Is there such a thing as the perfect WordPress theme?
Until now, I would have told you that was impossible. But now…
James Farmer, CEO of Edublogs and IncSub, recently showed me a new WordPress theme that actually took my breath away. And I have to tell you, I’m seriously considering a site redesign. (That’s saying a lot because my site already causes a lot of site envy. Lol)
What is this game changer?
It’s called Upfront. And it radically changes the entire WordPress experience.
You see, you’re used to opening a new post or page, adding copy, flipping into the text area to add code, then previewing it all to see if it looks good. If it doesn’t, you have to dig back into the code, try to find the problem area so you can fix it, and then keep moving back and forth until you’re happy with the results.
It’s time consuming, to say the least.
What Upfront does is let you build your page on a front-end preview. So it’s a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get experience. You can code elements on the page or just drag and drop them. What used to take hours can now be done in minutes.
Interested? Let’s take a tour.
What it looks like
Upfront is a new theme, so it will replace your current theme. But no worries. You can create a site that looks similar, or you can design something radically different. It’s totally up to you.
It comes with 3 child themes, which give you a head start on creating a custom design that perfectly reflects your business.
Fixer, which I’d recommend for service providers and brick-and-mortar businesses
Scribe, which provides beautiful layout for a classy website
Spirit, which could work well for coaches, consultants, or therapists
Other child themes are in the works, including a blank one, which gives you a tabula rasa for building whatever layout you can imagine.
Upfront adds a “front layer” to your admin area
When you’re building new pages, particularly if you aren’t adept at code, you can struggle with making the design in your head take shape on the page.
What Upfront does is provide a front-end drag-and-drop layer that sits on top of your regular pages and posts. It doesn’t replace them, so if you need to use the traditional WordPress features, you can. It just gives you another option for building your pages.
Everything on this page is customizable. You could add or remove regions (the individual sections of the page), change the colors, typography, etc. But as you can see, what results is an attractive, well-designed page.
Now let’s look at the admin area for this page.
On the left, where you’re used to seeing the WordPress sidebar, is the Upfront control panel.
If you click on any element on the page, you can move or change it:
To add an element, drag it from the sidebar onto the page. Here, I put a button on the right of the page:
To control how it looks, click the green gear box. Drag it if you want to move. Click the red X if you want to delete it.
Intuitive, right? There’s nothing difficult about this.
As mentioned above, the page is designed in “regions.” These are the panels that create text/image areas on the page.
You can easily add, subtract, or edit regions by clicking on the “fold-down” that appears in the upper right-hand corner of every region.
Click on the fold-down and you can edit the background of any region:
To make your edits, click on a yellow + sign or open the editing box. You can change the background of the region, control the width, make it a global theme header or add custom CSS.
When done, click the green box at the bottom of the screen.
Back on the home page, you can edit existing text or add new text blocks. To edit what’s there, simply double-click any text area and begin typing.
Imagine the possibilities
As I played with the demo, all sorts of ideas began running through my mind…
Like being able to build a fancy landing page without a separate landing page builder. (Save $40–70 each month.) Or being able to design the exact website you visualize, even if you don’t know code. (Save $3000+ on a developer.)
And what about blog posts? Your blog could look as good as the rest of your website.
Launching a new business or product? Creating a professional website would be a breeze.
Integrates with all your existing plugins
So when your heatmaps tell you that your button is in the wrong place, you don’t need to call your developer. Simply open the page and drag the button to a new location. Done.
Optimizing your pages now takes seconds. You can have it done before your coffee cools.
Makes redesigns and updates easy
If you’re considering a redesign, you know what a headache that can be. You have to know in advance what you want your site to look like, so you can select the right theme.
With Upfront, you don’t have to know what your end design will be—because this one theme can take on any look or feel you want.
That means you can follow conversion best practice and test as you redesign, adopting changes that work and forgetting those that don’t. You can “arrive” at your new design rather than implementing a site overhaul. And you can continually test and tweak new elements to optimize your site over time.
You never lose your WordPress backend
Upfront gives complete flexibility. It even allows you to choose which admin area you want to work in, Upfront or traditional WordPress.
In the upper left is an exit graphic (a man exiting the door). Click it, and you leave the Upfront layer and access the WordPress admin panel you’re used to seeing. (This doesn’t work in the demo, by the way.)
Use it to create your own custom themes
The great thing about WPMU is that their products are all white label. I asked James about this, and he explained that Upfront is completely GPL (General Public License).
That means you can use Upfront to create custom themes and sell them under your own brand—perfect for Web developers and consultants.
Here’s what I observed
Not only is Upfront easy to use, it’s flexible enough to create sophisticated designs.
- Your website doesn’t have to look like every other site in your industry.
- Attractive landing pages are now accessible even to do-it-yourselfers.
- All the plugins you already use are available on the pages built with Upfront.
- You can use it on multiple sites with no additional fees.
Plus, if you join WPMU, you have access to an entire suite of plugins—everything you need to set up and optimize your site.
And the support is amazing. I’ve talked to two of the support team, and they not only gave me good answers to my questions, but offered helpful advice as well.
I’m a fan
Upfront comes free with your WMPU DEV membership. That’s 350+ plugins, themes and unlimited support from just $24.50 per month. And like I mentioned above, their products are 100% GPL and can be used forever on unlimited sites.
And it’s only going to get better. James told me that they’ll be adding more features and custom child themes over the next 12 months.
James is encouraging everyone to at least play with the demo. (Seriously, though, if you do, you’ll want this on your website!) All he asks is that you tell him what you think.
Review the three child themes here.
Read this series of articles for more details about how it works.
Join WPMU DEV here.
So what are you waiting for? Go test it yourself and let James know what you think.
Read other Crazy Egg articles by Kathryn Aragon.