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.
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.
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.
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.