The true weight of theme options: Weaver II

58 Comments

A couple of weeks ago we talked about Weaver II, the brainchild of Bruce Wampler, on The Weekly Theme Show. I finally completed my little side project I mentioned on that show.

Weaver II might have the largest set of options in any theme I’ve ever seen, and its only when they’re all laid out on one screen that you can really feel the heft of it. Weaver II is available on the WordPress.org theme directory.

Screenshot posted just after the jump, as well as a link to the full image.

These options are normally separated by tabs on the options screen. I’ve edited screenshots to list them all on one continuous screenshot.

Click to view full size PNG (heads up, 6MB).

Fun fact: Weaver II has over 18,000 downloads on WordPress.org so far.

 

58 thoughts on “The true weight of theme options: Weaver II

  1. I’d like to speak up for Bruce a bit here.

    For one, he’s providing what his users are asking for. (Don’t believe me? Take a look at his download numbers, and his forum activity. Weaver and Weaver II have a fairly nice-sized community.)

    For another, and of particular importance to me, Bruce has gone the extra mile to ensure that Weaver II conforms to the Theme Review guidelines, including full Settings API support. And on that note, I will say that Weaver II, if nothing else, proves that the Settings API can handle anything that a Theme throws at it!

    • I don’t want the post to come across as an attack on Bruce — I only wanted to point out the way his options truly do stand out in the world of themes. His users love it, and the community around Weaver/Weaver II certainly legitimize the approach to an extent. As a fan of minimal options, it certainly makes me pause and reconsider my own theme ideals.

      We tend to talk a lot about minimizing options around here, so I thought we could all use a look on the other side of the fence. And maybe a good-natured chuckle or two :)

  2. It lacks the twenty eleven fluide design, which I so love. For me, fluide is the way to go for mobile design. Not the blotted design I see over here.

  3. I like it is not dumbed and limited like so many other themes are. Even frameworks. I see no reason to speak up for dev., more like shaking head of others :)

  4. A more appropriate theme name would be Leviathan! :)

    In our early themes we started down the route of adding some color picker options for ‘key’ CSS changes. But where do you draw the line? It’s almost impossible, and the temptation to keep adding more is quite hard to resist.

    What we do now is just provide a custom CSS box to allow any style rules to be added. Sure it’s not as idiot proof as providing a color picker for every color CSS rule in existence but it’s more flexible.

    Hat’s off to Bruce though for all the hard work in implementing those theme options but I’m afraid it makes my head spin!

    • “Where do you draw the line?”

      That’s the question that intrigues me when it comes to theme options. Seems like a slippery slope, particularly when you touch on styling elements in any way.

      • Also, as a developer it’s easy to fall into the trap of adding options ‘you’ think will be useful which is not necessarily the same as what options your users may want!

  5. Congratulations to theme author for very popular theme. It raises couple of questions for me.

    - Have users been teached about child themes? Or have they systematically been told from the beginning that use theme options to modify theme. So are users really asking for theme options if they don’t know what is alternative.
    - Has there been survey or research how many options user use?
    - Is ‘every’ option added to theme if someone request it?

    I don’t think there is right or wrong way in this but I’m using child theme method. I want to educate people to understand what they are doing. I know it’s more difficult way to educate people with using child theme style.css and functions.php. But in the same time it’s rewarding to see people learning basics of CSS or even PHP.

    And I do use theme options also if necessary.

    • There are a number of child themes for Weaver II, and the options screens include a gallery of them (at the top of the above screenshot, it looks like they are referred to as “Sub-themes”).

      Your second question about survey/research on theme options use reminded me of a forum thread I started earlier this week about a plugin I’d like to use. Data on actual use of features (themes, plugins, or WordPress itself) is interesting me more lately.

      I’m sure there’s a threshold number of requests before an option is added. If every single request was added, I bet that screenshot would be even bigger than it is now.

  6. I agree with Chip here!
    It’s not as “bad” as it may seem at first sight…!
    He encourages use of the child themes, has also import/export of settings for “skins”.
    Had worked with the “Weaver I” version of that theme for a little side project last year – just experimenting and was really easy, and worked!

    It’s like combination of traditional “options panel” with CSS settings.
    And he’s definitely doing his own thing, which is fine!

