Simone 2.0: Custom backgrounds, sidebar position, RTL support, and more

After much ado Simone 2.0 is now live in the WordPress Theme Directory. The theme is cresting 50,000 downloads already and for the new version I decided to bake in some of the most requested new features.

Custom Background

Using the Customizer to change the background color in the Simone WordPress theme
Set a custom background color or background image in the Customizer

One of the standard WordPress theme features that were not available in the original version of Simone was custom background color and custom background image. This was a deliberate choice on my part because the way I designed the theme changing the background color and/or adding a background image made little sense. However after seeing several sites running Simone with custom backgrounds (usually added through child themes) I realized this omission may have been unnecessary.

Therefore, as of version 2.0 you can now set a custom background color and/or custom background image through the Customizer.

The custom background function only kicks in on index and archive pages and appears behind the white content boxes. For single posts and pages the background remains solid white throughout.

Sidebar Position

Setting the sidebar position in the Simone WordPress theme
Set sidebar position and content display in archives in the new Theme Options panel in Customizer

In 2.0 the Customizer has a new section called Theme Options. From here the site admin can change the position of the sidebar and the index content length. By default the sidebar appears hard right and will stick to the right hand side on larger screens. Since its launch users have requested the ability to switch the sidebar position to the left. As of this new release the site admin now has this option. The behavior is the same as previously: The sidebar sticks to the left-hand side regardless of screen width.

Index Content Length

Speaking of index and archive pages several requests were made to provide an option to select the length of content displayed on index and archive pages. The theme was originally designed to display the first post of the index and any archive page with a full-size featured image and the full content (unless truncated with the <more> tag) and the rest of the posts with a smaller image and the post excerpt.

In 2.0 a new option has been added to the Customizer under Theme Options to change the index and archive displays of all posts from excerpts to full content. This setting effects all archives as well as search results.

RTL Support

One of the goals I had when releasing Simone was to make it available and usable for as many people as possible. Part of this effort was to make the theme fully translatable through standard internationalization methods. Since its release 13 language translations have been added to the theme by community members. However, out of the box the theme only supported LTR languages.

As of 2.0 Simone now fully supports RTL languages and ships with translation files for Farsi. When an RTL language is activated all components of the theme are mirrored: The main and social menus are reversed and repositioned, the search bar is moved to the left, and all content is reversed. I am currently working on getting translations for other RTL languages which will be released in future updates.

Simpler Child Themes

If you are a reader of this site you know there is some controversy brewing over the recommended method for calling in styles from parent themes in child themes. This issue prompted me to change the way stylesheets are loaded in Simone to make it easier for the user to build child themes. With the help of Ulrich Pogson the stylesheets in Simone are now enqueued in such a way that a child theme automatically inherits the correct styles.

For child theme authors this means you no longer have to use an @include or the new wp_enqueue_style() code to pull in the original stylesheet. All you have to do is create a style.css file and add the standard child theme header and the parent theme styles are loaded in the background. The child theme styles will automatically override both the main stylesheet and the layout stylesheets for right sidebar, left sidebar, and no sidebar.

To deactivate the parent theme stylesheets all together or individually you can do so by adding wp_dequeue_style() functions in the child theme functions.php file as in this example:

 add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'dequeue_parent_theme_styles', 11 );
 function dequeue_parent_theme_styles() {
   wp_dequeue_style( 'simone-parent-style' );
   wp_dequeue_style( 'simone-layout' );

Simone is for You!

Simone is quickly becoming a popular theme in the WordPress Theme Directory, in no small part thanks to the support it’s gotten from the accessibility community. Now it’s your turn to take the theme for a spin, check out the new features, and show me what you can do with it. And if you have ideas for improvements or future additions, let me know either in the comments below or by submitting an issue on Github. As you can see from this release I listen to the users and update the theme to fit your needs. Simone was built to be used and I want you to be able to use it for what you want. So go get started!