The problem with themes…

Posted · 154 Comments
themes

After working in the ‘web tools’ space for a few years, you become acquainted with a few of the issues we face day to day. In fact, after a while, dealing with these issues becomes part of the job and you barely notice them anymore.

However, every once in a while a product comes along that changes the way you view the problem and makes you realize that all that inconvenience really wasn’t necessary after all. A good example might be what the iPhone did to all the cell phones that existed prior.

In the design of DMS, we had a core ambition. We wanted to disrupt theming. A lofty goal I realize, but once we walk through a couple of the core problems with theming, and potential solutions, then I think you’ll recognize some of these ambitions in DMS when it’s released on July 24th.

The Problem with CMS Theming

To discuss the problems in theming, we have to start with the goal of a theme. And that is:

“People want to build an awesome looking website as fast and easily as possible.
That means no code, and no frustration.”
— Captain Obvious

Ok, seems simple. But there are 3 main problems in today’s CMS theming I want to highlight…

Exhibit A: Themes look nothing like their demo on install

When people buy a theme their mindset is typically something like this: “Oh wow, that theme looks awesome, I can’t wait to install it on my site, I’m sure it will look awesome.”

However, what they typically get is the exact opposite. Themes look like CRAP on install.

What you’re looking at with a demo is something set up by a professional, with his/her demo in mind and more specifically selling you on their mind. This is fine, this is the game.

However, the problem is that most people don’t have the skills or time needed to something as simple as recreate the demo. That’s the real issue here. I suspect some of you out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

As an example we bought some of the most popular ‘premium’ themes out there, here’s the demo versus them on install.

test

Theme demo versus install comparisons

 

Solution

What’s the solution to this problem? Well, the solution is doing a better job of import and export. Since these themes are built from scratch to look good and not as a design platform, they simply don’t have the tools to have good import and export.

So with that, I would like to announce that DMS has an awesome import and export tool. And THIS is why it matters.

test

Some import export stuff. I think relevant.

Exhibit B: Customizing themes takes a degree in CS or lots & lots of pain

Themes are what we call in the industry ‘hard coded.’ Meaning, there is no rhyme or reason to how they are structured, behind the scenes, other than they need to work.

This means there are two ways to customize a theme:

  • Theme options
  • Custom code

Theme options are great! However, in themes, they are typically (and by typically, we mean always) hard to find, don’t do what you want, or are somehow limited in scope or functionality. This means you have to resort to the second option which is, dun, dun, dun: coding.

Coding for most people is super fun and a great way to spend the day. Most people can’t wait to spend countless hours trying to figure out why something ‘just isn’t working,’ or to experience the pleasure of taking their entire site down accidentally. (End sarcasm, please don’t think we’re serious!)

Thus this is where web developers, getting paid $75+/hour come in. More fun.

PageLines has been trying to solve *this* problem for years, however, in DMS we really think we’ve nailed down the solution. Pro web design, fast, without coding… coming soon.  Check.

^^ What is this and what could it possibly have to do with easy editing? #NotATeaser

^^ What is this and what could it possibly have to do with easy editing? #NotATeaser

Exhibit C: Theme sites don’t evolve, you throw them away and start over once again

Another issue that you may not realize is that CMS themes can’t evolve. The process goes like this, “oooo, I want that theme! It has the cool accordion slider thingy, like that other site I love! :D” and then, with some effort, you get your new website with your accordion ‘thingy.’ However, in about 12 to 18 months the entire web decides that accordion sliders are not cool anymore and you HAVE to have a parallax feature or your site looks like it’s from 1999 (i.e. prehistoric times)..

So what do you do? Well, you get a new theme, but wait! What happens to all your customizations? Oh no! Your accordion slider thingy??  Yup you have to decide, the new hotness or ol’ reliable ( or you could just code it up with PHP and Javascript! )…

That colorful example is to highlight my point, CMS themes don’t evolve without coding.

This is the problem PageLines is solving with the growing marketplace and community. We are learning more and more about what you want in a platform and what we need to do to get awesome designers & developers to give it to you.

With DMS you will be able to add new components to your site in seconds with drag and drop, and if you want, remove components equally fast. This means your site evolves with the trends, or how you’re feeling on a given day. It’s that easy. You CAN have your accordion slider thingy and the parallax hotness at the same time.

What else? Let’s start a conversation…

Well, we don’t want to spoil any of the fun surprises coming for you on launch day. However, we would love to start a conversation around all the things that can be improved about CMS themes and how they work. We’ve tried to think through everything, so either your input will encourage us or get us thinking!

If you aren’t yet familiar with DMS, please check out the video and landing page before launch date and be part of the web design revolution coming on July 24th.

Over and out.

