Catalyst Theme user creates 170 page documentation PDF for their community

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WordPress theme frameworks can be awesome. But until they advance in a pretty big way, they still need users to actually create sites with them. Bummer, right? In order to aid with that, the team behind Catalyst Theme has released a user manual. Created almost entirely by Catalyst user and community member David Pritchard, it fills in at over 170 pages of Catalyst theme documentation.

Eric Hamm described the process of Pritchard contributing the manual in a blog post:

He was excited about the huge leap forward we had made with Catalyst and wanted to let us know that he would be burning the midnight oil to make the necessary changes to keep up with this massive move to a new WordPress Theme. I was excited about the prospect of a real-deal User’s Manual and let David know that we were totally on board! Nothing, however, could prepare us for the actual finished product.

A few weeks later David sent us an email with the rough draft of this 170+ page PDF file packed with rock solid Catalyst documentation as well as tons of useful content teaching you the secrets to a successful website. Both Seth and I were totally floored by the amount of detail that went into the Catalyst Cheatsheet. Every aspect of Catalyst from the smallest feature to big picture concepts were covered…and then some!

Documentation is typically a big selling point when it comes to picking a WordPress theme framework. Did you make your decision, at least in part, based on documentation and things like this PDF? How important are solid documentation and support documents to you?

5 thoughts on “Catalyst Theme user creates 170 page documentation PDF for their community

  1. Have you ever seen anyone complain there was *too much* documentation? 😉

    Programmers are notoriously bad at writing docs. More docs = more better.

      • 1. Momentum within the framework provider itself – do they provide reasonable number of child themes in a variety of styles? Have they been doing so on a regular basis for at least, say, one year? Are new child themes released regularly, keeping up with the latest design trends and newly emergent niches/functionality?

        2. Is the provider already sufficiently successful to make it likely that they, and their framework, will still be around in five years. Companies will, of course, always claim that they are in it for the long haul but you have to be shrewd and ask yourself: What incentive do they really have to keep chipping away for years to come?

        3. Outside uptake – are other themers adopting the framework as the basis for their work? Have marketplaces emerged? Has the provider actually done much to encourage a third-party market for themes based upon their framework? This is absolutely key.

        4. Financial structure – is is even possible for third-party themers to base their work upon the framework? If the framework license is sold on a subscription basis, forget it, the themer cannot be sure that his customers will always have access to the current version, defeating the main advantage, commonality. If, on the other hand, the framework is sold as a once-off purchase with unlimited support, unlimited websites and unlimited updates “forever”, the third-party themers have a solid foundation to build upon.

        If you look at the landscape from those four perspectives, you reveal some very surprising things and the most interesting realization is that the race to become the dominant WordPress framework is still wide open.

        For whatever reason, the current front-runners are all getting important things wrong, and I don’t think they’ve quite realized how important frameworks will be in entrenching them as a layer in the WordPress stack, or that defacto standardization will make this one of those rare winner-takes-all situations and the rewards are going to dwarf anything they are earning today.

        I would go so far as to say that the two main theme companies are both too close to the problem and currently too distracted to fully understand what is happening. It is going to be interesting to watch how they react upon wakening, I predict quite a scramble. A more interesting possibility is that a completely new player could enter the game and grab the prize before either of the current contenders, but they would have to have a very clear understanding of where the puck is going and the ability to move at lightening speed.

  2. As a Catalyst owner I picked up the manual for free. I believe it sells for $67 otherwise, although I’m not sure why anyone who doesn’t own Catalyst would want it. That said, it is an amazing piece of work by David.

    On a side note, since Frugal re-branded as Catalyst, it’s nice to see them go down the GPL road.

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