We recently launched a website for a large Christian publication who was wanting to reach out to a new market with a blog style news site. We knew that mobile and tablet users were the core of the audience that this site would be targeting and that made it a clear choice to use a responsive theme.
If you are not familiar, a responsive design is one that adjusts the design slightly to fit at different screen sizes, be it a mobile phone or a mid sized tablet. What makes responsive design so attractive is that everyone is seeing the same site, the same branding and the same content. With other mobile solutions you may be displaying the same content with a slightly different functionality or look and feel. By having all devices displaying the same design it opens up possibilities of further integration as well as the simplicity of managing one design.
Today we hardly ever build new themes from scratch. It’s usually best to find an existing theme to use as a framework. For this project, knowing that the design needed to be clean and allow the content to really step out as the star, we chose to base the layout on the Lucid Theme from Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes has a growing library of fully responsive themes. I have been personally using Elegant Themes for the past 3 years. I find the themes are well built and tested across all browsers and are a great starting point for customization. I also appreciate that they make their slider technology responsive as well, which can be a pain to work with on custom sliders.
One of the custom elements that was needed for this project was the graphical identification of news categories. This required some thorough customization to all widget, plugins and theme files that display data from the posts to include category specific class statements. Another great asset to using Elegant Themes is that the coding style is straight forward and organized.
For this project we needed full control over every function of the theme that would display data for the user to see, as well as be able to customize the system to suit the clients needs for management of user profiles and featuring articles. During development we discovered some quirks in the way the theme displayed in IE, but it was a fresh 1.0 theme when we started with it, and sure enough, Elegant Themes has come out with several updates. Thanks to their documentation in the change log, we were able to apply the bug fixes without losing any of our customizations.
With more of the web going to frameworks for layout development, I have to say that, as a designer, it is nice to work with traditional themes that you can really customize in every aspect. It lets the designer know that they can customize every portion of the theme and not be limited by it’s intended purpose, but instead use it as a canvas on which to mold your personalized solution.