18 thoughts on “Catalyst Theme Options

  1. While certainly overwhelming, are you filing this in the good or the bad column? Some people don’t know CSS or don’t want to edit files so I could certainly see the advantages of having all of this insane amount of customization available to the end user. Plus considering the number of options that are displayed, I think they actually did a pretty decent job at laying them out and making them (relatively) easy to understand.

    • Hey Alex, thanks for your comment! Your question makes sense and you do have a point. I’d file it in the “bad” column (my personal opinion), not only because of the number of options, but because of the way they’re organized too. If I’m not a CSS-savvy guy, why would I need to think about how “px” is different from “em” or “pt”, why can’t I choose “em” for border thickness, and what is “H3”. On the other hand, if I know all that, I’ll be faster (and less restricted) just typing it out.

      The worst part, however, is that I have to save changes and go back to my site to preview every slight change that I make, and some things are difficult to even find, like a “blockquote link underline on hover”, I’ll have to publish one first. I’m slightly scared to look what’s in the other sections, but overall, this smells like SquareSpace v1 :)

      Also please note that my opinion is based on the screenshot only, haven’t actually used this theme. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. Since I designed that interface I figured I’d go ahead and share some thoughts…

    First of all, I totally agree that the Dynamik Design Options that you’re showcasing here are not for everyone, but they’re definitely well suited for thousands of Catalyst Theme users. These options are actually what many love about our framework.

    I think you’re missing the benefit of what we offer here. These options are not just for the non-coders. I’m a total coder and I wouldn’t design another website without Dynamik. With these options and the Import/Export features we provide I can crank out some core designs, export them into Dynamik “Skins” and then use those for the foundation of future web design projects.

    This allows me to pick out a Skin, Import it, and then quickly manipulate the design with the provided options as needed. And when I do need to tweak beyond the options I just pop open the Front-end CSS Editor which shows my CSS tweaks in real-time.

    And then when I’m all done with a design, if I want to, I can just Export the whole thing as a totally independent Catalyst Child Theme, locking down my design into a hard coded format.

    So yes, Dynamik provides a lot of great options for the non-coders out there, but for me, and many others, there’s a huge benefit in having the majority of my style changes in option form. But like you said, you haven’t actually tried it out so you can only speculate.

    I must say, though, when I first read:

    “This is actually the Theme Options panel that inspired me to start this blog.”

    I was like, “Awesome!”

    Then I read:

    “I’d file it in the “bad” column…”

    And then was like, “Not so awesome…” :)

    Eric

    • Wow, Eric, I couldn’t imagine the first post to be such a success, I really appreciate you coming down here to comment. Don’t feel bad about not making it into my “good” list, as I said, that’s just my personal opinion, and I’m pretty sure you have a bunch of customers that will use what you guys are doing. My ultimate goal is to let the readers decide and rate my entries, in order to classify where “good” is and where “bad” is, but since this is only the first post, my opinion sounds like the only one, though Alex’s (above) was more positive than mine ;)

      In any case, what you’re saying does make sense, but I myself don’t “buy it,” simply because I’m more comfortable cloning (checking out) a starter theme, CSS template, grid or framework, or creating a child theme. I can read CSS code faster than I can read your interface (no offence.) Even if WordPress had such options in Core, with support across all themes, I’m 100% positive I wouldn’t go nowhere near those options.

      Quick example. Say I want to change the color of all headings from black to red. Your interface will make me click at least 12 times to choose/paste a color. In CSS I just type “h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6” and I’m done :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by Eric, always love to hear thoughts directly from the creators. One last question: have you done any user testing on the interface? If you haven’t, I suggest you try this service, and let me know how it turns out, I’m really curious. Have a great weekend!

      • Yeah, you’re definitely in the “it’s not for me” category. :) And don’t get me wrong, I totally understand point of view and agree there are some huge advantages of being able to crank it all out via code.

        The two points I just wanted to make (which I kind of already made) was that:

        1. I disagree that this type of options panel ride the fence between the two types of user (coder and non-coder). If anything, it’s rooted out a third user type, those who understand the concepts of coding, but either don’t know enough to effectively execute or just don’t want to mess with it. As I said, there are thousands of users/fans who can attest to this.

        2. As I mentioned, I’m a testament to the idea that even a hard core coder can actually prefer this type of interface for their own web design work. I’m not disagreeing with your point and know that many coders out there would just be better off sticking with what they’re used to, but I’ve found that the more I use an interface like this the more efficient I am with it.

        Using your example of the H-tags, I would probably at that point just type that out in our built-in CSS Editor. In other words, just because we provide all the no-coding options, we also provide a ton of coding options as well. So it’s kind of a “hybrid” of sorts.

        For example, each font option has a #Custom button that, when clicked, pops down a mini Custom CSS textarea. And any style (eg. color: #333;) you add to it will be applied to that specific element. So there’s no searching for the specific element ID/Class name to use for that font. You just focus on the actual styles.

        But yes, for many coders out there it may not be ideal. But then again, it’s personal preference at that point, of course. :)

        Eric

    • Hmm, you really highlight that everyting in life is AUDIENCE-specific! The WordPress ecology is so vast, and there can be thousands of developers who want to speed things up by using a plugin.