    Hey, I am really happy with the whole Genesis ecosystem and have no need for this theme but I learned there’s a market/user base for it. IMHO, he’s doing a lot more things right (see Chip’s comment, mentioning of Theme Review!), than lots of other authors, especially on “ThemeForest”…

  7. The problem with this approach is of course risk of unorganized chaos rendering it useless. But is that the case? I think LOL type comments here would be spoken for any theme not falling in line with what is considered correct. I dont get why other devs can be so certain this is unspeakable bad. If coding is crap then it is but this has more to do with personal preferences it seems – and perhaps lack of ability to understand more than what is right under own nose? “My clients would not like” perhaps? Too much to handle? Says who about who? Weird statement – I would be miffed if I made Weaver.

    On another site showing off admin sections of themes someone commented about a screenshot “This does NOT look like WordPress at all” or something very close to. Political/usability correct much? People talk a bit too much and too fast ;) But I can be judgmental as well – wee little themes with few but big buttons allowing change of logo and such I find waste of time and money. Why reward cutting corners attitude? or why not applaud those who try more/something else? Developers prefer status quo?

    Debating HOW to present massive options is more interesting. And which options? If stuffed with color wheels, well then may be it is bloated and boring. More is not necessarily better. But perhaps a bit too easy to just thrash what ever because it does not look like a copy of a copy? Using well known, pixel perfect and so approved admin frameworks as to minimize risk of straying off? straying off of what is another question?

    • A number of developers, both those commenting on this post and elsewhere, seem to have picked up on the WordPress philosophy “decisions over options” and applied that to their theme and plugin work. Weaver II is a great example of the opposite philosophy, or rather a contrary one: “where an option might be useful, add it”.

      I’m actually more fascinated with Weaver II now then when I first talked about it on the Weekly Theme Show and subsequently posted this screenshot here. I hope the post came across more good natured than it did mean — ultimately I think it is worth posting and discussing here because it is such an extreme example of theme options in practice.

  8. Yes Hassan, but that is also an example of yet another limited and pretty much useless “theme” with child theme support. Says nothing and does nothing :) Who can be in need of such features? Same people who will be amazed by theme customizer? Probably. Not much development with these tidbits of new and improved. Much more is possible and yet to be explored :)

  9. I purchased Weaver II within 24 hours of discovering it. I’d rather have the options smd not need them, than need them and not have them. One doesn’t HAVE to use all of the options only the ones that are needed. I don’t see the logic of making fun of a theme for having too many options.

  10. Sure, it’s nice to have these options available and you don’t have to use them all. I don’t see this theme being used by many professional designers/developers, but primarily DIY website owners (I could be wrong). In all honesty, if an individual needs to make these many changes to a theme, you probably need to hire a professional designer and developer. Theme options are not the best way to achieve this level of customization. I foresee a lot of “ugly” sites in the future as a result of users going crazy with the theme options.

    • Well see Weaver as an example – there could be others and better ones available :) Hardly something new unless you have been locked up in Core for too long.

      Also options I think should be understood as options in the broadest sense of the word. Take Pippins site – he who are horrified about this little theme. The theme he use, based on a framework, also has tons of options but he dont mind that as he has not seen them photoshopped ;) Dev. is soon to go live with http://www.wpjumpstart.com/ so there. I bet pippin will not uninstall theme but instead go yummy! Some just got caught but the attention seeking color wheel bloated image – and a few think they know anything on how others deal with their stuff. Not to mention what is correct UI/UX. Have fun with new evolutionary theme customizer in 3.4 or be so bold as to incorporate in own theme. May be best to wait 1 year to see if it is “approved” here and there?

      • Yes, the Themeblvd framework has a lot of options, but really not too excessive. One of the things I think makes options excessive, is when you have a dozen + color pickers. How many color options could themes possibly need/use?

        Themeblvd has just two or three color options.

        And even though there are a lot of options, I’ve only ever used a few of them :D

  11. I’m not a professional developer by any means. I used to crank out HTML sites back around the turn of the century when it was simpler. Deciding to get back into it I grabbed a few domains back in Feb and decided to give it a go. CSS? What’s that? Realizing that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) crank out HTML sites I took a look at WordPress, played around with a lot of themes, looked at Weaver II and thought it would fit my needs. Guess all of the options were sort of like a security blanket for me.

