Thesis 2.7: Do Websites Ever Get Easier to Build and Maintain?

Thesis celebrated its 10th birthday in early 2018, and now version 2.7 adds another chapter to this incomparable legacy.

In the WordPress ecosystem, nearly everything grows bigger, slower, and more complicated over time. Themes, Plugins, you name it—they all succumb to feature creep, which most developers think is a necessary evil for growth and survival.

I have spent the last 8 years consciously moving Thesis in the opposite direction.

My only goal is to make it easier for you to run a faster, more accessible, and more maintainable website.

In other words, I’m focused on EASE.

From experience, I know most people will blindly follow the WordPress death-march toward endless complication.

But I’m hopeful what I’m about to say will resonate with many of you and provide some clarity that will reduce the stress you feel around your website.

Think about your own experience…

Have you run a website for longer than 2 years? Have you ever tried to change designs after already having one highly customized design?

If so, then you know long term adaptability is a real disaster.

This is the “big secret” WordPress Theme companies don’t want you to know…

They hope like hell you’ll use one of their designs (so they can get paid), and then they assume you’re going to hire a designer or developer to handle the tough stuff—customizations, technical integrations, etc.

But I live in the real world, where reliable designers/developers are incredibly hard to find and don’t come cheap.

In fact, they get more expensive every day because the entire industry is moving away from freelancing and toward agency-level positions.

This leaves fewer reasonable options for most website owners, and it forces the most ambitious ones to pay top dollar to work with an agency to handle customizations.

That model doesn’t work for the “little guy.”

So that begs the question: What can the little guy do?

A mindset shift focused on LESS

One of my big themes for 2018 is this idea that WordPress only moves in one direction—more, more, MORE.

If all you ever do is add stuff, your life (or your website) never gets less complicated. As a result, you are constantly forced into a state of discomfort, which means you’re farther and farther away from a state of peace.

But there’s another insidious layer to all this, too…

When WordPress “gives” you more, it’s actually asking more of you in the long term! You’ll have more, alright:

  • Stuff that can break during updates
  • Things to accommodate in your customizations
  • Requirements for add-on components like Themes and Plugins
  • Higher costs for maintenance and support due to the over-complication of everything

What a mess! At this point, you really need to ask yourself:

Has your website truly improved in the last 5 years? Or has it just gotten more complicated and more annoying to deal with?

It doesn’t have to be like this!

That said, the tough decisions are on YOU.

So what can you do? Everyone wants more, but you need less.

It’s time for some tough love and a little responsibility.

You’re going to have to be real with yourself and honest about your goals. You’re going to need to ask yourself:

  • Do I really need all these Plugins?
  • Do visitors care about this highly-customized design, or is it more of a vanity thing for me?
  • Does that huge featured image really add value to my pages, or does it just make things slower for mobile users while forcing them to scroll more to get to content?
  • Do visitors use all 14 links in my nav menu?
  • How about all that junk in your sidebar? Are your visitors somehow immune to “banner blindness,” even though they exhibit it everywhere else on the internet?

These questions often yield uncomfortable answers.

Fact is, you may not be able to do everything you want to do with your website, and for a very good reason:

Website success happens when you align your goals with your visitors’ goals.

At first glance, this seems like an annoying handicap.

“What?!? I may have to change things and/or remove things I like?” (Pro tip: Nothing is sacred!)

But the more you get into the process of removing things that don’t directly serve your goals, you begin to see everything else much more clearly.

Maybe you don’t need that Plugin after all. Maybe you don’t need that crazy design customization that’s causing problems in responsive views.

Maybe your nav menu only needs 3 links instead of 14.

Heck, maybe you don’t even need that nav menu at all!

Join me and ride the Thesis wave into the future

I’ve spent the last couple months revamping the best website on the planet and the Golden Ratio Typography Calculator, and Thesis 2.7 has been an integral part of that process.

In addition to being extremely fast, both sites feature simple designs that have one main goal—to serve content to visitors quickly and clearly.

The result is somewhat shocking compared to the web designs we’ve come to expect over the last 5 years. I also think it’s pretty invigorating.

Consider, for example, some highlights from the new Pearsonified design:

No traditional navigation menu!

Instead of a universal nav, I’m using a technique called funneling that directs visitors deeper into the site via the content on the page. To see this in action, visit the home page and blog page.

