Web Development

WordPress Development

Why We Use Sage (Roots) WordPress Starter Theme

April 16, 2015

There are numerous choices when deciding which WordPress theme framework to use. A theme framework is the foundation of your site; selecting one is a crucial decision. This decision can directly affect the projects you take on, in both positive and negative ways.

A poor/uneducated theme choice can slow down your workflow, bloat your site with unnecessary components, and frustrate you with poorly structured code. Whereas a deeply thought out decision will provide you with the opposite: semantic structured code with a streamlined development process that will make you and your clients happy. Here is a list of some important considerations when determining which theme framework is best for you:

  • Is it well documented?
    • Good documentation is a developer’s best friend. Documentation is an essential quick reference when troubleshooting or trying something for the first time.
  • Does it have ongoing support?
    • Documentation doesn’t solve every problem. It helps to be able to talk to the developer(s) to get a little help.
  • What are the features/tech specs?
    • What kind of build tools does it use?
    • What browsers do they support and how compatible is it with your project?
  • Is it updated regularly?
    • Steady maintenance insures that code is compatible with the latest version of WordPress. It also ensures that you are working with the modern, standardized tools.

Enter Roots

“Roots helps you build better WordPress sites faster.”

Roots theme, which as of February 2015 is known as Sage, is a WordPress starter theme based on HTML5 boilerplate with a ton of goodies baked in to help speed up your workflow. Sage is our favorite WordPress theme framework at Fresh because it is developer friendly, maintained by a community of developers, saves us time with automation, and doesn’t ship unnecessary components.

“Sage is a WordPress starter theme based on HTML5 Boilerplate, gulp, Bower, and Bootstrap, that will help you make better themes.”

At Fresh, we use Roots/Sage for the majority of our WordPress builds. We took this decision very seriously when deciding which theme suited us best. Even now, our development team continues to actively discuss whether or not Sage is the right theme for us. We consider the latest popular frameworks, like Underscores and Genesis Framework, and keep an open mind when exploring new options. So far, we still believe Sage sets us up to provide the best solution for our clients. It enables us to streamline our development process while providing quality semantic code. Below are a few of the reasons why we like to use Sage.

Well Documented

Personally, my favorite aspect of Roots is its documentation. It is simple, yet effective–everything you need to know, from installation to ways of extending the theme. I found it extremely easy to pick up Roots my first time using it because the documentation was so intuitive. They also ship the project with a great README for developers, which provides information on dependencies, setup, and much more.

Ongoing Support

The Roots team consists of 5 highly active members who provide ongoing support on their Roots discourse forms. As I said earlier, documentation will not solve every problem you have. It helps to talk directly with the person who built the framework and has more experience with the code.

Tech Specs

You want to be diligent when researching the technical specifications of a theme framework. Sage is all about providing you with a simple setup and the latest build tools to streamline your development. A list of our favorite features include:

  • Gulp (for compiling LESS, JS errors, and minifying files)
  • BrowserSync (synchronizing multiple browsers and devices for testing)
  • Bootstrap (CSS framework)
  • Bower (for front-end package management)

When reviewing tech specs it helps to review all the features and ask yourself both, “How can this positively affect the project?” and, “How does this negatively affect the project?” It’s important to answer these questions early on, so you don’t run into any roadblocks in the middle of development.

Regular Updates

The final, and probably most important, reason why we use Sage at Fresh is because it is regularly updated and dedicated to staying up-to-date with modern technology. We at Fresh thrive on staying up-to-date on the latest technologies and tools. We believe it allows us to apply the best solutions for our projects.

Using cutting-edge technology can sometimes come with consequences, though. For instance, the latest version of Sage requires a PHP version of 5.4 or higher compared to WordPress 5.2 requirements. Sage creator and lead developer stated:

“We’re not going to let the WordPress minimum requirement of 5.2 hold us back from using: Short array syntax, Short echo syntax, Namespaces”

At Fresh, not all of our servers ran a version of PHP 5.4 or higher. This caused issues with finding a compatible staging server, as well confirming that the client’s production server would be compatible as well. Despite these challenges, we still support Sage for pushing the boundaries and being dedicated to providing modern development tools.

Conclusion

It is important to find the proper theme for yourself and the particular goals you’re trying to achieve when building your site. Choosing the wrong theme can be detrimental to your project. Here at Fresh, we use the Sage theme because it is well documented, provides us with ongoing support, has tech specs that best suit us and our clients, and is regularly updated. When you start your next project, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and really consider why you’re using a particular theme framework.

If you’re interested in exploring Sage, all the details for the latest update and the future of the Roots/Sage company can be found here. More technical details of the update can be found here.

Which WordPress theme framework do you use and why? We would love to hear your decisions and reasonings. Let us know in the comments.

Chris Allen

WordPress Developer Lead

Chris believes the web is a wonderful place for learning, creating, and sharing. As a front-end developer, he uses his knowledge and skills of various programming languages and web standards in hopes to help provide an user-friendly web experience.

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