iThemes Builder version 2.7.0 released yesterday. This version brought a huge number of changes. The biggest change for most Builder users is the new settings screen. A new settings screen sounds boring, but these new settings give users access to new features and control over existing features.
I’ll describe the changes in more detail below, but a video may communicate some of the details more clearly. Full screen and other resolutions are available if you’d like to see more text detail.
The purpose of the interface redesign was to make it easier for new users to get started while giving experienced users more options.
To prevent from overwhelming the user with too much information at once, the settings were divided into discrete logical groups. This allowed for the addition of detailed descriptions and more settings without making the interface too crowded.
Since the settings now takes up so much vertical space, a Quick Links box was added to inform users what types of settings are available without requiring them to scroll through the entire page.
With plans for integrated SEO options and a settings importer/exporter, a place had to be created for these new features. They are similar in concept to the settings editor and would clutter up the My Theme menu if they were added to it. The final decision was to use the tabs from WordPress’ Themes page interface. With the addition of tabs, the settings page can be expanded to include many new similar but separate pages of settings and settings-related tools.
The Menu Builder has not been modified. It has worked well for a long time as is. It merely got a facelift and some description.
Builder’s old settings page included a single text area to input code for either the header or footer. While this has worked very well for a long time, I thought that it could definitely be improved.
I dug around and found that most WordPress users use either Google Analytics or Woopra for their site’s web analytics solution. This being the case, I thought I could create some tools to make integrating these services easier to do. Beyond just providing an easy-to-use tool, I thought that this settings section could also serve as an introduction to the concept of web analytics for some users.
I should note that simple integration is just the beginning for the Google Analytics and Woopra tools. Code is already being put together that adds event tracking (such as visitor commenting and searching), action tracking (outgoing, download, and mailto link clicks), as well as visitor data (details about logged in users and visitors that have left a comment).
Of course there will always be a need to input custom code. The old settings limit of supporting either header code or footer code but not both was unnecessary. The new settings supports having custom code in both locations at the same time. A simple change that should be very helpful to some users.
Identify Widget Areas
In the past, Builder would always put some filler text in empty widget areas so users could easily see the name of that area. This helps users work with numerous layouts quickly, but it wasn’t without problems.
One of the biggest problems was that this filler text would show not just to logged in users but to visitors as well. An option existed to turn this off, but this really wasn’t ideal. Now there are three choices for who can see the filler text: users that can modify widgets, any logged in user, and everybody. By default, this information will only be shown to users that have the ability to manage widgets.
Another issue is that the filler text would only show in empty widget areas, which could make it difficult to quickly identify a widget area after having added widgets to it. Builder still has this behavior by default, but settings are available to either always show or never show the widget area identification.
In many themes, comments don’t exist in the page.php template. This means that many themes don’t support page comments even though WordPress does. Builder has always had support for page comments, but this has caused a great deal of frustration for some users that couldn’t stand seeing the “Comments are closed” message on their pages. Eventually, a rule was added to stylesheets to hide this “Comments are closed” message, but this also had the effect of removing that message on posts that actually did have their comments closed.
The correct solution became very clear, provide settings to control this. Now, by default, pages are devoid of comments as many users expect; however, by checking the “Pages” option and saving your settings, page comments can be very easily enabled. Similarly, the “Comments are closed” message is disabled by default and an option has been added to provide a custom message if desired.
Over the past year, a number of features have been bundled in with Builder. If a user wished to disable a specific feature, customizations to Builder itself would be required, and the process would require specific knowledge. Now the features that can be safely disabled are centralized in a standard system and can be enabled and disabled from the settings screen. No code modification required.
There have been a large number of other changes, but most of them are boring technical details, so I won’t bore you with that information. These other changes boil down to a benefit of faster theme performance. I’ll leave it at that.
Many of the decisions that went into this redesign were in response to feedback from Builder users. Please let me know what you think about the changes by leaving a comment below.