You’ll also notice smart breadcrumbs on all internal pages that make it easy to understand and navigate the site hierarchy.

No sidebars

The web is a top-down medium, but designers are always thinking in terms of horizontals (columns, CSS flex boxes, grid systems, etc).

The rise of mobile, however, is pushing everyone in a more vertically-oriented direction. This has created tension between the desire to fill horizontal space on desktop displays and the reality of having no horizontal space on mobile devices.

Ultimately, responsive design is just “horizontal management.” Because of this, I have chosen to eliminate horizontals in my design, and now the responsive design process is as simple as it could possibly be.

This makes it easy, cheap, and even fun to manage my design.

No featured image fluff

“Hero” images have been trendy for years, but they also work against the idea of being efficient and accessible on every device.

In fact, a typical hero image is at least 4x larger than the HTML + CSS content of any page on my site. Thus, I will not use a big image unless it is 100% necessary for the current page.

(To be clear, I still use images wherever they are effective and helpful, but the reality is that huge hero images are generally disconnected from the goal of any particular page.)

“Enhanced” text for greater scannability

What’s the most important thing on any page of your site?

The content!

I’ve been thinking along these lines for a dozen years, but this design has helped me “see” the text in a new way.

As you click around my site, pay special attention to the use of bold text and callouts (alerts, notes, and boxes), which enhance scannability and keep the eye moving down the page.

Essentially, what I’ve done is trade the fluffy, nonessential aspects of design for the little details that improve content and make it more engaging.

The end result is an improvement in metrics related to content consumption—time spent on page, clickthrough rates, bounce rates, conversions, and all that good stuff.

Bottom line: This approach has been an enlightening experience for me, and now it’s your turn.

Don’t worry!

My guess is you’ll be afraid to make radical changes like the ones I detailed above. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder how this might affect your SEO, conversions, or even the “way things have always been” on your site.

Heck, I was worried about my own SEO, mostly because my site has ranked extremely well for nearly 13 years!

My advice after running this design for 3 weeks? Don’t worry about it! Here’s why:

Google is switching all sites to mobile-first indexing

If your site is serving different designs to mobile vs. desktop, you’ll be penalized in the SERPs.

This means mobile Plugins like WP Touch are dead on arrival, and it also means you’ve got to make a concerted effort to have the mobile and desktop versions of your site “match.”

This is extremely easy to do if you employ the same approach I’ve used on my site.

If you like complications and added costs, though, you can always try it another way 😀

Visitors LOVE clarity, and so do search engines!

There is no BS anywhere on my site. Every page dives straight into the content with zero distractions, offers, non-sequitur images, or unrelated calls-to-action.

There are no nav menus to hunt for, no banner ads to dismiss, and no annoying footer elements that are a magnet for accidental clicks on mobile devices.

Not surprisingly, the time spent on each page of my site is way up since the re-design, and I’ve seen a steady improvement in search traffic as well.

Of course, the extremely fast loading times are helpful here, too. The idea is simply to give visitors what they want as quickly as possible.

It may not be rocket science, but it’s certainly effective!

Adaptations and maintenance are easy.

Since I launched the new design, I’ve been employing a kaizen approach to the site, making changes and adaptations as needed.

When I had a more “design-y” design, this type of thing was a real drag—changes took forever to implement, and tweaking one thing often meant negatively affecting another.

Not anymore.

This simpler, stripped-down approach makes it easy to implement changes that work everywhere—on all devices—with minimal effort.

The “big idea” here is that my pages will look and work perfectly 5, 10, even 15 years from now with little or no modifications.

That is ease, and that’s what I want from my website experience.

After all, what’s the point of your website if not to facilitate your life in some way? If your website is a drag, then perhaps you’re doing it wrong. (I know I was.)

I want YOU to stay tuned.

If this stuff “speaks” to you, I’d like to invite you to follow along as we journey down this new path of ease and simplicity.

To do so, type your email address into the box below, and I’ll keep you updated on both the software and techniques I’m using to dominate this new era in website production.

Finally, you may also want to check out Thesis so you can start running your sites the same way I do.

Thank you for reading, and I sincerely hope you found some value here today!

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.

49 comments… add one
  • Hi Chris!

    This is a really refreshing and interesting take on the direction that WordPress is moving with the “more, more, more”.

    I agree that things continue to increase in complexity. I also think that doing what I want to do on my WordPress has gotten easier over time, but then again I am a software gal so that might not be the most accurate measure to go by.

