One of the challenges that comes with building WordPress themes is that there’s this disposition that we have to want to make sure that for every option in the backend, we have a corresponding option for the feature in the front end.

For example, does the WordPress dashboard support multi-level menus? Yes. We look at that and think that our themes need to support multi-level menus. Same goes for several other options. But why is that?

WordPress is a content management system and not all content is made the same.

So this raises the question: Do we really need to be creating front-end elements that map to most of the backend elements in all of our themes?

Granted, not every theme does this but I think one classic example is the author box. To me, the author box makes sense if it’s a multi-author blog. If, however, it’s the same author writing all of the posts, is there really a need to showcase that person’s bio after every single post?

I know – there could arguments for this such as, say, giving others a chance to connect with them on social media but, then again, couldn’t those icons be shared elsewhere?

Going through each of the options that exist in the dashboard and trying to determine if there should be a one-to-one correspondence with the front-end would be a tedious exercise and not one that I’m going to be doing with this post.

Besides, how many of you would actually read all of that? Exactly.

But the ultimate point that I’m trying to make is that as we continue into building new themes and for those of us who are trying to take the opinionated stance in doing so, it’s okay to say “No” to certain features for the sake of giving users a much more limited feature set in their themes.

This forces them not only to make more creative decisions as it relates to how they organize their information, but it also forces them to work within constraints to limit the amount of information that they’re presenting to the audience.

We don’t read everyone post that everyone’s written (well, some don’t, at least), so how likely is it that people are actually going to be reading every page or pour through every archive that you have?

Regardless of what you choose, start thinking a bit more critically about what options you support in your themes. Make some decisions on behalf of your users and let them operate within them.

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. Totally agree. I’ve been forcing a 2-level max hierarchy on my menus for a while. Anything more is just a nightmare on mobile. It’s only really justified for very particular kinds of sites where extensive categorization or content hierarchy is vital.

    For my niche, I also print only the bare minimum of post meta: date, categories and tags. No author info, no last modified, no number of comments, etc. These things are all great for a lot of sites, but are just noise for some purposes.

    • Totally agree. I’ve been forcing a 2-level max hierarchy on my menus for a while. 

      Yeah, that’s about where I stop, too. I have a custom navigation walker that’ll go much further but I can’t really rationalize a good reason to go that far. 

      Especially, as you said, on mobile.

      For my niche, I also print only the bare minimum of post meta: date, categories and tags. No author info, no last modified, no number of comments, etc. These things are all great for a lot of sites, but are just noise for some purposes.

      I like that – I’ve thought about it as far as some areas are concernred, but not as far as you have.

      Good food for thought.

  2. I am sorry to bother you so Tom and please pardon me for posting this here.

    Please help me, the comment image plugin is allowing images bigger than the WordPress image box and it makes the page look really ugly.

    If you scroll down this post page…

    http://www.ugochi-jolomi.com/2015/01/first-impressions.html#.VM_vx1XF8Yc

    you will see what I mean.

    What can I do?

    • In order to address this, you’d need to customize the styles of your theme or of the plugin within the Dashboard of WordPress by specifying:

      .comment-image { max-width: 100%; }

      I know this ma by a little complicated, but it’s the best solution we have right now.

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