WordPress theme development company Themix released its third free theme to the official directory this week. Churel is described as a theme for organizations and businesses that also works for traditional blogging.
The development team has a keen eye for modern color schemes and font families. The theme has a refreshing design that is rare for the free theme directory, at least at first glance. It is the sort of project with just the right amount of eye candy to pull users in.
If that was everything necessary for great design, the theme would land in my top 10 picks from WordPress.org without a second thought. However, after digging deeper, it was clear the design had some issues. They are fixable. It would not take much nudging of a few CSS rules to make this a much better theme, so let’s just dive right into the problems before getting into the good stuff.
The theme’s most clear-cut flaw is with its typography. Sizing and words-per-line work well enough. The default Open Sans font is rarely a poor choice for readability. However, the line height is far too large for a good flow, and the white space between paragraphs makes it tough to tell where one ends and the other begins. It is almost as if the team got halfway through with fine-tuning the typography and decided to simply stop. It is a glaring issue that makes the theme practically unusable for long-form content, but it could be addressed with two minor style changes.
For a theme “designed to take full advantage of the flexibility of the block editor,” it is missing one crucial component: editor styles. It is marked with the official “Block Editor Styles” tag in the directory and passed through the review process with no mention of it.
This seems like an oversight. Maybe something was lost in the build process or accidentally deleted before submission.
Churel relies on the Kirki Customizer Framework, a requirement for accessing any theme options. Most controls the theme uses are built directly into WordPress. It does not make much sense to tie them to the activation of a third-party plugin, particularly for its simple color options.
Despite its faults, I fell in love with its homepage design immediately. The modern card design coupled with a minimalist page layout and bright colors makes me want to explore. And, you just got to love the ghost in the demo logo, right?
I also welcome any theme that actually creates a unique design for sticky posts on the homepage. Far too many theme authors either ignore it in whole or relegate it to a last-minute addition. The design team did not go overboard, but they made sure that readers know, “Hey, this is important,” while keeping it simple.
Other elements are attractive about the theme, such as its subscription/newsletter area in the page footer. The attention to detail when styling the core widgets means everything looks good in the theme’s sidebars. And a handful of animations sprinkled throughout the design, such as floating circles and an underline effect on post title links, add an extra dimension without feeling clunky.
Churel is almost a top-tier block-ready WordPress theme. With a handful of trivial CSS changes and — I will sound like a broken record to regular readers — some block patterns, it could be.
The theme’s “Authors” page template is an example of a missed opportunity for a block pattern. The page template itself might be perfect for some but not others. It automatically lists administrators and authors along with their profiles. By overlooking other roles that can publish posts, the system is rigid. “Authors” or, more commonly, “team” pages are an ideal fit for the block system. Site administrators could quickly create and customize such a page if they merely had a pattern for doing so.
A pattern built from the Columns block with nested Image, Heading, Separator, and Social Icons blocks would make this easy. Throw in an “alternating colors” block style (or just let users control the colors) for the Columns, and users can build what they want more easily than theme authors doing guesswork about what user profiles should appear.
The block editor exists to solve these problems, and theme authors are leaving half their tools in the bag. Block patterns will be a cornerstone of theme design in the coming years.
I may be overusing the term as of late, but this yet another theme that has potential. It is not the best that it can be yet, but it is a decent 1.x launch.