People using WordPress for sometimes may know about these official themes releases named after years, namely Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven, Twenty Twelve, Twenty Thirteen, Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Fifteen and Twenty Sixteen. To find out more just google those terms.
Most users try them for at least once, while they start using this cms. As of now more than 3.4 million websites have them installed actively. If you check popular themes, you will see top 6 themes are these official themes. In spite of so many marketplaces and premium stores with free templates in wp.org repository, these generic blog themes are most used.
Clearly they are important, while reasons behind their importance may be debated. But that’s not our topic today.
Here, we are going to discuss them from an overall comparative perspective. And our aim will be to bring you an insight into changes made in WordPress design and features. So that, you can stay at the top of trends for now and in near future.
See the numbers
Lets begin with number of active installs and ratings. We are not considering the latest theme as we have not entered 2016 yet. And a prediction will be preconceived. So, just see first 6 themes.
One can expect numbers of installs will see a rise with more recent themes. But you will find Twenty Thirteen has been installed 50% less than average. And Twenty Fifteen has the highest number of usage, more than half of average. All of those theme were last updated on the same day, still such a variation of usage persists.
Without offending any WP user, clearly people liked 15 most and 13 was not up to the mark. The question is why?
Although in WordPress, about 1 or 2 person in ten thousand users gives ratings, still it also says something. Only 13 and 14 has 4 star rating and others have 4.5 star. If you investigate comments of rating givers, you will see many people are dissatisfied with more complex designs of those themes. Still, they are less significant than what installation numbers say, because of lack of participations.
Relevance of comparison
In 2010 WP had version 3.0+ and now it’s 4.4. Seriously, a lot has changed in the software as well as in internet technology. Still we are comparing them assuming some changes has been made to older themes over time.
So, we are not going to mark anything as good or bad. Rather, we will just try to investigate the design and feature trends over time.
Just start with features, the admin side so to say. As the core changed, themes also adapted to it. More emphasis was given in visual customization. Note that, importance is given to customizer but there are no separate settings page, as you find in premium themes.
Improvement of customizer
Initially, there was a very basic customizer but a lot of internal options have been introduced. Some important changes seen are:
- From Twenty Eleven a checkbox was given to optionally hide site title and tagline and it continues and it also has a new section, called Layout for content positioning.
- Only Twenty fifteen has a comprehensive inbuilt color scheme for layout elements. Previously, users were just able to customize some font color mostly.
- Background Image section was removed from Twenty Thirteen theme.
- In Twenty Fourteen you can find a new section called Featured Content. It shows special content through specified tag.
Also, Widget area or the sidebar has varied in numbers and location. There is a special inbuilt widgets, like Twenty Eleven and Twenty Fourteen Ephemera to list special post types.
Web Design trends have changed considerably with new technologies. After inspection, 3 main trends are found in these themes.
Responsivity and Mobile First design
The first one released didn’t have any kind of responsivity. Then it slowly evolved and you can observe this through changing menu items.
Designers started hiding the tagline in mobile version from Twenty Fourteen. In Twenty Fifteen collapsable menu became really trendy and professional.
It happened with introduction of mobile first design method to adapt with first growing mobile internet.
Even if Twenty Fifteen gave a mobile app like feeling, it was too minimalistic for desktop and some complained about it. Twenty Sixteen has a balance between mobile and desktop.
Simplistic Design Style
From using of colors to polishing of elements, simplicity is evident here. You won’t find any jQuery slider, Parallax screen or Powerful animations. They are all simple and as WordPress says Content Focused.
Each of these items has tweaked layout. Apparently looks like authors have experimented with position of almost all important elements.
Take a look at the numbers of sidebars, you will see, authors have decided to decrease the numbers to 1. Clearly, sidebar area is getting less importance. Only Twenty Thirteen and Fourteen had a footer sidebar. Otherwise, every footer just says: Proudly powered by WordPress, and no other footer elements are present.
User experience changes
Ultimately, UX has seen continuous polishing over time as new design trends came up. Trends, like compact forms, font icons, text fonts, full width page etc.
After experimenting in every theme, authors have reverted to light blue color for links and from Twenty Fifteen link underlining on hover has been removed. Also lists gained more shobber looks.
Twenty Thirteen has introduced icon fonts and the search form became collapsible from that on. But from Twenty Fifteen in-built search form has been removed. People can use it with an optional widget.
Also, Twenty Thirteen has introduced full width website and considerably new font sizes. But it went on over doing decorative designs. Authors corrected it from Twenty Fifteen and went on focusing content.
Lastly, on Twenty Sixteen
We may take away 2 points as concluding remarks for builders and users.
If you are building a blog theme, then follow Twenty Sixteen. It gives more customizing options and has mobile first design with desktop decoration and clearly content focused.
If you think your blog is for blogging purpose and nothing else, you need to balance between modern user interface and clarity. Definitely, Twenty Sixteen is going to be a perfect fit for a modern blog.