WP Champion Professional Theme - Preamble


The Path:

When we first embarked upon this theme’s journey back in 2013/2014 the goal was to build a theme which would allow a site owner to replicate almost any design they found elsewhere on the web.  To do this we recognized we had to really beef up the shortcode abilities and underlying framework over what existed in our Striking theme.  But it had to be backwards compatible for the Striking owners so they could seamlessly (or close to it!) update.  

So we built a new framework that offered both fluid and custom width options for every webpage, controllable by each subsection of that page.  Even sidebar widths could be varied.  With the new code underpinnings we vastly improved the shortcodes to include all the css styling, position, animation, and other customization properties that would be applicable.  We added new custom widgets and we shortcoded all widgets both native WordPress and our custom widgets.   The header and footer areas had significant upgrades with multiple menu, mega menu, new mobile menu, menu animation, detailed logo positioning and many more features.  We built in background sliders, and a super advanced sectioning shortcode system for in page content that was very flexible and overcame all the traditional barriers WordPress had for content design in the wp editor.  No shortcode was untouched and about 70% of the shortcodes in WP Champion were new to Striking owners who started upgrading.

An important feature which a number of Champion sites now utilize is an ability to “skin” different portions of a website using our own templating system (called “Presets”) which eliminates the need for subsites unless one really desired a sub url such as doc.website.abc.  Every page, even WordPress taxonomy pages such as categories, tags, the 404 page, search results page, date pages could be 100% custom styled.  In case you are unaware traditionally in WordPress it has always varied between very difficult and impossible to edit and customize taxonomy content without a great deal of pain, and no intrinsic abilities existed in WordPress for doing such editing.

The custom templating can be assigned by page, by taxonomy, by groups of pages, to custom post types and virtually any other way one can imagine.  Thus one could have websites within websites, without ever needing sub domains, with everything from the header to the footer presenting a uniform styling assignable to any webpage by one click of the button, and then further customizable if needed for that webpage.

The early target audience of WP Champion were the sizable stable of web designers who had adapted Striking as their usual template for customers.  We also allowed selected sophisticated DIY owners but refrained from a public release as we had a vision, and we knew we still had a road to travel.  But the aforementioned adoptees could give us feedback, and not panic when something was astray.

The advent of WYSIWYG editing

In 2014-2015 WYSIWYG editors started to obtain traction in WordPress.  The early leader at Envato was the Visual Composer.  We were not enthused about this plugin after testing and felt our shortcode system was superior for functionality and speed.  But we recognized that the DIY audience was feeling challenged by shortcodes.  After a period of investigation we commenced on a joint project with an external partner for a new WYSIWYG plugin which would fully integrate into WPC.  This was tracking very well although it was a long development period. 

And then after many months of development the partner vanished.  No more communication whatsoever.  So back to the drawing board!  We still were not happy with the Visual Composer and decided to bide our time and watch the developments in this facet of WordPress while ever continuing our expansion of the core abilities of WPC.

Elementor appeared mid 2016 but its real traction started occurring a couple of yrs later.  On the recommendation of some designers we started exploring it in the fall of 2018.  At that point we had test driven several other page builders but none really enthused us.  Even Elementor left us wanting – underneath the hood we observed many code concerns and envisioned difficulties with WP Champion integration.

This concern was further enhanced by the fact we observed other theme developers were not integrating Elementor into their existing themes, but rather releasing new themes.  This is lovely if your sole goal is to spin out new products but the ethics of fracking your existing customer base, as did a very well know developer at Themeforest, did not appeal to us.  We have always advocated a continuous upgrade path for content, and develop per that ethos. Anyways our suspicion was confirmed many times over that integrating Elementor into the theme was going to be challenging.

Recent Champion Releases and our Elementor Path

In June 2019 we released Champion 2.9.1 with our early Elementor integration.  We purchased theme licenses for two premium Elementor addons to enhance the basic elementor options as Elementor does not offer a theme integration option for its own “Pro” version.

We rewrote thousands of lines of code to deal with the sloppy way in which Elementor applies css styling and dealt with other initial integration conflicts we found.  This work told us why very few theme/plugin developers try to integrate it into existing products – it was a lot of work with some real head scratching challenges!

We also learned something -> we could code to allow both our shortcodes and Elementor content to play well together on the same webpage.  But it was going to be impossible for the foreseeable future to move our shortcodes into the Elementor editor.  Our shortcodes often have custom fields in which we execute javascripts.  These could not be mapped without further challenges into Elementor insofar as we could determine.

What we could do was allow new pages to be built with our headers, footers, page templates and presets, and Elementor content to be injected into existing pages before and after the theme shortcoded content.  This made sense anyways,  if you have a website with many pages how many of them is one going to redo?   Some Champion (and Striking) websites have as many as a thousand webpages.  Our own users told us the answer:  mostly they would edit some top level pages and occasionally recast completely the body content of a page using Elementor and otherwise their existing pages would be left as they were.   What was most important was an upgrade path that provided the new tools but did not impact the existing content negatively.  Thus they could take their time to learn Elementor (which has its own steep learning curve despite the publicity about ease) and then selectively commence editing webpages at a pace that was not forced by updates.

By the way this is an important point to make – building webpages using our theme page templates, header, footer and menu is vastly preferable to using elementor equivalents. The reason is SEO.  Our core theme code contains extensive schema and markup for search engines.  Jumping to Champion almost always results in a notable improvement in search results even before using an SEO plugin.  Our schema and metadata 100% validates (even some SEO plugins fail validation in past testing we conducted) and this code really enhances the ability of google and other crawlers to index and categorize website content.  We even have a Champion function where you can hide Breadcrumbs display on a page/site but make the breadcrumbs schema visible to web crawlers for SEO purposes! No other theme or plugin has this ability.  So when selecting the page template while editing use our fluid and full width templates!

advanced divider

OUR ROADMAP FOR 2022: HOUSEKEEPING! (as we utterly failed these tasks in 2021...)

Housekeeping.  This is probably welcome news for many of you as the focus is going to be on service and usability.  On tap are: