Most easily customizable Wordpress framework?
October 31, 2011 7:39 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to build a website on Wordpress, if the website design has a unique layout?

I am working on a proposal for a website, to be built on Wordpress, that will not follow a "standard" Wordpress layout. Rather than have a menu at the top or on the side that stays the same on every page, the homepage will have one big graphic and a few menu items next to it, all images. Clicking the images will cause a page to open up that displays the related content. (We may do this as an internal page, or as a popup.)

It's sort of like a splash page that you can click to view more details.

I've been looking at existing themes and frameworks, and most seem to follow the standard Wordpress blog-y layout, but I know that in recent years Wordpress has been making a change to become more of a general CMS, and that is how I would like to use it here. I haven't found any, yet, that promote themselves as being particularly good for this type of "splash page" type of site, but I expect there must be some out there that I could modify to achieve the right result. I just don't know which one to start with and I'm afraid that if I pick the wrong one, I'll end up doing a lot of extra work to get the layout like I need it.

Can you recommend themes or frameworks that would serve as a good starting point to create the type of website that my client is envisioning?

Thanks in advance. :)
posted by inatizzy to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Is Wordpress required by your client or by the project?

Although Wordpress does have many CMS type features now, it is still very much a tool for managing a blog.

It's possible to configure Wordpress to load a particular Wordpress "page" as your home page (Wordpress supports "pages" in addition to blog posts) and that page can have a custom template, or whatever is needed, in order to link to other pages in the manner you describe.

If the client doesn't need a blog, they may be better off using a more general purpose CMS like Squarespace.

If you use Wordpress, you will have to develop a custom theme for your needs. That requires at least intermediate PHP skills and pretty good HTML / CSS / JS skills to do successfully.

I think it's unlikely you will find an 'out of the box' theme that will suit your needs - it's just not what Wordpress is for.
posted by device55 at 7:54 PM on October 31, 2011

There are WP Themes that come with a static home page template. I can't remember the name of them at the moment though. I looked at several the last time I redesigned my site. I ended up rolling my own static home page template on the theme I liked. See profile for link.

posted by COD at 8:01 PM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your response. Wordpress is requested/required by the client. They're already very familiar with the backend and want to use it for this project. I'm also quite familiar with it, but I've never designed my own theme. (Yet. :)

If an existing theme doesn't exist like I described, what about starting with a WordPress framework and customizing from there? Which one(s) are the best? I have found so many and it was hard to distinguish their benefits in order to pick the one that's best for me.

I'm familiar with static homepages - I guess what I'm asking about more is the layout of said homepage, and trying to figure out the most efficient way to build the design on top of WordPress. (Whether by customizing an existing theme, or using a WordPress framework, or taking some other route...)
posted by inatizzy at 8:05 PM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: I've developed a page similar to what I think you're describing with Catalyst.
posted by LinnTate at 8:08 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a huge fan of the Hybrid theme framework. You won't get that functionality out of the box, but it is certainly possible. The widgets template might be what you want to use on the first page. The support club is well worth the money too, and responses are usually pretty quick so it might be worth paying the small fee ($25 I think) to get an idea of the best way to do things, and go from there. Especially if you're new to WordPress.

You could even have a custom template for your home page that is as you described, and use the default template for the rest of the site.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:17 PM on October 31, 2011

Socialite is my favorite theme ever. It's very, very flexible and can definitely accommodate your front page concept. Now on v3, the authors have updated it several times with excellent new and updated features sets with each new version. Worth a gander.
posted by prinado at 9:23 PM on October 31, 2011

Do you know HTML and CSS? PHP? The thing you want to do is very simple if you are familiar with those things.

1. Create or find a theme for the rest of the site.

2. Set a specific page (not post) to be the home page.

3. Create a custom template for the home page. You can, if you must, design it entirely by hand, ignoring anything and everything to do with WordPress (or selectively integrating portions).

This would have the downside of requiring knowledge of HTML, CSS, and/or PHP to update in the future. On the upside, you can be done with it in no time at all. Less than an hour, easy, if the design is set.

You could mitigate the pain of making changes by using custom meta fields to hold the URLs of all the images. Changes could be made to the images in the future by simply updating the meta fields. Not nearly as polished as a custom settings page, but almost zero effort to set up and still simple for the end user.
posted by jsturgill at 9:32 PM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: What you're asking for is done routinely by WordPress. This is not a stretch for the CMS, though it may be for your skillset. HTML, CSS and PHP will be needed.

I would strongly suggest you go spend $35 at ThemeForest or download and go through the steps to install and setup Boldly. This will give you hands-on understanding of how custom page templates and homepage settings and custom menus etc all work for your project in something that looks like a Real Thing.

Then I'd build this with any one of the 200 frameworks out there, possibly Thematic. If you don't have the required skillset, subcontract it - there are loads of people who make WordPress themes these days. You can post it here in Jobs.

If the client doesn't need a blog, they may be better off using a more general purpose CMS like Squarespace.

If the client doesn't need a blog, just don't create any templates for posts.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:02 AM on November 1, 2011

If I were doing this, and I was less confident with Wordpress than I currently am, I would make it in static HTML and CSS, then convert it to a Wordpress theme based on the Toolbox theme. Toolbox is made by Automattic, the main developers of Wordpress, and is the foundation for most (all?) of their recent themes, including the current default theme. Some basic info about it here.
posted by Magnakai at 3:47 PM on November 1, 2011

Response by poster: There's a lot of great advice here, thanks everyone. A fellow designer seconded the recommendation for Hybrid. Thematic's looking promising, too. I'm still figuring out which one to go for, but we can consider this resolved!
posted by inatizzy at 11:02 PM on November 21, 2011

I've used both Thematic and Hybrid. I gelled a little better with Hybrid, so I've been using it a lot more, but you can't go wrong with either one. I use a lot of Justin Tadlock (developer of Hybrid)'s plugins and the like, so I figure I'm ensuring compatibility if I use his themes as well. He's also got a template pack of additional templates which is pretty handy.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:10 AM on November 22, 2011

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