Uprankers » Themes http://uprankers.com Tools and strategies to dominate search results Thu, 17 Nov 2011 02:50:59 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Review of Canvas theme from WooThemes/review-of-canvas-theme-from-woothemes/ /review-of-canvas-theme-from-woothemes/#comments Sun, 09 Oct 2011 17:07:14 +0000 Marcin /?p=773

WooThemes is a premium WordPress themes shop, best known for their high quality and visually attractive designs.

Among their themes, the majority has a clear focus – there are business themes, portfolio themes, multimedia themes, or magazine themes.

With Canvas, the company decided to do something different. Instead of focusing on the visuals, WooThemes created a theme which incorporates enormous power on the inside, but it is up to the user to make the best use of it.

The name perfectly indicates the purpose of this theme – it is a blank canvas, but you’re fully equipped to make a masterpiece out of it.

How Canvas works

Canvas optionsEven though Canvas looks so plain right after activation, as soon as you dive into the available settings and options, you will see how much power you get to style your website to your liking.

When you activate Canvas, a new collapsible menu is added in your WordPress admin section. It provides access to all Canvas features and options.

Theme Options is the main section where all the visual styling options are available. You have separate sections for virtually every part of your site:

  • Layout
  • General styling
  • General typography
  • Header styling
  • Post styling
  • Widget styling
  • Footer styling
  • Navigation styling
  • Etc.

Just have a look:

Canvas theme settings

When you dive into individual sections, you get a lot of detailed options. Let’s for example have a look at post styling:

image

It’s just a small part of the available settings – I don’t want to get this screenshot crazy long.

Specialized templates

Despite its apparent simplicity (on the outside), Canvas comes with a number of specialized templates to make your life even easier.

These include:

  • Magazine template
  • Business template
  • Portfolio
  • Feedback

I find the magazine and business template to be especially useful. They allow you  to quickly set up a custom frontpage, with featured posts and a slider. The slider is built into Canvas, so you don’t have to play with third-party plugins to get that functionality.

image

Layout Manager

Layout manager is another powerful feature. While Canvas comes with a number of layouts predefined (single sidebar, double sidebars, on either side, etc.), and you can select from a number of predefined site widths, with the Layout Manager, you can freely set the width of your main content column and your sidebars.

It all happens by dragging a divider which splits your columns – you don’t have to enter any values manually or do any math. Just have a look:

When you’re writing a post or a page, you can easily assign any of the layouts in the editing screen. This means great flexibility. For example, if you need a landing page without any of the sidebars, it’s just one click away:

Canvas options in the editor screen

Canvas options in the editor screen

The one thing that is missing, or that I can’t find, is a way to easily assign individual layouts to categories / archive pages.

More Features

The Canvas theme is really full of great features. Some of the most powerful ones include the Hook Manager and the Sidebar Manager.

Hook Manager

Hook Manager provides you with an easy to use interface to inject any piece of HTML / JavaScript / WP shortcodes almost anywhere in your blog.

The Canvas theme has many “hooks” within its code, and with the Hook Manager, you get a number of text fields to enter your code. Whatever you put into those fields, gets attached to the hook.

Here’s what it looks like:

Hook manager

Hook Manager in the Canvas theme

 

What could you use hooks for?

  • Injecting your ads outside of of the widget areas
  • Embedding newsletter forms, for example at the end of every post
  • Embedding the output of various WP plugins in various places outside of your widget areas

The number of hooks is really huge, so you get convenient access to virtually any part of your template. Here’s a quick overview – the text in red is where you can place your snippets of code, using hooks.

image

There’s no doubt that you can do a lot of customization with the hook manager alone, but the Sidebar Manager is at least equally impressive.

Sidebar Manager

Yes, it is great that with a WordPress blog, you can add many widgets to your sidebars. There’s your Twitter stream, or your recent posts, or your recent comments. All well and good… but it gets boring after a while, and honestly, is not very flexible. If you’re building anything more advanced than a simple blog, you will want to customize your sidebars depending on sections of your site.

The Sidebar Manager is designed to serve exactly this purpose. It allows you to create custom sidebars which are displayed only in specific sections of your site, replacing the default sidebar. You can add custom sidebars for:

  • Individual pages
  • Page templates
  • Categories
  • Post tags
  • Template hierarchy (i.e. for example for single posts or for search results)
  • Custom post types
  • Post type archives

To illustrate it a bit more – here’s the Sidebar Manager interface where I’m adding a custom sidebar for single posts. It’s called “Singular”, and it will replace my primary sidebar.

image

When done, I can navigate to my Widgets settings. As you can see, my Singular sidebar appears among other positions available for widgets, and whenever someone displays a full post or page, it will replace the default primary sidebar.

image

SEO settings

Canvas has a separate section for setting your SEO option, but admittedly, this is the weakest part of the theme. There are some basic options to configure the title tag, archive indexing, description meta and keywords meta, but it is more than likely that you will want to use a more powerful plugin to do the job properly.

