Over the past year the premium themes market has continued to grow and expand, causing designers to search for ways to separate themselves from the competition. Because many buyers choose to customize the design to meet their personal needs, it only makes sense for the focus of designers to instead turn to building custom settings pages that allow for a ton of flexibility.
These settings pages have become very complex in many cases and can offer a variety of features, including selecting where you want your sidebars placed, how many sidebars, which color/design style sheet should be used, or it can also offer simple things like places to enter your custom RSS feed, twitter feed, and Google Analytics code. As I’ve watched these control panels evolve over this past year, it has been truly amazing just how much can be changed without changing a single line of code!
Nick Roach, the founder of the popular Elegant Themes theme club, has been offering complex settings panels on his themes for as long as I can remember, but earlier this week I was given a peak at the new revamped settings panel named ePanel. This new settings panel is extremely complex and will eventually be added to all of the themes included with an Elegant Themes club membership. As of today’s date, ePanel is already integrated into the following themes and available for download: eBusiness, eNews, ePhoto, PureType, Bold, and CherryTruffle. Nick promises that the remaining themes will receive the same treatment over the coming month(s) and all themes will include this new ePanel.
So, what exactly is ePanel? Here is a screen shot of the updated design:
As you can see from the screen shot above, there are a few bonus tabs under the General Settings tab alone, and there are a total of 8 tabs down the left sidebar. The General Settings has the following 3 tabs: General, Homepage, and Featured Slider.
After loading up the theme to see how the settings panel works, I have to say I am very impressed! It looks like the General tab (under General Settings) allows you to select the style sheet color you want to use, enable/disable blog formatting on the homepage, Feedburner integration including all your Feedburner settings, and selecting the date format (dates are displayed differently depending on what part of the world you live in). In the Homepage tab you’ll get access to category display, as well as the ability to exclude certain categories of your choice. Of course the Featured Slider tab allows you to control how the featured slider works.
That is just the beginning though, as on the left there is also a series of tabs which include a large number of other settings. You’ll find Navigation options, Layout Settings, Ad Management settings, Colorization, and you’ll even be able to control certain SEO settings on the SEO tab (mostly meta information similar to how All-in-One SEO Pack works).
The best part is that all this new functionality is available for all Elegant Themes club members! Currently a membership to Elegant Themes is only $19.99 for an entire year, and stays at that price in order to renew your yearly membership. You can learn more about the Elegant Themes club here.
As much of the WordPress themes market continues to move towards the premium (paid) model, it can sometimes be a chore for the consumer trying to find the best value for your dollar. There are certainly a few overpriced themes out there, but with a little effort you can also find a few premium themes you can find which are often undervalued.
When it comes to value, I usually recommend people start by looking at the various theme clubs available. Of the theme clubs out there, there is no doubt the best overall value is with the Elegant Themes club. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, lets take a look at their latest release, the new eBusiness theme:
eBusiness WordPress Theme
You can view the live demo of the eBusiness theme here.
The eBusiness theme also includes a very impressive control panel, of which the author lists the following features:
Design Layout – The layout tab houses some of the major overlying options that effect the structure and appearance of your website.
- Color Schemes – eBusiness comes with three skins, and each skin comes in three colors. You can switch between these 9 different variations at any time from the drop-down menu.
- Website Structure – The essence of eBusiness is to act as a CMS, creating a page-based layout. I have, however, included the option to bypass the page-based homepage in favor of a normal blog layout. You can switch between Page Structure and Blog Structure at any time.
- Footer Options – You will notice that each page has a widgetized footer on the bottom.
Homepage Options – The homepage tab allows you to manage your homepage. If you are using blog style then most of these options do not apply, but if you are using the Page-based system then you will have to use this area to set up your homepage.
- Slider Control – You will notice that the demo features 3 sliding elements on the top of the homepage. These are managed via the Homepage tab. Here you can customize the content text, the title of the tab, the text used in the button, the thumbnail image (which is automatically re-sized) and an optional read more link, which can be pointed anywhere. You can also choose how many sliding elements to display (up to 3).
- Pages Control - The content on the homepage is made up of WordPress pages. You will create a page in wp-admin and then define the page to be used in the Homepage options tab. Simply input the page id of the pages you want to use and they will appear. You can also choose how many pages you want to use (up to4).
