Year: 2016

I had spent so much time searching for the perfect WordPress theme on ThemeForest, but as I haven’t found one which would 100% reflect what I think about modern websites nowadays, I decided to create my own ultra-minimalist, mobile-first theme and made it available for free.

Why have I created my own WP Theme?

Although the previous WordPress theme I had been using at was quite OK, somehow I didn’t like it 100%, just could not feel that it was ”my way” of building a web site. As have been lately only a hobby project, it was crucial that the site I am tinkering with has a web design I really like, and nevertheless, it is simple enough that I could easily alter it and further develop however I feel like.

During recent years I have come across quite a few innovative and interesting WordPress themes such as Mila or Evolutive, but my biggest problem with these and similar themes that they are just too image-centric: should I eliminate images from the demo content, they just become way less impressive. On the other hand this article about website obesity had a great influence on me, so no matter how I really appreciate JavaScript stuff like Masonry, Isotope, etc., this time I wanted to create something really minimalist for myself: A kind of theme which only adds the absolutely, inevitably necessary amount of code to the actual content, so that I could concentrate on what really matters: the content itself.

What is the essence of my Sixpack WordPress Theme?

  • Ultra-minimalist: As the name indicates, the basic principle of this theme is that there cannot be more than six content items visible on the screen – for the sake of clarity and readability. Of course, more content items can be accessed by scrolling down the page, but the basic rule applies there too: no more than „six packs” of content should be displayed on the screen at the same time.
  • Tile-based: The content items are displayed as tiles. I think Windows’ Metro interface was a great innovation, as only the tiles can provide a consistent appearance independently of screen size.
  • Mobile-first: While developing this on a desktop computer, I was always thinking about how this or that would look on a smaller screen, so when I finished testing the basic stuff on bigger screens,  I just needed a handful of special CSS rules for small screens: mostly for decreasing the number of the simultaneously displayed content items from 6 to 2-3-4.
  • Forcing you to publish the right way: The theme will look at its best if every entry has a short introduction and a featured image, something you will eventually need when you post it anywhere else. Posts and Pages are treated in a very similar way, almost identically listed everywhere (except that for Posts rather categories are shown and for Pages, the page hierarchy is displayed). Instead of defining a header image or a logo for the entire site, you can use sticky posts to display important stuff such as the title and goal of the site, its logo and perhaps a short description.
  • Made for a real site: This theme was made for my own purposes. It has been tested how it works with real content, not just with a bunch of stunning images just to create a nice demo site. I am also planning to develop it in the future to better serve my needs, so you can make sure the theme just works – or will work someday :).

What other features are worth mentioning?

  • No theme settings page: On one hand it is very comfortable for the average web site owner to have a visual dashboard where many parameters of a WordPress theme can be customised, but I find it rather perverted that the web server has to query and calculate with these parameters additionally whenever it is to display a web page. If we are about to change certain variables almost like once in a lifetime, then these values should be hard coded somewhere instead. All in all, go ahead and edit the template if you need to change something.
  • JavaScript-free theme: the theme itself does not load any javascript file, neither contains any embedded JS code. Of course, different plugins might inject their own code, but as far as my theme concerned, you can generate your web pages with only the absolutely necessary amount of HTML and CSS code.
  • No logo, header, sidebar, widget: I don’t like that ”let’s cram these not so important stuff into the footer, sidebar, perhaps one day it might be of someone’s interest” approach, I think it is just a waste of screen real estate, as nobody will read and act on these kinds of additional elements. This is the reason why I have omitted these standard WordPress features from my theme.
  • No navigation menus: in the era of social media sites, it is quite rare if we can make someone browse our web site and read more entries of ours during one website visit, as most of the visitors will just come for a certain piece of content they have seen on a social media or a search result page. This is the reason why I have not built in any conventional navigation menus.
  • Site search pushed back: partly because of the above fact, partly because WordPress search function out-of-the-box is just far from being useful, I did not feel the urge to place an omnipresent search element on each and every web page.
  • Contact us element on search result page: I think it is very important that if someone had searched but could not find the right content, we should give them a helping hand, that is providing an easy way of getting in touch with us to find a specific content: therefore you can easily ask for help in e-mail if you click on a special ”contact us” link, displayed on search result pages if there are no results or just a few of them.
  • Contact us element on 404 not found page: similarly, I think it is very important that the primary goal of these kinds of pages is not to give you an error message but to provide you with everything which could be useful in finding your way on the web site. This is why the 404 page is rather similar to the site map page, also including a shortcut to ask the website owner’s help in an e-mail.
  • Not a general-purpose theme: minimalism and simplification obviously also means a reduced feature set, but as I mentioned the main goal was to create something to serve my blogging needs, so you should add quite a few other visual elements to use this theme for a web shop or a forum.

Other’s work I gratefully used for my theme

Free download of Sixpack WordPress theme

You might have recently read quite a few articles summarising last year’s online marketing trends – but this article is not about summarising last year’s widely published and discussed news, but simply about what changes 2015 has brought to my professional life. Of course how someone sees this, heavily depends on what kind of marketing activities one pursues for clients and for own projects; therefore the below list will be neither objective nor definitive.

