If you have been hanging around the official WordPress theme directory, or done some researches on free WordPress themes that you can find on WordPress.org. You would probably have noticed this:
Sydney theme is probably the most popular theme on WordPress.org.
The official WordPress theme directory shows there are 100,000+ downloads of the Sydney theme and its
creator aThemes claims that it has been downloaded for more than 600,000 times, which is very impressive.
So is it really that good? What makes it so popular? Is it the right theme for you? This review is trying to answer all these questions. Besides walking you through all the major features of the free theme, I will also take a look at the code of the theme to find out if it is well-designed and high quality.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
In case you are not familiar with Sydney theme, here is a video to give you a overall idea.
This video is presented by WebTegrity, I’m pretty sure their website is using this theme. If you want to see how it looks in the real world, their website is a good Sydney theme example.
And of course, you can also refer to the official demo by aTheme. If you are wondering why your website doesn’t look like the demo, the answer is you need the demo content. Download it here and install it with WordPress importer under the Tools section.
I’ve also created a tutorial to walk you through some basic settings with the theme:
Is the team behind Sydney theme trustworthy?
Here is the deal:
If the team behind a WordPress theme is not a good one, you should never choose this theme.
Therefore it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the designer. Sydney theme is developed by aTheme, which is a WordPress theme company started in 2013. It’s been around for 4 years.
Besides the Sydney theme, they’ve also uploaded some other themes to the official WordPress theme directory, which are quite popular, such as Astrid. You can find them in the Commercial Themes list on WordPress.org. So the team seems to be pretty promising.
Another thing I like about aTheme is that they keep updating their themes. If you take a look at the changelog of the Sydney theme, you will notice that it’s updated almost every month.
The support forum is very active too. Last time I checked, the newest post was posted two hours ago, which is very new for a theme support forum.
And of course they have a documentation section. They even provided video tutorials on topics like setting up the front page and fonts. Check out Sydney WordPress theme documentation on aTheme.
Top 7 features of Sydney theme that You don’t want to miss
The Sydney theme ships with a lot of useful features, here are the top 7 you should know.
1. Amazing full screen slider supports videos.
You can use this stunning full screen slider to show gorgeous images with a slogan and a Call-to-action to impress your visitors at first sight. The special thing about this header slider is the fact that it’s built into WordPress Customizer, which means you can modify it right in the Live Customizer and see the change in real time.
2. Tons of theme options allow you to customize your blog.
Speaking of Customizer, Sydney theme integrates its theme options into the customizer, which means, again, you can modify the theme while seeing the changes happen. This is so convenient. You don’t have to guess what change does the option makes, you can see it now. It’s much better than the old theme option panel, in my opinion.
3. Attracting Parallax background effect.
Parallax background means when you scroll down on a webpage, the background image “stays” at the same position, so that it looks like the next section of the page is moving on top of the background image. It creates a feeling of depth and two dimensions, which is quite a fancy technique that is getting more and more popular in the past one or two years.
In the Sydney theme demo, you can see parallax background working in the “What Our Client Say” section. Do you like it? It looks quite appealing to me. And it works with the header slider too. Awesome!
4. Need more fonts? Sydney offers 600+ Google fonts.
Well, actually I feel like that’s too many and makes it difficult to pick the “perfect” one. But the default settings are quite good with Source Sans Pro as the body font and Raleway as the heading font. If you need more options, my personal favorites are Roboto, Lato and Playfair Display, just for your information.
Sydney theme doesn’t have a dropdown menu for you to choose the font you want like many other themes do, so it’s a bit tricky for those who are not familiar with Google fonts. But they offer a video tutorial on how to set up fonts. Here is the video and it’s also in the Sydney theme documentation mentioned above.
5. This drag and drop page builder makes designing your website 10x easier.
Many people spend too much time on tweaking their blog layout rather than creating content that matters the most.
That’s also why Sydney theme integrate with with one of the most popular page builder for WordPress: SiteOrigin page builder. It can save you 10x of time on designing your website.
6. Extra widgets and post types
Right after activating the free Sydney theme in your admin panel, you will be asked to install two plugins: the SiteOrigin page builder and the Sydney toolbox.
With the toolbox, you will get 14 extra widgets, which you can use in sidebars and with page builder, and 5 more post types, namely Services, Employees, Testimonials, Clients and Projects.
7. Selling on your blog is never this easy: WooCommerce.
After being acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress, WooCommerce is basically the “official” solution for selling online with WordPress. Sydney theme, of course, comes with the support with WooCommerce.
But when I went through the official webpage for Sydney theme on aThemes, I didn’t see any emphasis on this topic. I guess it’s not the main focus of the theme. How do I know that it supports WooCommerce? There is a folder in the source code named WooCommerce, also you can find the supporting styles in style.css.
Other features include:
- Responsive design, works perfectly on mobile and tablet devices.
- Supports WordPress Live Customizer.
- Translation ready.
- Excellent documentation and support.
Good Code? Bad Code?
So far, everything seems to be pretty good. Next thing I would like to take a look is the code. Well, I’m not reading all the code line by line, but to go through the structure of the theme and see if what’s good and bad.
Bootstrap frontend framework
The first thing I noticed is that they are using Bootstrap stylesheet. Bootstrap is the most popular frontend framework nowadays. There are pros and cons using Bootstrap for a WordPress theme.
- Sophisticated and consistent designs proved by many users all over the worlds.
- Tons of components and resource for the development of a theme.
- Experience can benefit the next project, vice versa.
- Bloated styles and scripts that are not being used in the theme.
- It’s difficult to integrate the WordPress menu with the Bootstrap navigation. That’s why we have the WP Bootstrap Navwalker.
This is quite a cleaver move and obviously they know what they are doing, I mean, they are familiar with both WordPress and Bootstrap, otherwise it’s impossible to get this done.
Bootstrap framework uses Glyphicon as their default icon set, but Sydney theme doesn’t follow that. They chose a more popular and better, I would say, choice: Font Awesome icons.
This icon set provides more than 600 well-designed icons. Unfortunately, Sydney theme doesn’t include them into the Customizer, which means, if you want to use them on your website, you have to figure it out by yourself. But it’s nothing difficult, just go check out website of Font Awesome.
Based on Underscores(_s) starter theme by Automattic
From the source files and the organization of the files, it’s not difficult to tell, this theme is developed upon the Underscores starter theme. It’s the most popular starter theme and managed by the developers from the company of WordPress, so it’s definitely trustworthy. Again, another safe bet by aThemes.
Conclusion: is Sydney theme a Great theme or not?
Yes, it is a great theme. No wonder it’s so popular on WordPress.org. Here are some points that make Sydney theme stand out from other themes:
- Integrated slider and theme options into the WordPress Customizer, so that it’s very easy to modify and you don’t need a extra plugin just for the slider.
- Based on Underscores and customized Bootstrap, taking advantages of the best projects out there, yet manage to keep its own design and not being trapped by the limitations of these projects.
- Included useful widgets and a great page builder to lower the barrier of customizing a website.
- Finally, a beautiful and modern design.
Sydney WordPress theme also offers a pro version, but for most people, the free version is good enough. But of course, if you want more, check out the official page on aThemes.
You can download it from WordPress theme directory:
Do you agree with my review? Let me know if I miss something.