Building WordPress Themes With Intent

This is more of a rant than anything. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed one of my multiple rants about building WordPress themes with intent as opposed to creating an options maze for users to get lost in.

volatylThe funny thing about that is I’ve built my own WordPress framework that’s packed with options itself. What a hypocrite, right?

Well, not really. WordPress frameworks and themes loaded with options serve a purpose… sometimes. They most certainly shouldn’t be the default, though.

Let’s talk about frameworks for a minute.

Who Benefits from WordPress Frameworks?

Ask the general WordPress community and you’d get a loud, thunderous “everybody!”

I wholeheartedly disagree. I didn’t always feel this way, but now I believe theme developers and freelancers are the only people who really benefit from frameworks.

Frameworks are basically code libraries accessible through options. So the end user only benefits from those options if they actually use them. Otherwise, the options are completely pointless. Completely.

Then why do they exist? Easy. They exist to make life easier for developers who will sometimes use this option and sometimes use that option when creating child themes/skins for users.

theme-options

Average users have been convinced that they get some type of added benefit from using frameworks for basic WordPress websites and it’s simply not true… except for the fact that they pay way less to get a website with features.

Could that be the motivation? *insert annoyed face*

What Should People Be Using?

Well, that’s not a question I can answer for everyone, despite the fact that the WordPress community seems to be able to.

“What does my site need?” That’s the question site owners need to ask and theme developers need to answer with precision… not a shotgun blast.

If a user needs a single column website with no sidebars, a WordPress theme with no sidebars is a better choice than a framework with seven layout options, one of which has no sidebars and must be selected in the options.

Likewise, even if that single column option is selected, the code for the other six layout options is still in the theme. That’s inefficient. The only person who wins is the theme developer who did not have to code the single column theme from scratch… and if you ask me, that’s pretty selfish.

Understand that some users walk the line between developer and user. For those of you who use frameworks to power your multiple WordPress sites, you will definitely get a benefit from using a framework. However, you need to know that this scenario puts you in the developer category… rapid deployment of multiple websites with ease.

Building WordPress Themes with Intent

In a perfect world, every WordPress user would have a custom theme tailored to his or her needs. Form would follow function… as it should.

That’s what it means to build themes with intent. A site’s required functionality should be the driving force behind its development.

If a theme is being built for a client, the only options they should have are the options that the client needs. That’s easy to understand.

However, if a theme is being built for mass distribution, its intent should be reflected through its design. From there, options can be built in support of that original intent.

A good example of a theme for mass distribution and designed based on intent is the Chronicl theme by Kolakube. It’s a bold design created for bloggers who want to showcase their content in a fun and clean way. Simple stuff.

chroniclWhat goes on behind the scenes is what makes it special. Chronicl comes packed with very few theme options. Why? Because the decisions have already been made. Intent has been established. It’s a theme for bloggers who simply want to write content and not think about design or functionality. It’s already handled for them.

So tell me, why would Chronicl need a host of theme options? Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a user does not want the kind of design and functionality Chronicl comes with, they shouldn’t make the purchase.

Unfortunately, some people still do. Then they spend all day and night trying to customize the theme and bug support about how to turn it into something it’s not.

“How can I easily change all the column widths?” “How do I move my header to below my footer, my sidebar into my menu, and hide my content behind a ‘click to browse’ link?”

What?

I blame WordPress framework creators (like myself) and the WordPress community for helping people believe that options are the way to go. No. Building with intent is the way to go and frameworks/massive options panels should only be used when intent dictates.

So understand that WordPress frameworks do serve a purpose. I most definitely use them myself. But when the day comes that a client who knows absolutely nothing about WordPress or web development says that he or she only uses the ____ framework, that’s when it’s time to start talking.

That day happened years ago.

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