Learn From Our Mistakes, Bug Testing Theme Tips

Over the years of developing themes we have learnt quite a lot in terms of how to best develop our themes for a wide audience. Things like knowing when to put a feature into a plugin VS baking it into the theme, knowing when to stop adding features just for the heck of it, and finding the best plugins and methods to bug test our themes before release.

Today I just wanted to go over some of the details of how we bug test our themes and do quality assurance testing. I find the best way to bug test a theme is to set it up as if you were going to use the theme yourself for a project. This way you can spot all the difficulties customers could run into and iron out all the kinks.

The number one lesson I’ve learnt over the years is to ask yourself continually the question: “Could this feature be in a plugin?”. We believe the theme should just be the appearance and not the functionality. We have, ourselves, included features in our themes that should have been apart of a plugin and saw how adding the functionality into the theme has caused issues with updates, support, and overall has cost us money. So if you’re a theme developer, ask yourself  “Could this feature be in a plugin?”.

On that note: We have some great upcoming themes in the near future that use our new plugin “Framework” for the functionality and the theme just is, for the most part, a CSS file. We hope that this will help us develop themes much faster as updates can be done to the theme without changing the customizations the customer may have done to the theme.

My top 5 plugins I use when bug testing our themes are:

  1. Monster Widget – this plugin consolidates all of 13 core widgets into one single widget meaning I don’t have to drag all the widgets into the side bar, I can just move the one Monster Widget into the sidebar area, this saves a ton of time and helps us see all the issues that need to be addressed via CSS in the theme.
  2. VIP Scanner – which is very much like the Theme Check plugin but if you’re thinking of submitting your themes to the WordPress.com marketplace then you need to run this plugin against your theme. It has a few different checks built into the plugin i.e. WordPress.com and WordPress.org theme review checks. It allows you to run the checks against themes, plugins, directories, single files etc.
  3. Deprecation Checker – along with running the WP_Debug mode in your WordPress setup, I use this plugin to see any deprecated functions that may be in the theme. It allows you to view all the deprecated functions with the path to the file, which line number the deprecated function is on, and the new recommended function to use.
  4. JetPack – It can cause a ton of issues with the theme so I extensively test our themes with all of the features that JetPack offers. Each time theres a new feature in JetPack I have to test it with the theme
  5. WordPress Beta Tester – testing with future releases of WordPress is something that I haven’t done much of.  But now that I’ve found a plugin that makes it easier, I will be checking our themes with the nightly builds when the WordPress version is close to being released.

So what are some plugins or ways you like to bug test your themes/plugins? If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

Isotopes for WordPress

I just finished up some neat little plugins which utilize the Isotope JS script developed by David DeSandro and Metafizzy. We’re actually using it on our own website! Check it out in action here: http://mintthemes.com/themes/
(Notice the area that says “Filter”. Try clicking on a few of those and watch the themes fly around perfectly into place!)

Get The Plugin

The general premise behind these Isotope integration plugins is showing a “grid” of posts. A grid being X number of posts-per-row and Y number of posts-per-page. You can choose how many posts you wish to show and at which size.

By having the plugin create the “grid” of posts, we are easily able to integrate Isotope JS to filter those posts by category, tag, or any other taxonomy. It also makes it so that our “grid” can transition from theme to theme without ever breaking.

All of this can be done without any coding on your part. You simply install the plugin, tweak a couple of settings, and you’re done! I wanted to make integration of Isotope with WordPress completely seamless and require no extra coding.

There is a plugin for each type of post you might have. So for regular WordPress “Posts” (think blog), you can use the forever-free “PostGrid” plugin. For Easy Digital Downloads “downloads”, you can use the “DownloadGrid” plugin. For WooCommerce, you can use the “WooGrid”. And I also developed a special grid for showing your Social Media posts from Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube right on your website! (Im super excited about this one because it really amps up people’s websites and ties it together with their social media accounts.) You can find all of these grid plugins on our Plugin website here: https://mintplugins.com/isotopes-for-wordpress/

PostGrid WordPress Plugin Demo (showing Isotope Filtering)

 

SocialGrid WordPress Plugin Demo (showing Isotope Filtering)

Update: I noticed a lot of people are asking for support here in the comments. I am more than happy to help you out but the best way to contact is by emailing support@mintplugins.com.