    I think WordPress’ extensibility through plugins and themes is one of the biggest selling points for it, but it’s a double edged sword that can slow down a website, for sure.

    Thanks for marching forward with Thesis and congrats on 10 years too! 🙂

    • Chris Pearson

      Great to see you, Natalie!

      I think WordPress’ extensibility through plugins and themes is one of the biggest selling points for it, but it’s a double edged sword that can slow down a website, for sure.

      Themes and Plugins make WordPress valuable. There’s nothing inherent in either that should slow down a website.

      The target of my criticism is the way Themes and Plugins are built—complication before optimization—and how this pattern repeats itself throughout the WordPress ecosystem.

      The results of this approach are predictably messy. People end up with Frankenstein sites; eventually, even the simplest of changes becomes a brutal challenge.

      Focus takes the opposite approach and offers optimization before complication.

      Your site should be easy.

      If you have limited technical skills or a limited budget, it needs to be easy.

      I used to think the best way to help was to give you features to handle every little thing you might need.

      But experience has revealed the truth:

      The best way to help is to start you at perfection—kinda like a newborn baby—and then help you navigate the website minefield by making conscious decisions about the stuff you add to your site.

  • Great thoughts. I really like simplicity and your site’s new look. Is there any chance you will be releasing a skin that incorporates the same design?

    • Chris Pearson

      Yes! The Skin will be called Focus, but it’s really going to be its own standalone project.

      In other words, I want to do away with this idea of Thesis + [Skins, Boxes] in favor of something simpler, something more…focused.

      At some point in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to buy a thing called Focus, and it’ll be super easy to create a design that is spartan like Pearsonified, a little more colorful like this blog, or wild and crazy like something out of your imagination.

      As long as you’re on my email list (sign up above), you’ll be among the first to know when Focus is available.

      Finally, you may also be interested in this article with video I did to communicate some early thoughts about Focus.

      • James

        Terrific, Chris. Looking forward to Focus.

      • Phil

        When can we expect Focus to be available to buy?

        • Chris Pearson

          Phil, it looks like Focus will be ready for action just before Christmas.

          That’s the absolute worst time of year to sell software, but this will give me about a week to promote it exclusively to my closest followers.

          If you want the earliest access possible, you’ll need to join my mailing list in the tan box on this page (in the sidebar).

          • Phil

            Thanks, Chris that’s great. I’m just about to embark on a new project, and Focus looks to be exactly what I need.

  • I can see what you are saying and it will work for many. But will they do it?

    It does depend on what the website is trying to achieve.

    Most valid point is that most are using mobile phones for the Internet.

    Every WP site I see is full of plugins, many deactivated. Many could be done away with.

    • Chris Pearson

      I can see what you are saying and it will work for many. But will they do it?

      People who “get it” will come along for the ride.

      It’s really more of a perspective shift than anything else.

      Instead of starting with an overbuilt Theme that tries to cater to everybody out of the box, Focused people will start with a perfectly optimized base and then add precisely what they need.

      “Heavy” decisions—the ones that have a big impact on performance and also require a lot of CSS accommodation—are left up to the user.

      This makes a ton of sense given the environment we now find ourselves in, where Themes are more foundational and less functional:

      • People now use Page Builders for critical pages instead of Themes.
      • Extended Theme functionality has found a more stable home in Plugins.
      • Responsive design has had a limiting effect on the boundaries of sensibility; as a result, intricate designs cannot be justified when we discuss website foundations.

      In any rapidly changing environment, the best players are going to exhibit key traits of adaptability, agility, and efficiency.

      That’s where Focus fits into this equation.

  • Bobby

    Doesn’t google favour websites that are not just text? We used to build sites with very little imagery but felt it made people less interested to stay on the site.
    Most people won’t churn through large blocks of text. They are fickle and want to look at pictures and “cool” stuff.
    I think it depends on your niche.

    • Chris Pearson

      Doesn’t google favour websites that are not just text?

      Who said anything about an all-text website with no images?

      In the article above, I specifically reference “hero” images as being trendy and largely unnecessary.

      (Hero images are the massive images at the top of the page that generally do little to enhance the “plot”—but they do substantially increase loading times!)

      The practice of including hero images has become a mindless, expectation-driven sort of thing.