- Blog Scroller – Even if you are using the page-based system you can still have a blog area on your site. For this reason I have included a blogroll on the homepage with a link to your most recent posts. This can be turned off if you don’t plan to have a blog section. You can choose how many recent posts to display. You can also customize the RSS link if you want to point it towards your feedburner account.
Blog Setup – If you are using the Blog Structure, or if you plan to include a blog within your Page-based website, you can customize your blog here.
- Post Format - You can choose between “Blog Style” mode or “Default” mode. The Blog Style mode displays your posts in full on index pages, while Default mode automatically truncates the post to create a short preview with a “read more” link.
- Categories Bar – The categories bar, with links to your various blog categories, only appears on blog pages. However, if you are using the blog as simply a recent news section, and don’t plan to have several categories, you can turn off this categories bar.
- Further Post Preview Control – In addition to editing the length of the post previews you can also adjust the size of the thumbnail, as well as enable/disable the “read more” link and post info bar. All thumbnails are automatically re-sized, cropped, and cached, via TimThumb which means you can change the size of your thumbnails instantly at the click of a button.
Navigation Options – The navigation options allow you to customize the navigation bar. You can use this to exclude pages from the navigation, adjust the order of the links, add a link to your Blog section (if you are using one) and so on. Both the categories and pages navigation bars can be edited here.
Advertising Management – As with the rest of my themes I have included a banner management system. You can add 125×125 and 468×60 banners and choose how many 125×125 banners you want to display (up to 8). You can also choose where you want banners to be display. You can add them to your pages sidebar, blog sidebar or both. You also have the option to disable them completely.
How To Get a License for the eBusiness Theme
If you’d like to give the eBusiness theme a try, it isn’t free, but it almost is. Currently this theme, along with ALL of the themes released by Elegant Themes (close to 20 available currently), is available for only $19.99! Nick, the web designer behind Elegant Themes, has also upheld a pretty impressive release schedule, offering up a new theme just about every month (which should give you close to 12 new themes each calendar year), many of which can be viewed in their theme gallery.
As the premium themes market continues to grow and expand, it is interesting to see theme designers move to fill niches that were not previously filled.
The latest example of this is the eGamer theme by my friend Nick Roach over at Elegant Themes. Whether you play video games or MMORPG’s (such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest 2, etc.), the eGamer theme was created with gamers in mind, and the feature set matches what video game bloggers would most likely be looking for.
Features included with the eGamer theme include:
- Custom Author Review System.
- Video Embedding (from video sites such as YouTube).
- Thumbnail Resizing.
- Ability to Display Recent Reviews, Banner Ads, Popular Posts, and Recent Videos section.
- Choice of Magazine or Blog-style Layout.
- Option for post-page thumbnails
You can read more about the features included with eGamer here.
Here is how the eGamer WordPress theme looks by default:
Here is what the eGamer post page looks like:
In order to get a true appreciation of eGamer’s appearance and feature set, you’ll want to view the full demo here. I love how the sidebar is on the left and the comment section is really well done.
For a theme of this quality, there has to be a price, right? Well sort of. In order to download the eGamer WordPress theme, you simply need to be a member of the Elegant Themes club, which only costs $19.99 for a years membership!
With that $19.99 you also get access to every other theme released by Elegant Themes during that year. After a year passes, you have the option of renewing your membership to continue to receive future themes. I’ve been following Nick for quite awhile now and he seems to maintain a pretty nice release schedule, making this investment a no-brainer!
The concept of a theme club has been around for at least a year now, but over the past six months theme clubs seem to of really found a home and a following from WordPress users. The setup of the theme club, however, seem to differ at each place you go.
One of my favorite theme club business models that I’ve seen so far is the one setup over at Elegant WordPress Themes. Nick Roach has created a great club with a number of nice themes.
Each theme is guaranteed to have the following features:
- Widget Ready
- Valid XHTML and CSS Code
- Compatible with current WordPress version
- Cross Browser Compatibility
Elegant WordPress Themes is a great option for someone with a small budget or a large number of blogs. You can get premium quality themes for all your blogs, but have them all look different, for one low price.
To get an idea of what types of themes they offer, you’ll first want to check out the Elegant WordPress Themes Gallery page. This page is growing regularly, as the author has committed to adding 1-2 new themes EVERY week!
Here are a couple screen shots of my favorite EWT themes:
Studio Blue Theme
The best part about Elegant WordPress Themes is the price! For only $19.95, you get access to every theme Nick has released for an entire year. Click here to join the Elegant WordPress Themes club.