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Twenty Fifteen – neat default theme in WP 4.1

With the release of the new WordPress 4.1, the developers also (or should we say first of all) attached a new default skin, called Twenty Fifteen. What are the main differences when we equate it to the last year’s skin? Colossal is probably the best word to describe this dissimilarity. Here are some of the observations and opinions, both personal and those shared by other users.

First of all the most crucial change is one in philosophy of design. Where the last WordPress skin, Twenty Fourteen was kind of cluttered with content, the new one is clean and simple. After a more intense testing, it seems like everything is smoother, ergonomic and obvious. With Twenty Fourteen you were sometimes fighting the interface, or were surprised by it; Twenty Fifteen is way ahead of it because it is simpler. With simple design comes simple color choice, everything is either black, white or in various shades of grey. This stands in contrast to past two incarnations of WordPress, where colors played greater role. It is also a good starting point for all the new bloggers. Most of them won’t change much in the interface, the more neutral basic theme, the better.

I must admit that this simplicity fits me well. A lesson learned by the designers in the design philosophy, that fits well the target group using basic theme. Let’s take a glance at other aspects and check if the new WordPress skin is just a facial lifting or a full scale remodeling.

First thing that really made me like the new theme is how well it fits mobile devices. I was especially happy to see that the images take the whole space of the display, serving as a break between the posts.  This also means that the sidebar is not on the screen all the time but only when you need it. It can be accessed by the hamburger icon in the header of the post.

I have mentioned above a few times design philosophy and will mention it a few times more, because the consistency achieved by the designers comes back every time I want to underline new WordPress advantages. This consistency is seen in sometimes trivial details like animations. I have not noticed that immediately but animations on menus were reduced to the point where they do not tire you after some time of using. They may look great at first, but while using menus often, they become more of an obstacle that tires your eyes.

Speaking of eye fatigue, the layout is very eye friendly on the desktop. Neat design, with a lot of free space, makes searching for particular information easy on eyes. On the other hand some of the features, like footer and pagination are either too crammed or have a bit too much free space in them. This is a minor feature but still a minus in my opinion. It may be standing in contradiction to what I have said above about using the whole space of the screen on mobiles, but mobile devices are limited when it comes to display size. It is a wise choice to gently cram the most important options and abandon the white spaces on the mobile, while pursuing a different approach to the same philosophy on the desktop. This way both versions remain clean and elegant.

The whole WP 4.1 may be summed up by one word; simplicity. From here it really depends on personal preferences is this an advantage or a curse of the new WordPress default theme. Some, like me will prefer that the basic theme is simple and elegant. Others will find lack of sometimes even as basic options as changing font annoying and will quickly move to plugins, other themes, and child themes. In my opinion the new theme is just what it should be; a simple, neat, basic theme that is addressed to new bloggers. It is for those that want to start blogging without much tinkering, either because they are beginners or want a blog to be simple and functional – strictly business like. The more advanced bloggers will enjoy the neat design and philosophy standing behind it, but those seeking multiple options will have to search elsewhere.