Over the past few weeks two major releases took place, and now it’s time to talk about them:
First, the new free WordPress theme Simone announced my re-entry into the free WordPress theme space. If you’ve been following me for a while you know I’ve released free WordPress themes before and you may also know that I pulled them all last year because I wanted to bring my themes up to current standards. Simone is that and more. Which I’ll get to in a bit.
Secondly, my biggest lynda.com course to date titled WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores was released, and with it lynda.com subscribers can now learn how to build their own WordPress themes to be standards-based, accessible, responsive, and content-centric.
So why am I announcing both these releases with one blog post you ask? The answer is simple: The course, WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores, shows you how to build your own version of Simone, the theme that was released at the same time. Yes, that’s right: The lynda.com course walks you through the entire process of designing, developing, and building the theme that is now free from the WordPress Themes Directory.
Now that you know why, let me tell you a bit more more about both the course and Simone.
Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores
One of if not the most requested future course I’ve been asked to build at lynda.com was a course on developing themes from scratch. Every week I get emails, tweets, Facebook messages, and messages on this blog asking about how to go from a design or an idea to a full-fledged functioning WordPress theme. So as 2014 began I started working on a new and expansive course that did just that: Took a design and built a full-fledged WordPress theme from scratch.
During pre-development of the course I decided merely building a theme for show wasn’t enough. I wanted the course to go beyond showing basic practices to show the process of building a shippable product. And to top it off I also wanted the end result to be accessible, translatable, responsive, and in accordance with the latest design and development patterns and standards. The result was the theme named Simone which will be covered later.
For the course I decided to use _s (Underscores) as the baseline. Building a WordPress theme from scratch from scratch makes no sense and _s is in my opinion the best starter theme available and the one all developers should be using. Considering its popularity there is scarcely any expansive documentation on how to use _s to build WordPress themes so I built the course as a deep-dive into the _s theme as well as the process of building themes from scratch. Whether you are an aspiring developer or a seasoned pro with experience with _s I am certain you will find a wealth of useful information in the course that will help you utilize the theme in a more effective way and build better, more responsive, and more accessible themes in the process.
Which brings me to Simone itself.
Simone – a Free, Responsive, Accessible, Content-first WordPress Theme
My first thought when designing Simone was to find new solutions to the old problems faced by theme designers and developers: Where do you place the sidebar so it doesn’t interfere with the content? How do you make menus accessible? How do you incorporate social media links in a consistent way? How do you make the theme truly responsive? And easy to read on all screens? And easy to customize?
Starting with a clean slate I made a series of decisions: The theme should meet accessibility guidelines, the content should be in the center of the screen whenever possible, featured images should be responsive, the user should be able to add a social media menu using the standard menu manager, and the grid should be broken to utilize the space available on larger screens.
The result was something I have yet to see anywhere else (yes, I should receive an award for being humble): A theme that puts the content (literally) front and center and locks the sidebar to the right-hand side of the screen. This feature is only really visible on very large screens and it is one that I hope will be adopted by other theme developers in the future. With Simone the visitor is not forced to turn her head to the left to read the content on large screens, and the sidebar never interferes or fights for the reader’s attention. All as it should be.
The theme is full of advanced features:
- Control of the header background color and link colors
- Option for adding a header background image or displaying just an image as the header (or displaying no header at all)
- Optional social media menu in the main menu area that shows social media icons based on the URLs each menu item is pointing to
- Pagination navigation on index pages
- Responsive featured images using the <picture> tag
- An optional author box on single posts and author index pages (triggered by filling out the Author Bio field)
- Optional integration with the WordPress SEO plugin to add social media links to authors from the Author Profile page
- Pull quotes and pull images that break out of the content grid when the screen width allows it
- Dynamic font sizes that change according to the window width
- Accessibility standards throughout
- HTML5 captions and galleries
- and much more
You can get a full rundown of the features and functionalities of Simone by checking out the dedicated page for the theme.
Simone is for Everyone
Simone was built to be used, shared, changed, and evolved. To that end you can get the theme either by building it yourself while following the WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores course at lynda.com, by downloading it directly from the WordPress Themes Directory, or by downloading, forking, or contributing to it on GitHub.
If you have any additions, features, or alterations you want to add or want me to add to Simone you can either submit an issue, a feature request, or a pull request on GitHub. The theme is in constant evolution and development and I will evolve it in accordance with what you the user wants. Speak up and ye shall be heard!
Over to you!
Now that you’ve been introduced to Simone and WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores, I want to hear what you have to say both about the theme and the course. Say your piece in the comments below and let’s get the conversation going!