WordPress without Thesis

I recently wrote up my feelings about Thesis 2 on Lawyerist. Here are the choice bits:

If Thesis 2 was supposed to empower unsophisticated users, it is a failure. The Skins Editor is far more complicated than the old settings panel, from which you could change the layout and all the colors and fonts from a single screen. Now, you have to visit dozens of HTML “Boxes” and CSS “Packages” to do the same things. It is ludicrous.

If Thesis 2 was supposed to empower sophisticated users, it is likewise a failure. Using the Skins Editor is far more complicated than editing a couple of custom files for someone with a fairly basic grasp of HTML, CSS, and PHP. In fact, it is even useless for intermediate users, who would probably have an easier time copying and pasting chunks of code than hunting down settings on boxes inside of boxes.

Rather than wait to see if DIY Themes can improve Thesis 2 (or just for Thesis 3), I am moving on.

I have not tried to build my own WordPress theme since 2009, when Lawyerist looked like this, shortly after I changed the name to Lawyerist from SoloSmallTech:

2009.04.04 screenshot

Less than a month later, Aaron talked me into using Thesis, which resulted in this:

2009.05.15 screenshot

The design of Lawyerist has changed since then, obviously, but I have tried to keep it evolutionary, rather than introduce sweeping design changes. It got pretty bloated and complex, at one point, but now I have the design pared it back pretty much to the essentials, plus ads:


And it is still on Thesis 1.8.5, which up until now has been essential. But Thesis 2 is such a let-down that I have decided to find out how hard it is to move away from Thesis as our development framework, and instead develop my own themes right on top of WordPress. And I am starting here, on samglover.net.

So far, so good, I think. Working on a theme directly instead of going through a framework like Thesis gives me more granular control and encourages me to keep things as simple as possible. Still, I am looking for shortcuts. I started out using Skeleton for basic layout and typography, decided it was too complicated for my needs and overwrote most of it. Instead, I am trying to work on one element at a time, and keeping things as simple as possible.

My goals are to develop a simple website that looks great in a browser and requires minimal adaptation for phones and tablets and encourages sharing. To that end, I am getting rid of hard-to-touch elements like more links/buttons and replacing them with big, touch-friendly links where possible.

Hope you like where this is going. When this theme is a little more substantial, I will start working on a theme for Lawyerist so that we can move off of Thesis to our own theme.

Published by Sam Glover

Sam Glover is a lawyer and the founder and Editor in Chief of Lawyerist.com. He also works with lawyers on motion practice and appeals, and is President of the board of directors of HOME Line, a nonprofit Minnesota tenant advocacy organization.

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