    The first 3 sites that I turned out look very similar, but the one I’m working on now looks pretty different from the others, as I’m learning and growing. I use the options for things that I’m ok with, but if I feel that something would look better another way, or I see something on another site that I like, I’ll try to duplicate it within the wordpress->Weaver II framework. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll outgrow CMS’s all together, but I’ve been doing this for like 3 months so that’s where I’m at now.

  12. It is the same Craisglist, Usability and UX type of discussion. Although, I believe simple is better but would voice in the favor of Bruce.

    This is not a bad Idea to provide lot of options but it should be laid down in a better way. The problem with this option panel is that one page panel is too overwhelming.

    Tabs can be used to group options, advance options can be placed on separate page, rarely used options can bed hided using accordions etc.

    Bruce is not selling the theme he is selling the idea that everyone can make their website unique.

    Put yourself in shoes of non developer/designer IT Professional, e.g. Network Administrator. You will understand that why this idea is liked.

    U-Design’s theme has generated a whopping $500k+, It also has very similar type of theme options http://themeforest.net/theme_previews/253220-udesign-wordpress-theme?index=1

    • I think you’ve overseen that Ryan, the post author here, just combined all settings pages from the different tabs into one big image.

      If you’ve installed the Weaver theme you’ll see that there are actually tabs there and all is splitted into a few options pages…

      • You are right David, Yes, it is already a tabbed (multi-page) option panel.
        But my other points still stand.

        Waver II design reminds me the designs of 90s.
        Bruce seems to be a very good developer but he needs the help of a good designer, he can make his good product into a great one if he improves its design.

  13. This is probably not possible to do but as a theme developer I would be very interested to see usage statistics for all the available theme options.

    In practice would it be the case that 95%+ users are utilizing just 5-10% of theme options or maybe a lot more of the options are being used? I know this could be roughly gauged by user feedback but I’d love to take a peek at raw usage stats! ;)

      • Actually a fairly simple Plugin could capture/log data every time options were updated via the do_action( 'updated_option', $option, $oldvalue, $_newvalue ); hook.

        This could be refined to group logs together for each theme/Plugin rather than have one large raw log to sift through. Another addition would be CSV output so you could throw the results into a spreadsheet and chart the options usage.

        Could be an interesting little Plugin project.

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  15. I am using the Weaver theme for two years now. I can’t write code. I did have a vision of what I wanted. I tried different things on my site, saw what worked and made changes using the theme options. Weaver made it fast, easy and cheap. I feel that there is some hypocrisy in the cynicism in the criticism the theme is getting here and in the podcast. I think that the theme just scares you. It reduces the need to hire coders and css people. You only need a designer. You can implement the design, or 95% of it using the options. Fast and cheap. No need for a coder. I think that scares the commenters.

  16. Well, I just stumbled on this discussion. No wonder my ears have been burning…

    I’d just like to make a few comments about the design philosophy behind Weaver. (And yes, it has been designed. And while some of you suggest I need “help” in this department, actually trying to use the interface is much easier than you seem to realize. This isn’t the first generation, and the current layout and organization comes after input from hundreds of users, and they kind of like it.)

    And that really is the major design philosophy of Weaver – it was designed mostly for amateur web site builders who know what they want their web site to do. And – the customer is always right. There is not a single option in the theme that hasn’t been specifically requested by several users, or has been inspired by analysis of the questions being asked on the support forum.

    This theme is for the volunteer building a site for their church or club. It is for the aspiring musician. It is for the hobbyist who knows what they’d like their site to look like. It is for those who want to manage their content and produce custom pages for different kinds of posts.

    It may seem unbelievable to some of you, but these folks know what they want. The want their site to be different, but don’t want to go through the typical WP dance of spending several days searching and searching and searching for an existing WP theme that sort of suites their needs. They want a nice starting point, and then want to be able to tweak things. They want the site title at the top – no, over the header image, no, not at all. They want icons in the post meta info lines – no, they just don’t want the author or the category or the tag. Seemingly tiny things that they can do in Weaver with a simple check box click.