Facebook bigger than AdWords

While there are clients and there are certain kind of activities where it is still better to spend the vast majority of your budget on Google AdWords, but for me, 2015 was the first year when I was relying more on Facebook’s than Google’s advertising system. I have found myself spending my clients’ money more and more on Facebook and less and less on AdWords – even discontinuing advertising on Google Search for certain clients.

A few years ago AdWords was the one and only online ad system if you wanted to have a wide coverage and considerably grow your web site traffic by paid ads (I mean in Hungary and a handful of other markets outside the US), now it became just one – but still important – part of your marketing mix.

Facebook video bigger than YouTube

During the previous years, I just loved to advertise on YouTube with the TrueView video format: it was extremely cheap and fairly cost-effective.  Last year it turned out that advertising with videos was even more effective on Facebook. I don’t mean here differences like the video autoplay function, but the fact that Facebook facilitates a way more intensive discussion related to the promoted videos. While on YouTube only a small fraction of viewers are commenting, on Facebook it turned out in many cases that prospects would frequently start meaningful, interesting, many times enthusiastic discussions as a consequence of video promotions.

Prospects asking their friend’s opinion, including their names in comments to notify them about a certain promoted content – isn’t this what many marketers would even die for? 🙂

A bigger mess to tidy up

AdWords, Facebook, plus add a few more contenders like LinkedIN, Instagram, Twitter – you will be quickly messing around with complex multi-channel online marketing campaigns, sometimes even for quite small clients with very straightforward business models. So things have been getting more complicated, so chances are getting higher that you’ll get lost somewhere.

This is the reason why I have been spending quite some time with properly naming my campaigns, remarketing lists, conversion points, events, etc. I had to set up sometimes quite a sophisticated naming conversions so that I could effectively work with many channels and many campaigns. And it was just one side effect of having to manage ad spendings on more online channels.

Google Tag Manager – a marketing dashboard

When defining complex marketing funnels with multiple steps and multiple channels, you will most likely end up with a quite complex Google Tag Manager setup – again with a well-thought-out naming convention system labelling the different tracking codes for the interactions you would like to measure along the entire online marketing funnel.

Therefore Google Tag Manager became one of the most important places where I can administer and overview the whole set up for complex online marketing activities – sometimes even incorporating additional logic a CMS system would never be able to handle. So far ”only” the results are missing from this interface.

Google Analytics just not enough

As an obvious consequence of our shift towards data-driven marketing, even the most sophisticated traditional web traffic analytics solutions seemed to be getting more and more obsolete, and lacking many People Analytics-related features of great importance. Even if I fed relevant data into Analytics to anonymously identify visitors, quickly found myself downloading a series of weekly data reports one by one so that I could get precise reports for a bigger time interval – instead of the heavily sampled ones, which proved to be a useless when I wanted to found a needle in the haystack.

On the other hand, the Google Analytics Premium is clearly a no-go for the majority of clients – both for its price tag and its missing features to easily identify individual leads’ activities.

Big Data bigger than Marketing

Having delved into Big Data and BI, in general, I got to a conclusion that while many principles and methods are indeed applicable to 99% of us online marketers, but for almost the same high percentage of us Big Data solutions are just an overkill – with a fairly big price tag.

I think just a small fraction of us would generate gigabytes of data per day with their marketing activities – so there should be a term like ”Medium-sized Data”  coined for those online marketing professionals who would like to use complex systems to manage their data-driven marketing activities, without feeling forced to shell out a lot of money or hiring programmers for Big Data solutions that are eventually meant to handle huge data sets.

SEM more complex than SEO

At the beginning of this decade building up and running a complex system for my multilingual mass link building practice meant a much bigger intellectual challenge than I could ever imagine with paid search campaigns way back then. I think last year we got to the point where paid search and paid social media advertising together allowed us to create much more sophisticated processes and systems than the most complex search engine optimisation cases.

Managing various audiences – even beyond remarketing lists, see matching customers’ emails for instance – on multiple platforms proved to be more challenging for me than building links or content for getting better organic rankings.

Hosting is cheaper than ever

It might not be something last year brought to us, but I just realised it in 2015: I used to run the same virtual private server for more than nine years, just because I was too lazy to migrate all of the servers to a newer system or to an other VPS provider. But as the infrastructure of my old server was shut down without prior notice, I found myself forced to find an other hosting company – and ended up paying for the same service, four times less than before.

Other than that I could figure out how to host huge WordPress sites effectively on a bare minimum VPS setup. It was a long journey to find the best configuration, but the good news is that there is an almost-out-of-the-box solution for those who don’t want to pay the relatively high price of a managed WordPress hosting service but dare to mess around a little bit with Linux command line. WordPress is still not meant to host tens of thousands of posts, but you can find some workarounds to make that possible – without having to run it on a supercomputer.

…and a lot more

Of course last year I also started quite a few other new things – some of them will hopefully bear fruits this year, and some of them will define what and how I will work during this year. But one thing is for sure – we won’t be left being bored this year either…

Image credits – Photo by kazuend. Source: