Dedicated theme subsites for each function - or jack of all trades?

This might seem obvious to those used to the WordPress way of doing things, but is it better to use dedicated themes to provide different functions, or to have all the functions on a single 'jack of all trades' site?

I'm finding that with WordPress, themes have a particular use-case they are designed for, for example a gallery, or buddypress site, or marketpress shop.

So if I run a multisite set-up with Pro Sites to add on additional functionality (e.g. level 1 is a basic blog and forum, level 2 adds on a shop) then I'd imagine it adding all the features the user wants to the same subsite. But is this a sub-optimal experience if say a dedicated shop theme is much better?

I guess the separate site route causes other problems though as the sites wouldn't be linked together or look similar.

Any thoughts??

  • jameswilliams90
    • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    @xootom this is a great question. I have tried both and if there's not a specific reason for using two themes then I'd definitely be using one. This will make it easier for the visitors navigating your site and provide a consistent user experience.

    One I have found particularly useful for multiple purposes is "Canvas" from Woothemes, mainly because it's highly customizable through the dashboard plus it has child themes for both ecommerce "WooCommerce" and "Buddypress".

    In my experience the Woopress themes that are customised for WooCommerce work particularly well for Marketpress as well.

    While not "Canvas", take a look at how well the "Function" theme from WooThemes presents a store front and website here:


  • Christopher Rice
    • The Incredible Code Injector

    Hey xootom --

    I can definitely see where you're coming from, as I'm building a solution offering a variety of features depending on the level of the membership.

    I agree with you regarding the lack of consistency optimized themes would present, but the first thought that came to mind pertains to the ease using the same theme across all membership levels would pose ... it would enable you to focus on unlocking additional features instead of having to decide whether or not the shop theme or events theme is best for what you're trying to achieve.

    This works best for what I'm building.

    Hope all is well.


  • aristath
    • Recruit

    There is no "right" way to do this...

    What I do though is a bit different:
    I create a plugin and network-activate it.
    If I want some functions available network-wide, then I simply write them there.
    If for example I want some functions to only be available when MarketPress is enabled, I wrap my functions in a conditional like this:

    if ( class_exists( 'MarketPress' ) ) {

    and so on.

    I hope that helps!


  • Techtomic
    • Techie

    @jameswilliams90 yes those WooThemes do look nice, functional and classy. They have some neat looking customisation features. Does seem a bit expensive though just for my current prototyping requirements :slight_smile: Wasn't able to find the BuddyPress child theme only an old blog post from 2011.

    I was looking at Elegant Themes too as they have some lovely looking responsive themes, but looking back they don't look to be so flexible in terms of adding the different features to one site e.g. commerce. They have nice separate commerce themes.

    The nice thing about offering individual functional sites ('apps'?) would be that I could use New Blog Template to provide a library of pre-configured site templates complete with sample content.

    I think this would make them more accessible to new users signing up, choosing a type of site as a template. As when I've tried just adding MarketPress to an existing site (like an upgrade would be) you're starting with zero products and it's daunting starting with an empty screen.

    So by offering separate 'apps' then the portfolio of website templates could grow and people could sign up for the new offerings as and when required.

    Perhaps I need a hybrid approach where there is a choice of fundamental site type (say blog/shop/portfolio/gallery/community) and some common bits that can be upgraded on each of these (e.g. forum add on, extra disk quota) so it'd be a basic blog or pro blog, basic shop or pro shop etc.

  • jameswilliams90
    • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    @xootom I think that your hybrid approach makes lots of sense and will save you a lot of time and there are certainly enough plugins to be able to bundle the right sets for each of these markets.

    I have not used Elegant themes so unfortunately I can't comment on how well they will work. Each time I face a new challenge I've found the Woo framework to be very flexible especially with the custom CSS field directly in the Dashboard.

    Now, re the Buddypress child-theme... you don't purchase it separately; it comes with the Canvas theme as a separate download.

    Good luck with your efforts - sounds like you've got a good plan!


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