rtPanel is a minimal WordPress framework by rtCamp. In their own words, rtPanel has been ‘stripped to the bone'; though it has just as many options as Genesis (though notably less than frameworks such as WP Sumo and Backbone.
The default design of rtPanel is simple and clean. It’s similar to Thesis in many respects, particular in the navigation menu and post excerpt area.
It has a regular blog style layout with the navigation menu below the logo and a widetized sidebar on the right hand side of the page.
The footer has three widgetized columns too for placing additional information at the bottom of each page.
Those of you who are unaccustomed to using WordPress frameworks might look at the above screenshots and think that rtPanel is just a very simple WordPress design. Think of it instead as a blank canvas, a starting point that will let you create your new website design much quicker.
The settings area has a lot of options to help you set up your website quickly. Your website logo and favicon can be set up here, either by defining the URL or by uploading it directly. The logo can be added to your login page too by checking the admin logo box.
rtPanel has some basic social media support too. Facebook open graph, Feedburner and Google search can all be configured. The sidebar can be removed from Google search results too if you wish.
For some strange reason, the footer widget area is referred to as the ‘footer sidebar’ in the settings area. If the ‘footer sidebar’ is disabled, the footer widget area will be removed from your widgets page. There’s a custom CS box in the settings area too. Alternatively, you can just change the style.css file of your child theme.
rtPanel has support for 5 popular WordPress plugins: Subscribe to Comments, WP Pagenavi, WordPress SEO by Yoast, Breadcrumb NavXT and Regenerate Thumbnails. There’s a export and import option for your theme settings too
Via the post and comments settings page you can enable excerpts for your home page and archives. The read more text and the excerpt word count cut off point can be defined if you want to increase or decrease the size of your excerpt. The width and height of featured thumbnails can be configured in this area too and can be aligned to the left, right or centre (or alignment can be removed).
All post meta information can be switched on or off for above and below posts. The post date format can be chosen as well e.g. March 30 2012 or 30/03/2012.
The comments area has some simple configuration options too. The comment form can be compacted so that the name, URL and email fields are all on the same line. You can also display the text area above the comment fields and separate pingbacks and trackbacks too. Gravatar size can also be changed.
The framework itself only comes with the ‘General’ and ‘Post & Comments’ setting pages however if you use a child theme you may have some additional options. The rtPanel child theme has custom theme options though it doesn’t really add much functionality.
rtPanel comes with 3 custom widgets and all of them are surprisingly pretty good. The subscribe widget is quite simple though lets you link to up to 7 of your social media profiles. The category widget lets you change the order of the list, show post count and exclude certain categories from the list. Last but not least is the comment widget which has allows you customise the size of the commenters gravatar images on the list.
rtPanel isn’t the most advanced WordPress framework available online. It’s not responsive, doesn’t support WordPress post formats and compared to many other frameworks it doesn’t have a lot of features. Despite this, I still velieve it’s a great framework.
It’s very well coded which makes it a great starting point for creating your own design from scratch. The default design looks great so it shouldn’t take a lot of customisation to make your design stand out from the crowd (i.e. change colour scheme, background etc). Via the settings area you can change your logo, define your featured thumbnail size and enable and disable post meta information. It’s not as feature rich as other themes but it doesn’t have to be as the basics are covered; anything beyond that can be modified directly in the template area.
rtPanel is suitable for users with experience of HTML, PHP and CSS as you will need to modify the stylesheet and/or templates to create the design you want. Although rtPanel is free to download, it is actively supported by over 20 theme developers so if you do have any questions about the framework, you should get an answer fairly quickly in the rtPanel support forums.
I recommend checking it out if you are looking for a minimal framework that will help you speed up designing WordPress themes.
rtPanel: Information | Download | Child Theme