Compra Theme is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

We’re constantly nit-picking through our themes with a fine toothed comb to make sure they are the best they can be – and we’re proud to release version 1.0.0.8 of the Compra theme. This is the hardest, betterest, fastest, and strongest version of Compra there has ever been and we didn’t skimp around the edges.

With 14 new features and fixes, the Compra theme is now slicker than ever. We’ve added support for Child Themes, cleaned up the entire footer area, and added social links to tons of websites including Pinterest, Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and tons more!

The theme also has a built in checker to make sure you are using the latest version. This way, you’ll know when we release new updates and you can stay directly on top of the ball – which is the best seat in the house.

Happy Websiting!

Updates for Compra and Armonico

We just released new versions for Compra and Armonico – which are our eCommerce themes. In these version we added the ability for you to number items using letters and special characters as well as numbers. This is something that was requested by people who are trying to build up their online stores and organize their products using letters as well as numbers.

Also, just added in Compra is the ability to add less than 3 images per product. We wanted to make sure that there were lots of angles for each product you add to the store – but for those of you who only need 1 or 2 images per item, you can now do that as well.

Happy websitemaking!

How To: Display YouTube Videos Full Screen

In order to link to a YouTube video that fills the entire window (as is needed is some of our themes, like Faded), simply follow these instructions.

1. Browse to the YouTube video you want to use

2. Copy the URL in the address bar

3. Change the “watch?v=” to just “embed”

Podcasting, Timthumb, and Bears – Oh My!

Alright, so there weren’t any bears hiding in our themes. But we were having some issues with podcasting. The issues being that it wasn’t working for a lot of you. Well, we’ve managed to completely fix that issue in the newest releases of our themes and you shouldn’t have any more problems with getting podcasting set up.

For the techies, we changed the way the Podcast Feed is generated. We were using the add_feed() function built in to WordPress. However, for some reason it was throwing 404 errors in iTunes and Feed validators, even though the actual content was still loading. We decided to change the way we generate the feed entirely so that now it is loaded from a page and page template (which is auto-created by the theme) instead. This has fixed the problem with the 404 error.

Also, we have updated the thumb.php script to the latest version of TimThumb – which was released on December 9th, 2011.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Our first eCommerce theme released!

The Mint Themes eCommerce adventure has just been kick started and it’s about to jump into hyperdrive! We’ve completed our first eCommerce theme and it is ready to start making online stores everywhere look great. We hmm’ed and haw’d for a long time because we wanted to make this the best eCommerce theme for WordPress that anyone has ever used. We wanted it to be the easiest to use and also have beautiful, custom styling.

We decided to build it on the Cart66 eCommerce plugin for WordPress because of it’s power and simplicity. It also allowed us to design our theme exactly the way we wanted. Check out the design of the product page for yourself here. We wanted it to have a mini-gallery and have the product options at the side.

There was some talk about incorporating some other plugins like Shopp, JigoShop, WooCommerce, and WP-Ecommerce. We may still do that but, at this point, Cart66 was the one that allowed us the most flexibility in design and simplicity for the user.

We think that you’ll find the Compra theme is one of the easiest eCommerce themes to use on the market – and that it’s among our best designs so far.

You talked – we listened.

The age old saga of MP3 vs. Ogg has been battling in our themes for generations! Or, well, at least since we released them. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Oggs are audio files very similar to MP3s. The difference is that Ogg is a free and open audio encoding format and MP3 is a proprietary media encoding format. The MP3 designers claim they could charge royalties for anyone who uses MP3s or any software. Their patent expires in 2017.

