My Theme Song: Why I’m Singing the Praises of Prose

make your brand sing with the right theme for your websiteDoes the Big Brand System blog look different today? This past weekend, I made a change to the Prose theme (affiliate link) from Studio Press, the creators of Genesis themes.

There are lots of reasons to love Prose — it’s a theme that’s designed for people just like me, who want to be able to control the look of their sites, and who aren’t comfortable getting under the hood and tinkering with code.

Studio Press specializes in plug-and-play themes that look great right out of the box. The Prose theme was created for people who like to think outside the box and create a site that’s 100% unique to them. Does that sound like you? Read on.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Prose features design controls for all the little details I love to get my hands on. It makes customizing the look of your site simple and fast. It’s not perfect — no theme is — but since this is only version 1.0, I have high hopes for the future.

Here are the reasons I love Prose:

1. Unique headers are a piece of cake

One super-fast way to customize your site is by adding a graphic along the top rather than a simple line of type. Prose makes it easy by providing a place to upload the image in just one click.

2. Custom backgrounds are a snap

Want to add a color to your background? I recommend it. Adding a background is a one-step process with Prose. If you want to get daring and add an image or a texture, that’s simple, too. Prose lets you choose how the image repeats, and shows you a sample of the final product before you commit to it.

3. Design controls made for control freaks

Prose comes equipped with a full page of design controls. There’s something here for everyone — want to add an inner border plus hover color and drop down menus for your navigation? Check. Want to control the size and color of your entire hierarchy of headline styles? Got it. Need to add a widget to your header area? No problem.

Take a look at a section of the design controls in Prose. This is only the top 20% of the page!

make your brand uniquely yours with custom design settings

4. Sidebars made easy-peasy

Sidebars are easy to snap together with Prose, too. Genesis supplies you with lots of cool widgets you can simply drag and drop to fill your sidebar with helpful information. Don’t fill it up too much, though. Follow Derek Halpern’s great advice here about keeping your sidebar simple for maximum conversions.

5. Plugins that pump up the power

Genesis has some ultra-cool plugins that allow you to modify your footer text, change how your blog displays author and comment information, and use “hooks” to extend the functionality of the theme.

News flash: Studio Press is working on a soon-to-be-released plugin that will allow you to use the free Google Font API on your Prose site, too. Font heaven. :-)

Thou Art Not Perfect, However

I guess by now you can tell I’m a fan. The Prose theme isn’t perfect, and I’m composing an email with my Prose wish list to send to Brian Gardner of Studio Press. (Brian, you’ve been warned!)

Here’s what I’d love to see in the next version of Prose:

  • The ability to specify site width. Right now, Prose comes in one size. This ended up being less of an issue than I anticipated, but I know many people will want to be able to make their sites wider or narrower than the standard size. I understand this is complex, and not easy. But I still want it, and I know others do, too.
  • Controls to make the sidebar font different from the content font. Thanks to the CSS wizardry of the amazing Wendy Cholbi, I was able to get this effect on my site. Why is this important to me? Running your “business information” — like what you might feature on your sidebar — in a different font helps to differentiate it visually from your main content.
  • A one-click way to move your navigation bar below your header. This is one of the first changes people want to make, and it’s not hard to do if you add custom.css code. But it would be nice to make the change with one click.
  • A one-step way to upload your favicon image. The favicon image on my site is that blue “BIG” box you see up in your browser window. In order to get your favicon loaded up in Prose, you have to access your site through FTP software. This was the only time I had to open FTP software to set up my new theme. Why not eliminate that step, and make it easy to upload your favicon from within WordPress?

Great Out of the Gate

The version of Prose I’m using now is a powerful product that puts design controls into the hands of everyone — no matter what your level of coding ability. I can’t wait to see where the product goes from here.

What do you think? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good review, Pamela. It’s nice to have that inside look of what Prose can do. There are so many things you can do if you’re comfortable digging into code, but if not, it’s great to be able to make some customizations with just a click. The new look is great!

