page builder framework, and Thomas Bond generating press to, to establish themselves.

And a quick route to doing that is to try and do it all through a marketplace, like theme, forest. Yeah. Clearly. Yeah.

[00:38:47] David Waumsley: Yeah, we've got some brilliant developers haven't we have, but we've managed to make it that they needed to go there just to get the audience in the first place for, their skills.

Yeah. So I felt, I just needed to say that, cause it sounded like with. Bad mouth and everything. That's on theme forest. I think

[00:39:03] Nathan Wrigley: we did. We did we did a, we did a sort of attack job and then we just walked it back then we right at the end.

[00:39:10] David Waumsley: Yeah. Okay. Last category. We can't talk about this much, which is really themes for full site editing with blocks, which really isn't anything at the moment.

And this is still experimental. Isn't it? Yes. There's a lot of people,

[00:39:26] Nathan Wrigley: For example, Justin Tatlock on WP Tavern, fiddling with these things, experimenting with these things and thankfully writing up their findings, but it hasn't transferred to me yet. I haven't been playing with this sort of stuff, but obviously this is the future, but it's still much experimental.

You've written down TT one blocks block base. And Hanson, but regrettably, I just don't have a lot to say about them yet. And what I think the benefits might be or

[00:39:54] David Waumsley: the drawbacks? No, I've seen some people on videos. I'm doing some early work on it really before the last release and full site editing came out.

So it was interesting. So it's a, still a bit quirky then. So it's now up to the marketplace to see if it adopts it, because these are really just. Just tools to experiment and see where it goes from there at the moment. There's no adoption. So there's not much to talk about. So

[00:40:18] Nathan Wrigley: the concern for that going forward, and the fact they've got to spend time learning a new skill and yet they're still unclear about how things are going to work in the future.

Really difficult, but it. Fail UI. We'll play this episode back in a couple of years and I'll be totally wrong. I feel that the theme is becoming less important

[00:40:40] David Waumsley: over time. I think there's an expectation which if you've gone to plug-in route, you're certainly a page builder and certainly the way that Gutenberg appears to be going in a similar way that the theme builder and the global styling will be taken care of by the same effectively the same platform.

That I can understand where David is. He doesn't know where he stands, but then that's the same thing with Guttenberg. It's a challenge to everybody, the page builders and the people creating the themes because no one knows how all encompassing that might be. What role do you all have within this ecosystem any longer?

And I think that's the difficult.

[00:41:16] Nathan Wrigley: What am I not on too much of a positive, a negative now, is there anything we've got with this guy? This good to, so last 20 minutes, like morning haven't we?

[00:41:27] David Waumsley: Yeah, no, I'm really quite positive about how it is. Cause I don't think there's ever been a time where I've felt like I've had all the tools that I've needed.

And I do feel like that. You know, my going back over my history, it's really poor now. I feel fairly confident, well, I need to do now. It's not necessarily the Gutenberg route, but it's still the WordPress route. So I'm quite happy and I'm quite happy with my themes as well. But the other thing

[00:41:54] Nathan Wrigley: is we've never really had so much choice.

I don't think there's just so many options, which is a double-edged sword. If you are in the market for a theme or some kind of theme type functionality, there is just so many different routes. WordPress as a marketplace, let's call it is growing year on year. And so there is just so many to choose from.

It's a double-edged sword. It's nice to have so much choice, but equally it's difficult to decide, but you've never had it better. There are lots and lots of routes to go down and it's, I've decided what my route is for now, but it's up for grabs in the next year or two, depending on the way the wind blows.

So it's exciting times. Okay. We've managed to pull it around well weld-on

[00:42:38] David Waumsley: but that is the interesting thing I think is that we don't know where it's going to go, but there is the choice. And I do feel, when you talk about themes, I've got my favorite thing. Th the only people who are concerned, I suspect to people like me who have to support clients and I make my money through maintaining their sites.

So I need some stability, but for other people, it is a wonderful thing because, I, I simply would recommend now in the same way that you could build a directory, if you wanted with BeaverBuilder and beaver Thema, but most of the time I'll probably go and take a look at the directory themes that are out there, and if somebody does.

Kind of any CSS skills, not interested in once a builder, headers and footers and look nice quickly. I wouldn't be using blocks. He Neve or cadence, but I would be recommending it to other people. So I do like that choice, that, that we do have out there and yeah. And that's

[00:43:32] Nathan Wrigley: a really good point. It depends what your level of expertise, what amount of time you've got available to you?

How long you've got to watch YouTube tutorials about CSS. And there's a, there's a solution out there for you. It might be that you just need to click, install and activate, and you're done. That's everything you need. If you're happy with that.

[00:43:50] David Waumsley: And we only got more with a little bit bout the fear of change and what that's going to go.

But I think ultimately the choices that are available to people out there will win now is what people want and where they'll put their money on what they'll actually use, which will determine where we go forward. So good point.

[00:44:08] Nathan Wrigley: Okay. So theme. Themes are done. We've done with themes

[00:44:12] David Waumsley: for this week games I play don't exist any longer.

No, no. That's it. This again, we weren't left to find a new tea. Good. Green tea

[00:44:21] Nathan Wrigley: is for who knows what tea is for. Let's not go into that, but what's next ABCD, FDA

[00:44:26] David Waumsley: to you. It's for undo. So will next week next in a couple of weeks, probably we'll be talking about getting out of trouble, resets, revisions, child themes, bugs, and conflict, finding that kind of stuff.

We really did. Perfect.

[00:44:42] Nathan Wrigley: Scrape the barrel, trying to

[00:44:43] David Waumsley: find a, you do genius. Genius. It gets much worse as we go through that. We're onto the, world's the horrible end to the help of that.

[00:44:54] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, if anybody's sticking with us, congratulations. You deserve a patch. We'll be back. We'll be back. We'll be back. But that was lovely.

Thank you, David. Yeah, take care. Have a nice

[00:45:04] David Waumsley: week. Bye bye. I hope

[00:45:07] Nathan Wrigley: that you enjoyed that episode. Very nice chatting to David. Wamsley's always a mine of useful information in this case. All about themes. Did we get it right? Did we get it wrong? Did we miss a whole load of things out? It's been very nice.

Quite a few of you have been emailing me lately with your opinions on our content. And I really appreciate it, whether it's saying how great you think it is, or you're just saying you missed the target completely there. That's fine. Email me. I'm completely happy to reply to anybody who corresponds or perhaps you'd just like to leave a comment.

You can do that on our Facebook group. Find the post. This is number 2, 4, 7, or you could do [email protected] website. Okie dokie. That is all we've got for you this week. We will be back next Monday for this week in WordPress show. And we'll be back on Thursday for another podcast.

All about work. So it only remains for me to say, I hope you have a nice week. Stay. Bye-bye for now. Oh. And I think this might very well be the cheesiest music that we've ever had. I'm going to fade it in and you're not going to answer the end of this.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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