It doesn’t matter whether you develop lots of WordPress sites for clients like I do, are just getting started with WordPress, or are somewhere in between you are going to fall in love with the power, flexibility, ease and control that the Headway premium theme puts at your fingertips. Headway makes complex design changes – things that until now have required messing with html, css, php and all that complicated stuff – as easy as clicking and dragging with your mouse.
Combine that with its power Search Engine Optimization (SEO) control and I’m confident your competition will soon be using Headway even if you’re not.
Why Listen to Me?
First here’s a little background about me before I get into this review so that you can decide if I know what I’m talking about or not.
I’ve been working with WordPress for going on 4 years and it’s been a significant part of my full-time income for over a year and a half. In addition to consulting on new media strategy and training I have built dozens of websites for clients with WordPress, WordPress MU, and BuddyPress.
If you Google the term “WordPress support” (as of this writing at least) you will find our WordPress Support page on the first page of results. Pretty much the only pages that rank higher are for the various WordPress help forums and the like, which means that SuccessCREEations is about the first place listed where someone can pick up the phone and get personalized help to with their specific WordPress problem. And trust me, we do get calls!
My recently launched all-video site ChrisCree.TV is gaining attention as a go-to source for folks to learn about how new media can help them grow their businesses. I speak at national conferences and have contributed to books and periodicals as an author on new media and blogging topics.
I have worked extensively with, and am an affiliate for, several of the most prominent premium WordPress themes and regularly recommend the most appropriate one directly to my clients depending on their specific needs. I know several of their developer/owners and consider them friends. And of course I am using an affiliate link to Headway in this review.
For those of you who don’t know me, reviewing a premium WordPress theme is not something I usually do. Look through the three years of archives here at SuccessCREEations and you will not find blog post reviewing any other premium WordPress theme. Not even the ones with higher affiliate payouts. That’s how impressive I think Headway is.
But enough of my credentials. Feels too much like bragging anyway. On to the review.
A Theme Framework
The first thing that struck me when I saw Headway is that it is much more than just a WordPress theme. Headway is an entire theme framework that makes it easy to quickly build vastly different looking sites.
Usually it is pretty obvious when sites have the same theme. With the exception of different colors, headers, and a few other relatively minor changes they often look a lot alike.
But Headway makes modifying page layouts so simple that it is really easy to quickly create a very unique design for your site. For example, compare the front page here at SuccessCREEations with the Headway site, Legal Practice Pro, and John Haydon’s site and you’ll find 4 very different looking web sites.
Yet all of them are Headway sites.
Now I routinely take premium WordPress themes, modify the CSS style sheets and images for a custom look and feel. But Headway makes it easy to change nearly everything right from the WordPress dashboard without needing CSS skils.
Headway gives you total control over the look and layout of your site from the WordPress Dashboard. Here are just some of the things you can change on the fly:
- Website width
- image or text
- and placement
- Main Navigation Position
- turn them on or off
- adjust display position
- Post Meta Data is fully customizable
- Featured Posts
- Comment Avatars
- Font Types and Sizes – for 13 different site elements
- for 37 site elements
- by hex, RGB, or slider
- Navigation Customization
- Link Order
- Which Pages Included
- Page & Post Title Tags
- NoFollow options
- NoIndex options
- Native Post to Twitter
The list goes on. Headway has a section to add custom scrips to the header or footer, assign an rss feed url (great for Feedburner), designate a favicon, and add an affiliate link back to Headway if you happen to have one.
And that doesn’t even get to the best part of all…
Of Leafs and Tables
Headway introduces truly simple-to-modify modular content areas between the header and footer.
The analogy they use to describe what they do is a dining room table. Most of our dining room tables have the ability to make them bigger when you have guests. All you have to do is add a leaf or two and your table gets bigger so you can seat more people.
In the same way, Headway has a Layout Editor where you can add more page elements by adding more “leafs”. Just click the “Add a Leaf” link in the Headway Layout Editor and a menu pops up with the option to add any of 8 different kinds of leafs to you page layout.
Simply choose the one you want based on the type of content you want displayed in that page element and click the “Add” link. Headway adds that element to the page for you.
Then you can click the “edit” link on the leaf to customize the exact content within that leaf.
On each leaf you can also use your mouse to set
- Height – exact height or fluid
- Alignment – left or right
Either with a click, or simply by dragging an edge of the leaf in the layout editor.
You really need to watch the page layout demo video on the Headway site to appreciate how much they have just simplified layout design for WordPress users with this feature.
The first time I saw it my jaw dropped.
Because Headway allows you to have a completely different layout for each page of your WordPress web site if you want. All managed right in your dashboard. No more messing with php files, css and html.
Just click and drag your mouse and you’ve got a brand new layout – in seconds!
Sidebars Made Simple
Did you notice in the image above that one of the leaf options is for a widget ready sidebar? With Headway you can now add sidebars on the fly. No more need to go edit your functions.php file to get a new sidebar.
So now you can add a widgetized area to your website pretty much any size wherever you want. And you don’t need any programming skills to make it happen.
Skin Your Headway
They’ve built in the ability to add skins to customize your Headway theme. I haven’t had a chance to play with the skins yet, but the theme is set up so that you can download and install a skin for your Headway theme and have your own customized look in no time.
That’s going to be really attractive to users who want a little more customization but lack the time or ability to do the little bit of css work involved. Plus I can see a secondary Headway skin market for designers to create custom Headway skins.
Who is Headway For?
Obviously Headway makes creating custom layouts easy for people of modest technical means. WordPress beginners will love the ability to make their site look exactly the way they want without having to pay a designer to make the customized changes they want.
But I completely see how Headway will be perfect for someone like me too. Sure I can do everything that Headway does manually. But I can’t customize layouts anywhere near as quickly manually as I can with Headway.
Headway is perfect for smaller design and WordPress customizing shops, single designers, etc. because it speeds up the design and layout process so we can be more productive and more profitable. Just create a skin for your client and you are ready for delivery.
And here’s another juicy tidbit. The good folks tell me they are already working on a WordPress MU compatible version of Headway. That’s got me really excited. To be able to truly manage all my client sites in one place and give them completely completely different custom websites from within the same theme framework will make my life so much easier!
Headway is a fantastic new theme. I’ve said before that it’s a game changer & I completely believe the bar for all WordPress premium theme developers has been raised a little higher with it’s release. Their price point is competitive with other premium WordPress themes out there now. Bottom line, Headway is a bargain that is sure to give the other custom themes a run for their money.