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New Builder Settings Sneak Peak

A couple of months ago, the iThemes team talked about the future of Builder and set some short-term and long-term goals. One of the long-term goals was to make a big push for making Builder easier to use. A big part of this drive towards making Builder easier to use is to rebuild each of the settings and editor screens, to offer a section with easy-to-use basic options that most users need and and a section with more advanced options. This decision to divide each area into basic and advanced sections will allow us to focus on making greatly simplified interfaces that will help users make needed changes quickly while still offering more complex options for the intermediate to advanced users.

Today, I’d like to share a sneak peak of this new approach as I work on rebuilding Builder’s Settings screen.

Teaser preview for new Builder Settings page

These are some of the key elements of this redesign:

  • Use the tab design found in the Appearance > Themes menu to offer the basic and advanced settings pages. This approach is used to prevent the menu from growing too large.
  • The settings have been divided into logical groups. Each group is placed inside a collapsible box that can be moved around. Since the boxes will remember their position and closed state, this makes it easier for users to hide away settings that they don’t need or rarely modify.
  • More description must be used to clarify the purpose of each setting.
  • Existing options that may be difficult to understand should be rethought to allow for ease of understanding.
  • Options should be simplified as much as possible while still allowing flexibility.

Some observant readers may have noticed the “Import / Export” portion at the top of the preview image. Yes, importing and exporting settings is in the works as part of this new settings page.

Please share your comments, critiques, praises, criticisms, etc you have for the new design in the comments below.


  1. This all looks great and hopefully will make it easier for our clients to work the site themselves after handover and possible tuition :)

    Question – do we get these new settings via a plugin or will Builder Core and or child themes come preloaded with this?

    Thanks for the great work guys – so love Builder!

    • And the typical cop-out developer answer: “when it is ready.” :)

      There is a lot going on with this update. While it looks like a facelift, it’s actually a complete rebuild with a different set of code. The current code is the legacy Flexx settings code. It’s done well, but it’s time to update.

      The are two key things I need to get right on the first release of this update. First, I need to ensure that when people update, their settings don’t go away. Second, since some of the settings are changing or being split between multiple new settings, I need to make sure that old settings can intelligently migrate to the new ones. So, I have a large amount of testing to make sure that this works properly.

      All that said, I really, really would love to get it out this week, but I can’t guarantee anything right now.

      • [quote]All that said, I really, really would love to get it out this week, but I can’t guarantee anything right now[/quote]

        So would I. But monday will be fine too :)

  2. Excellent Chris – that was the answer I was hoping for LOL

    Oh and thanks so much for the extra email :) that was very kind of you :) Hopefully get that done tomorrow (it’s your own sites that suffer I find when you have a number of clients on the go – we need to upgrade that one and sort out some other things too but not had the time in the last few months, however, not complaining, nice problem to have).


  3. Will the import/export settings also allow for export of page layouts? That’s something I’m definitely in need of. Thanks for all you do! LOVE Builder.

    • The initial release of the import/export feature will handle settings, layouts, and views.

      I should note that the initial release may not be able to support exporting and restoring page/post-specific layouts (selecting a layout from the post editor). The reason for this is that there isn’t a unique identifier for posts and pages across different sites. Thus simply forcing the data in on import could easily set a custom layout view for posts and pages that don’t make sense on the import site. I’m still working out how to properly handle this as it is important.

  4. I love the fact that you guys are constantly working and supporting the Builder theme. Many theme developers develop once and then move on to the next leaving the previous themes abandoned.

    Thanks for making the builder theme a must have!

  5. I am so in love with Builder. If I wasn’t married with 3 kids, me and builder would be an item.

    Thanks iThemes Crew… You guys rock.

  6. Chris Jean.

    This looks amazing and like most others can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    I’ve just started using the Builder theme process and find it easy to use and exciting for creating new websites.

    This new rewrite looks like taking the Builder theme to a new and amazing level.


  7. Thanks for sharing the sneak peek Chris. I’m making a theme decision this week and I’m using my imagination which is very vivid :)

    Any chance of peeking at what’s on the Advanced tab?