      People are no longer thinking critically about how these images affect visitors on different devices, loading times, or long term page maintenance.

      I’m all for images in general, but only if they enrich the page by adding critical information that cannot be conveyed in a more efficient, higher-impact way.

      For example, my page about the math behind the Golden Ratio Typography Calculator includes a bunch of images and equations.

      Obviously, it would be very difficult to convey such complex information without images.

      Most people won’t churn through large blocks of text. They are fickle and want to look at pictures and “cool” stuff.

      I agree! Large blocks of text are especially bad. That’s why I try to keep all my “paragraphs” to 4 lines of text or less (on desktop devices).

      Short, staccato-style writing keeps people engaged in an era of decreasing attention spans.

      (But this has nothing to do with images.)

      And yeah, people are fickle—they’ll browse Instagram and Pinterest all day, tapping on videos and images like zombies.

      But here’s the thing…our websites are not Instagram or Pinterest.

      If images are your main “product,” then I assume you know more about the metrics than I do and will proceed accordingly.

  • I agree with some points but not others. Ugly sites do not invite people to dig further. Just a fact. I don’t think people need 1/2 the plugins they are using, however visual is still important to many people, not all, and not in all area’s. However I don’t think we’re at a just the facts stage, and when people have a choice between working with someone who has a beautiful website and one not so much, I believe they go with the beautiful, and again beautiful doesn’t have to be complicated, but has to appeal to the eye. I am not a fan of the more more more, and am not a fan of the current direction that WP is heading. I like simple first and then add what is needed. I like design isn’t content, and content isn’t design. However apparently that in the design world is changing too.

    • Chris Pearson

      Ugly sites do not invite people to dig further. Just a fact.

      Awww, Shari, I’m bummed you think my new design is ugly 😀

      However I don’t think we’re at a just the facts stage, and when people have a choice between working with someone who has a beautiful website and one not so much, I believe they go with the beautiful, and again beautiful doesn’t have to be complicated, but has to appeal to the eye.

      Your perspective is 100% colored by the fact you design websites for clients.

      Clients will always choose an option that excites them visually, and that’s sort of the point of everything I’m talking about right now.

      Clients don’t know what works best and what can be managed long-term! They just know what appeals to them right now.

      Far too often, clients’ concerns are elevated to a point where they reign supreme.

      Do you hire a plumber and then tell them what to do?

      Do you tell an artist how to paint?

      Then why do clients get to do this with the people who build websites for them?

      It doesn’t make sense.

      Everything I’m working on right now is informed by the cycle of pain and problems I see over, and over, and over again.

      Here’s how it works:

      • Client hires designer and has a website built (after a lot of pain).
      • Client constantly struggles with the inevitable changes that occur over time, and these struggles get worse as the original designer is no longer available to help.
      • Client gets suffocated by the need to adapt and an inability to do so, especially since their highly customized sites are calcified and cumbersome to manage.
      • Most clients give up. Some will throw money at the problem out of desperation, but psychologically, they’ll be in a bad place with this whole process.

      This life cycle is decidedly negative. I’ve seen it for years, and I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.

      I want to stop leading people into brick walls. I want to prepare them for the future and reduce the stress they feel over their websites.

      Simplicity and focus are the only ways to achieve this.

      Please note this approach does not mean “no images” or any other type of digital extremism.

      On my personal site, I am committed to only including things that are 100% mission critical on any given page.

      I could have included featured images—this is easy with Focus—but like I said, I cannot personally justify the use of images that are at least 4x larger than the rest of the page (in terms of kB).

      The bottom line for me is that as viewing devices get smaller, text gets more important, and everything else gets less important.

      And now that Google wants your mobile pages to be identical to your desktop pages, it’s no longer possible to justify elaborate design details in desktop environments that must be suppressed or hidden in mobile environments.

      (And if you examine all this stuff in terms of loading times and performance, design complications get even harder to justify.)

      I like design isn’t content, and content isn’t design. However apparently that in the design world is changing too.

      WordPress is attempting to change this with Gutenberg, and like I said in the article above, I fully expect people to follow this death-march to a place of frustration and over-complication.

      The bottom line is Gutenberg violates a fundamental principle of system design, and this will have massive ripple effects on the people who use it.

      Meanwhile, I will be focusing on those who want a breath of fresh air and simplicity in the face of all this over-complication.

