I began writing this in June and didn’t return to finish it until now, October. I’ve been so busy with my unending to-do lists, freelance work, and learning to code that pumping out tons of posts on here has simply not been priority. However, I’m excited to be finding myself returning home – here – where I can write more on business, marketing, writing, coding, etc., that I don’t get to elsewhere. So, it’s time for this post…
We have new website themes!
First, let’s clarify who “we” is, because, I don’t typically say “we” unless I’m talking about one of my other “communal” blogs I run and well, they didn’t get a new theme! So who is it!?
Margo… my wiff (also known as “wife”). That’s right, I have rubbed off on her and after four married years of steadily trying to convince her of the glories of blogging, she is finally blogging as well (and liking it)!
My Lovely Lady Margo’s Blog…
I started her off by a super simplistic, clean WordPress installation with a customized version of the ol’faithful “Twenty Twelve” theme. This was back at the start of this year.
She really liked it, but if there’s one piece of advice I’m known to give to every new blogger it’s this:
“Your blog is like a home. If you don’t like coming home to it, you won’t spend much time there and you won’t invest in it, and definitely won’t make the most of it! Design matters. Make it something you’re proud of so you want to go back to it! Even if it costs you some money.”
Of course, I’d say try blogging for a couple weeks first, just to make sure you can write a full sentence and still enjoy it, but if you can, in fact, write a full sentence, then you need to take some time and “decorate your home”. Either do it yourself or pay someone to do it. It’s worth it!
This is true even if you don’t plan to “go pro” with your blog. You’ll simply find it more enjoyable.
So, after a few months of Margo writing, and actually really enjoying it, I began keeping my eye out for something she could really enjoy. Something that reflected her style, could look good with recipes, and had a bit of character to it that you don’t see much of anywhere else.
I knew I could customize anything to make it this way, but I didn’t have nor want to spend much time on it…
Oh the suspense!
Then There Was My Blog…
Then, of course, I had been keeping an eye out for a better theme for my blog that I could really settle into for the long haul.
A few years ago when I was pretty much super-blogging, and doing ministry full-time, I had a highly customized theme that was excellent for what I was doing then. I had a large-ish following totally based on my content, teaching, and speaking.
Then I moved, changed “career paths”, and took the [stupid] year off from blogging while I started my businesses – plural.
Upon coming back, everything was (and has been) different. As my roles have continued to morph, overlap, develop and so on, I found I began to need a more all-encompassing blog that would work as a blog, portfolio of work, a place to market myself for future engagements or jobs, an e-commerce store, and so on…
I needed something with a really stylish showing of who I am. Something with a “youthful” cultural awareness, yet still a mature, competent, professional and functional look to it.
Suffice it to say, with the amount of other websites I have built, and do build, I’ve seen and worked with numerous WordPress themes! I couldn’t find aaaaanything that I wanted for myself for more than a month!
I had a bookmark folder of dozens and dozens of the “best” themes I could find, and none of them were what I wanted, or even wanted to customize.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty awesome themes out there, but one of the main things I knew I wanted was a theme that was awesome now, aaand would still be awesome next month and next year! These are few and far between!
The problem with most that are trendy is that trends, and your life, change too fast. You’re needing to rebuild everything all the time rather than just living life and producing your content.
If, though, they are super customizable, then you get a super bloated, mega-theme, trying to be all things to all people and you (1) pay too much for it, and (2) have way more than you need with which you are still probably spending more time tweaking layouts than just producing content and living your life.
Oh the pains!
So I Was On The Prowl…
I mentioned I was looking for something business, yet casual. Trendy out of the box without much work, but still super functional and sorta customizable. Something I could feel represented Margo and myself, and also really spoke to our culture and main audiences (at least, in our minds)…
*Pause for song: ♫ “But I still haven’t found, what I’m looking for…” ♫ *Okay, let’s continue…
But then one day I was downloading some free thing I received from a creative market – I’m a sucker for free stuff – (probably because some friend on social media shared about it) when I accidentally saw something…
…something… okay, I’ll just get on with it… About ten minutes later I had Margo’s brand new theme up. Then, so impressed, within 20 minutes I had a brand new design and paint job on my home too!
I Found What I’ve Been Looking For… Station Seven Themes!
So, since you’re reading my blog, you might be somewhat like me and, therefore, searching for this too…
Maybe you know “the feel” of what I was realizing I needed in a blog theme?
I was looking for one that was the right measures of trendy, edgy hipster, minimal, outdoorsy, but still urban style…
Ya know, one that says, “I might spend the work week wearing a casual suit because I like it, not cause I need to, and sitting in coffee shops until I can go rock climbing and canoeing on the weekend with my friends who are almost as smart as I am. Then, I Instagram it all to show you a properly faded version of how fun it was. Or, I might just find photos of it online and make it look like I do all that, but you won’t know unless you’re my cat.”