151 comments
Offshorent
Offshorent

Please let me know whether DMS will work with any WP theme?

Brenden
Brenden

I can not find anywhere how to contact you guys and I have some serious
discrepencies.  Please send me a proper email address in which I can address
these issues.  You may reach me at brenden@bwingmedia.com 


simoncooke
simoncooke

will DMS play nice with Buddypress?! 

mcleodmorgan
mcleodmorgan

Quick thoughts...

A) Companies need a site that is either a business card on steroids, or a brochure on steroids, or very direct e-commerce site, or a very, rich e-commerce experience site.

B) There are designers and programmers that like to sit and design all week or code all week and get paid to do so.

C) With mobile driving the consciousness of business to be visible every possible way they can, and international competition being a click away, we all need to let go of tradition... even ones only two years old.

D) Good luck PageLines stakeholders making this happen. I think you have a great model but it's going to take major resolve to pull it off. Cannot wait to see how this turns out!

leeboggs
leeboggs

Anybody have enough experience with the trial to know the answers to those questions:

Is there an itemized list of the free sections, extensions, design & layout options, and themes that come with the developer membership?

Does the core framework provide enough features to create a website like those in the showcase?

I don't mind paying extra for advanced, unique features, but I'm just wondering if the showcase examples reflect what can be done solely with the basic developer membership.

longe630
longe630

I'm a web developer, because of that I am also a professional student. I change the way I develop websites constantly, some changes small, some big. If DMS doesn't change the way I do things, something else will.

If you don't want to work in a profession with a constant changing environment that requires constant learning and a constant evolving business model, then you shouldn't be working with the web.

tecnogaming
tecnogaming

Hey admins of pagelines, could you wrinte me back? I'm interested in helping you promoting all this.

tecnogaming
tecnogaming

If anyone here i s ready to DMS you can ask me for hosting, I can get you a free promotion and discounts "for life" to anyone who comes from pagelines into my hosting service.

JangoBout
JangoBout

Like Power Point never killed the graphic industry this DMS thing os not going to different with the web development industry. This looks like it's going to be an awesome tool. But branding, good visual taste, nice curated content and usability principles are a matter of human thinking. 


Tools never killed the good pros, only the shitty ones.

leeboggs
leeboggs

I just opened a hosting account with Blue Host with the intention of using Wordpress Themes. Wish I had discovered this two days ago.

If I go with Pagelines instead, can the website be uploaded into Blue Host and edited with a CMS?

If not, does Pagelines have a CMS that will allow my clients to log-in and make edits, with no extra costs, similar to using Wordpress?

BTW, random quotation marks are inserted into your headlines.

Brenden
Brenden

Listen PageLines is a tool not a destroyer of the "Professional Web developer"

 $2000 is not a bad price to pay a Professional webdeveloper.  Some sites require a lot of hours in programming depending on the design.  Where PageLines comes in is with people on a budget and timeframe.  I prefer to give someone an original site. However if it has time and budget constraints then I will use a jump off point like PageLines.  Do it your self is always an option, though sometimes people get in over there head and that is when they turn back to the real "Pros".  

   Real Professional Programers are "#ANerdApart" or #A Nerd Apart and we will never be obsolete nor will we ever be replaced no matter how easy it becomes to "Do It Yourself".  Nerds run the world ... Nerds rule the world.

grunta
grunta

@arpowers - you have captured an awesome audience for the pending release...

The message is that we are all eagerly awaiting the release and update.

Are you going to keep with your promise to release to the existing end users before the July 24th release to the public (a simple yes or no)? - or have I missed that boat?

Speaking for myself - can't wait to see what is in the release!

ErmannoAzzolini
ErmannoAzzolini

I can not wait to touch it with his hand, I am already with PageLines well, it's a little heavy but even though I know that many people like to program more, you have a tool that facilitates the work and I will fast with simple drag and drop, you can give space to creativià so it should be the work and the help of technology.

IconicImagery
IconicImagery

I find it extraordinary that people are that bothered by a tool - yes the Pagelines Framework & DMS are tools (to me at least - no different than Dreamweaver) - that save TIME. Being self-employed, productivity is my major concern - especially because I'm disabled, which impacts my ability to get things done when I'm having a OK-enough day.. I like being able to chop-and-change without having to spend half my time (or most of my time) doing it. The only limitation I have is that my coding skills could be better (and I'm working on that; I learn by doing)..Also important is that I don't have to spend a huge amount of time on things that clients could do for themselves if only they tried. Pagelines makes that possible.

Prime example of the brilliance of Pagelines: I took part in an online conference where participants were divided into teams. I was at home, in bed, connected via skype & ustream. The crux of our proposed project was a website. The only other teams that proposed websites sketched out their ideas and did rudimentary mindmapping in PowerPoint (I kid you not). In less than an hour I had something up online for everyone to look at, including a 1st pass at a logo, blog and relevent content (It took some doing to convince the non-techies that there was no need for a separate blog). Needless to say that a great idea aside, the ability to do so much with so little time made an impression. My team won. 

