Christmas is coming early in WordPressland this year, with WordPress 4.1 slated for release early this month. As exciting as this piece of news already is, it gets even better. The developers are putting together an extra present: A new default theme by the name of Twenty Fifteen.
As most of you probably know, the release of the new default WordPress theme has been a time-honored tradition of the past five years. Starting with Twenty Ten, these themes have been a show of WordPress development best practices, state-of-the-art theme making, and great parents for child themes.
So, in the spirit of children who cannot wait for Christmas Day and try to sneak an early peek at their presents, I grabbed the latest beta of WordPress 4.1 to take a look at what we can expect from the new theme. Here is what I found.
The Twenty Fifteen default theme: An overview
- Twenty Ten gave us custom header images
- Twenty Eleven taught us about custom post types and color schemes.
- Twenty Twelve introduced responsive design
- Twenty Thirteen took post formats to a whole new level
- Finally last year’s Twenty Fourteen came as an online magazine theme with a grid layout
So what does Twenty Fifteen hold in store for us? Here are the first impressions:
A focus on content sharing and blogs
With Twenty Fifteen, WordPress is returning to its roots: sharing content. The theme is a dream come true for bloggers. A simple, two-column layout where content takes center stage. Quite a sharp contrast to the sometimes overly stuffed page design of its predecessor.
Clean and simple design
Twenty Fifteen takes a no-frills approach: Clear lines, monochrome colors, and lots of whitespace dominate the scene. The theme also adheres to the trend of flat design, with a few borders here and there to avoid coming off as bland. The result is calming, with plenty of breathing room for images and text.
Talking about text, Twenty Fifteen uses Google’s Noto Serif and Sans for typography. The fonts are simple, clean, and appealing. Apart from that, they’re designed to be readable on a wide variety of screen sizes, and suitable for many different languages thus highlighting WordPress’ internationalization efforts.
Putting mobile first
What is also clear is that from the start this theme was designed with mobile devices in mind. Coming with a number of very sensible break points and a slick collapsible menu, Twenty Fifteen remains attractive and easily browsable across screens of all sizes.
Twenty Fifteen: Features
Diving deeper into the theme, it becomes obvious that simplicity is not only the theme of the design but extends to under the hood as well. A conscious decision appears to have been made to reduce features to a bare minimum. That is not to say that Twenty Fifteen is boring. On the contrary, those features that were included are well executed and quite sensible.
Custom colors and headers
The theme is designed to make liberal use of the customization options featured in the WordPress core. For those who want to liven up the original monochrome look, Twenty Fifteen comes with five additional color schemes — dark, yellow, pink, purple and blue. If you want to take matters into your own hands, users can also set custom background colors for the site, header, and sidebar, as well as text color for sidebar and header.
One of the coolest things about the theme are the Social Links. Twenty Fifteen has a dedicated menu location for social media icons. To use it, merely create a custom menu and assign it to the respective location. If you now fill it with links to your various social presences, the theme will automatically display the respective icons for the following platforms:
- Email (mailto: links)
- RSS Feed (urls with /feed/)
And they are slick, too!
Beautiful image galleries
While Twenty Fifteen comes with a number of different post formats that WordPress users should already be familiar with, the one for gallery posts stands out. It comes with a masonry-type layout that not only looks stunning but uses up less space than earlier solutions. Plus, upon click, images can be viewed in a beautiful, large lightbox environment.
Menu item descriptions
The new default theme allows users to add additional descriptions to their menu items. Personally, I think the first time I saw something like that was on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Blog. Twenty Fifteen now makes it easy as pie for anyone. Merely enable the new custom field in the screen options of the menu settings and you are good to go.
As usual, the latest WordPress default theme both taps into current design trends, as well as introduces a few chosen novelties to the WordPress platform. Twenty Fifteen’s design is content-centric and simple. The features in Twenty Fifteen are reduced to the bare minimum but well executed. Overall it makes a good and coherent first impression outside and in.
In the following, I will now give a short account of what I especially like about the theme and what I think could be improved (also called the good, the bad, and the ugly).
What I like:
The amount of whitespace
Twenty Fifteen is very easy on the eyes. Not only because the design is well executed, but because there are very few distractions for the reader. All content is wrapped generously in whitespace, making for a zenlike reading experience. While it can look a bit odd if the content is only a bit of text, I am a big fan!
With all its ambitions at reductionism, Twenty Fifteen is full of stunning and elegant details.
For example, the theme’s sidebar, which also houses the navigation, and main content scroll independently from one another. That means the sidebar will only scroll as far as it has content and then stay in position while the main content remains scrollable. No need to go up the entire loop just to see the top item on the side anymore.
Another favorite of mine are the label for featured/pinned post and the navigation for multiple page posts. Unobtrusive yet with enough presence. It’s things like these that make me wish I was better at Photoshop.
The way the new default theme adjusts to smaller screens is done beautifully. On mobile devices and tablets, the sidebar disappears and can be accessed through a collapsible menu on top of the page. On the smallest screens, images span the full width, thus dividing posts from one another. Never have I left my browser window so small for so long.
What I don’t like:
Lack of customization options
While I really dig the effort to keep things simple, a few more customization options would have been nice (for example the ability to switch the sidebar to the right). The theme is perfect for simple blogs, but users who want additional features will not get around plugins or setting up child themes.
Widely spaced pagination
While it’s a really, really minor thing, the way pagination is displayed at the bottom of the screen bothers me a little. In my opinion this could have been slightly more elegant. But hey, I am here to nitpick, am I not?
Twenty Fifteen: The final verdict
As should be obvious from the above, I love the new default theme. Twenty Fifteen is amazing. The move back to sharing content as the basic premise for a WordPress website is a great call on their side and was beautifully executed by designer Takashi Irie. No matter if words, images, audio or video, all content is displayed in a way so that it commands its own space.
Reducing the theme features to a chosen few and doing those really well is something that not enough companies understand. Instead of overwhelming users with countless customization options the handful of features that did make it into Twenty Fifteen make absolute sense. For those who want additional functionality on their website the theme offers a great starting point for customization and making their own.
Twenty Fifteen will be released with WordPress 4.1 in December.
Have you checked out the new theme yet? What are your thoughts? Anything you especially like or dislike? Let us know in the comments.
All images via Twenty Fifteen Demo
Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur and writer/blogger from Germany. He learned WordPress when he needed a website for his first business venture and instantly fell in love. He is passionate about health, productivity, and continuous learning, which he writes about on his lifestyle blog. When not building websites, he likes to travel the world, experience other cultures, and learn new languages.