I recently had the chance to send some questions over Darren’s way regarding the newest theme released by Pro Theme Design called TheLocal. This theme is aimed at the HyperLocal news market and contains specific items such as the weather, date and time, and an awesome front page that is all widgetized. On with the interview!
To start things off, what inspired you to create this theme alongside Ben Gillbanks?
Since before the first Mimbo theme, I had a fair amount of experience designing for newspapers and magazines and I always liked that format.
As traditional media began changing in the last few years, I got more frequent emails from journalists who were either fired or were striking out on their own. I convinced a few of them to trade some insider knowledge for some WordPress help.
One journalist in particular gave me a long list of features that followed the hyperlocal model which was starting to grow. I pitched them to Ben and he was able to take about 90% of them and turn them into widgets or control panel options, which really thrilled this particular writer.
I also started signing up for a lot of journalism communities and Ning networks, etc, to connect with writers and find out what they were looking for. The Local is really just the first step, as we already have a lot more we want to add.
Why have you decided to go down the route of single site and multi-site licenses?
There are people who use our themes to set up quickie websites for their own purposes and may only have a question or two in the forums. The single-license offers support for only that one domain.
Then there are developers who use a single version of Elemental to build out 10 client sites with multiple child-theme designs. When they buy a multi-license, they get PSDs, sample child themes, as well as ongoing support for a number of domains.
What are some of the key points of differentiation from other premium themes?
I think a big selling point is the custom widgets and the fact the homepage is entirely widgetized. Ben has coded it so that no matter which column you insert widgets, the widths change dynamically so it’s difficult to break the layout. This is really important when the audience is writers with limited technical knowledge.
Also the Adsense widgets are nice. They can be used in 6 different sizes throughout the site. All you need is an account number and it generates the widgets, which are sized according to whatever column you insert them. The homepage grid was specifically chosen to accommodate the standard sizes.
How easy is TheLocal to modify outside of it’s given purpose? For example, what if I want three sidebars on the top half of the page instead of four?
Since most of the heavy lifting is done via the parent theme Elemental, the index.php file for The Local is only a few lines -
<?php get_header(); ?> <div id="widgetcol-1"><?php bm_dynamicSidebar('home-widgetcol-1'); ?></div> <div id="widgetcol-2"><?php bm_dynamicSidebar('home-widgetcol-2'); ?></div> <div id="widgetcol-3"><?php bm_dynamicSidebar('home-widgetcol-3'); ?></div> <div id="widgetcol-4"><?php bm_dynamicSidebar('home-widgetcol-4'); ?></div> <?php get_footer(); ?>
Even for a new user, styling or moving around the columns or inserting standard content is straightforward.
Also since it inherits all of Elemental’s functionality, the theme comes with a control panel that lets you edit your nav (pages vs. categories), typography, weather, footer categories, header image, and so on.
Would you consider this a magazine theme, or something different?
I think a magazine has more emphasis on original content whereas The Local does a lot more aggregation and appeals to community interests.
Can you explain what “Additional customizable content areas via action hooks” and is this geared more towards the developer crowd?
This has become more common in frameworks like Thematic and Hybrid and we wanted to include it here so that people were free to add PHP functions or HTML within certain pockets of the layout without having to touch the templates and interfere with the upgrade process. There are 12 different regions that you can edit this way.
Anything else you’d like to add or say?
A better way to tour the theme and really see what it can do is to check out
the product screencasts – http://prothemedesign.com/themes/thelocal/