Taking the Elementor Pro Plunge

Along with GeneratePress Premium. And er, OceanWP Premium. Look, I’m a little indecisive. It wasn’t that long ago after all, that I ran through the rigamarole of setting up OceanWP in what I thought was my liking.

More details below but the headline is: Changes ahoy again! And in fact, shortly after I publish this post, I’ll be flicking the site over into an out-of-the-box style of GeneratePress. Many of the plugins, hooks and Elementor previews for it require it to be the active theme to work with.

For posterity — the before shot (desktop).

I think it’s worth calling out though, that OceanWP even in it’s free version is an amazing theme. The flexibility it offers beats the pants off some of the other highly recommended Elementor (free or pro) friendly themes like Neve or Astra.

OceanWP lets you modify which order the Elementor hooks show up in, or whether they show up at all.

So why change theme entirely, rather than customise further?

Good question.

The answer being that OceanWP — possibly as a result of just how much flexibility it offers, and possibly entirely down to some quirk of my own site — has a few issues that I couldn’t easily seem to override or fix.

None of them on their own were deal breaking, but in combination they’ve got to me enough to retrigger taking a look around at what else is out there.

Example? Well, if you were a mobile or tablet user (or even just narrowed the horizontal width enough on desktop) the responsive version of the menu had the error text ‘undefined’ sitting below the menu options.

I also didn’t much like the fact that the main archive page used the tagline in such a huge title font. But configuration of how that appeared was tied to archive titles more generally. I looked into playing around with a CSS override, but of course it uses the same class descriptors as well (which makes sense given the configuration tie-in).

There were are few other smaller bits and pieces too, but the long and the short of it is — I’d still recommend OceanWP to someone looking for a great out-of-the-box free theme that ties in to the WordPress customiser to a frankly amazing degree.

So if you’re switching OFF OceanWP, why buy the premium edition?

Another good question!

The answer lies pretty much 100% in the Elementor extensions it provides. I did enable a bunch of the theme specific plugins too, to see if I might be able to work with OceanWP around some of the bugs and issues noted above with them.

But nooope. Turned most of them off again almost straight away. I have no doubt they’re useful for certain WP powered websites. Just… not mine.

So with having discovered that, I’ll need to make an assessment on whether or not it’s worth paying for to keep these extensions updated beyond the year. My prediction is: Probably not. But guess we’ll come back and revisit that later. ;)

And Elementor? Why go Pro?

The ThemeBuilder power of it, primarily.

The free version of Elementor lets you design fantastic standalone pages, and a few other bits and bobs. But Elementor Pro lets you go in and fully redesign how things like the Archive pages are put together. Search pages. Individual blog page templates. Headers. Footers.

Things that were previously tied 100% into a theme and you had no means of customising (beyond what the Theme allowed you to) without diving into the code.

If you’re curious.. Er. Here’s a 28m tutorial. This tutorial works from essentially a blank state, but Elementor friendly themes like OceanWP, GeneratePress, Astra, etc can be used to fill in the bits you don’t especially need or want to build by hand.

Jump to ~3m 30s if not interested in the grabbing and installing of the blank slate ‘Hello’ theme.

I had a bit of a play last night with a custom header. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, but one that I have a lot to learn about yet!

My first priority will be to configure what I can from GeneratePress alone, then it’ll be time to dive in here crack my knuckles a bit. :)

Final Note: None of this is necessary!

I just wanted to acknowledge this. Especially for any of our new joiners for Blaugust 2019.

As long as you’re not making your readers eyes bleed. As long as you’re not causing them strain by too small or too tightly packed text. As long as you’re not getting your readers lost on an unnavigable site…

Then all the rest of this is fluff. Don’t worry about it until you’re happy you’ve settled into a content creation rhythm which is comfortable for you. Or at all.

And if you do start poking around at custom themes and all that — there are plenty of utterly free options to look through first, including many of the ones I’ve mentioned today!

Blog Redesign, Polls and even Facebook

Blog Redesign

Depending on how you typically view Time to Loot, you may or may not be aware of a rather significant change in appearance since yesterday. Not just appearance, but function too. The archives now show excerpts with thumbnails rather than entire posts. Posts have hero images. I even flirted with the idea of infinite scroll for the index, but have since turned that off again. For now.

I was running the Genesis Framework and Magazine child-theme, a pair I bought access to waaaaaay back in the day for my old blogging efforts. There is a great deal to love about the Genesis Framework, some parts I’m already missing even — but even the newly released themes seem so… outdated.

Both are screenshots the main index page. But before entire posts were displayed, now using an excerpt display.
There are some differences shown in the ‘old’ from what was actually present though. e.g., the Social icons didn’t wrap (there was one less! More on that soon), and I had a ‘Featured Posts’ carousel.

I’m possibly far from done, but I’ve setup my new theme (OceanWP if you’re wondering) enough that I’m happy with it for the time being. It has been something of a revelation how many more components and areas of configuration it adds to the WordPress ‘customiser’ compared to the old Genesis themes though. To change typographic elements before I had to find their reference in the CSS files and edit by hand. Now it’s all menu driven!

I’ve been researching Divi and Elementor rather extensively. I’m talking multiple 2-3 hour videos of tutorials to see how things are constructed and end results. Answer so far? Inconclusive. Elementor does have a free basic version which is pretty powerful for pages, but adjusting how blog archives and posts work is locked into the Pro edition.

Both of them are more aimed at complete site design rather than ‘just’ a blog, so they’re very likely overkill for what I want… But… I haven’t quite shaken the desire to grab them entirely yet. ;)

Polls! As a Blog Reader…

…Do you like ‘Infinite Scrolling‘? How about Excerpts vs. Full Posts? Or do you not care how a blog presents on the web, because you use WP Reader, Feedly or some other off-site solution?

Those are the questions I pose, and I would love your input! Click through below to add your voice to the poll.

I’ll give this a few days or so then share the results for everyone. :)

Suddenly a Wild Facebook Appears

…I don’t yet know if it will be super effective.

I’m not expecting too much though, as I don’t plan on expending a lot of effort on it. I created the page, and linked the blog to it to auto-crosspost, but that’s it.

I’m also still a little uneasy that the page belongs to my actual Facebook account, being honest. But we’ll see how it goes. Twitter will still absolutely be my preferred social communication channel, and I could stand to be more active there as it is. ;)

If you’re curious though, the Facebook page is here!1.

I’ve followed a few other blogs that I could spot with Facebook pages, but I know I’ve missed people.

Probably a great many people. So let me know! :)

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