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Sneaky peeky: Early designs

So I’m facing a second site redesign in just over a year. Last time I had so little time to get everything right, I found myself mainly focussing on the look and feel of the site and *hands up* spent no time on the actual architecture of the site.

I’m turning that on it’s head this time and with the site opening up, there is a lot more reason to get things right this time. I’ve spent the past few days faffing around with themes, widgets and plugins on the test site and running designs past colleagues.

Why are we using a pre-designed theme and not doing something from scratch?  Simple, we just don’t have the resources. But I think there are enough, good, flexible themes out there available for next to nothing that will still let us do what we want. (There will need to be some minor tweaks made still).

I think we’re almost there. And I present you with the following for your early feedback.  All dummy images and text and navigation structure at this point. And yes, the cats are mine:

Option 1

This is the Studio Theme from WPMUdev with only minor changes by me.

This is the Studio Theme from WPMUdev with only minor changes by me.


  • it looks pretty – crisp clear layout. I’m a sucker for pretty
  • nice slide down ‘My Community’ tab to make the community aspect of the site feel more exclusive and gives a clear delineation between public and members-only content.


  • seeming inflexibility of large centre panel to include text – either headline or summary/excerpt.
  • whizzy – will the slideshow and slide-down log in area work across government departments? I fear not.
  • inflexibility of theme in general across page/posts and community templates.
  • layout is nice on front page but breaks down a bit across template types.
  • I think we’d have to do a lot more shoe horning of content into this theme.

Option 2

This is the Buddypress Scholar theme, also from WMPUdev.  Again, with only minor tweaks from me at this point.


  • 3 column layout
  • More flexibility for us to structure content
  • rotating image slideshow, very similar to current site
  • easy to set content to be displayed in the slideshow, middle column and spotlight panel. Filters by categories.
  • I think this theme has more gravitas/weight than Option 1, which feels a bit fluffy
  • Similarity to existing site – just enough the same that this feels like an evolution rather than a whole new site


  • The biggest negative point of this theme is that it does not support custom menus. Main navigation bar is going to take a lot more work. It automatically picks up all new pages and adds them. I need to impost my own structure on this easily.
  • A few little niggly things aren’t working as they should:
    • ‘Latest news’ should only have 3 stories under it, but it’s picking them all up
    • Slideshow should also only be showing a set number of stories, but is scrolling through them all

Over to you now, while I start work on the content side of things….

What do you think?

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