En Vogue (not the 90s female super group)
CMS templates pretty much follow the vagaries of web design fashion, only lagging a few weeks behind the latest craze. Right now, one for crazes seems to be for single page (one-page) websites, here is a great site showcasing the best designs: http://onepagelove.com/.
Their popularity is understandable when you consider how easy they are to browse on mobile devices. These are great for very simple brochure sites but become a bit unwieldy or just unworkable when you need to step out of the single page structure.
Another thing is we find they all have the same features: full-screen header, simple sliding animations as each section is accessed, a 'meet the team section', a portfolio section with filters, a giant Google map at the bottom / footer area. This is all very nice but as every one page template has them, it becomes very monotonous, very quickly. Even the designs on http://onepagelove.com/ seem to mostly have web designer/photographer/freelancer portfolio sites.
Other fashions are a full-screen huge banner/header on the home page and parallax scrolling.
Recherché de template
We are always looking for good template designs that we can re-develop for our clients - saving a lot of time and money.
So, a good template for us would be one that has the content layout structure we have in mind, and is flexible enough to incorporate the clients branding and functionality requirements. Even with such a great foundation, re-designing a template to clients needs can still take up to 20 to 40 hours of work.
Although their choice is surprisingly limited (one to two new templates per month or less), the main reason for always keeping an eye on Gavick, RocketTheme, YooTheme and other big commercial template providers is that they develop on template frameworks. These are now mature, well documented and open source, making it worthwhile to put in the effort to really understand each framework.
If we do this, our development times are reduced, the final product is robust, always up-to-date, and can be maintained by anyone familiar with the frameworks (and if not, they can read the documentation!)
There are many other providers, but having to get to grips with a new framework and its documentation (or the lack thereof) for each new template is time consuming and the effort is wasted if you do not use the same provider again.
Anyway, those are just a few thoughts that we may elaborate on future posts. Here are a couple of templates that we like (as in tried and tested) this month:
Anacron - RocketTheme (Gantry framework - version 4)
This was released in February 2014 and we find it more useful than the disappointing Vermillion, RTs template for May 2014. Vermillion already looks jaded, there is nothing new or interesting that does not already exist on their other recent templates.
Anacron, although it is not incredibly eye catching, is very versatile, modern, and can be used for content heavy sites because of its simple colours, design elements and inherent spacing.
- Simple, flat colour design with plenty of space.
- It is modern looking enough to last out a couple of years - as the design is very simple it will not date quickly.
- It can be developed as a one page site or a content heavy site. We have used it for a university department site and the big header sideshow looks great with the good images and text.
- We are not convinced by the sticky peekaboo menu. It becomes very irritating as the slightest mouse move triggers the menu to slide down and block valuable screen space. Apparently, the sensitivity/tolerance of this can be adjusted but it never worked for us.
Moustache - YooTheme (Warp framework - version 7)
This is not a new template, it has been around since December 2013.
Warp 7 is a significant update to Warp 6 and so you need to devote some effort to learn the new framework. They have also incorporated LESS allowing complete control of the CSS design.
- A great design, it looks fantastic with a huge header image taking up a full screen height, and this feature is maintained when the screen size is reduced.
- The homepage dot indication on the right of the screen is a nice feature, it also doubles as an 'informal navigation' method (we are not sure if we just invented this term!).
There are a few weird quirks and generally there is too much hacking involved if you need to make the slightest change from the default behaviours.
- To vary the height of the giant header image takes some investigation and a bit of hacking.
- The dot indicator needs to be recoded if the content layout areas are changed - this is missed opportunity, it should be automated, picking up short-codes/class names inserted in to the section areas.
- When the one page site option is implemented, the mobile devices menu does not work for the homepage! This the single serious downside to this template.
- The general fiddliness of the Warp frameworks template styles/profle management.
And yet, despite all this, we still like its design.