ColorLabs Project have developed a beautiful looking user-friendly premium theme framework entitled Backbone. The framework comes with packaged with two child themes though in my opinion the clean minimal look that can be achieved using the framework looks much better.
The quality of a framework is defined by it’s features and the ease at which it lets you create designs. Before I look at the backend, let’s have a look at the design of Backbone out the box.
Backbone Theme Framework – Design
As a lover of minimal designs, I love the clean look of Backbone. I strongly considered using it on WP Mods as the design allows users to focus solely on the content.
The framework layout manager allows you to choose a 1, 2 or 3 column layout. Sidebars can be placed on either side of your content or solely on the left or right.
The footer can easily be populated using widgets. You can remove the footer altogether if you wish or choose from 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns.
The single post template looks great. There’s an author bio and related posts section underneath articles. Bizarrely, social media sharing links for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are placed at the top of comment area rather than at the bottom of the post. I’m sure bloggers would have their articles shared more if these buttons were placed higher in the page.
Additional page templates are provided with the framework such as a business template, photoblog and a great looking magazine style template.
The portfolio template looks fantastic too. The full size image is displayed using lightbox when the visitor clicks on a thumbnail and it allows them through images using their mouse or their keyboard arrows.
One of the most important features of a framework in 2012 is a responsive design. Thankfully Backbone doesn’t disappoint in this regard as its design looks great on desktops, tablets and mobiles.
Backbone Theme Framework – Options
There are three main sections in the options area: theme options, SEO settings and layout settings. When you first launch the dashboard you will be presented with a blank interface with 14 different sections on the left hand side. Backbone has a cool drag and drop interface in the options area so to change settings for each section you need to click on the icon on the left and drag it into the main content area.
There’s very little that can’t be configured or switched on or off in the theme options area. The magazine, photoblog, portfolio and business templates all have their own settings area so that features such as sliders can be configured. Advertisin, social media, tracking codes and post settings can also be set here.
The SEO settings area allows you to customise page titles, descriptions, keywords and indexing rules. It’s fairly in depth though you will be glad to know that they have included a useful option for disabling the SEO settings so that a third party solution such as All-in-One SEO Pack, Headspace 2 and WordPress SEO By Yoast can be used.
There are 8 sections in total in the layout area. The main layout of the site and footer are controlled here, as is the general styling. The colour scheme and typography of different sections such as the header, posts, widgets and navigation are also set here.
The framework allows you to add additional styles via the custom.css file and additional functions to the custom_function.php. Both of these files can be modified via the custom file editor.
More and more themes and frameworks are advising users to add their own classes to custom stylesheets though this is the first theme that I have come across that lets you add custom functions as well. This is a fantastic feature as it means you can add new functionality to your site without worrying about overwriting them when you update.
All of your settings and modifications can be exported via the import/export settings page. You can export theme options and SEO options separately if you wish though there is no individual option for your layout settings.
I spent some time using Backbone when I was considering using it for WP Mods and got to know the framework well. At first I though the drag and drop interface was a bit gimmicky however it works really well and allows you to move around the settings area very easily.
Backbone allows you to create a 1, 2 or 3 column design very easily. Creating a unique colour scheme for your website is very straight forward and individual sections can be switched on or off quickly too. It comes with 6 widget areas: 1 for each sidebar and up to four in the footer. I would have welcomed a few additional widget areas though I was pleased to see a dozen unique widgets included with the framework such as author bios, subscribe my mail and Google Maps.
Backbone Child Themes
Sakura is a business style theme that features a slider on the home page. I’m not a huge fan of the home page design though the blog template looks great.
Vidio is a stylish design that was created specifically for video bloggers. Featured videos can be shown in the home page video slider and you can highlight featured reviewers too (reviewers in this context are actually commenters).
As both of these designs were built using Backbone, they both have responsive designs so will look great on any device. You’ll also be able to customise them easily via the framework settings area.
I own a license for premium WordPress frameworks such as Headway and Genesis and have used them to build some content websites I own. Over the last few weeks I’ve tested around a dozen or so free framework solutions too as I have a lot of theme framework reviews scheduled.
In my opinion Backbone is one of the best frameworks around for creating a blog or content website. It has a beautiful clean responsive design, is packed full of features and is very easy to use. The one thing I’d love to see added to it is support for post formats so that it could be used for posting videos, quotes, links etc. This would make a great choice for personal blogs.
A standard license for Backbone retails for $79 whilst a developer license will set you back $159. Both licences come with the two child themes and unlimited updates though the standard license only offers support for one website.
I encourage you to check Backbone out if you are looking for a user friendly theme framework to help you create websites quickly using WordPress.
* Thanks to ColorLabs Project for sending me a review copy of these themes for the purpose of this review.