    What things won’t be covered by the settings option (in other words, what things will we need to do via CSS)?

    • The Advanced tab wasn’t able to be cleaned up for this sneak peek. Frankly, it looks a mess right now. I’m using the Basic tab to solidify the UI design concepts which will then be put into use on the Advanced tab. That and I am still changing a lot of settings around on that tab. So for now, no, I don’t have a peak, but I will do another post when it has been firmed up a bit.

      The settings page won’t contain any CSS modification options. The reason is that Builder has a Style Manager plugin that offers this type of control. The plugin is still very much a work-in-progress, but all Builder users get access to the latest beta version of the plugin as the development goes forward. You can see a screenshot example of the current version of Style Manager here. Even with Style Manager, I always recommend that people have at least a basic foundational knowledge of CSS.

        • I’ll add one item to the wish list: The Show/Hide Options per section is great but it would be nice to have a Collapse / Expand All toggle for those times when you are looking for a setting or just want to see everything. Not a showstopper but it will be helpful when we are learning and when we’ve been away (temporarily happy with our design) for a while.

          Also, will the various Color settings have a color viewer to pick from or are they entry boxes only?

  8. Very exciting – and I’m only just falling in love with Builder…

    Thanks for the update and good luck with it going live

  9. Dude you rock!

    Chris we are just not worthy of your code ninja awsomeness!

    All kidding aside thankyou for all the work you do and the team at ithemes.


  10. First Off-
    You guys amaze me at your constant updates and innovations.
    New plugins, themes, and always updating core products.
    I use builder everyday and love it.

    Looks like this new core interface will simplify the process even further. (Although I already find it dramatically easier than writing all my own code). One thing I do wonder about about is code bloat. And will these changes make it easier, but sacrifice some upload/response speed of the final site?

    If I had a small wish list it would be an interface for individual styling of widgets. I do it now via Coda and CSS of course, but sometimes the string of name conventions makes it a slight challenge figuring out the actual div or class exact name. With a single widget styling interface I could be even lazier! :-)

    Great, great job Chris!

    • Code bloat is definitely a big concern for me. Each little bit of code makes things just that much slower. I’m constantly going through and rewriting sections of code to bleed just a little bit more speed out of it without sacrificing features.

      That said, these back-end editors won’t make very much, if any, difference in performance.

      There’s a side branch of code that I keep working on as I have time that tests some more drastic modifications of the code to try to get very large boosts in performance. Some of the work looks promising and could provide a significant speed boost over the performance of the current code.

      As for individual widget styling, that’s on the roadmap for Style Manager. The biggest difficulty is finding out a way to allow the user to select exactly what they want to modify without making the process of selection too difficult.

  11. Do you have any plans to create Buider child themes for landing pages (squeeze pages)? I would love to have this option since it will simplify my marketing work. Also, if I already have Builder installed with an active child theme, do I need to make builder active before it upgrades?

    • What features and design elements are you looking for in a landing page child theme?

      Builder never needs to be directly activated. Activating a child theme is sufficient for all of Builder’s initialization and upgrade needs.

      • Wow, I never expected such a quick response… awesome!

        I would like to have a child theme that allows me to create static landing pages with video box (or pictures, depending on the need), with a contact capture box that I can customize, no sidebars, the area for the text and a forward to the “thank you” page. Basically a typical landing page where all I do is upload the theme, do some basic customization and add the content.

        The themes could be comparable to other themes as far as the looks, so they can match the purpose of the page (eg. technology, real estate, marketing, teaching, trades, etc). Am I making sense with my answer?

        • With Builder, you can quickly and easily create a new layout of a specific width with nothing but a Content module. This will give you your no sidebars setup. You can then add widget areas, navigation, etc as desired.

          The different child themes mainly provide different designs and sometimes some small additional features specific to the design. So, I think what you are looking for isn’t a child theme but a plugin that would make creating these pages as easy as possible.

