Critique of the new WordPress Theme: Garland

So I thought I would try out the new Garland theme by Steven Wittens and Stefan Nagtegaal and adapted by Matt Mullenweg for a while. It seems only appropriate that I should critique it as well.

garland.jpg

3 Columns with a fluid central data column.

Strengths:

Color Picker: The new theme sports a Color Picker that allows you to alter certain aspects of the themes colors. This is nicely implemented and very user friendly (You can effectively alter your site’s color scheme without knowing or learning one letter of web code or anything of Hex Colors.) This is especially nice because the elimination of Editable CSS from WordPress’ non-paying users usually strips this inflexibility away.

color-picker.jpg

Moving sliders eliminate having to learn CSS

Three Columns: The three column layout with a fluid center (data) column has often been deemed the Holy Grail of CSS layouts. Of course, that’s debatable – but, as a blog format, it certainly provides a number of clear advantages. The third column allows more relevant information to be in clear view of the reader without scrolling. Also, you (the blogger) are given a nice alternate area for Widgets.

Widgets: Yeah, been around forever, but – Just think if it didn’t support them. As I mentioned above – you can certainly take more advantage of the Widget features in conjunction with the Three Column Layout.

Design: Overall, I think that the Garland theme is pretty nice on the eyes (although there are several oddities that I will cover in the Weaknesses section). The color altering features allow you to choose quieter colors (as opposed to crappy) that are pleasant to your readers eyes. The white semi-transparent extension of the center column into the header space is a nice breach of our typical squares and rectangles.


Weaknesses:

Non-included HTML Styles: I feel like Matt the designers may have gotten carried away with some of the complex features of this theme and forgot about some of the more subtle niceties. As a web designer I can resonate with this problem. Often – you get so excited about developing an over arching feature that you leave out some of the basic text stylings. Update: Heine pointed out (below) that “The Garland theme design (and color picker) is by Steven Wittens and Stefan Nagtegaal and ported to WordPress by Matt Mullenweg.”

For instance:

  • Unordered
  • Lists
  • Look
  • Crappy

Notice the lack of clean bullets or anything special for that matter. The Heading elements are also particularly bland.

Post Divisions: There are none. Well, there are the Post titles and a little space – but they hardly create enough of a visual break from the end of the previous post. This is crucial in a blog design since most posts are completely stand alone thoughts/entities. I don’t want my readers to be skimming an article about Beaver football and suddenly be reading about Success Stories.

Post Data: Similar to the problem with the post divisions, each post’s Date, Author and Comments are completely without style. This is problematic for the same reasons as the post divisions. Though the Who, What, When data is relevant to the post – it is not the content. There needs to be some clear distinction between the two.

heading.jpg

Here is an example of nice post division and post data:

Footer: Once again – the footer junk just gets blended into the content. Some sort of divider there would be greatly appreciated.


So, overall – a nice theme – clean and minimalist, which is certainly to be admired today with any web design. The included features are greatly appreciated. It’s the basic elements that were overlooked in this case. Perhaps they will be touched up in future! Either way, nice work Steven and Stefan and thanks for providing everyone with yet another nice option for their blog.What do you think?

Update: I failed to mentionThis review is of the version that regular WordPress.com users can activate. Of course, if you are hosting a WordPress blog elsewhere, Garland’s true features become available. Steve Wittens talks about it below:

In the Drupal version:

Lists are properly styled and have bullets.
The post meta info (author / date) blends in better.
Posts have a nice divider between them.
Comments are styled completely differently.
(sidebars) This is really 8 themes in 1. You can remove the left and right sidebars if you want (without leaving a blank space), and the theme comes in a fluid and fixed width version (which centers itself).
You can lock colors together to auto-generate part or whole of the color scheme based on a single color.

Be sure to read his full comment below. If you are looking for the Drupal version you can get it here. You can also give the color picker a spin.
Thanks Steve!

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8 Responses to “Critique of the new WordPress Theme: Garland”

  1. Heine Says:

    Small correction: The Garland theme design (and color picker) is by Steven Wittens and Stefan Nagtegaal and ported to WordPress by Matt Mullenweg.

  2. unconeddrupal Says:

    Perhaps you should try out the original Drupal version instead. It address many of your concerns. I guess WordPress’ limitations forced Matt to strip some of the advanced features, but IMO he also ‘damaged’ the design a bit.

    You can check out the Drupal version online and try our color changer too.

    In the Drupal version:

    Lists are properly styled and have bullets.
    The post meta info (author / date) blends in better.
    Posts have a nice divider between them.
    Comments are styled completely differently.
    (sidebars) This is really 8 themes in 1. You can remove the left and right sidebars if you want (without leaving a blank space), and the theme comes in a fluid and fixed width version (which centers itself).
    You can lock colors together to auto-generate part or whole of the color scheme based on a single color.

  3. Steven Wittens Says:

    Sorry, I was still logged in with my test account when I posted the above.

  4. PSP Dude Says:

    Where can i download the wordpress version for install on my own domain?

  5. Andrew Says:

    I think that the developers are holding it until they launch their own service (that uses the Garland Theme). However, You could try asking Steve Wittens.

  6. Romer!can Says:

    Please considering turning off the Snap “preview” because it’s highly annoying that anytime you mouseover a link (to click it, to view the destination, on accident, whatever) something pops up in my face and obscures the very content I am trying to read.

    Not to mention a waste of bandwidth, which the user did not request. It’s forced on the reader without their consent.

    • 1earedprodmgr Says:

      Agree, thanks for the timely reminder. I meant to turn that thing off on my blog. Gonna do that right now…

      Have you read Alan Cooper’s About Face 3: the essentials of interaction design? Loved that book. It realigned my thinking about software. How could I forget popups=bad. Duh.


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