Designing a WordPress site is not terribly complex so long as you pay attention to some critical parts. One of these critical components is the theme used on the site. There are literally thousands upon thousands of themes in the free WordPress collection and probably just as much in the premium themes group where you need to pay a one-time or an annual fee to use the theme.
In addition to how a theme may look in its promotion, there are other things to consider before jumping in:
- Conceptual integrity
- Sound coding and updates
In StudioPress and most child themes based on the Genesis Framework, I have found much of the above. In the theme under review here, decidedly so. You may want to read the rest to find out why.
As WordPress was making the transition from a blogging platform to content management, a guy named Brian Gardner introduced a theme, Revolution. For its time, the name was apt and shortly after that, he and a few others started a company StudioPress. The idea quickly evolved to separating the core functionality of a theme from its visible manifestations. Thus was born the Genesis Framework and a multitude of child themes. I am one of the initial buyers of a lifetime license to all their themes and what might come afterward.
Ever since I have used StudioPress Genesis Framework themes and never ran out of ideas for a child theme. The StudioPress collection includes not only the child themes they develop but a good number of third-party child themes based on Genesis.
A while back, I changed the theme on Kept Light but found the theme developer not providing sufficient support. After using that for less than a year, I stumbled on a few themes in the StudioPress collection that seemed to work somewhat differently. Developed by BizBudding, Mai Themes (I have no idea what Mai stands for) came across as well-engineered and designed ideas with a solid performance. After some careful evaluation, I switched the theme once more to Mai LifeStyle.
In the meantime, WordPress has been undergoing some changes and moving towards a block-based design paradigm. Although Mai LifeStyle handled many of my block needs, its core was not based on that idea. So, I started experimenting with Mai Success by installing it on a dummy staging site and learning its ins and outs.
I should clearly state that my lifetime StudioPress subscription allows me to pick and use any of the themes among their collection whether it is their own or presented by a third-party developer. I did not pay for these themes, nor did I receive them as a gift. In other words, I have no ax to grind!
This is among their new generation of themes, they call it v2. The theme is strongly block-based with reusable blocks and template parts filling in many gaps in the last generation of themes. Once the theme is installed, it will offer to import sample content to get the site going. After you add your content or change the imported ones to fit your needs, you can delete the unnecessary leftovers. Since I already had plenty of content, I skipped that part and moved into configuring the site and layout options.
Mai themes seem to use a common plugin, Mai Engine, which automatically installs when the theme is activated. The new generation engine offers more than the last generation and the options are aplenty. The process starts, like in other similar themes by selecting the home page and blog archive options. They each point to a single page that will serve as the home page and display all the blog posts when that is selected.
On the initial customize page, there are other options but I would like to focus on Mai specific features, so let us enter the “Theme Settings” page. It has over a dozen expanding options starting with settings for updates and performance. Simply enter your e-mail address to be informed when there are updates. Those screens are not shown. Next, select the default colors and fonts for the body and headings. The fonts are linked to Google Fonts and you do not need to get the code snippet and add it to your header or footer scripts area. Mai Engine will handle that for you. While you are at it, select how you want the site header to behave. A sticky header will slightly shrink but remain always visible, and a transparent header may look unobtrusive on large page header images. Click to see the full images.
The Site Layouts tab will allow for choosing the display layout from narrow to wide, from the sidebar on the left to the sidebar on the right. Once a default is selected, most of the layout options may be set to default, only changing the layout on select content types.
The “Menus” tab has one option, the breakpoint for smaller screens, and the default will most likely be fine. The “Page Header” tab has extensive options to put a visual, image, or a video to appear on top of the selected content and it adds much presence to the pages. I even added a small CSS rule to make those images appear full height as you see on the Kept Light homepage. Click on the images to see the extensive options here.
The “Content Archives” tab will allow you to change how the archives will appear. If you like to have different content archives to appear in a different layout, you will have to enable those archives and change them to your liking. If you modify only the “Posts” archive, the settings there will apply to all. These are tall images, click to see in full.
Customizing the single content, post or page is equally elaborate with plenty of options to turn on or off and arrange the order or each by simple drag and drop. You can make pages look different from the posts if you like.
I have had many e-mail communications with Mai Themes with questions on how to adjust some settings and I offered some suggestions and bug reports. Although I am not a paying customer, Mike never hesitated in answering my questions. Generally within a very short time and direct to the point. I remember on more than one occasion suggesting to him to go to bed! I believe they provide the same, maybe even better support to their paying customers.
One of the critical parts of this kind of technology is the availability of clear documentation. Both in the older generation and now in the new generation of themes, they have extensive documentation for the themes including videos. One nice thing is that the same Mai Engine being part of all the themes, switching from one to another should be a breeze. Once you learn one, the rest will be lagniappe!
Bugs and Bug Fixes
The theme is updated reasonably frequently to address some bugs reported and the development team making improvements on the features, and tightening security holes. Any theme, any software of reasonable complexity will have bugs, that’s for sure. What is important is the way these bugs and security matters are addressed. In my about two years of experience with Mai themes, I have been very satisfied with the attention they have given to my questions as well as to the issues that emerged in the theme.
I will say as a person who has no ax to grind, Mai Themes certainly merit your serious consideration. And, in this day and age of block-driven WordPress, you can make them look any way you like. In addition to several other themes, they also offer plugins, even hosting services but I am not familiar with the latter two. Visit their site, BizBudding, and take a look at their offerings.