My daughter and I looked at dozens of themes, and tested out one or two. X was among those we looked at, and we both liked it, particularly the Integrity stack.
- PLEASE NOTE: This post refers to an older version of X. Some features have changed and as yet Cornerstone is not included in this review.
If the term stack baffles you, think of it as a framework. If the theme is the outer shell of a house, then the stack is how you then divide up the rooms inside that shell. When we started looking at X, it had 3 stacks – Integrity, Renew and Icon. Integrity looks most like a traditional blog, while Renew and Icon would possibly be more suited to company websites.
Eventually, we narrowed it to X or Prophoto. Several bloggers I know use and recommend Prophoto, so I was tempted to go for it. I liked the way its front page could display blog excerpts with thumbnail photos. But, at $200, Prophoto is pricey, even if you can use it on two blogs. Most themes cost around $40, and X is just a little more at $64. So we took another look at X. It had a new addition: the Ethos Stack. We both loved it, even though is aimed at magazine sites or newspapers. It’s Ethos you see on this blog.
The amazing front page.
As well as those post extracts with thumbnail photos that I so wanted, Ethos has options to add a post slider below the menu-bar (which I did) and a post carousel above the header (which I didn’t.) With the post slider you can either showcase posts at random or choose which ones you’d like to highlight. Because some photos look better in it than others, I recommend selecting your posts. (This is very easy to do.) We also loved the sleek look of the overall design.
- PLEASE NOTE: I have removed the post slider from my front page because it now stretches across the top of the sidebar. I didn’t want that on my front page, but you can see the slider on category archive pages such as this one for Creative Writing Tips. I still consider the Ethos stack to be a great theme and will update this post very soon.
Filter by Topic bar.
Take a look at the screenshot below.
When you click on any topic, the listing changes, right there on the main page. The filter automatically displays your categories as topics, making it very easy for readers to skim through content. This feature isn’t perfect, as I’ll explain later, but there is a very easy workaround, which I will also explain.
Many of the changes to a theme that are usually made using CSS, can be done in the Customizer. If you aren’t familiar your blog’s customizer – it allows you to make changes to your theme and instantly see them in the live previewer. Although this is a WordPress feature, Themeco have placed more functions in the Customizer than many other themes do. Since my daughter knows CSS and I don’t, we had intended that she would do most of the customization. However, I was able to do far more of the work myself than I’d expected to.
The Knowledge Base and the Forum
Themeco has a support base entirely for X. The Knowledge Base is a collection of videos and posts with information on various aspects of the theme. So you can watch a video of how to use the short codes, for instance. Or on how to set up portfolio pages, as well as almost everything else you need to know. And if you still can’t get what you need, then there’s a forum where tech support will answer your questions. Politely. Even if your technical knowledge is diddly-squat. (The answers don’t always come instantly because Themeco is an Australian company, and the replies generally came while I was sleeping.)
Given that Ethos is not aimed at blogs, there were surprisingly few issues with applying it to a blog. For us, the only major challenge was the header. I wanted a full width header, but the default setting does not support this. The screen shot below is from the demo site for Ethos.
Looking at the screenshot above again, notice that at the very top is the post carousel, followed by a bar that contains the word “Ethos,” and the menus. In X terminology that word “Ethos” is the Logo, and this arrangement is Logo and Navbar arranged inline. Arranging them stacked would move “Ethos” up.
If you don’t upload an image (Logo) X uses the blog’s name as the logo. We didn’t want that, and uploaded the banner my daughter had designed. At first it came up too small, so we tried changing the settings. This is how it looked when stacked with the NavBar and at what we’d hoped would be full width:
My name, which had where “Ethos” was in the demo example, has now disappeared, and there are black bands at each side. Getting the name back was easy enough – my daughter just added it to the header in Photoshop.
Creating the full width header was more complicated, and involved making changes in the control panel files, as well as adding CSS in the Customizer. It was also the main reason for the many messages back and forth on the forums.
The other obstacle to overcome was considerably less complex. Remember I said that the Topic Filter isn’t perfect? Here’s why – at its default setting, instead of all recent posts showing on the home page, with the filter activated, only posts in the first category show up. Since this is only my second post in the “Blogging” category, that would mean a very empty home page. It would also mean that if my most recent post was in any other category it wouldn’t show on the first page.
When I realised this I headed over to the X forum, and discovered that many other people also wanted the default setting to show all posts. Themeco’s tech support responded by providing the code needed to do this.
However, it involves editing files in your blog’s cPanel. Although I feel really pleased to have eventually understood how to edit files well enough to get the header to work, it was with a huge amount of support from both Themeco and Go Daddy, and I really didn’t relish another steep learning curve quite so soon. Besides, since so many people are asking for the default setting to show all posts, I have a feeling Themeco will soon respond by providing this.
If you, like me, are not fluent in editing CSS, you will be pleased to know there is a very easy workaround. Let’s take a closer look at the filter:
Notice that the first category is “All.” This means that all my recent posts now show up on the first page. I added this as a category and added the first page of posts to that category. (Since it’s so easy to navigate through the filter, I think it’s unlikely that anyone would scroll further than the first page of posts so I haven’t categories older posts as “all.”) It does mean the most recent posts are categorised twice, but for now I’d rather have that than tackle my cPanel files just yet. If Themeco don’t make any changes to enable “All” as default, then I’ll probably muster up the courage in due course!
In spite of these two minor hiccups, now that Ethos is up and running, I really love it! If you came to this post direct and haven’t been to the home page, do go there now and test out the cool features, especially the Topic Filter.
And then come back and drop me a comment letting me know what you think! I love getting comments.