I’ve always kept my eyes open for a fresh WordPress starter theme to use for my next custom theme project. In an ideal world I would always use the same template to begin with, and that template would be caste in silver and polished with gold, but let’s be honest here. I’ve used my fair share of starter themes, and have found myself moving from one to the next from project to project. Partially because I have the attention span of a goldfish, but also because I’ve never truly been satisfied with the themes I’ve tried. I’ve even spawned my own home grown theme, called Base, which we now routinely use in our WordPress CMS processes at Fresh Tilled Soil. I’ve been pretty satisfied with the Base theme, mostly because of the self worth that comes along with using it, but as always I have this inkling in the back of my head that we could be doing things better by harnessing the power of many, rather than just a few.
Child Themes for Modular Theme Developement
With this realization in mind I discovered Thematic, which boasts abilities way beyond our Base theme by harnessing the power of the open source crowd. Thematic will allow you to begin your next custom theme with a solid set of pre-built functions, styles and scripts that make the process faster and quality better. Thematic uses a feature of WordPress called child themes, which has been long since ignored since it’s addition to the core. Using child theme relationships you can keep your customizations separate from the original Thematic install, making maintenance and updates easier.
A few features of Thematic that caught my eye include:
- Browser and OS body classes for realistic cross browser testing. Yes browser targeting is the devil, but let’s be realistic here; it’s unavoidable.
- A simple, well built, dynamic drop down menu that is automatically generated based on parent/child page relationships in WordPress.
- Pre-styled typography for that looks great in all browsers for virtually anything you can include in a post.
- Speed optimization
- Search engine optimizations
- Backed by a community, so it’s been through rigorous testing
- Extra widget-ready areas—13 in total and more possible in your Child Theme
- Various layout options for 2, or 3 column designs
- Fully compatible with popular WordPress plugins like All in One SEO & Platinum SEO
The Selling Point
The true selling point for me is the ability to differentiate your customized source code from the original downloaded Thematic code with a child theme. Let’s say you have 50 clients with custom themes setup as Thematic child themes, you could quickly and easily provide those clients with new features as newer versions of Thematic are rolled out, without harming any customizations. If for some reason a theme customization did break during an install, you can simply revert back to the working version of Thematic and report the issue to the community for support.
I would love to hear some other opinions about the other options that exist, and why they may indeed be better. Please don’t hesistate to post your feedback.