          I would expect that you can quickly do what you want by creating a page, adding a video embed or shortcode from a plugin, and then adding a form from Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7. Both contact plugins support redirecting to another page on submit, although it is more difficult to do in Contact Form 7.

  12. Chris,

    Still new to Builder but building our first site on it now. Question: I’m only seeing one level of navigation customization (Basic and Hover)… why is there not a setting for “2nd Level”? Alot of our sites have various degrees of coloring/effects on the drop downs so just having one option seems limited.

    Ever think about adding an additional level? (if its already there, please guide me)

    Thanks Chris!! -donny-

  13. Chris,

    Not sure the terminology but can you make the My Theme settings something we can manage rights to? Using Members plugin or R&C we’d like to give some clients access to check which pages should be active and which pages should not.

    We create a “Level 9” type account called Client Admin so they can do more than an editor but not change/edit themes add/change plugins and we lose the ability to reach the page settings in Builder.

    The other option we’ve done already is to use WP Menus and that works. Maybe that’s the best option but thought I’d let you know what we hoped for.

    Great job on Builder we love it!


    • I’ve considered adding some type of control like this numerous times, but there is a problem. How does the user control this?

      Does the first user to get to the settings to control what other users see get to block everyone else out? Is there a way for a blocked user to unlock the hidden menus without having to gain access to the other account? Imagine a scenario where a user accidentally uses this feature to lock everyone else out and doesn’t know how to undo it.

      Is there a hidden settings page that only an admin user can load? If so, how is this information conveyed in a way that is easily understood by a user?

      If this type of control is in the settings page, should the settings menu be able to be hidden? If so, how do you get the settings page back?

      From my questions, I’m sure you can see that I can imagine a very large set of scenarios for desired behavior of such a feature. There are a wealth of plugins that specifically open up granular control of either the menu or the roles and capabilities system.

      Given that the set of users that may need this type of control is (from what I’ve seen so far) small and that the specific needs are diverse, I believe that it is best to leave this to a plugin solution that the user can pick for the specific application. A couple of good plugins are Admin Menu Editor (control over menus) and Members (control over roles and capabilities).

      Note that all the Builder menus use a permission capability of switch_themes. Any user without that capability will not see the menus.

      All that said, I’m still open to suggestions.

      • Just add the ability for plugins like “Members” to control this and leave it up to the end users.

        Carl from Gravity forms just added this to their plugin a few months ago. Now there’s an option to manage the rights when using the Members plugin.

        We duplicate the administrator and call it client admin. Then we can go in and remove rights to things we don’t want the client admins getting to.

        I can restrict them from adding or editing Gravity Forms but they can view/export the results.
        It would be nice to client admins to activate a page when a new page is created, now it’s only the admin.

        I appreciate your detailed response and agree, I’m just looking for the hooks or filters or what you may call it to manage the rights elsewhere.

  14. One thing that has taken me a long time to get used to is making the style sheet changes I need to make to get sites working and looking the way I prefer.

    I use the Style manager, but there are many times I have to go right to the style sheet.

    If child themes had more /*** comment lines explaining what code effects what ***/
    it would save a lot of time and experimenting.

    And, or maybe even better would be a printed pdf breakdown of what each major grouping does, and the sub parts. Even as detailed as telling what padding settings do at each line.
    nav ul
    nav li
    nav li a
    nav li a hover
    second level

    I guess that is not really what you asked for in your sneak peek.

    For me Builder works great for what is included.
    The most time consuming things, have been where I am going further than what plugins and widgets allow, unless you modify the css and or php. And then the learning curve is fun but steep.

    An example of details for:

    Header menus
    Footer menus (great to have footer widgets)
    Widgets below the content in a post or page, inside the post or page content not a separate module below the content module.

    Thank you.

  15. Hi – I wondered if we could get an update on this sneak peek? I’m anxiously awaiting for the export/import ability for page layouts. Thanks!

  16. Can’t wait for the Import/Export function. I have some themes I have created from the blank child theme that I need to roll out to many clients, with only some minor tweaking done for each one… This would be a HUGE feature for me!!




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