Justin Tadlock

Why the Options theme is my least favorite theme

Yes, you read that right. The Options WordPress theme is my least favorite.

Why?

Too many Options.

For those of you that don’t know, Options was a theme I released back in February this year, and it has since garnered well over 30,000 downloads (these numbers will seem insignificant as the WordPress theme directory continues rolling).

One of the reasons the theme has been so popular is its options page and magazine-style look. Just take a look at what the theme settings page looks like for the most recent version.

Yes, that’s a lot of options. Too many.

Why too many theme options is bad

I first started putting a lot of thought into this with Ian Stewart’s post, Theme Options Can Make Your Theme Worse. The topic recently came up again when he linked to Jeff Chandler’s post Why I Don’t Use Shifter Anymore (Shifter is apparently another them with a lot of options).

From my experience, users tend to like all these extra options straight from their admin panel. The less coding work, the better, right?

Yes, until you need to modify something that’s not included on the theme settings page.

One of the things I’ve been moving toward is the idea of child themes. If you don’t know what child themes are, Dan Philibin has a good post explaining this: Frameworks, Child Themes, Filters, and Hooks?. I’ll also be going into some details in a few future posts about this concept.

A lot of theme options can just create a mess in the long run. It gives you less flexibility with child themes and personal modifications.

For example, let’s say that I wanted to create a child theme for Options. The biggest problem I would run into when making this theme is having to account for every option already available in the [Options] parent theme.

I would also lose a lot of flexibility in adding new features through child themes.

Now, let’s suppose I didn’t want to make child themes for Options. With a theme as complex as it is, there’ll always be fairly regular updates because the code is always being optimized. Well, if you’ve modified something in the files, you probably wouldn’t want to update your theme.

For that reason, the child theme concept is much better. But, with this particular theme, there’s less room for future goodies.

Why I’m switching to child themes

I recently wrote a post showcasing the power of child themes. It shows a parent theme and what I transformed it into on ThemeHybrid.com with a child theme.

Using child themes, I can regularly update the parent theme and let users modify their child themes in any way.

The Options theme just doesn’t cut it as a solid foundation to work from because I can’t do as much with it now that so many things are set in stone, so to speak.

Some theme options are good, but if you’re a theme author, take some time out to plan for the future of your theme. If you think you’ll ever go down the path of parent/child themes, then theme options should be kept to a minimum.

For those of you that love the Options theme, don’t worry. I’m always working on it and will continue doing so. I could easily write a post about why it’s my favorite theme.