Story time. You see, Photocrati doesn’t just make a WordPress theme. In fact, we also make one of the most popular WordPress gallery plugin in the directory. In addition, we run many websites dedicated to the photography industry. The one I will be talking about in this article is Seven By Five, which is a community driven photography magazine.
Although we make our own theme for WordPress it is designed specifically for artists like painters, photographers and so on. As WordPress developers, we know the limits of our product and when it is worth using another company’s product.
For a while, Seven By Five was running an outdated WordPress theme. While the theme was nice, it had some downsides. For one, there were many features that we wished it had but because it was an older theme these features were out of the question. The developers no longer made updates to the theme, so we were basically out of luck and had to install a wide range of plugins to add features were needed. The theme also had its own SEO settings built-in, but unfortunately were not robust enough for our needs. We wanted to install WordPress SEO by Yoast, but it conflicted with the theme so much we couldn’t use it. The list can go on, but many of our issues were similar to that. Incompatibility was driving us to frustrated maintenance and who wants that, right?
In total we had over third-five plugins activated and used in order to have the site run the way we needed. There was one major problem that we had, which could no longer be ignored. You see, now that the volume of mobile users is about equal to those on a desktop, responsive web design is a must for any web-based magazine. (source: techcrunch)
The original website design was a simple magazine design. Unfortunately it did not scale so well on a mobile device, so when a visitor went to read an article or view a photograph, the experience was not as appetizing as we wanted.
The Final Straw
After years of this setup, we finally got fed up with one major effect of the endless conflicts. The site went down and our developers identified a few theme/plugin conflicts that overloaded the server. We were tired of losing readers because of the immense amount of issues. So I was tasked with the job of redesigning the website by the end of the day.
In addition to being a photographer in NJ, I am a huge WordPress fan (I mean, I do work for a company making WordPress themes). With that, I knew I’d have fun taking on the task researching good themes for the site, implementing it and customizing what was necessary. So on my way I went.
Most of us at Photocrati are big fans of the Genesis theme and its many child themes. In fact, we use it on a few of our websites already, and being that we already had a relationship with some of the StudioPress team, it was a no brainer for me to start there. Immediately I found what would be the perfect theme for the new site design, but I grabbed a few other links and sent them off to the team for voting. There was a unanimous vote for the Metro child theme for Genesis. From there, it was a few clicks away from uploading the theme to the server for customizing.
Although there was still a lot of work to be done, like some custom CSS and added scripts to the theme’s functions.php file, it was already one hundred and five times better than the original website. So then CSS changes were made, some custom scripts were added (for related posts, custom favicon, footer and so on) and then it was time to move on to the plugins that typically caused us headaches.
Remember before I said we have around thirty-five plugins activated? After switching to Genesis, we were able to cut out a lot of those and now have twenty active plugins. Some of which are our own plugins that we developed for internal use, and some are simple add-ons like for Gravity Forms.
Although the Genesis theme has SEO functions built-in we wanted to take advantage of the very useful WordPress SEO by Yoast, so that is now in use as well. There are two features of the theme that have already proved to be worthwhile.
- The theme is now responsive and our mobile readership has grown larger and the engagement has increased as well.
- With the custom styling of the email subscription boxes, our email subscriber count has grown dramatically with the new site design.
You know that feeling when you get a triple word score in Scrabble? It feels like that!
I have two final notes before I finish up this story. The first is about the time it took for me to make all the changes. Now, maybe it is because I am an experienced WordPress user and already familiar with the Genesis theme. However, I started my iPhone’s timer before getting started. Turns out that I was able to completely redesign the website in an hour and forty-five minutes. That’s correct – in under two hours I was able to change the look of the website, add more functionality, SEO improvements and engagement opportunity.
Lastly, the speed of the website has dramatically improved, and it due to a well coded theme and less plugins to overload the server. Having a fast website is great for both user experience and for SEO. I encourage you to check out the Seven By Five site to see the Metro theme in action on a fully functional website.
Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri