Review of the WordPress.com iNove theme

Guest post by Richard

This is a initial review of the new iNove theme recently introduced at WordPress.com. This theme offers a lot of useful features, but it is not without some drawbacks that could trip up bloggers. I would have like to have seen this theme massaged a little more to limit some of the drawbacks. Perhaps staff will get around to that in a future update of the theme.

When first introduced, the theme had a four-sidebar configuration (all in the one column on the right). There was a full-width at the top (north), two half-width below that (west and east), and a full-width below those (south). Sadly WordPress.com killed three of them supposedly for “simplification” according to a reply I got from staff. In my opinion that took away a very useful part of this theme. The fact that 3 sidebars disappeared (west, east and south) after the theme was released did not go unnoticed by the early adopters and they let staff know in the forums. Hopefully they also let them know by contacting staff directly.

The banner feature, described under iNove Theme Options below is not well thought out for those that do not have a good knowledge of HTML since it is very easy to mess up the entire header area. This really needs some rework to make it more difficult to mess it up or there is going to be a lot of problems for normal bloggers.

iNove is also the first WordPress.com theme to have dropdown menus that will cascade to show child and child of child pages. This is a long overdue addition and in my opinion all the themes here with menubars at the top need to have this feature. This is, and has been, a standard feature of the web for a long time.

iNove-templatePage Templates

No Sidebar: There is a “no sidebar” page template so if you want certain pages you create, or all pages to not have sidebars, you can select the no sidebar template for those pages in the editor. This allows you to set certain pages you create to display no sidebars. If you want to hide the sidebars on all pages, that is available too. See “Sidebar” in the iNove Theme Options section below.

Links: The links page template will display your links on a page if you do not want to have them in the sidebar and displays them in four columns instead of single column. Sadly it does not break the links out by links category. There are also add and edit links on the link page when you view it while logged in that take you directly to those pages in your dashboard. Again a useful feature.

Archives: The archives page template will list month/year archive links which are identical in format to those shown in the archives widget, and it also includes post counts with the listings. Again a nice feature if you do not want to have the archives widget in your sidebar.

iNove-optionsiNove Theme Options

Menubar: Select whether you want to show pages or categories in the menubar (no, not both). There have been many bloggers asking for a way to have it look like they have multiple blogs in one blog, and although there is a trick that can be used in some themes here to have menubar tags linked to categories pages, this is a much cleaner way of doing things. Now people can categorize their posts by subject, set their menu bar to show categories, and then people can click on the tabs to get to lists of the posts in those categories.

Sidebar: You can hide the sidebar from all pages – useful for those doing a photo blog that want to maximize image width.

Notice: Same as the “alert” in Vigilance and displays information at the top of the post area on the main page. You can also think of this as a stripped down sticky post if you wish.

Banner: It has a banner feature (not the same as a custom header) which places text or a short height image in the right end of the title bar. If you put text into the banner, you have to manually insert break tags; there is no text wrap. The container for the banner feature will keep expanding to the full width of the header area if you do not insert break tags, and that will cause the title and tagline to go out of alignment. If you try and put in more than 4 lines of text, it overflows vertically into the menubar area, and if you have a lot of tabs in the menubar, they then stack up on the left side of the theme making the whole header area look messy and poorly designed. You can place an image in the banner container as well, but you are limited to 60px in height or again, it will overflow into the menubar area and cause issues.

Showcase: Think of this as a text widget by another name, which is really all it is. You can put an image or text, or code into it and it appears near the top of the sidebar. You do have the ability to set who will see it.

Posts: You can select what post metadata you want visible with each post and can show or hide author, categories, and tags, or a combination or all.

Feed: At the top of the sidebar is a built in RSS feed link, and when you mouse over it a window pops up so that the visitor can select which feed reader they want to use. You can also turn the mouseover popup off on the iNove Theme Options page.

Conclusion

This theme has some very welcome features although not all of them are as well polished as I would have hoped they would have been. Still though, it represents a step in the right direction and provides useful features that I think WordPress.com bloggers will appreciate. I would certainly use it.

23 thoughts on “Review of the WordPress.com iNove theme

  1. What I would love in this theme is if I could change the RSS feed that the RSS button directs to. I have a FeedBurner RSS feed for my blog on top of the regular WordPress one http://feeds.feedburner.com/LNN vs http://levynewsnetwork.wordpress.com/feed/.

    I’d much rather have the FeedBurner one linked because when someone sets up a subscription via GoogleReader for the WordPress feed it has no images and only shows the first few lines. The FeedBurner feed in GoogleReader gives full pictures & the full post and looks way better IMHO.

    Maybe the only way to do this is to move my blog from being hosted by WordPress to my own hosting or to pick another theme – I’m not a complete n00b but don’t know anything about this subject. Any help or suggestions would be most appreciated! (And yes, I have considered just adding a widget with the feed I want in there but the way it is done natively in the Theme it is right up there and much cleaner looking)

    1. It isn’t possible to change the feed URLs on wordpress.COM blogs since that would require hacking the underlying theme files. If you select a theme that does not have the built-in feed link, then you can build you own in a text widget using HTML and point it anywhere you want.

      If you were self-hosted, then you could of course hack the stuff as you wish. The only limit is your knowledge of PHP scripting (not many people even know what that is). It could also be that there are some plugins out there for self-hosted blogs that do what you want, but going self-hosted comes with a lot more responsibilities such as you having to do all installations, upgrades, backups and troubleshooting. At wordpress.COM, about all you have to worry about is blogging.

      From my standpoint, I’m not fond of being forced to use a particular feed service such as feedburner/google or any of the others. I prefer to use my browser as it is cleaner and more simple.

