The rise of free-form themes like Freestack, Foundation, Foundry, Pure and UIkit, has been a real tonic for those Rapidweaver users who are also actual designers, giving them the opportunity to break free from the visual shackles imposed on them by theme developers, and create pretty much anything they like from scratch.
For those RW users who like the idea of the freedom, but perhaps lack the design chops – or simply the time – to get to grips with these relative behemoths (remember that something like Foundation can include over 60 different stacks) then templates may be a good option. More common in the WordPress world, templates are based on particular themes but come with a selection of pages already designed, using the stacks that are included with the chosen theme along with any third party ones that may be required to produce a particular effect or layout.
In this way, a typical template might include a splashy home page, a photo gallery, about us page, services page and a contact page already designed, complete with fonts and colour schemes, so all you have to do is replace the dummy content with your own and you’re done. This obviously puts the onus on the template designer to come up with a set of appealing visual ideas, but since most templates come with extensive demo sites, it’s easy to work out whether you’re going to like it or not. And that’s the other advantage over traditional Rapidweaver theme demos; here you’re seeing exactly what you’ll be getting, rather than a demo website that’s been designed specifically to show the theme in its best light.
We’ve got hold of some templates from Rapidweaver designer and developer Jochen Abitz, so let’s a take a look at them in turn, starting with the oldest. All the templates require the Foundation theme and stacks, and make extensive use of the free stacks available from Big White Duck.
California | €15.00
This is the most basic of the templates we looked at and is essentially the same page layout repeated over four pages, each of which emphasises a different colour; hence each page is called Sun, Dream, Dark and Light. The template makes good use of the free HeaderPro and Foundation’s Animate stacks and would suit a wide range of sites from business to travel. Beginners will also appreciate the way the template has been set up to work responsively and the inclusion of neat, animated headers which look impressive but aren’t always intuitive to set up – especially if you’ve never done one before.
The Resort | €20.00
This template makes a great jumping off point for creating a site for a hotel, B&B, restaurant, bar or anything where you’ve got good imagery. It requires the full Foundation stack set as well as the Impact slide show – both from [Joe Workman](http://www.joeworkman.net) – but the results are impressive. You get a fancy slideshow with animated headers and call to action buttons, a booking form, nice slide out off-canvas menu, a contact form (which could be better signposted) a neat Impact slideshow incorporated into the page flow which demonstrates the stack’s versatility, some well-presented pricing tables and a large footer for links and other relevant information that you’d like to see presented on every page. It’s a really slick, well-designed template that will help a beginner get started and save experienced Rapidweaver users a lot of time if they need to get a project off the ground quickly and with the minimum of effort.
Photostories Bundle | €69.00
This comprises three templates – Fashion, Wedding and Travel – which all have the same requirements; Foundation and all stacks, a Total CMS license, along with either Instacks‘ Gallery3 or Nick Cates‘ Photo stack, along with Joe Workman’s Glider and Impact stacks and a whole slew of free stacks by Big White Duck.
As the name suggests, these templates are geared towards photography, so you get large slideshows, a rich, photo-heavy blog layout along with a portfolio page. Almost the entire site can be controlled using Total CMS, which means that once published, a client can update the site themselves via a web browser or even a mobile device.
Since it uses TotalCMS – which lets you design your own back end – each template comes with a ready-built admin section which is not only clear, but also rather lovely; here the developer has done a great job of making it simple for clients to add or change the content on the site.
The look and feel of these templates is very much ‘modern WordPress’ with the emphasis on the blog, presenting posts on the home page as call-outs and delivering hero header-style slideshows at the top of individual blog pages. As with any template, you can go on an add as many new pages as you like and populate them with your own content and designs.
The layout hardly varies at all between each of the templates but other elements like fonts and colour schemes are different and there may be enough styling variations to make it worthwhile buying the whole bundle; otherwise, each template is available separately for €39.00.
A couple of things to note. First, check the template requirements which are listed clearly on the website – otherwise if you don’t have a particular stack for example, some of the features won’t work. Second, if you buy a template and don’t use it for a while, there’s a good chance that the stacks used to create it will need to be updated; the California template for example, makes extensive use of Big White Duck’s Paragraph Plus and Sections stacks which have been updated to Paragraph and Sections Pro. What that means is when you open the template, instead of seeing the actual stack name in the Edit window you’ll see lots of stacks labelled ‘Template’ – which is Stacks’ way of saying ‘I don’t know what stack this is‘. A little detective work will soon sort experienced Rapidweaver users out but beginners may struggle a little. In fact, overall we felt that the templates – while excellent in themselves – could do with more explanation and a bit more hand-holding. True, there’s an introductory video for Photostories but even this is likely to bamboozle a beginner looking to get started quickly but who may be unfamiliar with Rapidweaver, Total CMS and Stacks, as well as how they all fit together.
That said, these templates make a fantastic jumping off point for old Rapidweaver hands who want to save time and gives less experienced users a head start in understanding how the sometimes complicated world of Rapidweaver fits together. Complete beginners may well find the going tough without additional help, however.