    They don’t know PHP, might have an inkling of what CSS is, and might even know a little HTML from school. They wouldn’t have a clue on building a child theme (although a starting example is included.) And that CSS stuff? No clue. Editing the theme’s style.css – not an option. But hey, after a while, they can figure out that {font-variant:small-caps;} in the right place will give them the style they want. But knowing #site-title or .entry-title – that’s a bit much. So they can just enter the rule in the box right next to the item that says “Site Title”. And before they know it, they are becoming comfortable using CSS. And their changes don’t disappear when they update the theme version.

    And you know what else? At least half the user base are professional web site designers. They can use the tools to build exceedingly good looking sites without having to do any significant coding or child-theme building. While Weaver has lots of check-box options for the beginning web site builder, it also has an amazing amount of features that allow professionals to design without lots of wasted effort on coding.

    And, finally, all these users want their web site to automatically look great on mobile devices. All those design options aside, I contend that Weaver II’s handling of mobile displays is second to none. It is really good. And the mobile support is what I call “beyond responsive”. For example, say the user wants a nice slider on the desktop view, but a simple banner will do on mobile devices. Rather than having to learn about a bunch of media based rules to hide or show content, a simple to understand shortcode allows that. Different layouts on a per device basis. Simple check boxes. Automatic sizing of videos – done. Different menus for different views – click away. And the generated code is optimized for each device. No need to hide things.

    And they want to be able to see what their site will actually look like on specific mobile device classes without having to actually own a smart phone, an book reader tablet, or an iPad, or maybe learn about and find an emulator. They just look at their site using the mobile device simulator.

    I guess the attitude I find most offensive in some of the responses here (and I’ve heard it before, to be sure) is that it takes a real professional to design a web site, and that the professionals know best what is good design, and what is best for each individual user. There is a bit of an attitude that theme designers know best.

  17. Sorry – I think I overflowed the comment box.

    For many WP users, a nice, fixed theme is fine. But there are tons and tons of users who want a site that is their own. They don’t have the resources to pay for designers, premium themes, or other ways of building a site. That’s the beauty of WP. For $5 a month, you can have a very nice site that you have complete control over.

    And one more thing, when a Weaver user has a question, they can go to the Weaver support forum and find this amazing community that will politely and kindly provide them with a useful answer in a few hours. It is an amazing group of people who find if more rewarding help fellow web site builders use the many features of Weaver than playing Farmville. And if you were to read just a few of the questions on the forum, you’d find that almost all of them are about how to tweak this or that tiny detail. And while often the answer will indeed direct the user to a specific existing option, usually the answer is to use a specific snippet of CSS.

    So scoff at all the options if you will, but the fact is: The customer is always right, and the customer wants 300 options.

    • Thank you Bruce, for taking your time and explain the full background! I think I can understand you with most points as I have friends who are such users you described – and yes Weaver is perfect for them!!

      Sorry, if I suggested “help” above, was not offend, just my not knowing the background in full!

      As I said, I had used Weaver I for a site and have full respect for your hard work and community! Keep it up :-)
      -Dave.

  18. I enjoyed the podcast, and I also enjoy the Weaver 2 pro theme. I am middle ground all the way. I do not code per se, neither do I design per se. But I have been helping clients get workable sites for years and I know a little bit about everything.

    I can see where this theme has created a niche that is really real and a valuable addition to that niche. I do get a bit overwhelmed by all the options and believe it could be better organized.

    I intend to take some more time to explore it. I think it was hysterical in the podcast where at first every one is saying “no one should use this, they should learn to code” and then at the end said, “Heck, why not? They should go ahead and use it” or words to that effect.

    I really appreciate the podcasts to an incredible degree. I like learning about the coders perspective. And find that their ideas very often overlap with mine. I always listen to the After show, even if it is twice as long as the show itself. How else would I have discovered Ice Stones? Damn shame my scotch drinking days are over :)

    I have changed my entire company around (OK, it is just me but still) to be WordPress centric and focus on giving my clients the best bang for the buck.

    Sometimes I use Premium themes, sometimes Weaver 2 pro, and sometimes Twenty Eleven. capewp.com is my humble work in progress.