  2. I am trying to add a link to the top of the sidebar to take visitors to my facebook page I want it to match the rss and twitter buttons that come with the theme, I have been trying for a few hours and cant seem to get it write. Any help would be greatly appreciated! I am using Inove with wordpress.org and I am okay with code but I just need to find where to put it. I usually just add a text widget and easily put it there but my client specifically wants it up with the RSS and Twitter that is already embedded, please help :)

  3. This theme has served me well. Very clever whoever made it. Couple of things i’d like changed. The little date image which i would like to customise the icon to something a little larger and of my choice. Clearer info on how the main menu’s are ordered would be good. And a function to create “viewable” pages where it does not have to create a main menu link. And I’m not able to use the Blogroll and other links i create to pull various link groups into individual pages where needed. I think this is a fantastic theme.

    And so thrilled there is a Notify me of follow-up comments every blog needs this (including my own).

    1. @Daniel
      Yours is a wordpress.ORG install and you are using a wordpress.ORG version of the iNove theme. I like the header you have created very much.

      As you have access to the template on a wordpress.ORG install you can make the minor size change to the date easily. But “no” I do not give wordpress.ORG lessons.

      In addition you say this: “And a function to create “viewable” pages where it does not have to create a main menu link. ”

      You can create static sub-pages or child pages of Parent pages and even “hide” pages. See here > http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2007/11/28/working-with-wordpress-pages/ and here > http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/hide-pages/

      You also say “And I’m not able to use the Blogroll and other links i create to pull various link groups into individual pages where needed. ”

      Why not? The iNove theme has Page templates for Links (Archives, Default, Pages without sidebars). Create a static page for your Links. Links in your blogroll are displayed in alphabetical order by Category and alphabetically within each category.

      I’m happy to hear you are happy with your theme. :)

  4. I like INove because it has an immediacy to it, an energy, similar to that of a newspaper or news magazine.

    I also appreciate the fact the font is fixed in size — on Internet Explorer, at least — so I know that what I design is what most other viewers will see.

    (Unfortunately, Firefox doesn’t support vspace and hspace, so when viewed in Firefox, the wrap-around text crowds the images. However, this will happen with any theme viwed in Firefox.)

  5. Well, there is one thing that keeps me from using the theme: page templates show dates as if they were posts and that looks really unprofessional. I am in love with the dropdown menu though.

    1. I hadn’t noticed that. Contact staff and let them know that, and I’m certain they will remove the date from pages. They removed them from the pages on all other themes, so I suspect they just missed it on iNove.

  6. Hi, i use this theme as well on my wordpress.com blog.
    Do you have idea how to add twitter and facebook button next to rss button on the top right side?

    1. That I’m afraid would require access to the underlying theme PHP script files and knowledge of PHP, and at wordpress.COM, we do not have access to those files. WordPress.COM is a multi-user platform which means we all share the same underlying theme and wordpress files. Any change by one person would change it for everyone using that theme.

  7. I am also Using this theme, The theme is cool one.

    But to my observations i would have been enjoyed it more if

    1. “Leave a comment” should have been attached to end of Post it will be good thing (may be configurable to Users choice) – i feel being reader i wouldn’t like to scroll up to leave a comment when viewing a blogs home page.
    2. It would have been great if header Image/Color is configurable, Just like in administrator Panel We have a choice to configure the color combination for display.
    3. As mentioned above Font used in the theme also adds to my concern.

    Thanks for the great review.

  8. i use this themes too… and if you install wordpress tread comment the blogg will better to add or reply comment from the visitor.. but something wrong when i install wordpress relation post plugin

    1. Since this review was aimed at the WordPress.com version of the theme (which is different than the self-hosted version), and since I have not tried the the self-hosted version, I couldn’t even guess what the issue is, and I am not at all familiar with that plugin. My suggestion would be to contact the plugin author and the iNove theme author.

  9. Exhaustive review! I tested it and did not like it. Let’s hope more themes are in the pipeline. I wonder what prevents them from introducing themes in bulk!

    1. I could certainly use this theme given the options, but I would probably want to CSS it up a little. It has some little peculiarities, such as little tails that hang out over the left border when menubar tabs go to a second line, and the banner thing is in my opinion virtually useless. This does give me hope though that we will see more themes with more current and up to date features coming along in the months ahead.

      The ‘themes in bulk’ issue is more I suspect about resources than anything since it takes a good bit of time to sanitize and modify the themes to work within the parameters here.

    1. No theme will ever fit everyone’s needs, which is why there are literally tens of thousands of WordPress themes floating around out there on the internet. It does give me hope though that staff will be introducing themes with more useful and advanced features rather than the same old stale designs.

  10. There’s another drawback not mentioned above. The tags and categories can mess up the blog totally:

    If the number of categories exceeds the post column width, everything is shifted one line down. Similarly, if the tags after the categories exceeds the post column width, they are shifted one line down.

    This in turn messes up the post title of the previous post below on the home page or multi-post pages (categories, tags, archives etc.)

    And it also messes up the design of the comment box on a single post page.

    I’m surprised that neither the theme designer(s) nor WordPress have seen and addressed this issue.

    1. Thanks for reporting that, and I hope you passed it on to staff. I’ve sent in some whines and recommendations on the theme already and hopefully they will be addressed quickly.

      Most themes I’ve tried out have issues and even the very well designed themes seem to only hit about 80% finished in my opinion. My only guess is that the authors simply do not check all the different things that can break a theme. The real test is how they respond to your bug reports. A couple years ago I sent a theme author a list of over 20 bugs and issues with his “pride and joy” and as of a couple weeks ago, no update had been done.

      1. I sent in a note to Support, and I just now got a reply back saying that they had fixed the issues. Thought I should let your readers know.

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