Reviewing the Layers Theme Framework from Obox Themes

Layers, from Obox Themes, is a WordPress site builder with the aim of making it as easy and painless as possible to design your WordPress site, and it's free.
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Layers, from Obox Themes, is a WordPress site builder with the aim of making it as easy and painless as possible to design your WordPress site, as you can see in it’s introductory video, and it’s free.

There are other site builders out there that make it easy, or easier, for you to build your WordPress site, however the way Layers integrates with WordPress and the easy-to-use interface make it a breeze to get used to. As the folks at Envato put it:

In simplest terms, Layers is a WordPress theme framework that extends the core functionality of WordPress by introducing layout building and management rights within the WordPress Theme Customizer. It offers an extensive set of options, widgets and templates to help you get started within minutes!

Layers also integrates fully with WooCommerce right out the box, and if you don’t want to start a new site from scratch there are a number of preset layouts that can give you a head start, and in this post I’ll be reviewing Layers with one of these layouts – Weather – an ideal layout to showcase a new app.

Getting Started with Layers

Before we get into the Weather layout, let’s install Layers and take a look at what it offers.

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Firstly, Layers is installed and activated as a normal WordPress theme, after which you can use it directly within the Theme Customizer. Even there you have no worries of having to know code as Layers uses a simple point and click interface.

This allows you to build pages from scratch and edit them within a beautiful interface that blends seamlessly into WordPress, even providing you with instant previews of the smallest of changes.

Layers offers a 1000 pixel flexible grid structure so that you can be sure that your content will look good on any device. Besides that, it’s important to note that, unlike other WordPress theme frameworks, Layers isn’t directly customizable. Instead, you’ can create presets or Style Kits, which can then be used to implement layouts to WordPress sites in minutes, making your site transferable between WordPress installations

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Obox have also gone the extra step and thought of the WordPress developers out there as they’ve made the Layers source code available on GitHub so that you can create your own themes and extensions.

Lastly, it’s also ready for localisation with support for a number of languages already, it can be white labelled if needed, and it also supports the majority of the modern web browsers out there.

Setting up the Weather Layout

As I mentioned earlier, the layout I will be using here is Weather. It’s a one-page layout designed to showcase your phone app, but it can really be put to use in various ways if you just use some creativity.

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Starting with the Layers Dashboard, here you’re not only provided with an overview of your Layers pages and some helpful links, but you’ve also got links to the available themes, style kits and extensions, along with a menu of the rest of the Layers options. The first one of these is Get Started, which is where we will get started ourselves.

By clicking here you’re taken through a quick tour of what Layers has to offer and how it works, guiding you to setting up the very basics of our site before we start editing the content and looks. At the end, you can select the layout to start off with; in this case, Weather.

The Theme Customizer

You’re now taken to the Theme Customizer and you can get started using Layer’s intuitive point and click editing interface. From here you’re able to modify everything on your one-page site, from the images and text to use, to the layouts and settings of each widget section.

When customizing a particular widget, be it content, slider or anything else, there are a number of settings you can play around with. As you can see in the screenshot below, you’ve got the basic settings for that particular widget, the options to add a featured image and background image, as well as the ability to align the text and images.

There are also extra settings for the layout, particular widget settings and advanced settings. As can be seen for the Slider widget, you can choose between a boxed, full width or full screen layout, you can set the slider settings you want, and add any custom CSS, padding and more.

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Next you can also customize the header and footer, choosing the layouts, positions of certain elements such as where to show menus and where to add widgets, and how many and which widgets to add to the footer. There’s also the option to add additional scripts on both the header and footer.

Viewing Your Changes

layers-preview-1Now that you’ve made the changes you wanted, added the content you needed, and set the settings of your choice, it’s time to check out what they look like. As I already mentioned, the changes you make while editing are displayed instantly in the preview, so you can check every slight change without having to save the theme and re-fresh the front-end of your site.

This screenshot shows what my test site looked like after making a few alterations here and there, and adding some new styling and widgets throughout the theme. The simplicity of Layers is evident in that this was achieved in just over half an hour from when I installed Layers for the first time.

Backup Your Pages

Last but not least Layers also gives you the option of backing up your pages. From this page you can “convert your Layers pages into regular WordPress pages, preserving the content you have worked so hard to create.”

The Layers Marketplace by Envato

In order to enhance Layers to bring the best out of it, a special marketplace for everything Layers has been set up by Envato in an exclusive partnership. This means that everything Layers related, such as child themes and extensions can be found in one central location.

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Documentation & Support

The documentation for Layers certainly isn’t lacking. So much so that on their website you’ll find various links to different levels of documentation as well as support.

First up you’ll find a Layers User Guide that provides you with all the details you need to setting up and using Layers from the basic installation to backing up your content.

There’s also a Troubleshooting section where you can find a number of common issues that you might come across while working with Layers, together with a How To section for further instructions with regards to possible changes and enhancements you’d like to make.

Last but not least you’ll find Product Guides, further Tutorials, and a Support section that offers both premium support as well as a public forum that you can follow and contribute to as needed.

Conclusions & Recommendations

Using Layers has probably been the most straight-forward process that I’ve come across to set up and design a WordPress site, whether from scratch or using one of the available child themes.

The fact that it’s free to download and use as a blank canvas to build on gives you a sense of freedom that you won’t have when using any set theme. The Layers dashboard is also very intuitive to learn, and makes the editing process as painless and fun as can be.

The support and documentation, as mentioned above, is more than enough to get you going, and to keep you going even after you’ve set your site up. Also, if you ever need to make any changes, either as a developer or as a client, you can be sure that it’s super easy to use, and there’s no chance of breaking anything since you won’t be touching any code.

Overall, this review has been one of my most enjoyable, not only due to the simplicity of Layers, but also because of all the possibilities that come with it.

Have you come across Layers, or perhaps used it for one of your projects? We’d love to know if you liked it as much as us, just leave us a comment below.

Mark Zahra
Mark Zahra
CEO at RebelCode, the team behind WP Mayor, Spotlight, WP RSS Aggregator, and the Mastermind.fm podcast. Follow me on Twitter @markzahra.

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