Why WordPress Theme Options Will be Obsolete in the Future

It seems like a lot of WordPress themes are including a new concept called theme options. Well, they are not so new, but new theme options seems to creep up in almost every sophisticated version of any modern theme. Theme options in general allow WordPress web designers and admins as well as site owners create all types of options that can be activated and deactivated to give themes an individual look and layout.

The big problem that I see with theme options in general is that they are all different from each other which makes them difficult to get used to when an admin tries different themes. I use a lot of different themes and once I get used to one set of theme options, another theme employs its own and confuses me. I believe that a lot of WordPress writers, bloggers, and users all have the same issue as well. Yes, I understand that if a blogger uses the same theme for one site, then getting used to a set of theme options works fine, but some web designers like to use different themes from client to client. It would be so nice if there was a standard for all theme options. Well, there is now and has been since WordPress released version 3.4.

A screenshot of a theme options

Based on the section above, do you think theme options will be obsolete?

Do You Think Theme Options Will Be Obsolete?

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The Theme Customizer is the Solution

The theme customizer got released during WordPress 3.4 and allows WordPress site owners to create all types of options from:

  • background colors
  • custom CSS
  • custom text boxes
  • image galleries
  • layouts
  • plugin switches
  • themes
  • and more

The customizer is a new section that contains a set of accordions (called sections) that grouped into panels. Basically, the way the customizer is structured is like this:

  • panels group sections.
  • sections group form controls
  • controls hold settings

...in that order.

Here is an example of a very simple customizer with one section.

A simple theme customizer in WordPress including sections, panels and controls.
A simple theme customizer in WordPress including sections, panels and controls.

A Very Robust Customizer

In the last example, I showed a very simple customizer that allows the user to add the site title, but what about a customizer that is more complex and has more content to it? I show it below and this is one I created.

This customizer comes with over 10 sections and two panels. I have sections for everything from:

  • Home Page sections which is a panel with more sections
  • Happy New Year which allows the admin to enter a message that will display on the home page January 1st of every single year.
  • Restaurant settings. Yes, this was for a restaurant client of mine and has controls for everything from the menu specials to the hours of operation.
  • Popup text which allows the admin user to enter a message that pop ups up on the home page. This section displays that custom content.
  • Site Title and Tagline which comes with the customizer
  • Colors which contains the background and fore colors for text and the various web pages.
  • Background image which allows for the upload of a background image and more.

What I love about the customizer is that it allows me to set theme options for every single website and I do not need to get used to a new set of theme options which is pretty annoying. Put another way, theme options have no standard while the customizer has one set of standards for theme developers to follow.

Below is a screenshot of this more robust and complex customizer:

A more robust customizer with plenty of options for sections, settings, and controls which includes a Happy New Year option and restaurant settings.
A more robust customizer with plenty of options for sections, settings, and controls which includes a Happy New Year option and restaurant settings. | Source

Going under the hood with panels

As I mentioned above, the theme customizer allows sections to be grouped for even better organization. Panels group sections since a customizer can have hundreds of sections. Panels solve the confusion when there are a lot of customizers.

In this screenshot, I have a panel called Home Page Sections. There are four sections on the home page and for the web designers reading this, I created a WordPress theme that came with four sections. My client loved it and this section customizer allows the admin to display and hide different sections of the home page. Each control is a drop down menu and has simple options for Yes and No. Simply, if you select Yes, the option shows. If you select No, the option hides. This is highlighted in the green box below.

A Customizer With Panels

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A Customizer that I developed that contains 4 sections for the home page.
A Customizer that I developed that contains 4 sections for the home page.
A Customizer that I developed that contains 4 sections for the home page.

The Customizer can also be expanded by plugins...

Although this is called the them customizer, plugins can also create new sections, controls and panels for plugins. For the WordPress developers reading this, WordPress comes with an API called the Theme Customizer API. It allows developers of both themes and plugins to add sections, panels, settings, and controls.

In conclusion, I believe that the customizer will definitely replace theme options and make them obsolete, because they create a standard not met by theme developers that create a theme options section.

I am looking for the answers to these questions:

  • Do you think theme options have a future in the WordPress world?
  • Have tried the theme customizer? If you have, what do you think?


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