It’s well known I hate themeing. I can’t really design and I don’t know how to change thoughts to form like that. Words are my gift.
A year back, I changed this site to using the Utility Theme by Carrie Dils. Since then, I’ve moved on with another theme, for various reasons, but I still found Utility to be one of the nicest, cleanest, themes out there.
Recently, Carrie came out with Utility Pro and as she’s one of the nicest people out there, offered me a discount. The new theme costs more, starting at $69 and going up to $199 for a professional version with a Gruntified theme and source files. It’s a lot more than the $45 Utility cost, but I went ahead and bought the theme, not having a home for it quite yet.
After fifteen minutes looking at it and the code, I knew I wanted to use it.
What Carrie did “differently” with this theme is she made it mobile first. That means the entire site is designed to look good on a mobile device and the breakpoints are used make it look better are larger devices. This is the opposite of what many themes do, designing for large screens and adjusting for smaller. Her ‘media’ section is surprisingly small because of that, and the site resizes quickly and properly with no adjustments needed.
The next thing she did, and the thing that really was a selling point to me, was she made it accessible. One of the concerns I’ve been struggling with in the last year has been making my content accessible, and in specific my slides. I want everyone to be able to take my content and learn from it, and a theme that considers that means I have to worry less.
Finally, and here’s where she won my heart, she decoupled code from her theme. This is something that many theme devs and I agree on. A theme should theme, but code should be code. Which means that I don’t want my theme to include custom post types for example. But also she removed Font Awesome. I love it and use it, but by having it in the theme meant that every time the font upgraded, she had to upgrade the theme. We’re all used to upgrading plugins regularly, but themes rarely. By separating the two, she’s able to give the theme stability and the feature flexibility.
Am I using the theme? Today, yes.
Looks just fine in mobile (Google’s POV is jaded since I block them from scanning things).
It was the work of a few hours to convert a site from Going Green Pro over to Utility Pro. The only reason it took hours is that I picked up the non-developer version sans Grunt, which meant I had to split out the CSS into my desired sass files, fold in some of my custom functions, and finally fix the problem that had prompted the following comment:
/** This file has been modified by Mika to fit the needs of this. If you use it somewhere else, expect breakage. I hard coded some things in. Shut up, future me. **/
Future me read that and sighed a lot. Finally I removed all the full calls, making everything relative or using the proper functions in order to dynamically add paths. Also I had to merge a Wiki, a Yourls Site, and a gallery into the look, and that meant some serious theme juggling. It didn’t help that with the new layout I decided to tidy up some of the sidebar content and optimize layouts.
I’ve done very little to rejigger the code. What I’ve messed with is unrelated to what Carrie’s design choices were and more with how Genesis approaches the few things I don’t fully agree with. I’m not yet using the welcome splash screen, since this site people come to for news first, but I plan to use it for major announcements.
Now, for $69, it’s a well made theme. Would I spend the $199 for the full version with the development tools and the Grunt files and the use on as many sites as I want? If I wasn’t me who liked to play with code and files, yes. If I needed this for clients, most definitely. StudioPress itself charges $59.95 for Genesis, and $399.95 for all themes in their repertoire, so from that aspect, this may seem expensive.
Chris Lema and I have some strong opinions on the cost of a WordPress theme. When you consider all the things you’re paying for, all the work of testing on mobile devices, accessibility, colors (which are also accessible), compatibility, plus a year of updates and support, that $200 is an amazing price to use on (say) a dozen websites out there.
I think it’s well worth the price to have this handy in my back pocket for anything I might need it for. And it’s a testament to Carrie how rapidly I realized I did need this and didn’t even know yet.
Check out Utility Pro. You won’t regret it.