Universally, everything that sticks around for a while undergoes a process of specialization, and WordPress is not an exception to this rule. WP has been with us for a long time, boasts a widespread amount of installs, and it’s periodically worked on, and updated. On the front-end side of things, any developer will have not failed to notice that themes, with time, have shifted more and more out of static design forms. They have evolved into design tools in themselves, in the sense that their aim is to become “The Only Theme You Ever Need”. What they mean is that, instead of being locked up into a static design as it used to be the norm, you get a set of building blocks to design your own themes ad infinitum.
“When you do, you’ll be treated to a very different experience in the way of edition: a really fast, interactive, and well thought interface”
I find this “multi-purpose” idea brilliant, both from a design and a practical perspective. In terms of design, learning a particular tool well leads to more confidence, speed, and recycling. From a practical perspective, there’s no need to spend any more time or money hunting for themes for your next project: make up your own with the tools you know, and recycle your best blocks and components.
In the search for the theme to end all themes, I’ve run into Bateaux, by developer TwistTheme, so let’s see how well it fills this niche.
The download is about 30 mb, and the first pleasant surprise is the inclusion of a child theme to work on without fear of losing your tweaks with the next update. After installing the theme and the core plugins, the next move is either to configure everything from zero, or to perform an import of the included sample data and take it from there. The sample designs are pretty cool and will get you on your way very quickly if you don’t have the time to re-invent the wheel. Control over typography is handled through Google Fonts, Typekit and Custom Fonts. The theme is multi-language through WPML integration, and not only does it support WooCommerce, it comes preloaded with modules for it, and offers tailored options when you’re editing a product page. This is great.
The theme’s looks and behavior are controlled via the Customizer, and it’s refreshing to have buttons that show what everything looks like in tablets and mobiles, with instant visualization. After all the setting-up is done, your next stop will be to become familiar with the strongest feature of this theme, which is the signature “Blueprint” page-builder.
The Blueprint page-builder is an original invention of the authors, and you can tell they have poured a lot of effort into it. Essentially it’s a separate app, available whenever you edit a post or a page. You can opt to edit in the classic way, or to fire Blueprint. When you do, you’ll be treated to a very different experience in the way of edition: a really fast, interactive, and well thought interface, which you can use to build your creations: structure sections within sections, edit properties with context-aware option panels (it includes a full-screen button to maximize space, and a Preview button -which works in real time- as well) and a lot more.
Through Blueprint, you will play around with lots of universal building blocks such as blog entries, contact forms, galleries, featured posts, product categories for your shop, sliders, and also elements unique to Bateaux, such as testimonials, team, modal (pop-ups), and other interactive elements. This, in sum, is where the action happens, and the core area from where you can unleash your creative potential to invent something new, or simply use any of the included templates, which look already great in terms of grid design and visual space. It will take some time to get used to, but probably visual design interfaces are where the future of WordPress is heading towards. Bateaux’s Blueprint editor does a really fine job at offering all of that today. To sum up Bateaux:
- Great design, elegant and aesthetic.
- Truly responsive and retina-ready.
- Nice included toys like Slider Revolution.
- Lots of cool templates and designs out of the box.
- Not only WooCommerce-friendly, but including pre-made designs to deploy right away with your shop.
- Multi-lingual ready through WPML compatibility. – A bazillion of options for customization.
- Fast: GTMetrix reports a PageSpeed score of 97%
- A truly useful, original and quick page-builder that may arguably hold the key to the “last theme you will ever need” WP holy grail: why buy any other theme, if you can build anything you can think of using this one? Moreover, the more you use it the more you’ll know how to get what you want.
- Clean and light page-builder. Since the author designed Blueprint very light and clean, you will find it very fast compare to other page-builder in the market. Everything interacts real time with no waiting time and need to click “save” button.
- Zealous, responsive customer service.
- A lot but worth to learn. The downside of not having to mess with the code is of course the amount of options available, to tweak the theme so it will do what you want. You’ll need to dedicate a certain amount of time to understand where everything is, what it does, and how it does it.
- The documentation is okay, but needs expanding with more detail on the concepts, and examples. But they are reportedly working on it.
Bateaux is built aesthetically around typography and intelligent grids, with great attention to detail, so it looks gorgeous. It comes with a lot goodies out of the box, and many fantastic designs to kick off. It’s clearly built from the ground up upon the new WP ethos of being not a theme, but a platform to create themes. As such, everything can be adjusted through options, which is great if you look for quick WP development cycles and minimal fiddling with coding. The flip side of so much control is obviously the massive amount of options needed to set everything to your liking. And since each designer crafts their theme according to their own idiosyncrasy and ability, stuff is located in different places, organized under its own internal logic. In that sense, Bateaux needs, in my opinion, to reorganize its options a little bit, and to expand on the documentation. The authors have told me they are indeed working on this.
In terms of support from the developers, I must say it has been excellent. I have contacted them with a couple of questions and got a succinct reply in less than an hour, which is great in my book (consider other themes’s authors who’ll take a week to reply, if at all). By browsing Bateaux’s support forum you can quickly tell issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently, and that the authors are really behind their theme. Hopefully they will continue to develop it and expand it even further. Highly recommended.
Bateaux REVIEW by [email protected]