Under the Hood of Semplice: A New Portfolio System Based on WordPress

Semplice has soft-launched its new WordPress-powered portfolio system. The commercial project popped up on our radar after debuting its extraordinary implementation of the WordPress content editor. Founded by German designers Michael Schmidt and Tobias van Schneider, Semplice is breaking onto the scene with high impact designs and its own radically simplified content editor.


“Semplice is and was built based on our own needs to create beautiful case studies and branded pages, mainly for designer and artist portfolios,” Van Schneider told the Tavern. “Our goal is to create a completely new high quality experience on top of WordPress, something you haven’t seen before,” he said. So far they appear to be achieving exactly that. Example portfolios built with Semplice are nothing less than stunning.


A Unique Content Editor

Semplice incorporates its own visual content editor which allows users to create unique branded pages or extensive case studies for their projects, without a single line of code. “We aim to create a flexible system, not a template,” Van Schneider said. “With Semplice you start mostly with a white canvas, not a template or theme where you just fill in the blanks.” Every project is 100% responsive and the content editor is completely tailored to creating a portfolio.


So what’s under the hood?

As beautiful as the front-end results are, we were most curious about what’s under the hood and assumed it was based on custom post types. On the contrary, the Semplice crew has taken a different route to create this unique editing experience.

“For the basic theme options we use Advanced Custom Fields from Elliot Condon,” Van Schneider said. “The Content Editor itself is a combination of a Javascript frontend that uses the WordPress Ajax functions to communicate with the PHP backend.

“As we worked on different Semplice iterations we quickly learned that we need something more than just Custom Post Types, especially since the performance suffered a lot in the beginning,” he explained. The Semplice content editor is optional and can be activated when creating new pages in WordPress. It includes a live preview as you edit on the frontend, as you can see in the video example below.

“What you build is exactly what you get,” he said. “This allows you to create very flexible editorial layouts for designers or artists who want to present their work in the best light possible.”

Semplice also allows users the ability to brand every page with a unique visual look. Instead of having pages follow a set template, elements such as background color, navigation, and typography can be customized for each.

The regular WordPress admin is still in play, for example, when a user adds new work. It starts off in the backend with branding and image options.


One unique feature of Semplice is the ability to easily add a new custom fontset to WordPress using the web service of your choice. This is especially important for designers who require unique fonts for presenting their work.


Semplice is geared toward both experienced WordPress users, as well as those who are totally new to the platform. “Yes, we do aim for people who are familiar with WordPress since they will be able to take Semplice even further than what we offer,” Van Schneider said. “But with our Semplice Content Editor we even aim at people who don’t have that much experience with WordPress itself since you don’t really need it.”

Licensing, Pricing, and Support

Introductory Semplice pricing for a single domain is $69 and $299 for an agency. Semplice will be launching without offering customer support and is unusual in that it doesn’t offer any refunds. Support is limited to the first seven days after purchase. The team will assist with anything related to the default Semplice features and is currently working on establishing a pool of video tutorials for documentation.

While the Semplice team cannot yet offer full product support, they are committed to delivering critical free updates to existing customers. The software is licensed under the GPL. Although Semplice hasn’t launched yet, early adopters can purchase the software now for a reduced price.

While the Semplice content editor appeals to new WordPress users, they will still need to overcome the hurdle of installing and setting up a WordPress site on their own domains. Even with 1-click installers, the process can be more difficult than you might imagine for designers and artists with no WordPress experience. Without a fully hosted Semplice platform, the software is going to have to appeal to seasoned WordPress users who appreciate its unique take on building a fullscreen branded portfolio. Do you think Semplice can win out over other theme and plugin-based options?

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  1. This is an interesting project, one that might fit in well for what we do. By any chance, does anyone know of similar sorts of extensible themes like this for creating portfolios and/or displaying creative works (e.g. art, photo, etc.)? Having a common platform to build off of would save us time, and these sorts of clients $$$, especially if we can integrate simple ecommerce into it.


  2. Semplice is just another example of encouraging a slew of recent popular bad design trends in which we take up as much screen real estate as possible with ginormous but ultimately meaningless and purposeless images and bouncy jiggly wobbly html 5 hotness. I don’t want things to bounce and jiggle on my screen, and I don’t want to have to hunt around for a barely visible “scroll to next screen” arrow popping up somewhere so I can scroll to the next meaningless full-screen image with utterly meaningless copy text. I don’t need clever 60px headlines or six 48px words taking up a full screen. Stop the madness, folks, and get back to real content design. And I damn sure won’t pay $69-299 for a website template which looks and behaves exactly like everyone else’s.


    1. Encouraging visually ~ I agree. But its what’s under the hood that worries me.

      Despite what you might read in this article, if you go to the Semplice website with your mobile phone you’ll be very disappointed.

      Semplice is NOT responsive.

      Which, frankly, I find truly amazing.


      1. That is amazing, and I took your advice and tried it out, as well as a couple of their showcase sites. They ranged from inconvenient/clumsy to passable (but, clearly not optimized for mobile).

        I actually just purchased a single-license today so that I could play with it and see what it is really like to live/work with. We are in need of an extensible, sensible, portfolio framework, and I’ll be curious to see how much fiddling Semplice takes to actually be usable…


      2. Agreed – what a big miss that the sites aren’t actually responsive. (The individual sites are more responsive than the semplice site itself, but are still far from perfect – for instance, the menu disappears with a scroll, and sometimes when you just expand it).

        I do love the simplicity of the system and the way it allows you to showcase work in a large format. A beautiful way to present work… On a desktop computer.


  3. In hindsight If I was going to set up a website again for my artwork I would not want to get into the technicalities of setting it up and maintaining it myself (I didn’t have a choice 10 years ago- I learned html and got a bit addicted to it, then WordPress came along later)- I think these days concentrating on the artwork / portfolio and marketing is more important for artists than the technical aspects of web design / development which other experts can do better. On the other hand it looks like a user friendly system and I have been frustrated over the years with various themes and plugins when I just wanted to draw / paint stuff and then add it to my website.


  4. I’m totally excited to lear about Simplice and its radical approach to content editing with WordPress. If the software is able to deliver what the website is promising, I can only say imo the product currently is underpriced by at least $200.

    From what it looks like, Simplice could be a high-end niche product for a clearly defined user group of professionals (oh, that tag line!). Pricing it at the level of an average “regular” premium theme, I’m afraid, might invite a wider group of non- or semi-professional users who by lack of professional design knowledge might not be able to use their new tool very effectively, and thus might produce an additional layer of support requests unrelated to the product itself, but related to design in general. It would be interesting to learn if and how Michael and Tobias are planning to handle that type of requests.

    However, congratulations to the producers of Simplice! It looks stunning indeed.


  5. HI and thanks for the post Sarah. How do you know the themes are GPL licensed? There’s no indication of that on their website. Thanks.


    1. I spoke with the Semplice founders to confirm the GPL licensing, but I think they have plans to further clarify that on their website.


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