The chances of that happening are pretty low, but I personally believe in the open source movement (yay WordPress!) – and for that reason I prefer Ogg files. But the fact that you probably go “huh?” when I say “Ogg” just goes to show that most people use MP3s.

The browsers have been battling over this issue as well, with Safari and Chrome preferring MP3s, and Firefox being the lone gun demanding the use of Ogg files only.

Because of that, we have required all of our theme users to upload both Ogg files as well as MP3s whenever audio files are used (Music Players, Sermons, etc.).

We got a lot of complaints from our users letting us know that this was annoying. And fair enough. Needless to say, it’s annoying to have to create 2 versions of each audio file and store them both on your web hosting space.

So, because we want to do our absolute best to serve you and make your life the easiest it can be, we have removed Oggs from our themes and now you only need to upload MP3 files. We use the Flash fallback for Firefox and your music will happily play in any browser without needing to encode a second Ogg version.

I can already hear the crowds cheering and chanting my name…ahhh. Your welcome.

P.S. To get the new version of the theme just re-download it from your original point of purchase. Remember to always backup your themes before you replace them with a new version as well. Backing up is smart!

E-commerce Themes Beautifully Designed

Our next major project is to release several beautifully designed e-commerce themes. Some will be responsive (meaning compatible with mobile devices) and work with many of the leading WordPress e-commerce plugins so that you have a choice of which plugin you wish to use.

We don’t want to limit you in what e-commerce plugins you can use with our themes so we will make sure that they are as compatible as possible. Some of the plugins we plan to integrate into our themes are Cart66, Shopp, JigoShop, Quixly, and PulleyApp. We are interested in seeing what plugins you think we should integrate and also what styles of themes we should be designing.

We currently have a trendy girly theme, a tee-shirt shop theme, and a minimal shop design that could be used for just about any e-commerce store.

Here’s a teaser of a couple of themes in the works.

What’s Cooking at Mint Themes HQ?

Quick update from Mint Themes HQ. We are hard at work getting the code completed for the much anticipated DJ theme. Lets just say there has been many a Monster Energy drink consumed in the late night code sessions from Mint Themes’ co-founder and lead coder, Phil. It should be headed to beta testing very shortly.

Co-founder and lead designer, Adam, has been hard at work on the next Mint Theme. It’s going to be the first of our e-commerce themes. It’s starring characteristic is how clean and fresh the design is. It could fit any store or niche out of the box but is also highly customizable. Look for this theme at towards the end of October.

Don’t forget the best way to find out what we are up to is by checking out our blog here and subscribing to our newsletter at the bottom of the page!

We want to hear from you! What theme styles or designs are you looking for from Mint Themes?

Malachi Theme Launch

We’ve got a lot of themes in the works at Mint Themes HQ and the Malachi theme is our newest WordPress theme released for churches. With this theme we really wanted to get inside the heads of a person running a church media website and give it everything we could think it would need to help give a church the ability to do media on their website.

Malachi Features

Sometimes posting videos, sermons, or photos can be a huge chore for website owners so we wanted to try and take most of the pain out of the process. We added a slick video slider to the home page which can feature any frame-based embed codes (Vimeo recommended but Youtube will also work). And for videos there is also a custom post type with custom page templates built for displaying videos in an organized and attractive way. Once you learn the custom post type system (if you don’t already), this will make posting videos an absolute breeze. The same goes for photos, sermons, and news.

As always, we have included Podcasting as a built-in option for sermons so people can easily keep up with your messages. Online streaming is also included along side 1 click sermon downloads – which make it simple for your users to download audio files.

The Malachi theme is everything a church website needs to be media-friendly in a snap.

Design Teaser: DJ WordPress Theme Preview

*Update* The DJ WordPress theme called “Slipmat” has been released. Check it out.

We are currently working on a ton of different theme designs but we wanted to take some time out from Photoshop design to write a quick blog post to show you an upcoming theme design, Made for DJ’s this WordPress theme will come packed full of features specifically for DJ’s.

Were excited to see how it turns out and how popular it may become! What do you think?

New DJ WordPress Theme