      • I wasn’t calling your site ugly. I* would call it plain. So when I said ugly, I wasn’t speaking about your site. I think plain has a place, and can be refreshing.

        I agree with your assessment of Gutenberg.

        When someone is paying for something customized, they are paying so they need to like it. I do design for them and their opinion. If I hired someone to redo my bathroom, I want it to look how I want, not how they think it should look to be the most efficient bathroom.

        Again, I don’t think bells and whistles help, and instruct my clients in that. However websites are a reflection of the person represented; until that isn’t the case, plain, simple, to the point, isn’t going to work for everyone.

        • Chris Pearson

          When someone is paying for something customized, they are paying so they need to like it. I do design for them and their opinion. If I hired someone to redo my bathroom, I want it to look how I want, not how they think it should look to be the most efficient bathroom.

          And this is precisely my larger point.

          When people pay for websites, they think they want to call all the shots and determine the final outcome.

          This approach is guaranteed to result in a site that is overbuilt, over-designed, and hard to maintain.

          It guarantees they will need a designer or developer’s help when making changes in the future.

          The entire reason I wrote this post is because I have seen this path lead to pain and problems thousands of times.

          I have not seen a single instance where this led to happiness in the long term, except when a designer or developer is always available to help (which almost never happens).

          The point is not to make people happy at Stage 1 (when a site is launched).

          The point is to make it possible for people to navigate the ever-changing landscape of their website over time, which is a far more realistic view of how websites actually work.

          This is Stage 2 thinking, and that’s where my work is headed.

  • I’m going to steal some of the stuff you did on your site. I really enjoy the Dig Deeper part and the. And to be honest I use thesis in some places but there’s just too much c*** for me on it, when i simoly wanted the basic things, so I kept switching to other themes always trying to find the one that was simple and clean. The theme that would deliver my content as I wanted it to be delivered.

    So on some of my sites I use it on others I don’t.

    On my personal site and I am not but I think I will. WordPress had a theme P2P which I personally loved using on my blog for the simple fact that it was fast and I could comment on my own post; I could drop my thoughts there stream stream-of-consciousness right onto the page but it never quite did it for me, but there was something genius in the way that worked.

    I only mention it because I always found it to be a fast simple and a very clean clear way to deliver content and to have conversations with people, evendors if that person was myself.

    As for Thesis, when I tend to use it was for the landing page.

    You know, to be nostalgic, what I miss, was the ease of dropping a YouTube video into a dialog box on a specific page and have that video connected to that page and not on any other pages. Just a brief nostalgia!

  • Hi Chris,

    Thanks for T2.7

    I liked the layout on your blog posts and inner pages very much, but I wasn’t so sure about the front page or the blog page.

    I agree somewhat with Shari’s point, in that I try to my sites ‘a nice place to be’, while still keeping them simple. By that I don’t mean breathtakingly beautiful, but something that makes people feel comfortable and, hopefully therefore, happy to stay a while.

    I absolutely agree with the problems that arise from more, more, more, and Gutenberg exemplifies this.



    • Chris Pearson

      I agree somewhat with Shari’s point, in that I try to my sites ‘a nice place to be’, while still keeping them simple. By that I don’t mean breathtakingly beautiful, but something that makes people feel comfortable and, hopefully therefore, happy to stay a while.

      This is totally reasonable, and it’s how I felt before redoing Pearsonified.

      During the overhaul process, I made decisions that simplified one thing after another, and the result is the purest HTML and massively-customizable CSS you can serve with WordPress.

      My intent was to have a friendly BRIO train set color vibe like this site, but even that seemed superfluous after considering every little tweak for mobile environments.

      Focus makes it easy to add far more color to your site than what you see on Pearsonified, but in the end, I just wanted black text on a white page.

      Finally, you mentioned you wanted people to feel comfortable and “stay a while.” I love this sentiment!

      Interestingly, my two biggest “stay a while” metrics—pages per session and time spent on page—are way up since the redesign.

      In other words, people are reading more and clicking around more.

      According to psychology, this is a predictable result. My design asks visitors to make fewer decisions, so they just dive right in.

      Even something that seems essential (like a nav menu) may actually be inhibiting connections on your website because it carries a lot of psychological weight.

      But that can be really hard to “see” until you try something else!

      • I need to take another look at, and have a think about, menus. I’m also very focused on the ‘customer journey’ and intuitive navigation, but I’ve relied quite heavily on nav menus in trying to deliver that.