  2. Dave Charest says

    Great review Pamela. How long did the switchover take? Is that a difficult process?

    Just an FYI I looking at this on my iPhone and I can’t seem to find a way to turn off the mobile theme. I’m assuming your site proper looks much better. =)

    • says

      Hi Dave! I think the mobile theme is getting messed up by my caching plugin. I’ve turned it off now, but it may take a little while to “populate” across the web. I’ll check back later to see how it looks. Thanks for letting me know!

      • says

        To answer your question about how long it took, it was about 5-6 hours total. Wendy had to go in and spend additional time getting my Typekit fonts to work, and adding some padding (I love lots of white space!).

        I think the switchover would be faster for normal folks who aren’t as icky-picky as I am. :-)

  3. says

    That navbar below the header issue is probably a deal breaker for me, unless of course there are help files that tell you exactly how to do it. I don’t want to mess with CSS. I’m just not comfortable with that. The fact that you had to hire someone to help you with changing your sidebar fonts is also kinda worrisome.

    You didn’t mention if there are help files or tutorials. I was disappointed with the Premise tutorials.

    The deal “maker” however is the ease of adding that notice box. I don’t think Thesis does that easily, or am I missing something?

    Thanks for this, but I must admit I’m not convinced I should change camps if things are working with what I’m using right now. Will it make me money or save me time? I guess that’s the real question. That notice box could make me money, and I don’t have one right now, but I’ve seen Thesis sites that have it.

    Starting from scratch, I’d probably put this at the top of my list, but now, hmm, not sure. Sign me “undecided.”

    • says

      Moving the nav bar was a simple copy/paste affair, so it wasn’t hard. Their help files are pretty good: you get access to a forum and can search to see if your question has been asked already (it probably has).

      Honestly, I’m not trying to convince folks to change: I’m just sharing my experience. It’s a little scary to dismantle your site in one theme and reconstruct it in another, but in this case it went smoothly and I’m happy with the result.

  4. says

    Hey Pamela – just wanted to drop by and give you props for such a great customization of Prose. Thanks so much for the post, and for walking people through the process you experienced along the way.

    I appreciate that you took some time to provide suggestions for Prose, and wanted to let you know that we’re actually in the process of updating it to a 2.0 version. This Design Settings in this one will be much more comprehensive, and I will certainly point Gary Jones to your post (but I’m sure he’s already seen it) to make sure that he sees your suggestions.

    Again, great job on the site! :-)

    For what it’s worth, the navbar that sits above the header can easily be put back into place below by removing this code in the functions.php file:

    // Reposition the Primary Navigation
    remove_action(‘genesis_after_header’, ‘genesis_do_nav’);
    add_action(‘genesis_before_header’, ‘genesis_do_nav’);

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by, Brian! Excellent news that you’re working on version 2.0. Can’t wait to see it!

      I owe you an email with my wish list, so watch for it later today. :-)

  5. says

    Hey Pamela,

    Thanks for this review. It’s good to hear it coming from someone who doesn’t want to mess with code and knows exactly what they want.

    One question: Can you compare it to Thesis? I don’t recall if you used Thesis before.

  6. says

    Um. .. am I missing something? I’m viewing in Safari 4.1.3 (old Macbook) and I’m pretty sure what I’m seeing is one of the WP stock themes (am reading this on your site – I was all atwitter with excitement, LOL).

  7. says

    Hi Pamela

    I am using Prose too and while my site is nowhere near as customized as yours I have observed that your header image is a lot bigger than mine. While I was creating my header in Photoshop I had set the width of the final image to be the recommended as-is width of 150px.. I didn’t know you could go over that limit

    • says

      Hi there Bhaskar,

      My header image is pretty big: it’s not the SMALL Brand System, after all! ;-) I am going to continue to tweak and it may look a little different in the coming weeks.

      Prose has a setting in the design controls that lets you set the depth of your header. You make the change there, and when you go to upload your header image, it will be set up to take whatever size you indicated. Have fun with it! I find it a little addictive …

  8. says

    Very good then. I have the mocha theme on my blog but we are trying to decide on a theme for our Punch Advertising site. This sounds like a good option.

