DeoThemes launches Ona Creative, another well-designed WordPress block theme – WP Tavern

Yesterday, DeoThemes’ latest block theme, Ona Creative, landed in the WordPress directory. This is Ona’s second child, a theme I originally presented here at La Taverne in November 2021.

When I first reviewed the Ona parent theme, WordPress 5.9 had not yet been released and users needed to install the Gutenberg plugin to test it. Developers were always releasing features quickly in an effort to get the block-based templates and global style features production-ready.

Ona was unlike any other block theme submitted to the repertoire at that time. If we don’t pay attention to it, we could confuse it with a classic theme. It was well designed on its own, regardless of the system under the hood. However, most block themes were simple experiments for a system that was struggling to get started. Ona carried the promise that block themes didn’t need to suck all the life out of the design to work.

At the time, the theme had bugs that weren’t of its own making. Depending on the structure of a user’s site, default images may return a “404: Not Found” result. The Pattern block didn’t exist in WordPress or Gutenberg, and themes didn’t have a foolproof way to insert dynamic data. However, Ona is now using this feature to create beautiful default templates.

Not only does the Ona parent do this, but the Ona Creative child theme reuses and rearranges these templates without needing to write nearly as much new code. The home page template adds a custom header but inserts two existing templates to differentiate its design from its parent:

Ona Creative, partial cover page template.

But, there are also missed opportunities with Ona Creative. Although it uses templates from its parent theme, some sections of its homepage template would have created perfect templates themselves. Users may like the default posts query block and want to use its layout on other pages.

The following testimonials section definitely makes sense as a template:

A three column section of demo testimonials in white boxes.
Testimonials section.

At this point, I’m not sure that inserting most block code directly into theme templates is an ideal path. If it’s good enough to be in a pattern, why not make it reusable? I have rarely seen cases where theme templates should not consist of only one or more patterns.

The biggest issue I have with Ona and Ona Creative is that they eschew the block style system in favor of custom classes. For example, the theme has two classes that it adds to the Cover block in this section of its homepage template:

WordPress site editor with three staggered columns of Cover blocks.  A cover is selected and its block options are displayed in the sidebar.
Cover block selected in a pattern.

The first styles the inner border and the second creates a hover effect that zooms in on the background. There are two ways for users to recreate this design on the Cover block elsewhere. Copy and paste one of the blocks into the template or manually enter the classes in the “Advanced” section of the block options sidebar.

The same goes for the cursive writing style used in some sections. Users must manually add the ona-alt-font class instead of selecting it in the design tools. I’m willing to give it a pass because font family selection should be handled through the Font Family block control. However, this is not yet supported for blocks like Title and Paragraph in WordPress.

WordPress site editor open.  A paragraph is selected with cursive handwritten text.
Added handwriting/cursive text.

Both are cases of the old way of designing themes, requiring users to jump through hoops to recreate a specific look. Themers should leave this way of thinking to the classical era. The block system has a standardized block styles feature that allows users to select these classes visually. If registered through the theme, users can recreate that same design with literally any block that supports them.

There’s a simple question to ask when deciding whether or not to save a block style: Is the class on a block in a model or model? Except in rare use cases – usually involving headers and navigation – the answer is almost always that the custom class should be a block style.

I might be a little picky about implementing some features. The space is still largely unexplored – Ona Creative is only #56 out of 58 block themes in the directory. This does not detract from the quality of its design.

And the only thing DeoThemes continues to do is design. Ona Creative deserves to be on the front-end of many WordPress sites. Its development team has kept up with the changes to the block system, the typography is on point, and it just looks good.

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