Review of Canvas theme from WooThemes

Editor’s Rating
Overall Rating
Ease of Use
Price
Power

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 ┬áto 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!

About Marcin

I'm passionate about technology, especially SEO. I love how fast-paced this environment is. I also love numbers, finding hidden gems in statistics, and coming with unexpected solutions to typical problems.

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4 Responses to Review of Canvas theme from WooThemes

  1. Zac
    Twitter:
    October 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Fantastic review of Canvas. I’m something of a novice user myself, but I’ve been in love with Canvas for about a year now.

    Despite your praise for WooThemes documentation and tutorials (which I have used), you have managed to teach me something about this theme that I never knew before; the purpose and usefulness of hooks.

    You’ve inspired me to play around with my site some more and see if I can’t utilize hooks to make my site more functional.

    Cheers!
    Zac recently posted..R.I.P. Father Abraham styleMy Profile

  2. Sergio Felix
    Twitter:
    November 8, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    Hey Marcin,

    Very detailed review on the Canvas theme, so far I am using Thesis but I want to try this one too for developing sites for clients.

    I’m still not sure if it would be as robust as I needed it to be but from what I have seen it might be worth it.

    Thanks for the review and if I decide to buy it, I will come back, have a great day! ;-)

    Sergio
    Sergio Felix recently posted..Welcome To Marketing With Sergio FelixMy Profile

  3. Michael Klusek
    Twitter:
    January 2, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Great review. I am using Swatch theme from WooThemes and was curious about Canvas. Having used Thesis in the past and being overwhelmed my its complexity after initial setup, looks like Canvas is a good replacement. Blank slate like Thesis, but much more options to really customize it without needing to be a CSS ninja. I like how WooTheme framework is common to all so now my learning curve with Canvas will be greatly reduced.

    On my purchase list for my next site. Thanks
    Michael Klusek recently posted..death of email is not exactly imminentMy Profile

  4. Mark January 29, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    That is really a shame about not being able to place PHP into hooks. I was so excited about giving Canvas a shot. I am using Thesis now and have done one site with Headway 2.x, but really want a solid, large company behind my framework. Anyone that uses Thesis now knows why I’m scared to death of having dozens of blogs on 1.82 – long promised 2.0 will NEVER come out, and Chris the developer, the one and only developer there, who does not talk to or care about his customers, has my life in his hands.

    Anyway, two questions:

    1) is there any progress or other option to get PHP into hooks with Canvas?

    2) I can’t find a page with the specific SEO options that come with it. Know of one?
    Mark recently posted..10 Surprising Facts about Free Government Cell PhonesMy Profile

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