CityTheme is a premium WordPress theme that was designed for city guides and directories. It’s a great looking theme though during testing I came across a lot of problems that made using the theme difficult. Before I speak about these limitations, let´s look at the main features of the design.
Citytheme has a magazine layout with space for a large 728×90 banner above the main design. Strangely, the design has a Facebook Like, Twitter Tweet and AddThis share button above the main navigation area. Thankfully these links are also shown underneath the main content area and the right hand side of the footer area though I doubt the share buttons at the top of the page will be used too often.
The theme has similar layout to most magazine designs with a featured slider on the home page and thumbnails used for latest posts from your categories. Although it is marketed as a city portal, the only thing that really distinguishes it as a city portal are boxes at the bottom of the home page that link to hotels, restaurants, activities and shopping categories.
If you have a look at the theme demo you will see that the single post template looks great. The content is easy to read and post thumbnails are placed at the top left hand side of posts by default.
The theme includes a basic options area which lets you upload your favicon and add your Google Analytics code. You can also upload your logo though this is done from another page in the settings area (not sure why it’s just in the general settings area). You can add custom CSS here, select whether you want comments on posts, pages, both or neither and whether excerpts or full content is shown for posts.
Thumbnail settings can easily be adjust through the admin area too and you can enter the banner code for the 728×90 banner area at the top of the page and the 468×60 banner which is shown between the community updates area and info boxes on the home page.
The SEO area lets you change your page title and which areas of your site are indexed (e.g. author pages, category archives). You can also change the description and keyword meta information.
Several page templates are also included with the theme including archives, a blog template, business template, contact form, full width form, image gallery, magazine, redirect and sitemap.
Major Problems With This Design
I was very impressed with the CityTheme when I first checked out the theme demo. Unfortunately, when I tested the theme I found a large number of problems with it. Although it’s marketed as a city portal, there isn’t really anything that makes creating a city portal with this website any easier than any other magazine theme. In reality, the theme makes creating your own custom portal much more difficult.
For starters, you can’t change what categories are shown on the home page or change what categories or posts are used for featured posts. You have to do all of this manually as everything is hard coded into the templates. This makes the theme pretty much unusable for those of you are who aren’t comfortable modifying templates. Everyone who purchases the theme will have to go through the index.php template and change what categories are shown on the home page.
For example, the code below is used in the index.php template to display sports news. If you have a different name for your category and/or a different page slug, you will have to change this area. Not only will you have to change the title and link at the top of the box, you will also have to modify the array so that the posts from your correct category are displayed.
<h3>Sport News</h3> <p class="more-news"><a href="<?php bloginfo('siteurl'); ?>/category/sports/">More News</a></p> </div> <ul class="post-list"> <?php $paged = (get_query_var('paged')) ? get_query_var('paged') : 1; $args = array( 'post_type' => 'post', 'category__not_in' => '', 'category_name' => 'sports', 'posts_per_page' => 3, 'paged' => $paged ); query_posts($args); ?> <?php if (have_posts()) : $count = 0; ?> <?php while (have_posts()) : the_post(); $count++; ?>
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. The theme is littered with dozens of examples that suggest that the theme has never been tested. For example, the demo showcases a large banner at the top of the sidebar. I suspect that this is because the background image makes it unsuitable to place a regular sidebar widget here as the text is unreadable. The demo also uses short titles for each category name. If you use two words for your category name then you will quickly find the category label at the top of an article breaks the design.
The theme is powered using the WooFramework from WooThemes. It appears that many of the framework features have not been implemented well or have been changed incorrectly. One example of this is the option to enable or disable comments in the settings area.
I was keen to see how the theme comments were styled as the theme demo only shows comments via the external commenting system Disqus. Unfortunately, the theme doesn’t allow you to display comments. Even when the option for comments is enabled in the theme options area and in the specific post or page, no comments are shown.
I see no reason for an option to enable or disable comments in the settings area anyway as WordPress already has this functionality though if it is going to be included, it should at least work. The fact that comments aren’t displayed is a major negative and is sure to frustrate many people who purchase this design.
I was particularly disappointed with the footer area. Rather that using a 2, 3 or 4 column footer that was widget ready they have opted for a navigation menu at the left hand side of the bottom and a footer text field on the right hand side. The footer has a fixed design which means that if you have a big menu the design will break and the text on the right hand side is aligned to to the right instead of the left (not a major problem but I would prefer it was defaulted to the left).
The Facebook, Twitter and AddThis share links are displayed for the third time in the right hand side of the footer. I don’t see any major benefit of placing share buttons at such a low point of the design. An image credit link back to CityTheme is also placed at the right hand side. This can be removed very easily by modifying the footer.php template but by doing so you will have a a box area with nothing in it. You could always place a different image here or change the footer and stylesheet accordingly so that it wasn’t there, however I would much prefer a simple text link was built into the design rather than an image.
Several page templates come packaged with the theme. The contact form is basic but seems to work well; you just need to make sure you enter your email address in the settings area. It doesn’t have any spam protection so I would recommend choosing a good contact form instead.
The business template seems pretty pointless to me. It seems to be just the regular page template however the page title has been removed. Due to the page title being removed the content near the top of the page touches the surrounding background image. Clearly padding needs to be added to this template to avoid this.
The full width page template is even worse. The alignment is all messed up and the content is displayed against the background image, making it very difficult to read text at the top of the page.
The sitemap template has the exact same problem.
As does the image gallery template. This again raises the question of whether anyone actually tested this theme.
In order to use the theme correctly you apparently need to install the WordPress plugins MapPress, More Fields, WP PageNavi and Search By Category. I’m glad that the developers did not choose to integrate these plugins directly into the design though I would have preferred if important theme functionality was not relying on external plugins as there is always a chance that the plugins will stop working or no longer be updated.
After being initially impressed with the design of CityTheme, I was later disappointed by many errors are prevalent throughout the theme. If you purchase this theme you will have to change a lot of code in the index.php template in order to make it work with your existing website. You will also have to either use an external commenting service such as Disqus or Livefyre or spend some time fixing the problems that stop comments from being displayed.
It’s unfortunate that the developers of this theme didn’t spend time testing their design because as it stands, anyone who purchases this design is going to be very frustrated. There isn’t really anything that makes this a good option for a city portal either. The home page does have boxes to restaurants and shopping sections etc but everything is hard coded so you can’t customise categories for your own website easily.
A standard license for CityTheme retails for $75 and gives you free updates and support for one year. The developer license costs $130 and gives you lifetime support and updates. It also includes the original Photoshop PSD logo.
I would recommend giving the theme a miss though and purchasing a good customisable magazine design instead. It will save you a lot of time, energy and money.
* Thanks to CityTheme for providing a test copy of their design for the purpose of this review.