Flexible New Licensing for Thesis Skins and Boxes

With last week’s release of Thesis 2.1.9, we also released a round of updates for our Skins and Boxes. While these updates improved functionality and performance (you know, the usual stuff), they also included new, open-source MIT licenses.

I’ll go into the licensing details in a moment, but first, I want to tell you a story about how this all came to be.

It’s All About Leverage

The whole point of Thesis is to provide leverage that drastically reduces the amount of repetitive code work and energy required to create a customized, high-performance website.

Thesis Skins and Boxes are digital embodiments of this leverage—they are optimized pieces you can use to build any kind of website you want.

The big idea here is that inspired developers will see how easy it is to create Skins and Boxes, and then they’ll go about making their own (and eventually share them with the community for everyone’s benefit).

To some extent, this is precisely what has happened, but admittedly, the reality of the situation has been underwhelming.

And now I understand why.

Our previous licensing made it so developers (or just intrepid tinkerers) had to create their own Skins or Boxes from scratch. Thesis contains all sorts of APIs and developer-y things that make this job easy, and even though these things provide some leverage, completed Skins and Boxes provide way more.

For example, all of our Skins come with options that let you make powerful design changes from the comfort of a simple interface. These options have to be integrated into the Skin’s code and also into the CSS, and honestly, it’s both challenging and time-consuming to integrate these things.

When you change something like the font size in your Skin Design options, you might logically think only one thing—the font size—changes. But this is not how our Thesis Skins work.

The problem here is that you cannot change just one thing and hope your design is still going to look good (because everything is related!). Instead, when you change your font size, your Skin carefully recalculates every physical dimension in your layout to ensure your design looks pixel perfect on every device.

This is high-level stuff that no other website design software can do, but as I’ve already mentioned, it’s kind of a pain in the butt for developers to integrate.

Thus, a Skin that includes integrated design options provides you with way more leverage than a Skin that doesn’t. I didn’t realize what an important, non-trivial point this was until I saw Criss Cross, a cool new Skin from Thesis enthusiast Tom Soler.

As soon as I saw Criss Cross, I knew right away that Tom had basically taken the Promo Skin and turned it into something new and different. Unfortunately, I also knew that, technically speaking, our Skin licensing did not “support” what Tom had done.

But let’s think about this situation for a second. Tom:

  • was motivated to create a Thesis Skin
  • knew how to modify the design with CSS
  • knew how to provide new functionality with custom Boxes
  • wanted to give users more custom templates

Clearly, Tom had the motivation and the know-how to build a useful new Skin and share it with the world. The only thing in his way was the aforementioned (and fairly intense) options integration, but Promo already had that.

Thanks to the leverage provided by Promo, nothing was standing between Tom and a brand new design for you…except our Thesis Skin licensing.

I’ve already said that the point of Thesis is to provide leverage at every step of the website design/development process. As soon as I saw Criss Cross, I realized I had missed what is probably the single most valuable point of leverage—completed Skins and Boxes where the “technical voodoo” is already done.

If Thesis is going to achieve everything I have planned, then I need to help others take advantage of its benefits wherever possible.

The first step I can take in this process is to apply open source MIT licenses to all of our Skins and Boxes. Now everyone can benefit from the good work we’ve already done at every step of the website design process, and this should produce a multiplier effect on creativity out in the wild.

My hope is that this change will not only provide a huge value to the entire Thesis community, but it will also inspire designers and developers to create their own Skins and Boxes without fear of limitations, constraints, or infringement.

Why Choose the MIT License?

Licensing is one of those things that’s rarely understood (and oftentimes flat out misunderstood). In truth, most people just want assurance they’re not violating whatever license they’ve agreed to.

So, why choose the open source MIT license for Thesis Skins and Boxes? Simplicity.

Weighing in at only 162 words, the MIT license is the simplest, easiest-to-understand license in the history of software. The bottom line is this:

Now that Thesis Skins and Boxes carry MIT licenses, you can use them where you want, however you want, without limitation. Copy ’em, modify ’em, or use ’em as the basis for your own work—it’s all good.

Skin Updates

In addition to applying MIT licenses to our Skins, we also made some enhancements to improve responsive design, custom templates, and general usability. Get all the details below.

Oh, and if you’ve never updated a Skin before, here are some instructions on how to update Thesis Skins.

Classic Responsive 1.1

Pearsonified 1.1

Promo 1.2

Social Triggers 1.1

Box Updates

Like our Skins, we’ve updated all our Boxes with MIT licenses. Most of you have probably never needed to update a Box before, so here’s some instructions on how to update your Thesis Boxes.

A Reminder About License Keys

Since version 2.1.8, Thesis has included a page where you can enter a license key to validate your installation.

This capability will not go into full effect until Thesis 2.2, but you can get your site ready now by entering your license key.

What’s Next?

We’re currently focused on Thesis 2.2, ever-evolving documentation, and a special new Skin collaboration with the Hodder brothers of Themedy Themes fame.

And even though I’ve got plenty to keep me busy, I’m always happy to see what you’ve been doing with Thesis, so don’t hesitate to drop me a link on Twitter or even here in the comments. Go ahead and show off a little—you’ve earned it!

About the author: Thesis creator Chris Pearson is obsessed with optimizing the web and making sure every last detail receives the attention it requires. Follow DIYthemes on Twitter for the latest tips and info on building truly awesome websites.