Review Of Evenflow By SimpleThemes.com

At A Glance:

Evenflow is a great looking WordPress theme from a new commercial theme company called SimpleThemes run by Casey Lee. Casey has experience in the commercial theme market as he used to run Joomlashack which was a Joomla commercial theme company. Evenflow features a content slider, dynamic layouts, built in ad management, and multiple color schemes.

License:

All WordPress themes available from SimpleThemes are licensed under the GPL without restriction of use in projects or domains.

Installation:

Installation was pretty easy. Just upload the Evenflow folder to the themes directory and activate.

Configuration And Use:

This is where things start to become unnecessarily complicated. The first part of the configuration process deals with the navigation settings. Here, Evenflow provides various options to configure what is displayed in the top menu as well as the main menu. However, it’s not very clear what the top menu is versus the main menu. Furthermore, I had a difficult time figuring out which options did what. Also, this entire system wreaks havoc with the Exclude Pages plugin. I had to disable it in order for the theme settings to play nice. Last but not least, although Evenflow shows the ID numbers for Categories and Pages within this section, end users shouldn’t need to worry about finding and using ID numbers. Just present the end user some check boxes that exclude or include categories or pages into the navigation. It’s much simpler doing things this way. I’m not going to hammer Evenflow on this part of the configuration because once WordPress 3.0 is released which will contain an all new menu management system, Casey should be able to remove this tab completely from the theme.

The next part of the configuration gives me a chance to select between four different color styles which can be seen here. There is a section for providing a link to a Favicon but I have to wonder if this is a waste considering whatever favicon is uploaded to the root folder of the website is the one that will be in use. I think this particular option could easily be removed. To round out this panel, I can change the width and height of my logo that is used within the theme. However, there are no options to upload an image to use a custom logo which has me scratching my head. Why provide boxes to control the width and height if there is no easy way to upload the image as well, so it all ties in together? If I need to go into the themes CSS file to point to an image, I might as well configure the width and height if need be while I’m there making this configuration box a bit useless.

Next up is the front page. Evenflow comes with the option to display posts or pages as well as to show them in one or two columns. The two column look gives you more of a newspaper feel. I can also tell Evenflow how many of those pages or posts to show on the front page. Depending on whether you select pages or posts, you can exclude or include categories and pages to the front page. To utilize this, you’ll need to know the ID numbers of the categories or pages that will be excluded or included. I’m really not a fan of this approach since I’ve reviewed themes that just offer a checkbox to select the categories or pages by name completely bypassing the need to figure out any IDs. I’m also not sure why themes such as Evenflow duplicate options that are found within WordPress itself such as what to show on the front page between pages or posts as well as the number to show. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the same configuration can be made by going to Settings – Reading within WordPress. More options that could be removed or put to better use.

Time to configure the featured slider. Now unlike many of the other themes I’ve reviewed that features a content slider, this one perplexes me as it only allows you to feature pages. Furthermore, you need to know the ID numbers of the pages that you want to feature. In my opinion, this severely limits the usefulness of the content slider. Instead, I should be able to feature pages or categories. Categories are much more useful to feature in a slider since they usually have more than a few posts that can be featured at the top of the site.

Image settings. Evenflow has options to generate thumbnails on category/archive pages as well as whether those thumbnails will have a lightbox effect showing the full sized image or no lightbox which will link the image to the post. You can also configure the size of these thumbnails. The same options exist for single posts and pages. Alternatively, if you opt to not let the theme handle your post images, you can enable something called PrettyPhoto which is a jQuery Lightbox clone.

As with most other themes, Evenflow has an options panel dedicated to storing your scripts such as Google Analytics or Woopra in the header or footer section of your site. There are also predefined ad spots in the theme on the search page, above the comments, within the header, and the sidebar. I don’t think an ad management system should be tied to a theme. Instead, I say leave it to a plugin as that is an integral part of any site trying to monetize. Although in the case of Evenflow, payments, stats, and other things that should come with an advertising management suite are nowhere to be found.

Last but not least, Evenflow has a panel dedicated to SEO options. You can set up a meta description, meta keywords, meta author, and apply no index to a variety of pages.

Support:

Support for SimpleThemes is handled by a forum as well as a series of tutorials and explanations that can be found within each themes demo site. It may take up more time but I appreciate the dummy content within the demo sites actually containing tutorials and helping me maneuver around the theme. I’d like to see more commercial theme authors go this route.

Conclusion:

Casey no doubt has design skill as Evenflow is a gorgeous theme but the option panels really hold customers back from taking advantage of what the theme truly has to offer. The sales page for Evenflow touts dynamic layouts, but the layouts can only be changed by touching PHP. After playing with Genesis by StudioPress and Builder by iThemes, there is no way anyone should touch PHP to switch where the sidebar is displayed. Instead, make it an option I can select within the Appearance tab. I’m more of a sidebar on the right type of guy with the initial content on the left. This is the layout users will see when they view a single post page that I’d like to have throughout the entire theme.

I think the reason why I can’t do this within Evenflow is because it’s not a framework with options to control a child theme. Instead, Evenflow goes with the old page.php, single.php, sidebar.php route. This means if I wanted sidebars on the left spread throughout the theme, I would need to edit every template file that has the sidebar on the left. While I used to enjoy editing code within themes this way, I’ve become spoiled by themes such as Genesis where I can use the framework to configure the sidebar on all pages with a drop down menu. With this approach, I think I’m beginning to see at least one of the benefits of the parent/child theme relationship.

