Graph Paper Press Launches Theme.Works, A Drag and Drop Platform for Building WordPress Themes

The folks behind Graph Paper Press launched a new custom WordPress theme builder this week. Theme.Works was created to be a new brand, featuring a theme building platform that allows users to build a WordPress theme in under 60 seconds.

“We wanted something crazy easy for users to understand and use,” founder Thad Allender said. “Theme.Works inverts the traditional theme creation process: Instead of passively picking a stock template, you get to create a totally custom design for each piece of your website,” he explained. Users have the option to choose different headers, slideshows, portfolios, blogs, signup forms, contact forms, testimonials, footers, etc, via a drag and drop interface.

Theme.Works is actually a custom one-page app built with Node,js, Grunt, and PHP. It allows each customer to design his own theme and then download it for $79. Here’s a quick preview of how it works:

Graph Paper Press is one of the oldest WordPress theme shops in business, founded in 2007, so it’s surprising to see Theme.Works launched as its own brand. I asked Allender why the team didn’t opt to put the new theme builder under its well-known GPP umbrella.

“We wanted to build a new brand around a single idea/product,” he said. “Something with a clear value proposition without any distractions.” Allender also noted that the tech behind the venture is different, given that the builder is a Node.js / PHP app. “The dashboard (releasing next month) needed a singular focus on building custom designs,” he explained.

To celebrate the launch, Theme.Works released a free theme with fullscreen background video and portfolio integration. It includes 10 different page templates and 10 color palettes to choose from, along with dozens of custom fonts. The theme is an example of what can be built using the drag and drop theme builder.

theme.works-free-wordpress-theme-464x1024

Check out a live preview of the theme fully customized.

I downloaded the Theme.Works demo theme and installed it on a test site. I was impressed with some of the options, especially the color palettes and custom fonts.

theme-colors

Unfortunately, the theme options are divided almost equally between the native customizer on the frontend and the dedicated theme options panel in the admin. I believe this might introduce a point of confusion for users. If they don’t find the header options in the theme options, they may not know to look for them on the frontend.

Although I am no stranger to building and customizing WordPress themes, I found it difficult to get the theme looking just like the demo. The experience certainly was not as advertised in the announcement post, which claims: “The theme you design is the theme you download, simple as that. No guesswork, no reference manual needed to get your theme up and running. Just activate and start publishing.” On the contrary, I found there were many options to configure before I could even think about publishing.

I was also concerned that the portfolio functionality is bundled with the theme. Allender said that they have attempted using a portfolio custom post type in the past but decided to take a different route. “We did that at GPP and users found it confusing. So instead, we offer users a plugin to migrate CPTs.” This seems like an extra hassle if you ever want to change your theme.

However, the end result, as displayed in the Theme.Works live demo, is quite appealing and beautifully designed if you are able to achieve the same look with your content. Theme.Works plans to give away one new free every month, built using the new platform. You can download the free theme directly from Theme.Works. While you’re there, make sure to test out the new theme building platform and let us know your thoughts.

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4 Comments


  1. Hi Sarah
    Yes I’ve seen this one a few times now… one or two comments on Facebook.

    I’m always tempted to go with new frameworks but I usually resist and stay with Genesis themes or for drag and drop I use Divi by Elegant Themes.

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  2. That’s a cool drag and drop, and the website is nice too! Looking forward to that framework.

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  3. Really appreciate the article Sarah and the critique of our free theme. We’ve already implemented your suggestions (theme options/customizer and theme activation ux) and will be pushing out those changes early next week.

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  4. Please “We wanted something crazy easy for users to understand and use”– Waiting for it.

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