Yes, money is a major concern for me but Pagelines has been worth the investment. What I really regret is having spend so much money on other frameworks and themes in the past that just weren't enough in the long-term. The moment I started using Pagelines they were rendered useless for the reasons detailed in this post. I'm really ooking forward to DMS.

VictorNoyes
VictorNoyes

Looks Great! Will DMS be Multisite Compatible?

MintPrints
MintPrints

I love the way that professional web developers are crying over how easy it is for anyone to make a website. Do you know what killed your industry? $2000+ static sites, and never answering the phone because you only work at night. I'll make my own from now thank you please x

Brenden
Brenden

I am really suprised at a lot of the comments below this one.  There must be a lot of people posting who don't know how to program or never had the desire and passion too learn.  I love programming and where I find a good solid and secure framework like Pagelines a great starting point.  I don't want it all done for me.  It reminds me of the fat guy who takes a bunch of diet pills but doesn't put in the gym time and then wonders why he doesn't look as good as the guy on the diet pill box.  Come on, maybe it is just me.  I LOVE programing, it is a never ending puzzle of problems waiting to be solved.

bmarty
bmarty

I purchased Framework a couple of weeks ago because I thought I needed it to get and make the upcoming DMS work. So based on many of these comments, why did I recently buy Framework when I already had Pagelines Pro?

bmarty
bmarty

I agree wholeheartedly with batonrougecounseling.  I bought a nice theme thinking it would be easy and to hardcore programmers it probably is. 

But it took way more time than I ever imagined and my site is still horribly simple and ugly. I wanted to make it an effective tool for my business and it really only functions as a blog site and not a very good one at that.

 I want to be able to build  and rebuild and tweak and re-tweak my site quickly and easily.  The more visual DMS is, the easy it will be to work with.  Then I may even venture into multiple sites.  How fun would That be?

Alex Soh
Alex Soh

It is always my struggles working with programmers and it takes too long for them to script the move of design. Why can't let me do it myself and allow my creative juice to flow! I am going to love DMS. Thank you guys!  I am a Photographer / Art Director (Web and Print in publishing) www.alexsohphotography.com. Wish I have a chance to try it out right away :-)

batonrougecounseling
batonrougecounseling

If this is as easy as it looks, I'm sold.  I'm excited.  I wanna make a badass site with minimal effort and have people say "wow, your site is awesome".  And me thinking to myself, "yeah it was way easier than it looks".  I want to be able to focus a lot more time on my content instead of design problems or css tricks.  I want to be able to KEEP UP with the current "look", so that I don't have to completely revamp and start over when I'm ready to update/upgrade.  If I pay $50 or $60 bucks a year for a subscription, I wanna feel like it's a steal.  I wanna shell that cash out happily and feel like it's totally worth it year after year.  I want to be surprised and catered to for no extra charge.  Just pay my yearly fee and I get the boss package.  Yes, I want to be a BOSS.  I want inclusivity, not exclusivity.  "You, little user, get all this MACK DADDY stuff for your meager $50/year."  I don't want to fight with the damn thing, I want it to soothe me, yes SOOTHE.  Instead of me thinking, "damn, why the hell did that make it this way" I want to think, "holy cow, they thought of this?  wow!"  Romance me Pagelines!  Make me happy!  Thrill me to the marrow.

Brenden
Brenden

I paid  $139.00 for the stand alone frame work and it is not working the way that it should be.  It does not make sense that Pagelines is selling a product yet does not make themselves available for any sort of issues unless you purchase an upgrade.  Your system is seriously flawed.


IconicImagery
IconicImagery

@longe630- A thousand times YES!

Tech is constantly evolving and it's incredible to me that anyone professing to be a  professional designer / developer would admit to utilising antiquated tools / methods  for getting the job done.

opportunex
opportunex

@longe630 True! True!  I've been building sites since 1995 and this industry has always been "if you're sick for a week, you might as well get a new career" type of thing.  I love that PageLines keeps adding the newest and greatest tech to keep us on our toes :)

IconicImagery
IconicImagery

@JangoBout - Well said! Being a Marketing Communications Manager myself with a background that includes all of these areas,  wish I could like this a few thousand times.!

hennings
hennings

@leeboggs PageLines is a WordPress theme. If you want to get picky, you can call it a theme Framework, but it's still a theme that you install on top of WordPress.

nphaskins
nphaskins

@batonrougecounseling hey thanks I really appreciate that! My site is actually a custom DMS theme, that I built to sell in the store for the launch. The parallax you see is custom to the theme, as are all the sections that are included (I'm dogfooding my own stuff cause I liked it so much). I also can't answer your other question, cause I don't exactly know if I can. ;) 

AleksanderHansson
AleksanderHansson

@Brenden 
Why not use PageLines to build a pro website where every section you use is customized to your clients need? (What I am saying is that you can build your own sections).