Luckily, all SEO settings in Canvas can be easily disabled, so it does not interfere with third-party plugins.

Canvas SEO settings

Canvas SEO settings

 

The Results

With Canvas, it’s all about power for the user. I can build WordPress sites much faster than with any of the standard themes, and I can customize them exactly to my liking. With the help of hooks, sidebar manager and layout manager, the site is configured exactly as I need it to be.

Obviously, Canvas looks very plain initially (although I like even the default look). If you’re after a cookie-cutter theme with some fancy graphics out of the box, you’d better look elsewhere. But I was always disappointed in the lack of flexibility of such themes.

Canvas comes with very detailed documentation, including many professional video tutorials. It’s worth studying, as almost all possible questions are answered, and you’ll quickly become proficient with Canvas.

What I don’t like

I only wish that I could also execute PHP code in the Hook Manager. Currently, it is not supported. On the other hand, this feature could be dangerous to less advanced users, and users who require such functionality, are most likely capable of making direct edits in the theme files.

The SEO settings are not impressive either, but that is very easy to mend with one of the many free and powerful SEO plugins.

Pricing

There are several ways to buy themes from WooThemes.

First of all, you can buy your selected theme for $70, and you also get two bonus themes from their collection of standard themes. You can use your themes on an unlimited number of domains.

You can also get a developer package for $150, with 3 bonus themes, plus layered Photoshop files.

But you can also join the club, for either $125 startup fee, and then $15 per month for the standard subscription (without PSD files), or for $200 startup fee, and then $20 per month for the developer subscription (including PSD files).

As a subscriber, you get access to all the past themes, plus at least 2 new themes per month. Even if you cancel, you can continue using your themes – you just don’t get access to new themes or updates.

It is all nicely detailed on the official pricing page.

Recommendation

This site is running on Canvast – I don’t think I can give any better recommendation than that. Canvas is very flexible, and very user friendly.

While it does look quite plain when first installed, its on purpose. Spend just 10 or 15 minutes with its options, and you’ll see the true and sheer power – you can steer your WordPress design in almost any direction.

So, if you’re after a premium theme which will serve as a solid foundation for many projects, you will do yourself a great favor by investing in Canvas.

 

Get Canvas now!

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HeatMap Theme Pro v5 review/heatmap-theme-pro-v5-review/ /heatmap-theme-pro-v5-review/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 19:55:48 +0000 Marcin /?p=615

HeatMap Theme Pro v5 (HMT Pro) is the latest premium WordPress theme specially designed and optimized for building Adsense-based sites with maximum speed and click-through efficiency.

It is also marketed as a perfect theme for affiliate sites, review sites or squeeze pages – any type of project where easy placement of ads and good click-through rates are important. Yet, for most people it is an Adsense theme.

When you buy HeatMap Theme Pro, you get the core theme which provide the functionality, plus a set of  10 authority skins and 25 classic skins to enhance the visual aspects of your site. They will help you build various Adsense niche sites without repeating your designs.

After your purchase, you will also get access to very comprehensive and up-to-date documentation which clearly explains all the features, and a very active community of users who share tips and their experiences – always a good sign of a healthy product.

How HeatMap Theme Pro works

The HeatMap theme is divided into three distinctive parts:

HeatMap Theme in the Appearance menu

  • HeatMap Options
  • HeatMap Ads
  • In-post/In-page options

HeatMap Theme Options

The HeatMap Options section, located in the Appearance menu of WordPress, provides access to the theme’s basic configuration options, logically split into subsections.

1. Home Page

In this section, you can configure the featured page, but with more features that the standard WordPress settings can offer you. For example, you can show or hide sidebars on the home page, hide other posts, hide post details, include or exclude certain categories, etc.

Home page settings

2. SEO

With HeatMap, you can get away without using any more advanced SEO plugins – all the basics are covered by the theme itself, such as home page meta description, meta keywords, options to assign H1/H2 tags to various items of your content.

HeatMap SEO options

However, if you want to use more advanced features offered by the popular SEO plugins, you may disable HeatMap’s SEO settings entirely.

3. Theme Structure

This is a simple submenu related mostly to your site’s layout. You can switch sidebars from one side to to another, turn them off completely, and also activate a squeeze mode, where the page is narrower. Squeeze mode combined with no-sidebar option is an easy way to build a landing page.

Theme structure settings

4. Header and logo

As expected, you can easily add your custom logo and favicon, as well as hide/show the header, title and tagline. Again, by hiding the header and tagline, you can very easily build a landing page.

5. Navigation

HeatMap is a pretty flexible theme when it comes to navigation configuration.