        On another point, I’ve used Thesis exclusively since version 1.2 (which was in 2008, I think). If I understand correctly Focus is not a skin, but a new framework – is it going to replace Thesis, or is Thesis going to take on some of the thinking behind Focus and continue in parallel..?


        • Chris Pearson

          If I understand correctly Focus is not a skin, but a new framework – is it going to replace Thesis, or is Thesis going to take on some of the thinking behind Focus and continue in parallel..?

          The ultimate goal here is to make Focus a WordPress Theme that incorporates the essential pieces of Thesis—a massive chunk—”behind the scenes.”

          As I’ve said before, Thesis is just an “engine of potential,” and it takes a Skin to realize any of that potential.

          A hard shift to Focus will allow me to remove some legacy concerns from Thesis, improve the way templates work, and also introduce a new customization layer that will blow everyone’s mind.

  • Love the idea and agree completely. Could you give a list of the essential plugins you are using? Look forward to reading more.

    • Chris Pearson

      Right now, I only view two Plugins as essential:

      • Google XML Sitemaps
      • WP Fastest Cache

      I run the sitemap Plugin for enhanced indexing and search data via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

      And I run caching because it introduces greater speed and efficiency once your design is stable.

  • Will

    Hi Chris – I have not commented here in years although I have used Thesis on 4 different sites since 2007 or 08. Recently while updating and streamlining a long neglected site, I started thinking about this very thing. Ironically I may have just changed that thinking a bit after reading your post.

    I had thought maybe I needed to stop using Thesis because it seemed to me too complicated and time consuming keeping all the custom functions and CSS up to date now that I am retired and want to move life in general in a simpler direction. The change to mobile focus seems to dictate a move to simpler and more streamlined sites.

    But…. since you are obviously thinking along the same lines, (simplification), maybe I will stick with Thesis. I think my first step after all these years will be to start Thesis from scratch so that nothing gets added, (or kept), that does not follow the approach I was thinking I needed and which you describe well in this post. Thanks!

    • Chris Pearson

      I think my first step after all these years will be to start Thesis from scratch so that nothing gets added, (or kept), that does not follow the approach I was thinking I needed and which you describe well in this post.

      This is a great first step and precisely what I would recommend to just about everybody!

  • Chris, I like where you’re going with Thesis! I like how you have simplified your blog & website, increased the typography, added highlights to catch the eye, all of it! I am a visual learner and tend toward highlights and images. You are right, many people use images incorrectly and don’t tend to make them plot oriented. Even my clients have used stock images just to fill whitespace. For those of us who are visual surfers and learners, this is aggravating. You have just enough highlights, to keep me interested and reading.

    One thing I would like to point out, although really just frill… When you linked the word, “kaizen” above, it was very distracting to have the link take you to another page for the definition. Someone who is ADD may find that very distracting. A thought I had was, why not make that into a little mouseover pop up? That way, the reader doesn’t need to leave the page and can stay focused on what they’re reading. This, of course, is a frill, but I noticed for myself that this broke my concentration from the flow of reading this article. The same could be said for links throughout an article where you’re trying to keep your reader focused. Using a mouseover popup which shows an excerpt of the page the link goes to, could help the reader decide if they would like to read now or later. This suggestion is only for those links within an article that are not self-explanatory.

    Great job! I like what you’ve done with the place! 🙂

    • Chris Pearson

      Hi Heidi, I’m glad you’re following along and liking the direction!

      A thought I had was, why not make that into a little mouseover pop up?

      I’m totally with you on this one. The most handy behavior does require JavaScript, though, so there’s a tiny downside.

      That said, I love what Medium does with “inline footnotes” that reveal explanatory text on hover.

      I’m not sure how they handle this on mobile devices.

  • Ian

    Chris, we’ve been chatting for a while on twitter (@lawrebel) so you know my thoughts on Wordpress, Gutenberg et al.

    This is 100% the way forward 🙂

    You mentioned in the comments:

    In other words, I want to do away with this idea of Thesis + [Skins, Boxes] in favor of something simpler, something more…focused.

    Are you inferring that skins/boxes will no longer be usable under the Thesis framework? (ie. flex, classic, personified etc will be redundant)

    • Chris Pearson

      Are you inferring that skins/boxes will no longer be usable under the Thesis framework?

