What You Will Learn
- A crash course on WordPress theme history
- An analysis of the current website builder/CMS scene
- Why we think Gutenberg is a huge leap forward
- Our tech stack for 2019
We are suckers for easy-to-build sites, but the early market of WYSIWYG editors had us struggling with lots of buggy tools and sub-par solutions.
The market has gotten massively more mature in 2018 and solutions are now here to build high-quality sites that are fast, beautiful and easy to put together.
The way to build new authority sites will change a lot throughout 2018/19!
This History of WordPress Themes
8-9 years ago, your theme = your design basically. There were thousands of themes on sites like ThemeForest and customizing them in any meaningful way required development work.
As WordPress grew in popularity it went more and more mainstream, so the issues were widely recognized. Commercial competitors such as Squarespace and Wix are now trying to take over the market.
WordPress (and other companies in their ecosystem) see how these companies are solving certain problems well.
WordPress is still a superior ecosystem (by a long way for professionals). But there’s a recognition that theme developers, plugin builders, and WordPress itself have to continue to adapt.
Enter the rise of theme builders over the last few years.
What Has Changed in 2018
Basically, you can now easily create sites that would have cost a fortune a few years ago.
- Page builders can now build all visual elements of your theme
- Good mobile editing
- Dynamic elements
- Creating epic post templates is doable by everyone now
- The podcast post template is a good example on AuthorityHacker, all built with custom fields that dynamically populate the page
They got a lot better in terms of speed of building:
- Copy/paste in Elementor
- Navigator feature in Elementor
We still get the question “which WordPress theme should I use,” but not nearly as much as we used to.
Themes almost feel redundant now. To site visitors, their experience is largely determined by what we build on top of a theme, not the theme itself.
Where does that leave WordPress themes?
- No need to look good anymore
- Just needs to not be in the way
- Customizer functionalities
- logo & other dynamic elements
- Should load fast
- WP core handles a lot of this itself to be fair
Themes We Like to Use Now
- Most barebone theme with sound tech foundation
- Free version good enough if you use a page builder on top
- Light but still well featured
- AuthorityHacker was built on it
- Pre-built CSS for Woocommerce, LearnDash etc so they look branded
- Great customizer options
Page builders do cost a bit of site speed. Then again, you’ve already made a sacrifice in site speed by choosing WordPress vs raw HTML. There is a precedent to take a (small) hit in order to have better functionality.
- really promising
- still in its early days
- finally adding good marketing elements
- Evergreen countdowns
- Star ratings (dynamic soon)
DYNAMIC FIELDS ARE AWESOME
Integrations with plugins like Advanced Custom Fields.
For example, for product reviews, you can add fields for price, rating, affiliate link in custom fields.
You can then pull data from the field inside your post template anywhere on your website. You can also pull data from the field anywhere inside your content with shortcodes.
So for, say, roundup reviews, the data is always in sync with single reviews vs pages etc.
Changing price, rating, affiliate links or others on product post type will update across the whole site.
You can build custom review post templates that look a lot more pro than just blog posts.
Should come out on Nov 27 as the official WordPress editor. Really modernizes the default WP editor:
- It will add columns, tables, basic image editing, easy embeds, a template system, font color/size editing etc
- Grab images and resize easily
- Widgets appear in the editor and potential for developers to create custom Gutenberg widgets.
- The guys at WordPress are creating the framework to allow this.
- Drag and drop elements – very intuitive
- Makes it easier to write, old WP editor was not nice for that.
The improvement is so good that we don’t even recommend you use page builders for blog posts anymore. Not just because of Gutenberg, there was a definite trend to overuse of elements for the sake of it.
- Just build your theme and add content in Gutenberg
- Adds a lot of future proofing.
- You can create custom elements in page builders and add them in with Gutenberg.
- Lots of block plugins will add functionality to it very soon
What Does This Mean for the Future of Site Building?
- Themes set the base settings of your site:
- Advanced Custom Fields builds dynamic data for posts.
- Page builder sets page layouts and builds website pages using dynamic and static content.
- Gutenberg builds static content for blog posts and regular content.
Tech Stack for Starting a Site in 2019?
- Simple is better.
- Page builders are great for special pages but blog and regular content is more future proof on the regular editor.
- Themes are a non-debate these days with page builder theme building abilities, just pick GP or Astra, Free is often enough.
- Custom post types + Custom fields + Post templates allow you to build almost anything and make your data dynamic.
- Gutenberg fixed most of the lackluster features of the WP editor.