  9. says

    I like the new look. It is BIG and clean and I see what you mean about the sidebar fonts versus the content fonts. I also like the landing page tease and the mix with it.

    Good work.

    • says

      Chet, I didn’t mention this, but Prose has a landing page template built right in. I was able to create those by simply selecting a different page template. Thanks for your comment.

  10. says

    It looks nice, but unless I had your other version right in front of me, I’m afraid I don’t notice too much difference. Not to rain on the parade, but I’ve been using weaver 2010 and it offers a lot of the stuff you mention, and a lot of the things on your wishlist too. Plus it’s free.

    The only draw back is that there isn’t a video series on how to use it, though I’m actually going to tackle that myself soon.

    Love your blog and info. You keep me interested and learning.

    • says

      Thanks, Jenn. I didn’t want to do a redesign this time out, so I focused on creating a similar look to what I had with this new theme. Good luck with your series!

    • says

      Pamela,

      I love the website change but I am not ready for a premium theme. Like Jenn, I use 2010 Weaver which is extremely customizable. I made some changes after studying your site. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery you know.) Videos would be nice Jenn.

  11. says

    Love the new look Pamela, i wonder if any of the design features of Prose will be added to some of the other themes? We use Serenity over at Birds and it would be lovely if some of the design settings for that were as easy as Prose :)

  12. says

    I just moved my WordPress.com site to Prose. As a tech novice, went to WordPress Camp Philly, joined a WordPress Meet Up Group, read 2 books, and the online support, I an happy. Prose was mostly easy to customize. There are a few technical details that I have failed to conquer, so far. I’m still making adjustments.

  13. Andrea says

    Hi Pamela,
    Love it. Congrats! I bought Genesis and Prose for my main site a few months ago and since I’ve been working with clients, I have not had time to yet customize it. Its uploaded and all, but still need to take time to do it :(
    I was worried as I know customization of a theme can be pretty complex, so I think I’ve been also putting it off.
    I better get on it….
    Brian mentioned they are releasing the 2.0 version….are we then getting upgraded? Any idea?
    Great job again Pam….you inspired me to get my “assana” into gear and get to work :)

    • says

      Thanks, Andrea! I don’t know about the upgrade but I would guess that current owners will be able to get 2.0 when it’s released without having to pay for it again. That seems to be the way they do things over there!

      It sounds like the next version is going to be even better than this one, so I’m looking forward to it. :-)

  14. says

    I think your site looks brilliant, Pamela. I’m curious to know why you chose Prose versus any of the other Genesis themes.

    I’ve recently set up a new site on Genesis, but using Serenity….

    • says

      You know, I think it’s because I am a control freak when it comes to design. ;-)

      I love that Prose allows you to control almost everything about the way the page is presented. I’m not 100% comfortable with code, and the design controls let me make changes to the appearance without having to delve into code.

      Just took a look at the Serenity theme and it’s beautiful. (Do they make any ugly themes?)

  15. says

    Fantastic Prose review!

    That is actually the theme I chose for my own site but I had a really hard time trying to make it wider.

    I started dabbling with the CSS for the header, then the wrap, then the footer, then I realized all the content inside was fixed on the same place and even though I could have practically destroyed the whole code (or with some luck managed to make it look like I wanted)…

    That’s too much of a hassle to recommend it to my readers by saying they can create a site like they want when they can’t even make it wider, so adding that feature is going to be great, I’m crossing my fingers that Brian really adds it on Prose 2.0

    I really enjoyed your review and I wished I watched your video before I was doing all my tweakings by trial and error lol

    Sergio

    • says

      I agree: it’s a pain to make wider right now. This is one of the big weaknesses of the current version of Prose.

      We included a formula for figuring it out in Site Setup Kit because it’s a common request. But even with the formula, it takes some work.

      From what I’ve seen, the ability to set your site width is going to be built into Prose 2.0. It will be worth waiting for!