After a lot of going back and forth, I have finally decided to do a full redesign of the Dev4Press Network. I will make some pretty significant changes in how the content, support, and plugins are presented in the process.
From the first day, the Dev4Press website was made with the theme developed internally, and for the past 12 years, there were 4 different themes (and few minor theme variants) used for the whole Dev4Press Network, never it has run on any third-party theme. Right now, the Dev4Press Network is running on version 8, meaning that many times in the past 12 years, website design or functionality has gone through major changes that warranted a new version.
Dev4Press Network is using the main control plugin that holds the majority of the custom code built for Dev4Press that includes: plugins update system, custom-built Dev4Press store (licensing, downloads, accounts…), and a lot more stuff that doesn’t strictly depend on the theme. And, it has one main theme, with each site in the Network using a child theme. And, so far, all main themes were internally developed.
All that will change this year and the new Dev4Press website will be made using the GeneratePress theme, using their GP Premium plugin (and, during this whole process, I will be already using the early GP Premium 2.0 development versions – hopefully, a stable release will be available in the next few months).
Why did I decide to not go with the new custom-build theme? Well, there are few reasons:
- A few years ago, I decided not to have any more themes developed to sell via Dev4Press, and that has not changed, so making a new theme would require a lot of time which I don’t really have.
- The new theme has to be very fast, built with the Block Editor in mind, and making such a theme from scratch would be a major undertaking, that again would require a lot of time.
Why did I decide to use GeneratePress (and GenerateBlocks)? This was really an easy decision, and there are few reasons for that:
- I already used GeneratePress and GP Premium on the DebugPress website, and it was a great experience working with them. In that case, there are hardly any code customizations done.
- I did few smaller websites for clients in the past year, all based on GeneratePress, and some websites did need a lot of customizations. Generatepress is, in general, very developer-friendly, with actions and filters used everywhere, allowing very in-depth customizations.
- It is fast. GeneratePress is faster than any theme I have tried in the past 3-4 years. It even has options in the core related to how the CSS should be generated and used, making the base theme loading fewer files than any WordPress default Twenty themes.
- It is paired with the GenerateBlocks plugin (same developer as the theme). In general, it is a very Block Editor oriented theme (it works well with builders too, but I think that Block Editor – or Gutenberg Editor are essential for future WordPress websites, not to mention that ALL the Website Builders currently available are bloated and slow).
- The theme can be easily expanded with new templates and features. Dev4Press would require many customizations, and I already tested the GeneratePress theme with many already existing Dev4Press required elements, and the transition is quite simple. I will not need to spend too much time converting things; mostly, styling changes would be required.
- The new upcoming GP Premium 2.0 is a game-changer for building a theme (yeah, they use the ‘Theme Builder’ name for it). It allows you to use Block Editor to make many elements for the website and reuse them everywhere through hooks or template replacement. This way, you can visually build headers, footers, and other stuff and take advantage of Block Editor, spending less time coding some of the templates.
Why not some other theme? I did evaluate several other themes that are very popular right now, all having free themes with the Pro offering, but none really came close to what GeneratePress was doing. The two themes that were in contention are Astra and OceanWP.
What needs to be done for this new website version? Well, the theme is one of the main elements, and the approach will include:
- GeneratePress theme will be used, but each site in the network will actually use the child theme for GeneratePress. There will be some shared content between all the sites in the network, and all sites will be able to load some of the templates and styling from the child theme used on the main Dev4Press website (www).
- Use GP Premium 2.0 to build various common elements to be used on all sites in the network, making most of the content generated by Block Editor.
- Create new blocks for the block editor for some specific content. These will mostly be simpler blocks to replace some of the shortcodes used right now. Still, some things I plan to leave as shortcodes for now.
Right now, I do not have any specific or set-in-stone date when I will finish the redesign and when the new Dev4Press version 9 will be available only, but some provisional plans are for the process to be finished in the early Summer of this year. This is of course if all goes as planned, and if the development of the Dev4Press plugin is not affected, that remains the primary goal.
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