      Makes me think, from a biz standpoint, it’s more that we need to *position* our work clearly for people, so the right audience sees what they need to see. Maybe a more beginner user wants a wizard interface, or a series of “skins”. And then this becomes the “advanced under the hood” interface?

      It’s funny, newbs will get so annoyed if they are confronted with too many options — a lot of people, it will make them feel dumb, for some reason. Like they “should” know CSS, for example! (Not sure why they think they should, but okay!). On the other hand, *we* get annoyed if an interface is too baby-ish.

      It might even be cool to label the interface, such as, “Super-Advanced, Total Control Interface”. Now if I’m a newb I’m not going to feel stupid for not being able to understand it. If I’m a developer, it will make me feel smart for knowing it.

      Now if I’m a newb, I think my ideal scenario is several pre-selected skins that I can easily pre-visualize, and that work for me. —Things that make me feel smart! .. You might actually find that you are leaving money on the table, by not creating some sort of front-facing UI for the newbs like this, is my thought..

  3. Thanks for writing this up, Konstantin. To add my 5 cents, I can see some “good” and some “bad” in it. Just the other day I talked to somebody without any CSS knowledge. She would go and install an extra plugin (Theme Tweaker or something) only in order to be able to change a couple of colors through an options interface. She probably could have hired somebody, but she wanted to do it herself. If I told her about the Catalyst panel here, it’ll blow her mind, I guess. ;)
    On the other hand, I agree with your personal view: I’d be faster typing the CSS, so I’d never use a theme with options like that.
    Very interesting blog topic, though, hope to read more here in the near future! :)

  4. I feel that letting users select units from px, em etc would complicate options for an average user, so it doesn’t do much good. On the other hand, the options to assign your own color value and font style are cool and most clients would love it :)

    • Good point, though the font family is a better example. Like the custom fonts panel on WordPress.com — just choose a font from the list, and then hit the plus or minus buttons to make it larger or smaller. No pixels, points or ems, and a live preview too :)

  5. Wow! That’s a lot of options!! I definitely put myself in the “It’s not for me” category as well. I’d like to think that I’m fairly good when it comes to coding & styling with css but to me, that just seems so overwhelming and I’d hate to have to update that myself. I’d dread to think of the mess that a client could do if they saw that in their theme and wanted to have a bit of a ‘tinker’. I’m definitely of the view, “the simpler, the better”.

    BTW – Great job with the new blog Konstantin. Will be great to get an idea of all the different Theme Options available out there. There’s so many theme shops & developers implementing their own styles into these now. Personally, I’d much rather everything looked like the std WordPress interface rather than something completely different.

    • Hey Anthony, I appreciate your feedback! Yeah I’ve got a great deal of examples (good and bad) lined up for this blog, as well as a bunch of links and resources to learn how to do things right, so stay tuned. Thanks for the props :)

  6. Pingback: Konstantin Kovehsnin's blog about Theme Options | WPCandy

  7. Full Disclosure: I am a LONG time Catalyst user and fan of the Catalyst Community and Eric. So to this post, I say “To each their own.” I use Catalyst on most all my sites (either Catalyst or Genesis) and client sites.

    Why? Catalyst is both flexible and powerful.
    I realize this blog is about theme options and the screenshot above may scare some, but the ability to do, literally, anything you want to your website is not for everyone.

    Case in point, its not for most folks that having been coding and reading CSS over time.

    Things I like about the interface with Catalyst:

    1. There are a LOT of options, but they are very well organized and there is a Custom CSS solution which allows for extreme control of every part of your website.
    2. It’s not bloated. There was a post I saw a few months back that showed load times and http calls etc for the main themes, Catalyst did well in that and Eric raised the bar even more by streamlining the http calls etc in the next point release.
    3. Full control over my home page using the EZ Widget Areas
    4. Custom Layouts, Custom Widget Areas, Custom Hook Boxes, and the Front-End Custom CSS Editor
      Talk about time saving and empowering for us non-coders.

    In my humble opinion, if you want control over your website without having to touch code? Catalyst is a great solution.

    • Hi there Jason, wow great to hear directly from the theme user and fan, thanks so much for your feedback! I hear you, and I hear Eric too. You both have valid arguments, and you use the themes (Catalyst and Genesis) as tools (you mentioned clients, right?) which is great, we’re the same, but we just use different tools.

      You know in which of the above sections, and the left rows you have to look for to change the numeric list style to alpha. And I know I have to type “list-style-type.” Our goal is the same, the means to achieve them are different, and it’s up to you to decide which works best for you :)

      There are things to keep in mind though. You mentioned full control over your front page. That will break/vanish as soon as you activate a different theme, right? That’s a huge problem with a lot of (both free and paid) themes these days. The other is shortcodes. I tend to change the theme for my blog(s) once every year or two. If I had to deal with broken shortcodes, lost content and misaligned photos every time, I’d ditch WordPress. So avoid the lock-in effect and don’t reinvent the wheel (SEO, Analytics, Background image and color, …)

      Full disclosure: I’m a tech geek and hard-core programmer, I never use WYSIWYG tools, editors and IDEs. I also have a weird taste in design :) Thanks for coming by to comment and have a great weekend!

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