Why We Completely Reworked Zeno into a Simple Portfolio Theme

By Andy 19th April 1 Comment

When we released our first theme – Zeno, a single page portfolio theme, at the time we thought it was a great way to set up a single page portfolio style website and much more friendly and easy to get to grips with than some of the popular ones on places like Themeforest.

Since then, things have changed a lot around here. We now have no interest in competing with the themes on Themeforest and other premium theme marketplaces. The focus on these marketplaces is cramming as much functionality into themes as possible giving the impression that they offer great value for money and can solve any problem a user throws at it. Whilst this sounds good to some casual theme buyers, more experienced buyers know all to well about the following issues:

  • If you ever decide to change your theme, you lose all the extra functionality provided by features such as custom post types and custom meta boxes because the new theme may have implemented these features in another way.
  • The theme is crammed with so may things you have no idea what they do or how to set them up
  • Your theme contains all the usual bells and whistles all the other themes have so it looks and ‘feels’ like so many others. It seems to be a requirement to add certain things for a theme to be listed on these marketplaces in the first place. You’ve seen the features I’m talking about before – things like over the top animations, confusing navigation and sliders that look more like a Flash website than a HTML one.
  • Most themes do not adhere to any set standards and can be messy and difficult to work with. If you are a developer who wants to tinker with the theme to make it your own you may spend more time removing things you don’t need and working out how the developer has set things up than you will adding your own modifications.

Now, I’m not saying all themes on the marketplaces are bad. There are some great ones and the marketplaces can be great places but we wanted to go back to basics and make themes in line with our own beliefs rather than being forced to adhere to the rules of a marketplace. To us, this means the following:

  • Our themes should follow WordPress standards and best practices
  • We should not add any functionality that ties users to the theme. They should be free to change at any time
  • Themes should be as simple as possible – WordPress is the ultimate framework, we should not need to add more frameworks to get features to work
  • Our themes should solve a specific problem. We don’t want to create a theme for any purpose imaginable because it dilutes the effectiveness of the theme and makes it harder to set up

After buying many themes myself over the years I’m convinced that the principles above work best for most users. When I first discovered the theme marketplaces years ago, I, like most others found a theme I thought could accomplish anything and was loaded with features. I found out quickly that the time spent removing bloat and working out how to do things made it a waste of time for me. I could have built my own theme to do exactly what I wanted in the time I wasted playing around with the theme.

On the rare occasion I look for a theme when I want to set up a website as quickly as possible I always look for a theme that does the most specific job possible and doesn’t include anything I wont need. I love it when I find a theme that not only does what I need, but it’s also built on a well know framework like Bootstrap or Foundation. That way, I know the code is well documented and I don’t need to waste time working out how that particular developer decides to implement their grids, buttons, alerts, tabs and the wide variety of other features most themes include.

Summary

If you’re looking for a WordPress theme, you’ve literally got thousands to choose from and finding the right one can be tough. If you had a theme from somewhere like Themeforest in mind, great, but keep the above points in mind and maybe you will be spared from hours of configuration and reading through pages of documentation.

What do you think? Do you prefer simpler themes or are you happier with themes that seem to be able to do anything and everything? Let me know in the comments.

Comments (1)

  1. Much prefer simpler and more focused themes. With speed ever more important not just for users but also for seo it’s really annoying for so many themes to include everything and the kitchen sink and for them to load at a snails pace as a result.

    Great article!

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