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4 Basic Criteria for Evaluating a WordPress Theme Framework

I will soon be writing reviews for some of the main WordPress plugins and theme frameworks that I use in my client projects. But before I do that, I wanted to write a post explaining the basic criteria I use to evaluate a theme because they are not necessarily the same you’ll read about in most other reviews out there that focus on workflow features alone. I’ve read many theme framework reviews in the last 3 years and I found most of them to be lacking in substance. That’s not because they were bad reviews or because the people writing them were doing a bad job, they were just aimed at a specific kind of user (non-coders, beginners or casual users) and limited themselves to what I consider “surface” criteria that become far less relevant when you build Web sites with WordPress for a living. When your business and reputation depend on the quality of the themes and other products you install on client sites, “features” like drag and drop and especially “no coding required” quickly take a second or third seat to more important matters like performance, stability and flexibility.

So here I’ll explain 4 of the basic criteria I use to evaluate a theme framework’s suitability for inclusion in my workflow to be used on specific projects. I’m concentrating on issues I rarely if ever see mentioned in theme reviews so I won’t talk about things like ease of use or flexibility of any workflow related features here. Those things will be included in my specific theme framework reviews. I hope this article will help you make more informed decisions if you are looking for a theme framework to use on a client site and are not sure which one would be the best fit for your workflow and your client’s needs.

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A Quick Review of Fireworks CS5

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or you are not a Web designer or working in a related field, you cannot have missed the announcement of Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5 a few weeks ago. I have been using two products in the suite for a while now, including of course, Fireworks CS5. As is becoming a tradition here on pixelyzed.com, here are my thoughts on the new version as well as a few thoughts on the future…

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Dreamweaver CS5 and PHP

I just read a very interesting review of Dreamweaver CS5 written by David Powers. David is someone I have known for many years and he has written many books related to PHP. He is someone who’s opinion I trust.

So his review of Dreamweaver CS5 was of particular interest to me as I am now fully embracing the WordPress platform and learning more about it every day. PHP is also becoming my second development platform (alongside ColdFusion) and any improvements to Dreamweaver for PHP development is great news to me… and apparently there’s plenty.

Unlike Fireworks CS5 which I have used and will review within the next few days, I haven’t used Dreamweaver CS5 yet so this review makes me anxious to get my hands on a copy and start integrating it in my work flow.

He also touches on other issues like HTML 5 and CSS3 support (or lack thereof) and why he thinks that, for now, Adobe made the right decision. Thanks for the great review David!

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More About Google Chrome

I’ve been reading a few more comments about Google Chrome last night and this morning and have kept using it for browsing since yesterday. Here’s a few more points :

  • My comments from yesterday and today take into account that Chrome is a first beta. People have to remember that this is not yet a replacement for anyone’s regular browser. Many comments say that it doesn’t support extensions like Firefox, IE or Opera (they may call it diffferent things but you get my gist). It also has some annoying rendering bugs that seem to be due to Webkit and misses basic functionality like a way to turn off scripts which is a very good point that a commenter to my previous post brought up. All valid points but remember that this is a FIRST beta. Chrome will evolve.
  • I saw a comment today on Jeffrey Zeldman’s site that summed up my first impression of it : “At  present this seems like a solution waiting for a problem”. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s true. Did we “really” need a new browser in the market?
  • The above ties in with some of Zeldman’s comments as well as Tantek Celik who commented on the same post. Both say the same thing which is that, in order to compete, a new browser must offer something that others do not. They then discuss ways a browser may differentiate itself and Tantek brings up the point that, with a similar feature set, a browser may win market share by bringing better performance. So far, this seems to be the main thing Chrome brings to the table. But is it enough?
  • While Chrome is certainly much faster than Firefox, even Firefox 3 which improved its prdecessor’s very sluggish performance, is it really much faster than Opera 9.5? Not in my experience. On some pages, Opera is actually still faster than Chrome. So again, is it enough?

Like I said yesterday, only time will tell what impact Chrome will have when it reaches gold status and reaches a wider audience outside Web professionals and hard core tech geeks. Will people be willing to swicth? Personally, I have my doubts, especially if Chrome’s differentiation factors are not more visible than just speed. That may be enough for some people but most IT departments will probably keep using IE and those who moved to Firefox, Opera or Safari may choose to stay with the devil they know…

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Google Chrome

I just downloaded and installed Google Chrome after reading the comic book that explains the details of the project. I had been hearing rumors about it last week but I didn’t pay much attention to them. In the last couple days there had seemed to be much anticipation (and over-hype) about its release and what it means. I must say I was prepared to be underwhelmed… and, as a Web designer, thinking, who needs yet another new browser to test sites into? But after using it for a little bit, I must admit I like what I see.

My initial hesitation came mostly from the fact that, aside from its search engine technology, I haven’t been impressed by much of what Google has released in the past. I don’t use GMail and I don’t use Google Documents for the same basic reason. So far, I still much prefer desktop applications for email and office type tasks and my communications and organizational activities are pretty much centered in Outlook 2007. It works very well for me and my data is on my own machine where I want it. I never liked Web based email to begin with.

But Chrome is different because it is a desktop application and the foundations and ideas on which it was built are very interesting. As many noted and despite a lot of over-hype (what else is new in the tech world…), Chrome has a lot of things that were already in other browsers. My main browser is Opera 9.5 and I really have not seen any other that is as fast or feature-rich. But Chrome is fast too… damn fast actually, especially with JavaScript and I really like the minimal interface. This is a first beta and can only improve with time. Also, so far all my sites I looked at with Chrome display correctly and pretty much the same as Safari, FF 3 or IE7. Its text rendering seems identical to Safari which is normal since both are based on the WebKit rendering engine.

So, in summary, Google Chrome seems like a solid entry in the crowded browser world and will only get better. But, I would take the premature previsions of some pundits that Chrome will cause the demise of MSIE with a huge grain of salt… Haven’t we heard that one before?

Won’t tech commentators ever learn that “regular” people are creatures of habit and are unlikely to change browsers just because a new player’s in town? Don’t they get that Microsoft is entrenched in the business world for the foreseeable future? Those who should be worried by this are the other smaller players IMO, like Opera and Firefox and maybe even Safari which seems to be as entrenched on the Mac as MSIE is on PCs… for now.

Anyway, only time will tell how Chrome will affect the browser wars but it is a good piece of software that brings welcome competition and innovation. And did I say it was fast! I’m writing this blog post in it through TinyMCE now which unfortunately doesn’t work in Opera yet. Good going with this one Google!