Note! This is just one of several Rainmaker posts – Be sure you check out everything I’ve written on the New Rainmaker Platform!
In my previous Rainmaker-series blog post, I discussed Rainmaker’s themes and design functions. Most of them are very easy to use, and customize to your needs. But what if you have… ahem… ehm… special needs… what do you do then?
You’ll have to go fully custom. The web design equivalent of Pimp My Ride.
Ready? Okay. Let me present to you: the 5 ways you can pimp… I mean… ehm… customize your Rainmaker membership website for your… ehm… special needs:)
So, let’s get pimpin’ that 69-Impala ride of yours!
5 ways to a custom website design on Rainmaker
Here are five fine ways to achieve a custom website design on the Rainmaker platform:
1. Using Rainmaker’s “Styles”
Some of Rainmaker’s StudioPress themes (and at some point: possibly all of them) supports a Rainmaker feature that Copyblogger calls Styles. These are easy-to-use controls giving you more fine-grained control over typography, colors etc.
These design controls are targeted non-technical users, who want an easy way to customize their website. It’s a paint-job, not a complete remodeling/redesign-tool.
The themes that currently support the Styles feature are:
– They’re all very elegant, modern, great-looking themes. And they can also be used on regular WordPress-sites, so I urge you to check ‘em out!
More will likely be added soon (according to the Rainmaker team).
2. Use Rainmaker’s Custom CSS
Activate the theme of your choice, and customize its CSS via Rainmaker’s Custom CSS feature. Easy? Yes! Flexible? Moderately. One caveat here is that Custom CSS does not apply to Rainmaker’s otherwise cool Landing Pages feature. The next option is better:
3. Remix a ready-made Genesis child theme to your liking
Pick a ready-made Genesis child theme on StudioPress.com – Copyblogger’s own Genesis child theme outlet. Naturally, these themes also follow the quality standards expected by the Rainmaker support team (nice to know when you submit your customized version for its initial review). Then go ahead and change the CSS and PHP to your needs. This is a wonderfully time-efficient option!
4. Base it on the Genesis Starter/Sample child theme
Do a 100% custom Genesis child theme, based on the starter child theme available for free, to all registered Genesis users (on StudioPress.com). This child theme has a style.css file, pre-populated with all the standard styles, WordPress and Genesis related styles, resets, etc. A jump start, so to speak.
5. Start with a 100% clean slate (if you dare)
Or, if you dare… You can really go all the way, and really start from scratch; with a clean slate (aka a blankl style.css file). At a glance, this approach may seem very similar to the above (4) but in reality, it’s a much more involved, elaborate process. The challenge here, is that you have to rebuild the layout (columns etc) all by yourself.
In a world where responsive design is nowadays considered the norm, I’d say you’re better off to at least start with the Genesis Starter/Sample child theme.
I’m saying that as someone who has built countless WordPress, Textpattern and Drupal (and… even Mambo/Joomla) websites, 100% from scratch. And I’m very confident doing just that. “Clean code” to me is like donuts are to Homer Simpson! (Mmmmmhh, clean code… yummy…)
When I’m building a site on a theme framework, I don’t see the point of starting 100% from scratch. Why? Might as well skip the whole framework then? The framework would get in the way, not help you.
What I chose to do
Me? Well, since I do know how to create a Genesis child theme from scratch, I first leaned heavily towards doing just that: a 100% custom Genesis child theme. A theme/design built as much by me as God created the heaven and the earth… in Genesis… Sorry, couldn’t help it; I just had to make that pun:) Anyway… I like the feeling of all code being mine. So I know that it’s clean, lean and fast. As I want it.
With my plans for this website (and its membership section) I knew for sure that I needed “to go fully custom”.
Going fully custom – or not quite
However, once I downloaded the starter Genesis child theme, I realised there weren’t much of a difference between using that one as a starting point, vs “remixing” one of the many potentially adaptable, ready-made child themes from StudioPress.
I’m currently challenging myself to take shortcuts (when it makes good sense) rather than do everything “the rightest way” (aka: the long way). So I decided to find a suitable Genesis child theme (on StudioPress.com) and customise it as much as I’d need. Being a professional web designer, I expected to “remix” it so much that it would essentially end up being my own, unique design, in the end.
So off I went, to StudioPress.com, opened up a bunch of browser tabs with all the potential candidate themes. Then, I began evaluating each of them, according to my needs.
This was a harder job than it sounds! I had to thoroughly test each theme, both on desktop and mobile, and think deeply about the implications of each theme; its benefits, potential pitfalls, pros and cons. Obviously, the goal was to find the theme that best “fit me” as neatly and conveniently as possible, from the get-go.
In the end, I decided upon the impressive Altitude Pro child theme. It has a very flexible front-page template, plus good responsive design right out of the gate, and it had a sexy gradient overlay parallax-like effect, that I wanted to use the opportunity to learn how was made. If you compare my front page, to the one in the the Altitude Pro demo, you can see I’ve adapted it in a different way.
Uncared for features
The Altitude Pro theme also had some features I didn’t care for, like the sticky menu, a trend which I must be honest and say that I happen to consider “nothing but a current fad”.
<rant>It steals valuable screen real estate, and when the rest of the UI- and UX-world is going in the direction of full-screen UI’s, and using deference and depth, where stuff like navigation appears and disappears on-demand, or as-needed; it seems like a lame trend suddenly want “sticky menus”. It feels to me more like a juvenile case of “just because we can” and “few other peeps have one – so I’ll have it… to feel upfront, modern and all”.</rant>
In addition, I’m a big fan of using Hello Bar’s on my website, and having not one, but two sticky “bars” (menu + Hello Bar) up there at the top of your browser-window, would be too much visual clutter. I don’t want that. I’m that minimalist dude who never wears accessories, rings, necklaces, and such. Heck I don’t even have a tattoo (yet). Never had earrings either. So why would I wanna pimp my website to such a degree?
Anyway, rant over. I rest my case. For now;)
Creating a Genesis child theme from scratch?
Now, I won’t bore you with how and what more I did to the Altitude Pro theme, to make it my own. That would literally require a 15,000+ word blog post. But (and perhaps even better) if you have questions on how to make a Genesis child theme from scratch (or whatever related stuff you wonder about): you’re more than welcome to ask freely – just use the comments below.
However, I’ll end this blog post with:
A radical idea for the Copyblogger team
Copyblogger should seriously consider licensing Cobalt Apps’ Dynamik Website Builder, to make it an optional theme, available right inside Rainmaker. Dynamik is the world’s most versatile, powerful Genesis child theme. Period. It’s skillfully coded by Eric Hamm. It’s super-fast and lean, it adds almost zero overhead on top of Genesis itself. Amazing but true. Yet, Dynamik sports a HUGE design panel, making it easy for anyone to customize their Genesis-based website, without technical effort. Now, of course; Dynamik should not be the ONLY way to do a custom website design in Rainmaker, but it would make a GREAT addition.
Any questions? Comments? Shoot!
Note! This was just one of my Rainmaker posts – Be sure you check out everything I’ve written on the New Rainmaker Platform!