I have a client who has a very popular membership website that helps people handle stress. It has been doing great and it looks good, even if I do say so myself. Well, I am not the designer, but I was the one who made it look like what the designer wanted. But I had done it about 10 years ago, and aside from a little WordPress and plugin update here and there, I didn’t have to do anything to it of consequence.
If you have been a blogger for as long as I have, you remember ithemes. They were the place if you wanted to buy a professional looking theme. But apparently, they got away from their mission, because now, if you go to their website, you can’t find any themes. But if you bought one of their themes, you are stuck with the last update.
Well, WordPress recently announced that they were no longer supporting older versions of php, and that newer versions of WordPress would stop working with those older versions of php. So my client called his hosting company and asked them to upgrade php to the latest stable version that WordPress recommends. It took all of a few minutes, and suddenly, everything crashed. The theme stopped working, and the membership plugin suddenly disappeared from WordPress. So my phone rang.
My client was distraught, because a number of his clients were trying to access his site and they couldn’t. He needed his site to allow his clients to log in and access the material that they had paid for. And he wanted the website to look nice on all devices.
I almost panicked. I researched a lot of themes and tested them and had a hard time getting anything to look nice with the look and feel of the site from before. But the membership plugin was also an issue, since I had been using the free version of Memberwing, which is no longer supported by the developers (probably because everyone was using the free version). So I needed a solution for that and I found it in WordPress Groups plugin. It allowed me to create a group with access to my client’s paid content without making me have to reprogram a lot of stuff. I was elated to find this one. And this one is updated regularly, which is a plus!
I was still beating my head about the theme, because I was getting irritated at the lack of customization that a lot of the themes I was testing allowed. I needed to be able to change colors, add menus that matched the style of the site from before, since my client didn’t want me to totally redesign his site from the ground up (I charge a lot for major changes). Then I remembered a theme that my friend Dan Nickerson created and constantly maintains. It is called Socrates Theme, and I downloaded the latest version of it (I had purchased it for another project and had promptly forgotten that I had it). I also downloaded the child theme for Socrates, since it is always a better idea to create or use a child theme when you do a lot of custom css and html on a site (updates can sometimes overwrite your changes if you don’t use a child theme).
My first impression, when I uploaded the theme and went to the live preview was how much I was able to customize right from the preview. I was able to add the logo, the color scheme and the css for the menu system I needed for the home page. Within a 30 minute span, I had my client’s site looking almost exactly like it did before his crash (I used the Way Back Machine to compare it to when it was working properly). I only had a few things that I needed to iron out (with links to demos and membership access) and I was finished. Socrates Theme saved me a lot of stress, and also did what I wanted to do without a lot of programming, which was something I had to do a lot of when I first created the site for my client.
The thing with a child theme that is useful, is if you want to make changes to the site without losing your current setup, you can add another child theme (name it something different) and make changes to that one. That way, if your client wants seasonal changes to the site, you can enable the version for each season during that period.
So if you have a major outage, a lot of times, panicking is unnecessary. You can usually find a solution by searching the WordPress plugin and theme directories, and if not, definitely give the Socrates Theme a look (Dan even gives you a 3 day trial where you can customize the heck out of a WordPress account on his domain using his theme and see what it is going to look like. After you use it for three days, you are going to be addicted to the ease of use and customization that Socrates gives you. (I may earn a commission if you use the above link to purchase Socrates, since I am an affiliate for it).