      I am not implying this—for all intents and purposes, Skins and Boxes are Thesis.

      From a user’s perspective, all the value of Thesis comes in the form of Skins and Boxes.

      The problem is that most people still think of Thesis as a Theme. Truth is, Thesis hasn’t been a Theme since October 2, 2012.

      In reality, Thesis Skins are the new WordPress Themes.

      But because you have to install Thesis before you can install Skins, this setup is confusing.

      To address this basic issue, I’m taking a new direction with Focus. While it will technically be a Thesis Skin, Focus will be presented as its own thing.

      At some point (but not initially), you’ll be able to install Focus, and it’ll have everything it needs.

      In other words, you won’t need to install Thesis and then install Focus as a Skin.

      Boxes are separate and will not be affected by this “administrative change” at all, as they are foundational to the way we now build pages.

      Gutenberg Blocks are actually a lot like Boxes, but in my opinion, Boxes are far more powerful and are also a more “correct” application of this technology to HTML templates.

      Bottom line: You won’t lose your Skins or your Boxes, but at some point in the future, I’ll be shifting my…focus…from Thesis + Skins + Boxes to Focus + whatever Focus needs (probably Boxes).

      If all this not-so-great explanation has done is confuse you, don’t worry about it. You’re not going to lose anything, but the landscape is indeed going to change.

      And in case I’ve not been completely clear, I will not be updating the current Skins any longer. I’m 100% focused on Focus.

      (But that does not mean the current Skins will no longer work.)

      • Ian

        Now you’ve got me intrigued. Sounds very interesting. Looking forward to developments.

  • Oh man. This really spoke to me.

    The desire for simplicity in my life is recurring theme, though — sadly — at odds with much of life of late.

    For example, I have added more and more images to my site because of the desire to appease a certain Search Engine (as I’m told media is helpful for that) but I’ve always preferred to include imagery only when it adds value (“is it better than the white space it covers?”)

    The two desires are at odds of one another, of course…

    Great post, Chris! I am off to check out your new site.

    • Chris Pearson

      More images don’t really matter for search.

      Like I said in the article, germane images are a significant value-add for any page, but because of performance concerns, you should never include an image just for the sake of including an image.

      Aside from that, I’m glad my message of simplicity is starting to resonate!

      My goal with Focus is to keep people on a track that will allow them to adapt to an ever-changing future. The only way to do that is to keep things simple and manageable.

      In other words, even people who are not technically savvy need to be able to control as much of their sites as possible. Focus is a tool they can use to achieve this.

  • Ian

    Chris, I recall on one of your recent Periscopes that you discussed tools vs platforms. You talked about removing wordpress comments and using FB or twitter as the comment platform.

    I came across this site today that does just that. In fact they have a “comment on twitter” link.

    Check it out. Pretty cool I thought.

    • Chris Pearson

      I really like the “comment on twitter” feature! I may add that to all of my pages where I’ve closed comments.

  • Wow. The cool gadget creep is what killed my blogging several years ago. The theme I was using (another brand) continued to update and was billed as being easier to use. In fact, it was exactly the opposite and I no longer had the time to learn new hooks, sliders, parents and children. Seriously! Now that I’m retired, I’d like to start writing again. Perhaps I’ll start anew with Thesis.

    • Chris Pearson

      Lots of people are in this boat, Jim.

      Websites have been around long enough that people have now witnessed entire life cycles:

      • Building the site for initial launch
      • Creating content and connecting with others
      • Updates, compatibility, and adapting to change
      • Getting overwhelmed by technical concerns
      • Eventually giving up

      I want to help people like you start fresh. Websites are fun tools that anyone can use for creation and communication, but the market lacks an ethos of simplicity that creates true accessibility for everyone.

      With Focus, I am bringing that ethos to the forefront.

  • Bob Thedino

    Why do your blog posts never have the date on them?

    • Chris Pearson

      People are fickle and will not read if they think something is old.

      (For example, it would be fun and interesting to know if you simply commented rather than reading this article after failing to see a date that made you think it would be worthwhile.)

      To combat this, I remove the dates on posts that contain evergreen insights.

      • Bob Thedino

        Good point, and I agree with you. I guess I sometimes use the blog to find out when various versions were released, but I realise I really should be looking at the changelog page for this.

  • Your approach really speaks to me, especially considering all of the problems my wife and I are currently experiencing with our site. I’m curious to know what your recommendation would be.

