Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: UUA Wordpress Theme -- A Further Look, Part 1 (Aesthetics and Home Page)

Well, it's been two days since the UUA's Wordpress Theme debuted, and in that time I've learned a LOT about it.  It took me one day of frustration, wherein I finally reached out to Christopher Wulff, who created the UUA Theme, about my problems downloading and installing, and he quickly figured out that my PHP version on my website was too old and that my upload size specified by my php.ini file was too small.  I was able to call my hosting provider who quickly fixed those things, and minutes later the UUA theme was installed and operational on my webpage.

It took me about half a day yesterday to get the theme to the point where it all looks nice and proper on my site and many of the new items are functioning nicely.  You can take a look at http://www.liberyuu.org.  What I have NOT done yet is taken all the content they offer and add and change my existing pages.  I've done this on a small handful of key pages, particularly in the "About" section, but overall I've left my existing content in place, intending to change it over time, but this will take time.  And it's wonderful that the UUA Theme has so much to offer than I can do this.  It's not a downside at all that I could take weeks looking at and understanding it all.  There's so much material here to go deep with, and what I've done is implement the showy face-value stuff at this point.

Look and Aesthetics:

If you'll remember from my last post, I had a few things I was looking for in a theme's look:
  1.  A theme that let me use my own custom logo along with a title to the site.  
  2. A theme that did not need a large picture in the header. 
  3. A theme that allows for some sort of slider on the first page. 
  4. A theme that includes links for social media like Facebook and Twitter in its header. 
  5. A theme with a top menu bar. 
  6. A top menu bar that was aesthetically pleasing to me -- a thin stripe with links on it, and not something that looked like tabs. 
  7. A theme with a presentation page for the home page that's different from other pages. 
  8. A theme that was accessible on multiple different platforms and responded nicely on mobile devices. 
  9. A theme that gave me some choice about color scheme.  
So how did the UUA Theme do on my checklist?  The only disappointment thus far is #1.  The site allows me to put in a custom logo, but when I do this my title for my church disappears.  This is something I've noticed on a lot of themes.  The answer Christopher Wulff gives to this question is, "We encourage congregations to use a logo/wordmark that includes their name."  That would not be my preference, but I can understand why they went with it, because for many churches that might be the preference, because their logo includes their name.  For example,  
Since my logo is just a little icon, I'd prefer to just put it in the box and let my header play out as usual, especially as I don't have Helvetica on my computer, nor on the webpage that I use to design images, and I'd like to use the same font as the rest of the site.  But you can't please everybody.  If that's my biggest gripe, I'd say that it's pretty good.  For now, I'm using the UUA logo.

#2, #3, #5, #7, #8 are all unequivocal yeses.  The UUA Theme does nicely on all of those.  For #4, there are a few social media links that are easy to add to the header:  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, GooglePlus, and Instagram.  That pretty much covers the basics, so is an acceptable array of choices.  For #9, the Theme gives you three color schemes to choose from, but then also lets you choose a custom background color and/or background image, so you don't have to stick with the UUA Brand wallpaper.  Beyond that, you have to get it CSS stuff, which I don't do.  I'll add a note here about fonts, which is that the fonts on the UUA Theme are chosen for accessibility and for my church I had switched to the UUA's font choices already.

Overall, I'll say I'm not a big fan of the UUA branding color scheme, but on the "dark blue" option of the UUA Theme, I don't mind it.  I like the yellow contrasting color you get on the homepage with the dark blue, and the overall color scheme in this version of the webpage is relatively pleasant.  The Grey Red choice the theme offers is also pretty nice.  I'm not a fan of the Aqua Green choice, but maybe somebody else is. 

The overall look of the webpage, though, that is something I am a big fan of when it comes to this theme.  I really love it -- it feels modern and clean.

Home Page

The Home page with the UUA Theme works differently than I've encountered elsewhere.  You create an empty page called "Home" and place it at the top of your menu, and then the content on it is all driven by widgets that come with the plugins that come with the them and that the theme recommends.  Previously, I've seen the homepage created on a separate tab within the "appearances" section, so this took a little getting used to, and I had to play around with it a bit to get it working right.  At first, despite a Home page at the top of my menu, the page was still pointing to another page that I had previously set up, and I had to find this setting and change it.  That was particular to the way I had done things on my site in the past, so it took relearning what I had done before to undo it.  Once I did that, however, setting up the widgets to appear on my Home page was easy, except the Carousel.  I put a static picture into that spot while I worked out how to use the Carousel, which was very non-intuitive for me.  I just couldn't figure out where you put the images in the Carousel, actually.  It turns out that if I scroll down on the right, there's the "Feature Image" box, and that's where it goes.  I wasn't sure if that image was what generated the image, or the image link box further down, so it took a while to get that straightened out.  I also had problems in that the text the information page about the theme told me to put in a box in the widget wasn't working.  A quick message to Christopher Wulff got this straightened out -- the text he says to put in the box is "[image-carousel category=”Homepage”]" but this only works if you've put your Carousel images into categories (useful if you want carousels in more than one location).  I had not, so I needed to type "[image-carousel]" instead.  The rest of the Home page was very easy to set up.  I like the three picture and link boxes that appear on the second row.  They're easy to change and implement, too.  On the third row, I had a little more figuring out what to put.  I don't have enough users generating content for me to really keep a "News" section going yet, and our Newsletter provided for a pretty short column.  So I opted for two columns that will generate new content -- an Events list and a blurb about our monthly Forum -- and one that'll remain pretty static, into which I put the Common Read book.

The best feature of the Home Page, however, is the second widget in the top row, generated by the Services Plugin.  This takes your Sunday service for the week and automatically puts it up front each week.  The Services Plugin is the really outstanding part of the theme, and I'll talk about it more in my next post. 

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