If you’re the coding type that doesn’t mind editing snippets of code which by the way, is very well documented by Casey within the PHP files, then this theme should be no problem for you to use. It’s definitely one of the best looking themes I’ve seen in a long time as I’m a fan of earthy colors. I hope that in a future version of this theme, more of the customizations can be put into the option panels instead of relying on code snippets.

Give Away:

Casey has given me a coupon code that grants 3 free months of the WordPress membership to Simplethemes. I have 5 of these coupons to give away. The only thing you have to do to get one of these is leave a comment, preferably with your own review or questions as Casey will be on hand to answer them.

10 Comments


  1. Evenflow is a great looking WordPress theme

    But, what does the theme look like? I’d have thought a review of a theme would have a screenshot of the theme in it :)

    Report


  2. That looks very nice… and flexible. I’ve mostly stuck with free themes, due to a lack of income, but it would be nice to have a top-notch theme to use.

    Report


  3. Thanks for the review, Jeff. I truly appreciate the constructive criticism, too. The main reason I sent this theme to you for review, was specifically for this type of feedback. You have some very good points and I’m sure it’ll be helpful in upcoming updates. That said, the thing about WordPress is there are multiple ways to perform single tasks. In most cases, it all boils down to user preference. As a theme developer, you never know what kind of end-user you’re dealing with; Some prefer frameworks with more point-and-click, and drag-n-drop options, while others don’t want to be tied to third party code or spend the time learning a whole new set of functions in order to extend their theme (as in a CMS). My aim for Evenflow was to build a theme both the end-user and a novice developer can benefit from.

    Personally, I prefer raw control over theme files in order to leverage from the native code base, rather than requiring the theme to pass through a whole new set of functions before the layout is even parsed. For example, why query the database and loop through a series of PHP functions just to specify a category template when all you have to do is duplicate and rename a category-slugname.php file? If the category displays a different markup to begin with, then it usually requires a new file anyway. I know many users are framework fanatics and maybe one day I’ll be, but I’d like to believe some people just want to use WP to build web sites and not just blogs of content. If you’re going to build a modern web site, you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves from time to time. I won’t go any further comparing a theme against a theme framework because there really is no comparison. I’ve thought about solely developing child themes, because I don’t want to create yet another framework. I’d be interested in seeing how a business model like this would work without stepping on anyone’s toes in the process of redistributing other’s code. Maybe another topic?

    You’re absolutely correct about the navigation features. This is probably the biggest weakness of WordPress. I’m really excited about 3.0.

    To clarify the confusion, the Top menu is the one at the top of the screen. The Main menu is the predominant navbar just below the logo.

    Yes, the Exclude Pages plugin is pretty much useless with this theme. That’s pretty much what the Navigation tab does for you. The purpose of displaying the ID’s next to the Page checkbox was really just for quick reference to specify the featured slides. That said, the whole approach of the Slider may need to be rethought for flexibility’s sake. I chose to use Pages for this theme because of the style and intention of the theme. For example, the way I used them in the demo to link to the individual Feature pages. I suppose for a larger site, a “Featured” category approach may be more universally beneficial.

    As for the ads and scripts tabs, yes there are many great plugins that do this for you. The purpose of adding this functionality was so the user wouldn’t need to install and maintain plugins, but leverage mainly from Google Adsense and Google Analytics. If there were a plugin for tracking monetization within WordPress, I probably wouldn’t use it anyway. WordPress hammers the database bad enough as it is.
    Thanks again for the review. I really enjoy your podcast and look forward to hearing back from your readers.

    Report


  4. @Casey – Well hey, I knew their had to be methods to your madness :). It’s nice hearing from you as your perspective as the developer to know why things are the way they are. Seems to make a little more sense to me now.

    I hate diving into framework files to make a simple change which themes like Evenflow make easy because the theme is made up of individual template files. I know where to go and generally know what to edit. But I’ve been spoiled by the one click saves the change across the entire theme approach that frameworks/child themes have. I have to hand it to you though, you made it very easy for someone to tinker around with the PHP as it’s commented very well.

    You definitely have some design skill and I can see the Joomla influences in Evenflow and Avalon which is what I like. I’ve got my eye on you for future themes.

    Report


  5. Really nice blog theme. It looks extremely professional and simple (as the company name says). I don’t like a theme that is too cluttered and this is not one of those. Regardless of the few minor points that you mentioned in the review with setting up this theme, I would use this theme in a heartbeat for one of my blogs.

    Report


  6. This looks like a very nice clean theme. The ad-management could be nice, particularly for sites that don’t need anything too robust. I’ll have to give simplethemes a closer look.

    Report


  7. Jumping into the Framework debate: I think we’re rapidly heading toward a world where there will only be a couple of viable theme frameworks. It doesn’t make sense to take the extra effort to make your theme do all the work that frameworks do unless you really think you’re going to be one of the few frameworks that’s still around in a couple years.

    Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of room for one-off themes and (eventually) child themes for major frameworks. As a developer, I appreciate the ability to have a client pick out a theme that’s almost what they want as a starting point for customization. Frameworks are nice, but if you know what you’re doing, it’s just as quick to make customizations in code. (As a bonus, any work I do in PHP is unlikely to be accidentally undone by less savvy end-users.)

    Report


  8. I agree. I do think there is a place and time for frameworks, especially for sites with huge amounts of content but when you have sites with several types of content, it’s almost easier to have that direct manual control of traditional themes. You can always create a few functions that can act as a reusable framework snippet if you have to. With custom post types coming in WP3 (http://tinyurl.com/yekc6rb) I think we’ll really start to see an evolution in themes and theme frameworks alike.

    Report


  9. I forgot to give away the coupon codes but after someone inquired about them, I’ve now given them away.

    Report

Comments are closed.