Solas is a WordPress theme that will appeal to anyone with lots of high-quality, full-size images to show off. Whether you are building a creative portfolio, or want to showcase a business or service using powerful imagery, Solas aims to help you present your visual content in the best possible way.
However, while there is a strong focus on displaying images, Solas has many other features which make it more than just a portfolio or photography theme. Some of those features include pricing tables, team profiles, sliders, and testimonials. These features make Solas ideal for use as a theme for creating agency websites as well as promotional sites for brands or organisations that use lots of strong images to tell their story.
Features and Usage
Installing Solas is straightforward and simply requires the zip archive of the theme files to be uploaded via the WordPress admin dashboard. There are two required plugins for Solas and after activating the theme the opportunity is presented to install and activate them, all from within the admin dashboard.
The two plugins in question are Titan Shortcodes V2 and WPTitan Tables. While they are included with the theme, both are freely available from the theme developers for those who want to use them with other themes. These plugins deliver extra features and by using plugins to provide these features, users aren’t locked into a theme should they make use of any of the shortcodes provided, they keep the plugins installed.
Before we look at the main features in detail, here is a quick rundown of the main components of this theme:
- Fluid responsive layout
- Easy import and demo recreation
- Two starter skins
- Easily switch from a horizontal or vertical header layout
- Sticky menu
- Layout builder
- Selection of shortcodes
- 100+ Web fonts
- Pricing table builder
- Create unlimited sidebars
- Selection of custom post types
As you can see you can do a lot with this theme right out of the box, including using it with a horizontal or vertical header menu area, and creating your own skins using the starter skin templates.
Replicating the Solas Demo
After installing the theme, there is an option to use the auto installer to quickly set the theme up to resemble the demo version of Solas. If you already have content published on your site then this isn’t the best approach and its recommend to follow the manual setup process.
However, if you are using a new WordPress installation then using the Titans Installer is a quick and painless way to get your site up and running with a great base to work from. In just a few clicks it was possible to have a very impressive website up and running. After running the installer you can then go in and add your own content and start making changes to the layout of the site to best meet your needs.
Theme Options Panel
The options panel for the Solas theme is not too different from the native WordPress UI in terms of appearance, but is different enough to be slightly awkward to use thanks to the lack of a fluid responsive layout and needlessly large header rows.
The use of the accordion style layout can save on space, but can also be confusing when used on a page with only item. There were also ‘read documentation’ links that went to pages that no longer exist, or links pointing to the wrong pages on the developer’s site.
However, the theme options panel does give you a good amount of control over the appearance of your site. From the settings panel you can easily change the following properties:
- Set the logos and header images
- Enter links to your social profiles
- Enable/disable comments
- Typography settings including using custom web fonts
- Configure the footer and enable footer widgets
- Enable/disable the responsive layout
- Choose a vertical or horizontal header layout
- Configure how blog posts are displayed
- Select a colour scheme skin
- Setup how 404 page not found messages are handled
Solas Layout Builder
This theme also comes with a layout builder tool. When using the layout builder, you can either create a new layout, or edit an existing layout that was installed as part of the setup process. The built in layouts include options such as home page, blog posts, and slideshows to name just a few.
Once you’ve named your new layout, or loaded up an existing one, you can begin adding elements to it by using the dropdown menus.
As you can see there are a lot of elements which can be added to your layouts, giving you a very quick and easy way to build feature rich pages for your site. The theme documentation has a full list of the available elements which can be added to your layouts.
As you add the elements to your layout, they are listed on the builder page, showing the order they will appear in. However, the builder supports drag and drop so you can quickly rearrange them.
Each of the elements can be setup and edited by clicking on the edit icon to access the options panel. Depending on the element, you can add text, images, and many other types of content.
As this isn’t a visual layout builder, you will have to save your layout and then view the page on the front end to see what it actually looks like. Once you’ve created a layout and you want to see how it looks or apply it to your site, it’s simply a case of creating a new WordPress page and then selecting the layout.
The theme adds a new metabox containing the layout details for that page. From there you can choose the column layout, select a sidebar, choose a template, select the header style and upload an image if required.
Then just save the page and your layout will be accessible from the frontend of your WordPress site.
The framework this theme is built upon also includes a sidebar manager. This allows you to create additional sidebars which can then be accessed via the WordPress ‘Widgets’ page.
