As most regular followers of my site will know, I was not impressed with the long-awaited release of the Thesis 2.0 theme framework for WordPress.
Pre-launch, I had high hopes for Thesis 2 since I regard Chris Pearson (the eccentric guy behind Thesis 2 and parent company DIYthemes) a very creative, original, pioneering mind. While one might not always agree with his many opinions and stances that he passionately shares on Twitter, he does try to challenge the status quo and come up with new, innovative ways to create websites.
For that, I sincerely applaud Chris Pearson, and keep an eye on his contributions to WordPress web design.
Thesis 2.1 has been in beta for a month or two. Today 2.1 final, got released. Lots has happened under the hood of Thesis, since version 2.0.
I wonder if those long lost, long promised, Thesis 2 skins will then soon (finally) be released… or remain MIA for even more months?
I’m starting to view Thesis 2.x more and more as a lab experiment or proof of concept. Yes, it can be used on real sites, but I personally find Headway to be a superior theme framework with much nicer people behind it.
A bright new DIY future
I believe in a future where most regular people, small business owners like my clients, can easily make their own websites. Not necessarily because they wanna save money, but rather because they wanna be in control, and be able to express themselves fully. Editing text and uploading images is not enough. Design is also a way to express yourself.
Think about it for a moment:
Wouldn’t you enjoy travelling (or even living) in a foreign country if you could speak the native language?
Isn’t it nice to be able to cook food yourself instead of relying on eating out every day? Or have to depend on your wife or personal assistant?
My point is this:
Because the web is so ever rapidly changing – you (and small business owners etc) naturally wish to be able to do their frequently needed website design changes themselves.
As soon as that’s possible, they will fire my ass. I welcome that. I see my role as a consultant, rather than a web designer, anyway. So whatever makes my clients happy makes me happy.
Technological convergence (which is a key factor here) and the consolidation of technologies (like f.e. Twitter Bootstrap which brings together multiple components in one powerful package) will inevitably make web design easier to do, even for non-designers and non-coders alike.
I clearly see that tendency/trend in my work with clients: They hire me out of necessity. If they could build their sites themselves: They would!
What’s holding back regular people from making and maintaining their own websites?
Technology and a lack of technical understanding. There are too many assumptions and geek-speak in the world of web design.
To me as a professional web designer, it might be totally clear how to create a web site layout with some columns, but to a regular Joe or Jane, it’s not at all clear.
To them, such a layout is logically something that’s done with “the HTML” not CSS which most think are related purely to the looks (colors, typography, ornamental details, etc) and not the placement of elements on the page. Again, to me and fellow web designers, it’s logical. But an average user has a lot of trouble making HTML and CSS work in tandem, to create their desired result.
Think about it:
In Headway, you draw the layout elements onto the layout grid. Easy.
In PageLines, they’ve taken a different approach and created various sections that lets you build commonly needed layouts. Easy.
Thesis 2? Well, first you gotta create the HTML and logic (PHP) part of the template. Then, you subsequently need to use the CSS area to cook some CSS that will take that HTML and form it into the layout you want. Just like you do when you code from scratch. So where’s the benefit in using Thesis if you could just as well do all the heavy lifting yourself?
And that’s where Thesis 2.1 still falls short. Creating a layout involves using both the cumbersome template editor, which contains the WordPress post loop as well as containers. Very confusing beast, even to me as a pro who loves investigating new technological toys and tools.
Thesis 2 is still too abstract for a regular person to understand.
10+ years have gone by… Still no WYSIWYG: WTF?
I remember using Adobe GoLive back in 1999. GoLive was Adobe’s web design app before they purchased DreamWeaver from MacroMedia in 2005. Adobe GoLive had a table-based grid layout mode, which would allow drag & drop WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web design. It didn’t really catch on, mostly due to bloated code output.
Now, more than 10 years later, we STILL don’t have pure drag & drop WYSIWYG web design available! But, thanks to the accelerating pace of technology, convergence and consolidation: The future comes closer every single day. Finally. Headway and PageLines are currently at the forefront of the cutting-edge of WordPress theme frameworks.
Does Thesis 2.1 brings the future of DIY webdesign closer?
What does all that have to do with Thesis 2.1? Well, Thesis 2.1 actually does two things right! Two new features helps non-designers create web designs that sport good typography and harmonious color schemes.
Typography in Thesis 2.1
Chris Pearson’s Golden Ratio Typography Calculator is an online app that helps you decide the right font sizes and line heights for the particular content width that you’re gonna use it in.
In Thesis 2.1 that calculator has been baked into Thesis in a much more straightforward way. Now, you can set a base font size (the body text) and have all the headings etc change accordingly.
Chris has even said the Typography Calculator in Thesis 2.1 is an improved version.
That’s handy. Makes it faster to achieve good results.
Color schemes made simple with the Thesis ColorScale tool
Chris Pearson says the new Thesis ColorScale tool in 2.1 is patent-pending, and I can understand why! Via a deceptively simple UI, it helps you create a beautiful color scheme for your website. First you choose a primary color. Based on that, matching harmonious hue variations are automatically calculated. These secondary colors can then easily be applied to links, borders / highlights, interior background and website background.
That’s pretty clever, and I’d like to see much more of such “magic” that helps non-design users make informed design decisions.
There is so much theory and math in design, so there’s no reason it can’t be wrapped up in algorithms that offers a palette of choices, for various parts of the design of a website.
Here’s a short screencast in which I show you the new Thesis Design panel:
In conclusion: Does Thesis 2.1 still suck?
Thesis 2.1 is still Thesis 2. By that I mean it still has a long way to go before it reaches the polish modern WordPress web designers expect of a theme framework.
But 2.1 does bring Thesis closer to general usability. Still has a long way to go though!
It will be interesting to see what new innovations PageLines DMS will bring to the table / to the world of WordPress web design – once released in just a week from now on!
As soon as I get my hands on a final release, I’ll take it for a serious ride (as in “drive recklessly, spin the wheels, try to burn down the engine”) to see how it compares to Headway 3.5 – my current WordPress theme framework of choice.
What about you? Has Thesis 2.1 brought you back to Thesis?