By doing this you give your client the option to have a modular website but still customized.

I dont see why A is excluding B in your equation.

Brenden
Brenden

@MintPrints   Sorry that you had a bad experience with a "Pro".  However, a couple things on that: 

1 He was probably not really a Pro only claiming to be one.   

2. $2000 is not a bad price on a Professional website.  Some sites require a lot of hours in programming depending on the design.  Where PageLines comes in is with clients like yourself, on a budget and timeframe.  I prefer to give you an original site. However if it has time and budget constraints then I will use a jump off point like PageLines.  

3. If he works at night he works alone, I have a team, in which some work at night and some during the day.  Those at night do the fixes so you don't notice.  Those who work during the day do all the customer service work and prep work like design work in PS & Illustrator.      

   There are many other facets but I don't have the time to get into it here.  However, I will close with:  Do it your self is always an option, though sometimes people get in over there head and that is when they turn back to the real "Pros".  Real Professional Programers are "#ANerdApart" or #A Nerd Apart and we will never be obsolete nor will we ever be replaced no matter how easy it becomes to "Do It Yourself".  Nerds run the world ... Nerds rule the world.

hennings
hennings

@MintPrints As a professional web developer, I think it's great that it's becoming easier to build a functional website.  It allows a small business with a small budget to build their own site without too much trouble, and as long as it keeps getting easier, probably without your help as well.

It has no impact on my business however.  Believe it or not, there are lots of larger companies that understand the importance of branding, and require services beyond filling WordPress with content on top of slightly modified canned templates/themes.


x3mgroup
x3mgroup

@BrendenHi, i have been a coder for a couple of years (Assembly, Cobol, Fortran, RPGIII, RP400 and a couple of others), i do understand PHP, CSS, JS. 

But besides enjoying coding in the past, these days i am much more interested in the creative process (cause i also love design, architecture, photography) and i find it quite hard to divide my time on both : the technical part and at the same time the creative part.

 So if there's a tool that helps me to spend less time on the technical aspect of webdesign (iow coding) and more on the design, that would give me the opportunity to focus on design!

It does remember me of the days where there was a lot of discussion about coding in assembly or using a higher programming tool (like 4th generation languages)


scarlettbama
scarlettbama

TIME-SENSITIVE!

@hennings @leeboggs Ok.  Today, I am to download a theme. WP newbie. YES or NO:  should I wait until tomorrow?  Not working, so your debut must be:

a) affordable  b) easy  c) lots of tutorials

Tell me now to wait or pass.  Thanks!

Brenden
Brenden

@AleksanderHansson @Brenden There is absolutely nothing wrong with PageLines nor building your clients website from it in a "modular" fasion.  

   For me it is a personal preference, I enjoy the challenge of building it from ground up on my own framework.  However, this indeed takes more time and time is not always on my side.  

   Budget dictates time, so if the budget doesn't allow for this then I turn to a crutch (PageLines) in order to have the same Professional feel and look.  

   You can indeed achieve the same results no matter wich workflow you choose.  Though a Framework like PageLines will never replace the Pro nor genius sitting behind the keyboard putting it all together.  They are what makes all the difference.  They are what makes them #ANerdApart.

Crispee
Crispee

@hennings   i agree.  And even small businesses realize that too.  Companies that are only out for the do it cheap aren't worth getting anyway.  

x3mgroup
x3mgroup

@nphaskins @BrendenHi, i have been a coder for a couple of years (Assembly, Cobol, Fortran, RPGIII, RPG400 and a couple of others), i do understand PHP, CSS, JS. 

But besides enjoying coding in the past, these days i am much more interested in the creative process (cause i also love design, architecture, photography) and i find it quite hard to divide my time on both : the technical part and at the same time the creative part.

 So if there's a tool that helps me to spend less time on the technical aspect of webdesign (iow coding) and more on the design, that would give me the opportunity to focus on design!

It does remember me of the days where there was a lot of discussion about coding in assembly or using a higher programming tool (like 4th generation languages)


scarlettbama
scarlettbama

@AleksanderHansson @hennings @leeboggs Ok. Intrigued!  New to this ... are these themes in addition to another theme purchase?  $ an issue here. Love your teaser about downloaded themes hard to match demo (my problem). Spent toooo much $ on themes I cannot convert to demo level.

 With new PL, is this a CSS-laden endeavor?  Am not there yet at all.