Once you’ve created a new sidebar, you can then drag widgets on to it, and then the next time you create a new post or layout, you can select that sidebar to be shown alongside your post content.
By making use of this feature you can ensure your sidebar is only showing information that is relevant to the content on the page. For example, if a visitor is viewing a portfolio item, you could create a portfolio sidebar which contains previews of other portfolio items which would be of immediate interest to the visitor.
As mentioned earlier, Solas comes with a selection of shortcodes which are provided via a plugin. This is good news as if you do make use of any of these shortcodes, and then change themes down the road, as the shortcodes will still work provided you keep the plugin installed.
With the Titan Shortcodes plugin a new button is added to the WordPress WYSISG editor which allows you to insert shortcodes into your posts and pages. The shortcodes are grouped by the following categories:
- General (columns, buttons)
- Typography (quotes, highlights, lists)
- Widgets (tabs, accordions, Google Maps)
- Specials (slideshows, pricing tables, skills)
- Social (links to social profiles)
- Miscellaneous (tooltips, popovers, icons)
There is a good selection of shortcodes included with this theme, which makes it easy to add interesting and eye-catching page elements to your posts.
Another plugin that comes with this theme is the Pricing Tables plugin. This allows you to create multiple pricing tables which can be inserted into your posts and pages using a shortcode, or added to your layouts using the layout builder. As this feature is provided via a shortcode, you can still use these tables should you change themes at a later date.
Creating the pricing tables is very straightforward and you can add as many additional columns and rows to the table to accommodate all your products or pricing plans as well as listing the features for each one. Once you’ve created a table, it can be inserted into a post using the corresponding shortcode.
This is a useful feature to have access to especially if you are selling products or services of your own, or writing about those offered by others. It could even be used to compare non-commercial items such as places you are writing about, or anything else that can be compared or tabulated.
Custom Post Types
Solas includes a number of custom post types for handling content that isn’t considered a regular blog post. The four custom post types are:
The portfolio post type also has its own custom taxonomy which is the portfolio category. This allows you to organise and categories your portfolio items as you would with regular WordPress posts. The portfolio post type also lets you upload multiple images into the posts using custom fields.
As these custom post types are provided as part of the theme, instead of via a plugin, if you do use any of them and then change themes in the future you will lose the post types and more than likely have to go back and fix the content that was displayed using them.
The Solas theme is available from the Theme Forest digital marketplace for $45 under the regular license. This includes the required plugins and access to the support and documentation from the developers.
Support and Documentation
The developers of Solas have provided online documentation that covers installing and setting up the theme, as well as all the features that it makes use of. The documentation pages also include videos which give a walkthrough of the different aspects of the theme, allowing you to see the options for configuring the theme. Customers can also open tickets to contact the support team directly about any questions or issues they might have.
Final Conclusion and Recommendations
Solas is a great looking theme and could be just the right choice for someone with lots of high-quality images they want to showcase. As the theme provides plenty of opportunities for displaying full width images without any other on-page distractions it is probably best for those building a creative portfolio, a site for a creative agency, or organisations that make use of lots of vibrant images in their promotional material.
The documentation covers each of the features of the theme in enough detail for users to be able to start using the theme straightaway. The auto installer also makes it very easy to get started with this theme and replicate the demo version, giving you something to work backwards from when creating your own designs.
The layout builder worked well and despite not giving a visual representation of the layout, or being able to give you a preview of what you are building, it was fairly straightforward and easy to get to grips with. Being able to easily create multiple sidebars and then choose which sidebars to include in the layout and even at the individual post level was another really great idea.
The theme options panel was a little disappointing. The design looked ok but it didn’t seem like much attention had been paid to it and it would’ve probably worked better if the developers had stuck to the existing WordPress user interface. The inclusion of links to the documentation for the wrong theme and pages that no longer existed was slightly off putting too.
The decision to include some of the features of the theme as plugins, such as the shortcodes and the pricing tables, was a great idea and follows the recommended best practice from well-regarded WordPress theme developers. Doing as much as possible to prevent users from being locked into a theme makes it an easier decision to make when it comes to choosing whether to try a new theme or not. However, the developers of Solas could take things one step further and include the custom post types as plugins too.
If you like the look of the frontend of the Solas theme and think it will be able to present your content in the best possible light then there is nothing major in the backend of this theme to stop it from getting a recommendation. For those seeking a template for a creative portfolio or anyone who just has a lot of great images to show off, Solas is definitely worth adding to your shortlist.
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