When you are browsing the Imagine Limburg website, hopefully you not only enjoy the photographs, but also the design and user experience of the website. Well, at least that’s one of the targets to aim for! In this article I set out pro’s and con’s of the Rife Free Theme for WordPress and how it works in practice on Imagine Limburg.
A theme for photography
When I started with Imagine Limburg (IL), I struggled to find a clean, future-proof setup that had to become the foundation of the website. As IL is destined to become an image-heavy website, content management systems specific for photography (like the Koken CMS) were evaluated first. However I struggled to find a nice (and free) base theme to go with that. Quickly it was decided to use the WordPress (WP) platform, as that gave plenty of theming options and I was already familiar with using WP.
Next on the list was to find a nice and clean – and preferably free – theme that could display full-size images in some sort of slideshow manner, because that would have to become the homepage. Turned out this wasn’t as straight-forward as you might think …
Rife Free Theme
The thing is that there are a countless number of (free) WP Themes available for photography / image related websites. Just search for “wp theme photography free” and you’ll find dozens of sites that list the x-best free photography wordpress themes. This article is not about listing all the themes that I have tried, it is sufficient to say that I didn’t find any that would fit. Not that there weren’t any candidates, and not because I expected a 100% fit, but somehow none of them felt suitable.
Anyway, one final search led me to apollo13themes.com and to their creative multi-purpose (hm, maybe that’s why I didn’t find it on any of the best-photography-themes-lists?) Rife Free WordPress Theme! The Cropps-demo that shows the Rife Free Theme in practice is what convinced me that this theme would be very suitable for Imagine Limburg!
This is by no means a full-review, but why does Rife Free suit this website more than any other (photography based) WordPress Theme? Well, simply because:
- There are many ways to display images, including full-sized on pages.
- Responsiveness is also very well under control.
- The design is actually quite simple, with a clean focus on images.
- Nice touch is the ability to create albums, to display image descriptions (as an overlay for example) and the ability to pan/zoom images (the famous Ken Burns effect).
- Templates for non-photography related pages (like an About or Contact page, or a Blog) are also easily implemented.
- It does well with plugins (for example Yoast SEO, WPForms, Leaflet Maps Marker)
- There’s plenty of documentation available!
There are also lots of customization options available – quite an impressive amount for a free theme! Actually, apart from a couple of different menu style options, Lightbox settings and header variations, I don’t know why I would need to upgrade to the (paid) Rife Pro Theme. I mean, I can always do some CSS-tweaking 😉 Nevertheless I do think Rife Pro is worth the money and I am considering it!
Rife Free also supports Page Builders and the installation comes with Elementor. Now, personally I’m not a big supporter of page builders (Shortcode hell!), but Elementor is at least a lot better than Visual Composer for example.
Of course it’s not all great, but do note that the negatives are just minor things. However, to give a balanced view on how the Rife Free Theme feels in practice, here are some things that could be improved:
- Initially I found it confusing that some pages where created using Elementor (and elements like albums where inserted via shortcodes) and some (like Posts) with Rife’s own templates and styled with the WP Customize widget. Maybe the documentation pages could elaborate more on that.
- Because the difference in using Elementor and Rife’s own templates, pages and posts might not look 100% the same in terms of styling (see for example the title header of this article vs. the About / Contact page).
- Some WordPress elements like the read more-tag can cause an excessive white space in some circumstances (or maybe that’s a WP thing, or it’s just me and I need to do a bit of CSS-tweaking).
- The Blog post list options (for a blog overview page) can be a bit limited (however parameters can be tweaked in the shortcode options).
- Page loading times are a bit long (again, maybe that’s not because of the theme but simply because of large image files)
- Although the documentation is fine, it could be improved by explaining all the options in more detail.
- In the WP Customize option there’s a “Custom CSS” and “Additional CSS” option; I’m not really sure what the difference is.
Nah, just kiddin! It’s beautiful, honestly 🙂
There are a couple of CSS Tweaks applied to Rife Free on this website. Normally I would do this through a child theme, but because there are only just a few I simply added them to the Custom CSS tab in the WP Customize widget (hope this isn’t going to bite me in the future 😉. Tweaks are mainly text-size and alignment related and how the captions are displayed (mainly for the homepage).
Leave a comment or send a message if you would like to know the details.
I can be brief about that: the Rife Free Theme is a highly recommendable WordPress Theme. Not only for photography related websites, but seeing the other demo’s I guess for just about any subject. Give it a try!