    Dave

  19. I fully agree with Bruce’s post.

    When I started building sites I had no idea whatsoever of CSS or HTML. I just read a few things about it, downloaded a free editor and started to create, learning from my mistakes and -like everyone – struggling with browser issues.

    I had no idea about WordPress but it got recommended to me as ” the easy solution”.
    I looked into it and it got on my nerves because it felt as if I had no control at all on how I wanted the sites to look like. Themes? Yes, a lot of them, but since I got used to make my own designs, I found nothing I could work with, not knowing php or how WP uses it .

    We are now 2 years after I put my very first site online and I made lots of them, got into CSS3 and html5…
    And you know what? I’m right now converting everything to WordPress, not because I have now great insights and knowledge about php and WP functions (did read by now a great book on it, of course) but because I found in Weaver II Pro the ideal theme for me to work with.
    I’m still struggling with getting under the skin of WP, but I created the past week 3 sites by just using Weaver II Pro and had no problem to give each of them a wildly different design.

    If you want something simple, get a simple theme and you won’t be frustrated by its limitations.
    If you want to be creative, go with the creatives behind Weaver II. Even the free version has lots of features you don’t easily find elsewhere and you don’t need to get scared off by the price of the Pro version. It has even a cheaper licence than the one I took.

    Hats off for the developers of this great theme. It gave me the incentive to dive into WordPress and using WP does make life easier, no doubt about that.

  20. And may I add one EXTRA benefit of using Weaver II — or any theme Bruce creates? Pure professionalism. Many of you who didn’t dabble in IT back in the 1980s/90s would be absolutely clueless to know that Bruce Wampler was the original programmer/developer of Grammatik – perhaps the first grammar checker ever for the personal computer. It was then included in WordPerfect and then everybody (MS Word) jumped on the bandwagon.

    Looks like Bruce has downgraded to creating themes, which is far EASIER than pulling your hair writing hundreds of thousands of lines of complex C programming code. LOL! :-)

    Bruce, WP Weaver, Weaver and Weaver II rocks!! For those who “get it”, this theme is as GOOD AS IT GETS!! I’m sure Bruce used his many years of programming to make this theme as efficient and well-thought out as possible — from a theme architecture design perspective.

    SUGGESTION:
    Bruce, I’d LOVE to have random headers in my site. Or, maybe on the Products page, I should be able to say “use this image for the header.” It’s soooo frustrating that MOST theme developers completely miss the boat on this — as if they’re trying to tease users — cuz really, it’s not a difficult concept to implement. That’s what I loved about the K2 theme, but alas no one’s updating that gem. :-(

    Also, Bruce, you have image sliders in the header and for widgets but what about sliders like you see on those kool magazine themes that makes your mouth drool? Is there a way to include that in an upcoming version? Or maybe it’s there and I hadn’t noticed?

    Cheers!

  21. Weaver II rocks. It’s a tool. It fits my needs. It’s the first “theme” that balances the simplicity of the looks of a good WordPress site with access to controls to place content where it’s needed, with limited time in training.

    Every question I’ve had so far has been answered within a couple of keystrokes in a Google search box. Bruce’s excellent tutorials, Q&A’s, and forums are fined tuned in the Google index.

    It’s not perfect, but it beats the heck out of any other framework I’ve tested for flexibility, results and cost. I think it should be in any WP site developer’s tool kit, and anyone learning WP would be well advised to use it as a starting point.

    To review the major negative in the comments, Bruce has segmented all the controls into tabbed areas… it’s NOT a one page options control. I like it.

    The only critique I have to date is the layout of the check-box selections on the pages and posts editing pages. They are a little too “efficient” in space usage. I would like to see them as a lists, under headlines, like on admin pages. But, once I use each one once or twice, it won’t be an issue. Many thanks to Bruce Wampler and Weaver.

    mws

  22. Having designed my first website in 1995 using Pagemill & then moving along with Dreamweaver for many years, I’ve decided to take the plunge into a WordPress based website. This change was made to help with the transitions required for the vast array of mobile devices now available. I used to test my sites on Mac & PCs with multiple browsers but now all the options for viewing have increased exponentially.

    After too many hours spent researching themes I selected Weaver II & then upgraded to Weaver Pro. I love the vast array of options available with just a click. At first the options were daunting but in far less time than it took for me to select the theme I was able to customize it to my satisfaction.