    You see, we have a membership site, with a shop, digital downloads, a forum and social network. All of which require loads of plugins, all from different developers. No wonder our site has issues!

    After reading this, and watching your Focus video, I just want to tear it all down and simplify, but I’m not sure how to do that. Especially where our membership programs and shop comprise our full time income. What do you think?

    • Chris Pearson

      Hi Steve, your situation is exactly what I have in mind when I speak about the need for a simpler approach.

      Unfortunately, you’re in a mature situation that is now full of complex entanglements.

      For example, you are currently relying on Plugins for some things Thesis can do on its own (like Google Analytics and MailChimp integration).

      The MailChimp Plugin in particular is heavy and requires jQuery plus additional JavaScript on every page of your site, even if there is no email signup on the page.

      You could probably “move” MailChimp functionality over to Thesis without too much fuss, but this is just one example out of many on your site.

      Basically, your situation is this: You have a few core Plugin dependencies, but it’s up to you to identify which ones are absolutely necessary and which ones are added fluff.

      Because these seemingly-small fluff pieces come with big, fat JS dependencies, I would approach them with extreme prejudice:

      Do your users really need enhanced profile pages?

      Do you really need WP Cart to go along with WooCommerce (which is already a behemoth in its own right)?

      Can WooCommerce do what Paid Memberships Pro is doing?

      This process is never easy because it always feels like we are “losing something” or “giving something up.” In reality, your visitors will be gaining speed, and in turn, you’ll gain engagement and sales.

      I don’t know what the right answers are for your site, but I do know that the longer we operate with lots of dependencies, the more certain it becomes we will experience catastrophic failure.

      And last but not least, I just can’t help myself (because I’ve made this same mistake before)—

      What I often see with businesses is that they try to offer their customers far too many things (in the name of comfort, convenience, or seeking to provide value).

      What often turns out to be true is the bulk of your audience only cares about a fraction of the value you thought you were providing.

      If you determine precisely what your primary users want/need, you can make more informed decisions about what to cut and what to keep.

      • Chris Pearson

        I just noticed a complete disaster on your site.

        What is this Peep SEO Data thing? It’s adding a TON of markup to every page of your site.

        I don’t care what this Plugin claims to do; what it actually does is destroy every page on your site by making them 3-5 times larger than they ought to be.

        I recommend removing this immediately. There are no deep insights here that cannot be gleaned from a combination of Google Analytics and Google Search Console, both of which are de facto incorporated by virtue of your Google Analytics tracking code.

        • Thank you so much for taking the time to look at my site and for your insight and recommendations. It looks like we have some hard decisions to make.

          Regarding that plugin, I think you might be referring to PeepSo. It basically adds a social network like Facebook to your site. But I had no idea it affected every page of our site…I’m going to reach out to the developers to see what can be done. Thanks again!

        • One more question…if I have something like PeepSo that I decide to keep, is there any wisdom in moving it to a subdomain?

          • Chris Pearson

            Perhaps, but I don’t see how this is worthwhile.

            The trend is toward social interactions (on the platforms themselves) and AWAY from interactions on websites.

            The attempt to recreate a social environment on your own site works against the prevailing trends.

            When we’re talking about this level of technical complication and maintenance, I don’t see how you can possibly justify running PeepSo on your own site.

          • It all comes down to the ability for us to communicate, share content and live stream to a specific paid membership level on our website. We could do it through Facebook groups; however, Facebook does not have the ability to automatically add and remove members as they subscribe and unsubscribe from a membership level. So I would end up having to manually add and removed members. This is why I am using PeepSo—because they automatically gain and lose access to our content based on their membership level.

            But your input does have me wondering if there’s another way to accomplish this without PeepSo…being the resource hog it is.

  • Pierre Côté

    Hi Chris

    Best article I’ve read for many years.
    I cant wait to test drive this and implement.
    Bravo, Pierre

  • Ariel Berloto

    Chris, any idea how to deal with posts that have tons of comments? Focus will have some new options to handle this like a “show more comments” ? I would like to get rid of a stupid plugin that I use in one blog. What do you think about this?

    • Chris Pearson

      Hi Ariel, Focus does not include anything special for comment management. You can find lazy-loading Plugins that pull just a few comments at a time, but like you said—those can be annoying.

      Other than that, you may just want to change your comment display settings and only show like 10 per page.

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