Ben Cope got in touch at the beginning of the year about having his WordPress Dream Theme reviewed but unfortunately it overlapped (underlapped, more accurately) with the planning and development for Mimbo Pro. Regrettable that it took me over two months to do a write-up, but hopefully better late than never! Leave your work and let’s check out this theme together.
The Dream Theme layout and coding (view demo) lean heavily in the direction of the Premium News series: tabbing, featured video and extensive ad management, wrapped in a newsy layout.
By now, this format has become a mainstay in the premium themes market and remains popular for users who want to elevate their site from traditional two-column blog to something more expansive. Custom control panel options allow you to edit Feedburner info, featured categories, color schemes and advertising.
One thing that sets Ben’s strategy apart is his offer to help install and configure the Dream Theme for clients who need help, plus and hour of customization duties and the option of more. This is a level of support many paid themes lack and could be a considerable help to clients just getting their feet wet with WordPress.
Ben also runs the site WordPress University which features WordPress tutorials and info, but also serves as nice advertising for the Dream Theme.
The code and CSS is well organized and easy to edit, which makes customizations (view examples) a more straightforward process. The pages are very close to validating as XHTML, save for the video and widget stuff which is understandably less easy to tame.
Custom control panel options are practically a requirement for charging for a WP theme these days, and a major strength here is the advertising management and multitude of ad placements. In all honesty, heavy advertising and blogs which emphasize making money by blogging is one my least favorite trends, but a theme like this could probably facilitate it well.
For the Dream Theme to run optimally, Ben recommends a handful of popular plugins. At the same time, if you choose to use none of them, the theme loses some power. In addition, the layout is appropriately simple and customizable, but very similar to the newsy themes seen elsewhere.
So in a nutshell, what I’d like to see is more originality in both features and design. Instead of merely recommending plugins, maybe including custom scripts that raise the bar and distinguish the theme from its peers. As for the design, it could be a bit sharper and more eye-catching while staying neutral enough to accomodate different types of subject matter.
Overall, Ben is very ambitous with his ideas and dedicated to the concept of user-friendliness, both in terms of control panel options and direct custom support. Looking forward to what he comes up with next.