It has to have that sense of style I can feel good about when I put my long hair up in a “man bun” on a Saturday morning, while I drink a cup of coffee in my flannel shirt, at my weird white kitchen cafe booth I painted myself, while scratching my whiskers and writing eloquent prose and vsco-ing travel photos that make us look adventurous, while my wife is out in her “boyfriend jeans” (*which I actually don’t like) pulling up fresh produce out of her garden, and our cats are snoozing on our midcentury modern furniture we found in an old lady’s barn, while all the while I’m keeping an eye on my social stats for my numerous accounts and websites and really think I’m making a difference in the world… cause that’s all the stuff that’s supposed to happen…
You know… that kind of style!?
You know the kind, right?
Well… these have that feel!
And even if you never make any sort of difference in the world, you’ll look really good doing it! Or, not doing it, I guess. Whatever… none of that’s important, cause these themes are great!
Sure, granted, nearly any theme could have that style with the right colors and photos and time spent on it, but these really play it up, and best of all, it’s right out of the box!
See I was really getting tired of spending as much time designing as I was writing. I love designing, don’t get me wrong, but I love writing more. It’s just a lot easier to waste my hours tweaking a million things, telling myself I’ll get to writing once everything is “set”.
So while on one hand I thought it might be good to buy something super robust with visual composers and page builders functionality and be set forever and fully customizable on every front…
On my other hand, I thought I should just find me
- something really simple with simplistic style and functionality,
- something with excellent typography – an absolute must-have-for-real,
- a sidebar when and where I want it,
- with only the essential widgets,
- a dependable framework with great SEO baked in – including proper headlines gosh dangit,
- something I can apply minimal coloring and textures to when I want and have it look good,
- a little bit of extra “something” to stand apart from others,
- something that lets me feature my WORK as well as my WORDS,
- and some e-commerce functionality won’t hurt. – ya know, I have my future plans…
Oh, and have it be made by some intelligent beings that will actively update things and have an awareness of the internet past 2015… which is sorta like the new 2010… which was like the new 1998… which are the only times Microsoft ever updated anything they ever made for Mac… which doesn’t apply to anything at all with this post except for: good freakin grief, update something from time to time! What do you do all year!?
But anyway, what were we talking about?
Oh yea: These themes are nearly freakin perfect! As close to everything I was after as anyone can be without having an exact list from me.
I’ve worked with tooons of themes and frameworks, and these themes, built on top of the nearly-legendary Genesis framework, are extraordinarily “on point” (as all the cool kids say these days).
The highest compliment I ever pay any mobile or web application, or song, or book, or anything, is, “Dang, I wish I would have made this! This is pretty much exactly what I was needing to say / hear / do / envisioning / wanting!”
These themes are the first I’ve ever worked with in 10 years of blogging, 5 years of WordPress-ing, and 3 years of web development that I’ve ever said, “I wish I would have made these I like them so much – they’re so ‘me’ feeling!”
A of my favorite things: They very much care about typography (major win for me). They’re alignments are splendid! They take things down to the bare necessities.
So, they may not be for everyone, but if you’re anything like me, then they’ll probably be for you.
But after all,
“If you don’t build something somebody hates, nobody will love it either.”
– Somebody wise who’s quote is on my desktop
Now Really Though, Apart From The Fun And Long, Story I’ve Now Written, What About These Themes?
Truth be told, I had planned to write a big fancy post of the likes of my Azendoo Project Management post – as in screen shots, details, and so on.
However, the Station Seven website, besides being pretty dang beautiful, has full demos of each theme that you can play with and look at which do them way more justice than I could.
Plus, Margo’s website (ByManna.com) is running an “out of the box” version of their “Kindred” theme – designed especially for foodies like she is. Seriously though: almost no customizations at all! Just a beautiful “spec home” she could move straight into and enjoy. Check it out to see how similar it is to the Station Seven demo!
Then, of course, I’m using one now. This is a lightly modified version of the “Industry” theme. I’m still tweaking – as per my usual – but for my usual it’s insane how lightly modified it really is around here.
So rather than my typically long, thorough, review posts – I decided to simply write a more fun, gushing, review post.
These are the only themes, and theme maker, I’ve ever done this for on any platform, and no, they haven’t paid me a penny!
So, Finally, Let’s Cover A Few Real-Talk Things You May Be Wondering Still And Can’t See From Their Demos:
So now that all my nonsense is out of the way, let’s cover just a few things you may be (or should be) wondering:
1.) What about the back-end? / How easy is it to set up and use?