First of all, it is fully compatible with custom menus introduced in the WordPress 3.x. It means that you have a lot of flexibility in adding and removing menu items as you fancy. Two navigation bars are available – page  navbar and categories navbar.

You can move navbars below or above heard, and also hide them completely.

6. Pages and Posts

This section is used mainly to hide or show various elements (titles, meta information) on posts and pages, in category listings and in archives.

One noteworthy feature is “Title Safety Underlining” which helps you comply with the Adsense TOS if you display in-content ads directly beneath titles.

7. Footers

This section provides you with four fields to enter your footer content (left/right, subfooter), and also allows you to hide the footer entirely.

8. Featured Images

In this section, you can decide whether featured images are floated to the left, to the right, or not floated at all, individually for posts, pages, homepage and category pages.

9. Google

This section provides text fields for analytics tracking code, as well as Google’s custom search engine code.

10. Social network icons

HeatMap supports many social network, including the latest Google+. If you enter your IDs, it can neatly display Google, Twitter, Facebook and RSS buttons.

11. Header and Footer Locking

You can configure HeatMap so that all content scrolls beneath the header/footer which stay in fixed positions. Be sure to read the associated documentation (just click on “?” buttons next to each option) because there are some caveats regading compliance with te AdSense TOS.

12. Additional scripts and CSS

In this section, you’re provided with two text fields to enter any scripts or javascript code which should be embedded in the header of your site.

It is a quick and easy way to add a few custom CSS snippets to tweak your site without editing stylesheets directly.

HeatMap Ads

This is the second cornerstone of the HeatMap Theme Pro. Basically, you’re provided with 23 ad units, neatly grouped for easier access, plus 3 link units. For each unit, there’s a text field to enter your code, and a set of checkboxes to indicate where each particular ad should be shown (these include home page, pages, posts, category, search, archive).

As soon as you paste your code and save, a new widget is created which you can drag & drop into one of the theme’s 23 ad positions.

HeatMap Theme Pro - an Adsense theme for WordPress

This is definitely one of the strongest selling points of this theme – it offers virtually any ad position imaginable – in header, below header, above content, in-content, below content, in footer, in sidebars, etc. The positions are compatible with the popular ad formats, so you can mix-and-match various ad formats easily, achieving pleasing layouts and excellent CTR. Without a doubt, this is the Adsense ready theme.

In-Page/In-Post options

HMT button to ad in-post adsAs flexible as HMT Pro is when it comes to placing your ads, you may still feel the need for more optimization. Well, you’re in luck this time. HeatMap adds a very convenient button directly in the editor which can place any previously defined ad unit directly in the content, in a place of your choosing.

When you click the button, it simply shows you a drop-down with your ads available. You can place it anywhere and select its alignment.

More features

One advanced feature offered by HMT Pro v5 is the ad-rotation capability. For each ad unit, you can use simple syntax to place more than one ad invocation code. This feature plays nicely with various cacheing plugins which might be used on larger sites.

With this flexible solution, you can use the same ad spot for example to display Adsense ads, Amazon affiliate banners and Clickbank banners. This should definitely help combat ad blindness.

While you’re editing your page or post, you also have some additional options below the editor. Basically, what you can do is:

  • add an affiliate link to the WordPress featured image
  • add an affiliate “Buy now” type of button which will be displayed in an excerpt, next to the “Read more” link.

If you’re happy with your theme settings, you can export them, and later reimport to another site to immediately replicate the successful setup.

With a theme, you also get a special recent posts widget with some custom logic, for example it will not display posts which are already listed in the main content section. It also shows a thumbnail and a short description.

The results

It’s too early for me to talk about results in terms of monetization and CTR – I’ve installed HMT Pro on my two new niche sites which are being developed right now.

In terms of ease of use and speed of site building, HeatMap Pro really shines. I had my site setup virtually in minutes, with all ads in proper placements. With configuration export/import features, you can speed that process up even more.

Because the theme is already optimized for conversion, you can immediately focus on writing your content or developing your business, without tinkering with millions of customizations.

What I don’t like

While HMT Pro v5 works perfectly for its intended purposes, some may feel that the styling options are rather limited compared to some other premium themes. There is no easy way to configure default fonts, there are no fancy settings for different background etc.

However, this is onlya minor drawback. First of all, there are many subthemes available, so you will usually be able to find something which fits your needs.

If not, you can still simply edit your style.css file which is not that difficult if you want to just change some visual settings.

Pricing

HeatMap is fairly priced at $70 for a lifetime license, including authority and classic skins, and it can be used on an unlimited number of sites.

Given that the theme has been in the market for two years, and now is in version 5, you may be fairly certain that your investment in a lifetime investment will easily pay off.

Recommendation

It should be fairly obvious by now – if you’re into building Adsense or affiliate sites, HeatMap Theme Pro v5 will be a strong asset in your arsenal – I highly recommend it.

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