Jeffro2pt0 Almost Goes 3pt0

In case you haven’t noticed, this site has gone through a complete revamp. New look, new logo, new focus. What you are seeing on this blog is thanks in part to a theme system that I came across while spending over a month looking at various themes. The theme system is called Shifter. Shifter has been a dream come true for me. As I noted in Episode 7 of the WordPress Weekly podcast, I have had a good amount of experience using Joomla. One of the best things I enjoyed about Joomla was the amount of customizations that were built into themes. What I mean by customizations is that, themes had what were called User Module Positions that were built into the theme. You could place a plugin in a specific module, you could move the modules around, ect. Talk about freedom.

If you were to take a look at the current state of WordPress themes, you would realize that no one out their is truly taking advantage of Widgets. Most of your themes come with two smashed together sidebars that can contain widgets. That sucks. For themes that have widget like areas above the content and within the footer bar, these are usually hard coded functions built into the theme, meaning you have to play with the code to change or replace these parts of the theme.

Shifter changes all of that by making the best out of widgets. Take a look at the following screenshot:

Shifter module Positions

Take a look at all of those sections of the site that are outlined in red. These are all widgetized areas of the theme. This means, customizing the look of your content on your site becomes a drag and drop affair, not a code editing nightmare. Keep in mind that WordPress allows you to place more than one widget into a widgetized area on a website. This fact alone should be enough to perk your interests. This is the primary reason why I purchased this theme. As far as I can tell, there are no other WordPress themes that offer this type of functionality. I’ve been wondering why more themes don’t have more widget areas built within them. According to a recent interview I did with Shifter, they told me it was rather difficult to get all of these widget areas to play nicely within the theme. I suppose that was my answer.

Asides from being in Widget heaven, this theme is almost completely editable by selecting various options within the themes admin menu.

ShifterSettings

This is only a sample of what you can edit without touching a line of code. Within this screenshot, you can see options that allow you to adjust the resolution of your blog. The choices range from 750, 950, 974 pixels and 100% which is full width. You can choose whether you want the first sidebar to display or the second. You can also choose which size you want those sidebars to be. The check box areas are something that reminds me of Joomla yet again. These options give you even more flexibility as they allow you to decide which particular sections of WordPress where the sidebar will show up. For example, if I only wanted a particular widget area to show up on the home page, but not anywhere else within the theme, I would select the HOME option and nothing else. This means you could load up your front page with content while keeping the single page views nice and clean.

Be sure to check out the Shifter Video which explains how to configure most of the options contained within the Shifter theme system.

Words of warning. I made the decision to edit away at some core files contained within Shifer in order to achieve the look you see on this web site. This means it will be a pain in the rear for me to upgrade. I suggest you don’t edit any of the core files if you get this theme. However, if you feel as though you will stick with a certain configuration of Shifter, I’d say go for it. But try to keep core hacking down to a minimum.

Conclusion:

Shifter is not cheap. It’s priced anywhere from $79.95 for a personal license to $999.95 for a Developer License with licenses in between. However, because this theme is more than just your average theme, my $80.00 was very well spent and I believe I’ve gotten every penny’s worth and more. There are so many different combinations of widget/content layouts that come with Shifter, you truly are purchasing a WordPress themeing system out of the box.

You can try out the Shifter theme for free by signing up HERE which will net you a subdomain. In fact, if you don’t want to spend money on Shifter, you can actually move your entire blog to GetShifter.com and use it as if it were WordPress.com. If that sounds like a plan, you can check out more info HERE.

The bottom line is this. As it stands, there is no theme out there that I came across within the past month that offers anything close to what Shifter does. Right now, everything is magazine based and even premium magazine themes and freemium themes have nothing on Shifter. I hope that Shifter serves as an example of a new trend in WordPress themes. That is, a trend towards these customizations that take place in the admin panel through options rather than coding. A trend towards using the true power of Widgets. And a trend that empowers the end user to have things look the way they want, without having it hard coded for them.

If you are interested in obtaining a legit, personal licensed copy of Shifter, please show me your interest my leaving a comment. I am thinking of doing a contest on WordPress Weekly where Shifter will be the prize. I’ll go ahead with the plan if there is a good amount of interest amongst you.

8 thoughts on “Jeffro2pt0 Almost Goes 3pt0

  1. I remember Shifter quite well since running across it a little while ago as I – like you – was prepping for a theme change.

    It is an exceptional piece of work that I think only Brian Gardner’s Revolution comes close to equalling.

    I know that when the time comes for a professional upgrade of the theme on WinExtra I’ll be looking at either of the two – at least once I can afford it that is :)

  2. Jeff,

    I saw your bit on The Future of WordPress Themes post on Theme Shaper and left a lengthy comment on hackwordpress.com that referenced what you said in the Theme Shaper post. I think you’re totally right that this is the future of WordPress themes. Just curios, do you know of any other themes or designers who are following the shifter/widgetizing phenomenon? There are widget builders out there who are getting curious. :)

  3. @Steffan As a matter of fact, the more I look into the way Shifter was developed, the more I realize that it will be easy for theme designers to tap into the potential of these things called YUI Grids and the like.

    To answer your question, there is a theme being developed called Vanilla which is based off of the Sandbox theme and the YUI or Yahoo User Interface Library. If you look at some of the screenshots provided with what this theme will offer, you should be able to notice the similarities between it and Shifter. It’s because they both use Yahoo back end technologies.

    Should be interesting to see what else people develop with these tools.

  4. @Jeff – I just saw Vanilla, actually. It’s still in closed Alpha, though. Any idea when it’s going to be available and whether it’s going to be pricy?

  5. I’m planning a change on my sites – and would be really happy to be able to use one system – rather than learn several – and Shifter sounds very impressive. Not having used it – I think the only way to make a decision is to buy a single-use copy, install it on one of my sandbox sites, and see if smoke comes out of my ears.

    Very hard making these decisions – less because of the money – more because of the potential for time loss if things don’t work out. I certainly don’t mind contributing to designers being able to eat – just want to make sure I’m not going to be in over my head.

    But if works as advertised – way, way cool.

    Interested in hearing others’ feedback.

    J.

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