A few days ago I wrote about the release of Oxus. Oxus is a theme by Themeopoly described as being “for blogging with a focus on content and hierarchy,” which is, of course, a marketing phrase that means absolutely nothing. Since WordPress themes by definition take content and hierarchy into account, I wanted to see what set Oxus apart.
I fired up MAMP and set up a local installation of WordPress so that I could do some testing. Here is what I got.
What I Liked
WPCandy was given a review copy of Oxus, but in testing the theme I had to keep in mind that it’s available for just $15. Every time I found some annoying little bug or “feature” I asked myself whether I’d care to suffer with it knowing the theme was only $15. In every case, the answer was no, I wouldn’t care. When a theme is priced so low, my expectations are lower anyway. I can overlook literally all of the things I disliked because, hey, just $15 bucks.
The theme came with three different color schemes–Nature Green, Romance and Silverblue. Until I installed it, I’d only seen Nature Green, which is primarily brown with green accents. It looks nice, for sure, but I knew that it wasn’t neutral enough for me to use on just any blog. It would have to be a blog about camping or the environment or something earthy. The Romance color scheme is primarily pink (as you could probably guess), but I found a perfect match in Silverblue, which was pretty neutral. It’s dark gray and black with blue accents. The point is, of the three color schemes available there will probably be one you like more than the others.
The typography on posts is fantastic. This might have been my favorite feature of the entire theme. It’s so readable and flowing that I’d even venture to say it’s perfectly laid out. One of the reasons I find the typography so nice is that Oxus uses Myriad Pro Regular as its main font. That being said, Myriad Pro Regular is embedded directly into the theme and I’m not sure whether or not that’s legal, but it doesn’t seem like it would be. The font typically costs $35, so if you bought this theme for $15 you’d be getting a deal. Of course, if you head over to the demo and view the CSS source, you can get a link directly to a free TTF file. Probably not legal.
Sticky Posts Display
Oxus will take the last three sticky posts you’ve made and put them in the sidebar, sort of like a featured post section. I love how these are laid out, with a thumbnail on the left and the title/excerpt on the right. The only complaint I have is that the sticky posts in the sidebar show up on the homepage. Since the sticky posts are already stuck to the top of the homepage, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to show them again in the sidebar. On single post pages, though, they work out excellently.
The theme had quite a few widgetized spaces, including a separate sidebar for single post pages and three areas in the footer. These areas really helped to fill out the theme.
What I Didn’t Like
It’s never a good sign when a theme makes you feel like a cheap bastard and, boy, did I ever. As soon as I activated it, Oxus added a “Low-Cost Themes – Themeopoly” logo in the top left corner by the blog’s title. I would be ashamed to write on a blog in public if it was running Oxus. The logo isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s unnecessarily annoying.
In the same way it added a Themeopoly logo, it also changed the WordPress admin footer text to promote Themeopoly and Themeopoly’s Twitter account. Again, not necessarily a deal breaker, but running Oxus implies that I’ve already purchased a theme from Themeopoly. Why muck it up with branding/marketing? There are probably nicer ways to go about it.
Wrong Theme Screenshot
When I activated Oxus, the screenshot informed me that I was now running “Aegis – Newspaper and Magazine Theme.” Aegis is another Themeopoly theme. It doesn’t really bother me either way, but it seems like a very unprofessional mistake to make.
Non-existent Dedicated Support Program
If you load up the Theme Options page for Oxus, at the top there’s a link to Themeopoly Support Forums and another link to the Dedicated Support Program. You can get to the Support Forums easily, but it appears that the Dedicated Support Program doesn’t exist yet. You get taken to a 404 page.
The theme options are divided into an accordion menu. You know, you click the title and the options slide down, click another title and those options slide down. On a larger monitor, this surely isn’t a problem, but on a 13″ MacBook it got to be annoying. If you left any section expanded and scrolled down the page and clicked another section, it would take you back to the top of the page. Lots of unnecessary scrolling to get the theme options filled out.
Website Logo Upload
Oxus can use a custom 500×100 pixel logo. Oxus can’t upload that logo for you. You have to go into Media, upload it yourself, copy the URL, go back into the Theme Options and paste it in. You shouldn’t have to leave the Theme Options page to set the theme options.
Removed Theme Editor
Something I didn’t like about Oxus was the use of the Chunk Five font on sidebar headings. The font looks good on post titles, but at smaller sizes it got that squished, pseudo-bold look. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t bold and to possibly change it to Helvetica or Myriad. It was just a minor adjustment. I definitely didn’t want to load up Coda and search out the files. That’s overkill. I thought I’d just head over to WordPress’ built-in editor (usually found under Appearance in the sidebar), but it was gone. I think this is something that would bother the not-so-technical users most. They won’t notice it at the beginning, but as soon as they want to tweak some minor detail, they won’t know how to and they probably wouldn’t want to bother learning how to use FTP.
I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth over the more “political” decisions, especially adding the logo to the admin. Despite that, Oxus seems to be a solid theme. It looks great, it gets the job done. It might be worth giving a spin, especially for $15.
This review was completed with version 1.0 of Oxus, provided to WPCandy for review purposes.