Articles in this Series
One of the problems with an off-the-shelf theme, is that there is no way that it is going to meet any particular set of needs perfectly until you install it. And, until you give a theme a good test drive, you don’t really know whether it will do the job or not. You can check for comments about the theme in WordPress.org. You can also check for problems people have had in the forum. But a test drive is the only way of knowing for sure.
One time, in a meeting with a graphic artist, after going through the steps I use to give a theme a quick check for security and basic support, I concluded with the idea that the only way to be sure a theme will do the job is to install it. She was surprised and said that she thought I had just done that with the basic security checks. Because she didn’t understand the complexity of a theme, she didn’t understand that the purpose initial check is to weed out the obvious insecure and unsupported themes. Going through the theme functions is an entirely different task.
There are themes, like Thesis, that do not allow for the WordPress function of creating a child theme. Kahuna does not mess with the default WordPress functions. If it did, I would not use it at all.
Element 1: Navigation
In the article Starting a new MontanaWebmaster.com site, I discussed the idea that I want my site to be a resource of categorized web development information. For the site to be effective, viewers will need many types of navigation because they often don’t know how to describe their problem in words. The Kahuna theme provides many doorways into specific topics from the home page with:
- Top navigation links
- Top navigation search
- Feature boxes, set 1 (posts I choose)
- Feature boxes, set 2 (recent posts)
Top Navigation and Search
The top navigation has a fairly typical setup. The fact that it shares a row with the site name fits my goals because it takes up less vertical space and positions the slider higher on the page. It will make more planning work to keep the Top Navigation in a shorter space horizontally.
Note that the search function button kind of disappears in the top navigation (by red asterisk). The search function is especially important in a situation where people don’t know how to describe their question or problem. I can fix this problem by making the search function background a different color so it stands out. That is a customization that should be done in a child theme.
ELEMENT 2: THE LOGO
The first row is pretty much like hundreds of other current themes: a white row with site name on the left and top navigation on the right.
At this time, I do not want to use a logo. The height of the row requires a horizontal logo. Logos that are very horizontal or very vertical fit in fewer places. A logo that fits into a square fits better into more situations … except this one, unless I create a child theme and make the space taller. This type of situation also highlights the fact that a simple logo or a simplified version is a good thing.
I do want the text to be larger. Even though it is repeated over the image in the theme default, I will be using a slider with a photo caption, which creates a need for the site name to stand out at the top. So, I will have to check whether the theme allows for resizing the banner text in the dashboard, or, whether I will have to do it in a child theme.
Element 3: The Banner Image/Slider
It’s difficult to portray web development with images. But my niche is microbusinesses, so I can use a slider to feature different types of microbusinesses. If the images are captioned, linked and switched out regularly, a slider is a great SEO opportunity.
The Kahuna theme comes with a banner image that can be switched for a slider. It comes with a default slider: Cryout Slider, but that slider didn’t work the way I wanted a slider to work. Again, the question is, can I have the slider I want without coding? Yes, the Kahuna theme allows you to choose a home page banner image or a slider in Appearance -> Customize -> Landing Page -> Slider. It even has the option to use the slider of your choice through a shortcode.
Element 4: The First Set of “Feature Boxes”
One of the features that attracted me to the Kahuna WordPress theme is what they call “Feature Boxes.” These are silos with an image and text that link into a Post. The top set of Feature Boxes allows you to choose what Posts will be presented by providing the option to choose a Category through the Dashboard Customize section. Because WordPress allows you to assign multiple categories to one post, you can set up a Category specifically for the posts that you want to show on the home page without affecting your site’s Category structure.
Using the Feature Boxes to the best advantage means having an image for each post that summarizes the topic of that post. It also means balancing the text by setting Excerpts that are uniform in length.
So far, so good, but it didn’t go far enough. I wanted each Feature Box to show one representative post from different major categories on my site without disrupting the post too much. It was not the intention of the theme writers to have the Feature Box posts represent individual Categories. This is a case, where my goal and the planning of the theme writer don’t match.
When you have to do a work around, there are often unintended consequences. I could have achieved this goal with coding, but I decided to see if I could implement my plan with Feature Boxes. Without coding, there is no way to get a Feature Box to indicate a Category, except in the image or in the text. The text comes from the Post Excerpt. If the Post Excerpt field is empty, the text comes from the first 55 words of the post. I could put the name of the Category in the text, but that would not stand out, and it would show in other places where the excerpt is used.
Instead, I decided to put the Category into the Featured Image of the Post. The Featured Image is the image Kahuna shows in the Home Page Feature Boxes. The side effect is that this image will also show as the Featured Image on Category pages. And, if a Post has multiple Categories assigned to it, the image will be representing a Category that doesn’t make sense. In the end, I decided that this is a trade-off I could tolerate … at least temporarily.