    Now that I’ve got a handle on Weaver, I’m looking forward to converting all my other sites from HTML to WP Weaver. The theme flexibility will allow me to create whatever design I need with relative simplicity. Designing a good website is the hard part. Using WP Weaver is the easy part.
    …mary

  23. I’ve used the theme before and I’ll use it again. If it’s flexibility and mobile-readiness you’re looking for, it is difficult to find a better theme at the same price point ($0). If you want a simple plug and play theme without having too many options to tweak, try TwentyTwelve or the raft of other free themes from wp.org.

  24. I’m tempted to use Weaver II since I have a client who needs a different sidebar and sidebar menu for each page. But I’m hesitant to use a them that’s got such a huge backend. I like my FireBug and CSS > child theme, and so on. Before I delve into Weaver II, are there any other options for custom sidebars and sidebar menus? I’ve seen some plugins for this, but they were awfully complicated.

    Thanks,

    Scott

  25. Thank you VERY MUCH for stitching together that graphic. It is SO much easier to read this comprehensive chart than going back and forth with tabs and pages. I’m going to print this out as a poster and put it on the wall in front of me!

  26. My niece, aged 12, created a site with Weaver 2 – it’s a tad on the pink side but other than that it’s got all the basics of any blog. Long may it last and by the way why hasn’t anyone mentioned that it’s free if you don’t want all the mobile bells and whistles. I just wish there was an affiliate program for the pro version.

  27. I use the Weaver theme on my website at http://membershipexpert.com/ and it has been a godsend! I could not have built my site without it. The theme has been a joy to work with and is extremely easy to use once you play around with it. Don’t be intimidated by all the options. Embrace them!

  28. I’m not so sure what theme developers think about weaver, nor do I really care. Although I suspect many of the criticisms here have more to do with self preservation than genuine loathing. I do think this is a strange post. It’s a bit like laying out the pages of a html and css reference book to a new blogger and telling them this is what’s ahead of them. Weaver 2 is simply a design tool and like all comprehensive tools many of it’s features will never be used by most users. If someone wants to change a widget area, they go to the widget tab. You want to change how posts are displayed go to the Post specifics tab. Short of a theme that allows for voice activated styling I really don’t know how it could be made any simpler. Then again I’m new to all this ..so what would I know.

  29. Heres’s a thang (vernacular for ‘thing’ spell check doesn’t seem to have picked up on yet). Believe me .. there’s always a thing.

    Sometimes the thing is a misunderstanding, sometimes it’s bitchiness and sometimes it’s plain and straightforward misrepresentation.
    This post is the latter..

    I’m fairly sure it started life as sales pitch for Genesis that knocks a free competitor (having read the comments I think this might have backfired).
    I could be wrong but as this is my third attempt to get my opinion published .. I seriously doubt it. So here we go again.
    Ya gotta admire my persistence (oh and by the way if this comment isn’t published I’m gonna reproduce your site using weaver (free version) .. logos and all ..sue me.
    So here we go, If you’re a beginner and want to start a blog ‘Genesis’ isn’t for you .. You need to know html,cms and php to even get started.
    Yes it’s the choice of professional bloggers using wordpress but until your blog income reaches your initial expectations, don’t even consider it, because you’re gonna need a designer.
    If your goal is to get bogged down in the nuts an bolts of web design then GO FOR IT. If you’re a writer DON’T.
    I could reproduce the first ten pages of any html book here and make them look more daunting than the images shown above but then I’d be done for copyright.
    I find it INCREDIBLY disingenuous of this posts Author to portray Weaver 2 as complicated and recommend GENESIS as an alernative. It’s not. Weaver 2 is a click box solution for writers who want to start a blog. GENESIS is NOT… simples.
    Now and then a Spade needs to be called a Spade .. Genesis aint a spade, it’s a functional and useful tool for WordPress web designers: useless for those who just wanna write and get their thoughts on the web.

    All opinions welcome here, I”m not trying to get you all to visit my blog btw. Just think that sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.

    mysisterhasfleas.com will be where I reproduce this blog using the free version of dreamweaver – for any and all who may be interested.

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