Choosing a WordPress Theme for the global and local websites

Continuing the discussion from Global website overhaul:

Hello everyone,

We’ve made some headway on the global website overhaul (and the development of a local instance WordPress theme that is being funded and initially used by @tschumilas). Yuko has been working away on understanding requirements, wireframing, etc, and @Jen and Theresa have been starting to work on content and feeding in requirements and the such.

You can see all this in progress here:

We’ve hit the stage now where we need to decide on a solution - Gutenberg or Divi or Unicon.

Yuko did some investigation into Gutenberg Themes currently available, and has found that they are quite limited and will need development of additional templates to meet our needs. She also considered the two other options above, and found them to have a better range of templates and will require less time to customise (ie. all templates pretty much available and only needing tweaking for design).

You can see her evaluation of the different options on slides 27 to 33 of the presentation linked to above.

@maikel @lin_d_hop @pxi @Matt-Yorkley @CLFC would love to hear your thoughts on Yuko’s summary, and have your help making a decision.

One of the things we definitely don’t want is to find ourselves in the same situation as we are now, with an out of date WordPress global site that is virtually uneditable, has many many plug ins, etc. But we also don’t have a lot of cash to spend on this, and we want something as quickly as possible that is simple to update and somewhat restrictive (ie. doesn’t have limitless configurability so that contributors make complex pages that then can’t be updated easily).


Ping @Jen @tschumilas @Kirsten @lauriewayne1 @MSFutureFarm for your information

Well, I’m not overly familiar with Unicon. I am a bit familiar with Divi though, having researched it a year and a half or so ago for a corporate project.

My stance on Divi remains what it has always been - it’s a one-way street. If you opt for it, you are committed to it somewhat permanently, because it uses shortcodes for all of its layout functions … so your pages, should you switch themes … ever … become riddled with shortcodes mixed with your actual content. So a couple of years from now, if we go down the Divi path, there’s a real possibility that discussions for a future upgrade/change/redesign would mean having to manually scrub all the pages of shortcodes. It’s a nasty, tedious process. The flip side is that Divi makes it pretty easy for non-coders to build nice looking (or less so, depends on the person building it) pages with a drag/drop point/click interface. It’s not completely without its merits, but I’m no fan of anything that could cause needless headaches in the future.

With a little research, Unicon is the same thing … uses Visual Composer and its shortcodes for layout, peppering your content with unrelated code. Again, it works, but it’s a really ugly scene should you decide later to do something else. These shortcode-based themes really are a one-way street.

So, personally, I’d be most in favour of a native template with Gutenberg compatibility - on several levels.

THAT SAID, I’m going to do the irrational thing and suggest we take a hard look at Divi and Unicon. The two are pretty much interchangeable in my mind. I’d go with whichever offers the best license price for our needs. Why? Our devs are generally already spread far too thin. Okay, not generally. They’re already spread too thin. As nice as it would be to live in “Ideal World,” we’re here in the real world.

Save the dev time and go with a solid, stable, supported theme that’s easy to tweak quickly - and easy for non-coders among the group to go in and do updates without distracting our developers. Let them work on bugs, features, and upgrades instead.

The platform I’m in the midst of launching over a dozen websites on right now uses WP Bakery … aka Visual Composer. So I’m very familiar with it. Non-technical users across the company haven’t had any issues with it to speak of. Personally, it makes me rip out hair almost daily … because I’d rather code a theme and be done with it. So while I’m not a fan … I’d still recommend it for the right user group. I think this might be one of those groups.

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I can’t offer an opinion here - I don’t understand the implications (thats why I hire experts :slight_smile:) If someone can give me a list of adv and disadvantages, maybe I can wade in - but basically, I think our decision rests with the option that is 1. easiest for local instances to modify and update without paying ‘outside’ help, 2. least expensive on dev time.

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@tschumilas - that’s exactly why as much as from a WordPress dev perspective I detest the tag-based visual editors, I’d still recommend it in this case, because it makes it easiest for non-technical users to work with right away and for the foreseeable future. These themes are likely to be supported (at least Divi, because it’s pretty big) for some years to come.

I’m really struggling with this. My vision was that we choose a theme that we can customise to create our own theme. That custom OFN theme can then be used for any OFN instance. It has the OFN look and feel with the right layout out of the box and people just need to add their content which became really easy with Gutenberg. You don’t need a theme to support a column layout, with Gutenberg, you can have columns anywhere you like.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that person developing a custom theme for us. And we want a quick solution. In my eyes, we can do whatever is easiest for the Canadian website and then iterate from their. I do think though that getting used to the Gutenberg editor is the best option for the future.

I don’t know many themes. I randomly worked with one lately that seems to tick all the boxes and works well with Gutenberg:
My partner built her website on the Avada theme and Gutenberg with almost no help from me.

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Easy if you’re coming from a base where you don’t need to match another website in terms of design and layout/navigation. Which is the difficulty we have. We also have a small budget to factor in.

And what do you mean by “tick all the boxes” @maikel, meaning that it has the set of templates that Yuko has been developing, and there isn’t a lot of customisation required or additional templates created?

While I was hoping to have the OFN CAn site up asap - if we decide that taking more time to do something that is better in the longrun, I am also OK with that. My ‘need for speed’ should not stop us from doing the best thing long term. (I remember the Avada theme - @CynthiaReynolds talked about it once, and I think favourably.) As to Guttenberg - if we think we should go there eventually anyway, why not do it now? (ON a personal note - I have to figure out whether to upgrade to Guttenberg on my farm website too - so I could learn it for both purposes simultaneously I suppose.)

Hey @sigmundpetersen do you have any thoughts on the above?

Also, turns out @maikel got his themes muddled up - Maikel, can you post a link to the correct one on here as well please? :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes, sorry. I confused Avada with Astra: It seems to have the a very similar site structure to what we are looking for (header, logo position, hamburger, footer). And it’s free. Yuko is looking into it.

I don’t have too many inputs but I follow Maikel in that I would like us to have more control over the theme ourselves. And not move to another lock in situation in the future with a paid theme that will be unsupported, incompatible or in conflict with other stuff. Much like the situation we are in today.

Astra doesn’t look bad. I’m going to take a look at the free version on a test site for my own curiosity … but at $250 lifetime, the extra features of the Pro version may be worth considering as well.

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