Very simple – with a caveat… I’d say there would have been a steep learning curve on how they achieve a few of their theme layouts, but Station Seven supplies some of the best, most well documented, concise and precise “How-To” articles I’ve seen from a theme company (and I’ve seen many!).
Again, I can’t say it enough – their attention to detail is astounding! In fact, it’s probably the main reason I have written this whole big post. They’re on it. They don’t leave ya hanging.
2). Do they offer money-back if I just can’t make it work for me?
Yea they’re actually pretty cool about this and seem to be understanding that realities vary. They have a nice FAQ page with other stuff like this here.
3). What is their support like? How do they actually do on updates?
This is always something I look into before buying, because some people suck at caring, some people suck at responding, some people talk a good game up front but are worthless once they have your money, and some people can’t hardly speak english. That said, though I’ve never used them for support, Station Seven seem to be quite prompt and friendly – warm even.
It’s only a “ma-and-pa shop” (albeit a quite young ma-and-pa-that-aren’t a ma and pa as far as I know) so we’ll see how their responsiveness goes as they grow – and they should grow!
They do have a support forums community that is beginning to grow, and I’ve been a part of these in the past where that was a really a good thing because people will begin helping each other out. So, high hopes there!
As far as updates, I’m actually happy I didn’t publish this post the first few month I used it because I can now say in the last 5 months I’ve been using their themes that they rolled out significant updates quite steadily. They seem to really mean business… and this makes me happy.
4). Any complaints or is it actually all love and you still expect me to think you’re not getting paid for this still?
Well, yes, of course I do have a couple complaints, but again, they’re honestly very few…
Ya know what they say, “Attention to detail covers a multitude of sins.” I’m pretty sure that’s in the Bible… Ha – just kidding. It’s not. That’s actually “love” and not “details”… but I’m certain that if God had to choose something besides “love” to complete that verse, it woulda been “attention to details”. Anyway…
Without further ado, my only complaints so far:
- When they say minimal, sometimes I think they just mean “mini”…
I’m a fan of minimalism in design – I really am – but that doesn’t mean everything has to be tiny. In fact, one awesome thing about minimalism is that there is more space for HUGE! I like to be able to sit back in my chair and read a screen. So I had to up the font sizes in some places (namely headings, but I’m considering more).
- E-Commerce functionality…
Obviously, there site is rocking it quite nicely, so the work is already done… I’m not sure what the “restraint” is here. Probably the amount of support requests that e-commerce would bring. Oh well… I’ll just steal all their styling I guess. …gotta love the internet. Ha.
*Update: they’ve since realized they could just use the Genesis Connect For WooCommerce Plugin and I think they’re somewhat unofficially saying they have commerce capabilities on their sites now… Not sure.
- They’re spin-offing themselves… like most people do…
What I mean is, every theme they produce is actually just a slight variation or two of the last. To be fair, this isn’t a huge complaint, really. I mean, it makes great business sense, most theme makers do exactly this, and well, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a pretty reliable rule! Still, there’s not much variety in their theme choices or any individual theme when you consider you’re paying $50/theme.
In all reality, each theme could likely easily be written to “morph” into the other ones with just a button click or two if they so desired to code it. So if you’re not sure what you want, buy a robust theme from someone else. If you’re the common person looking for a beautiful, loved on theme, that’s plug-and-play with great style and functionality, choose your favorite one of these and roll with it!
- They don’t have an affiliate program…
And, I guarantee ya I’m going to drive some folks their way in the coming months. Not the end of the world though. I know it’s hard maintaining one of these programs, especially with just two folks like Station Seven is.
- They seem to make arbitrary decisions on a few small details that are strange…
A couple examples are the glaring lack of categories and tags in the post meta or the lack of “Next” and “Previous” buttons below this post. (*Update they’re no longer missing because I made my own, but they once were!) To be fair, on the Genesis framework Station Seven builds upon, they have to hook these in, yet still, they didn’t and it’s a pretty standard thing to do. Another standard thing missing is being able to click on the photos in the posts archive to view the single posts. Their themes vary with some of these features and that’s odd to me. Nobody needs to do anything just because it’s “standard practice”, but they do a few things maybe just for the sake of “not being standard” at times… it seems? …maybe they were so busy tweaking design that they just didn’t code these in. You can do it yourself though – it’s not too hard.
Oh, I’m also sponsoring their travels with my purchases, and that makes me slightly jealous…(j/k, sorta)… but, power to them. More people could do this if they’d do good work online – with, you guessed it, attention to detail!
I suppose that’s all folks. If you have any specific questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments below. Hope you had fun on this long story.
Now go get to work.