UXL Themes launches Raspberry, a colorful variation of Alara’s child theme – WP Tavern

It looks like Andrew Starr is quietly building a legion of blocky themes. He’s the sole developer behind UXL Themes and has released six in the past year, with most landing in the past few months. Raspberry, his latest project, is an Alara child theme.

He promised a new design variation, child theme, or block pattern when Alara launched. Seems like he always got things done. Since I last reviewed it a month ago, the theme has gained four new templates, bringing the total to 45. Starr has also created two new child themes for a total of three.

My motivation to install, activate and tinker with Framboise was twofold. First off, a friend keeps asking me where all the fun WordPress themes are, and this latest release from Starr has just enough of a weird and funky personality to feel right into its driveway. Those who want a design that invites visitors into their world can hardly go wrong.

I also wanted to see what anyone other than Automattic was doing with block child themes. Few other theme-related companies or authors have created parent themes yet, let alone created children for them. If Starr keeps up his pace, he has a chance to get ahead of the pack, at least in the block theme numbers.

I like a little visual flair once in a while. I generally prefer to do this within the confines of a clean, minimal and boring design. I guess it’s more a touch of flair than anything. However, Framboise’s color scheme, a pastel blue mixed with pink, has me in a good mood today.

I dig this about the page template specifically when paired with child theme colors:

About page template with image on the left, text and button on the right.  The background has a diagonal pink pattern.
An about page template.

The background shape is managed via a gradient — I paste the code for this in my toolbox.

Raspberry does not add its own set of block patterns. Instead, they all live with the parent, Alara. The same goes for Ceres and Zélia, the other two child themes. It’s a wise move by Starr. The more extensions it goes into the main project, the more maintenance it creates over time. By keeping them all in Alara, users of each child theme benefit from a shared pool of templates.

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of theming kids with blocks. With a few simple configuration changes, theme authors can create very different designs, as shown in the full-page templates for the theme:

I’ve built child themes in the past with similar methods, but they were always on shaky ground. Since WordPress didn’t have a standard design system under the hood, changes made to the parent could easily break the child themes.

With themes now using a standard theme.json file to control settings and most styles, child themes have an extra layer of protection against breaking edits. Also, models will always work because they are made of blocks.

theme.json also makes it easy to create design variations without touching another file. While Raspberry includes custom header and footer templates, all other aspects of its design changes are handled in one place.

I didn’t even recognize that the theme was related to Alara until I installed it and noticed the author. That’s the magic of child themes, and it looks like they’re finally living up to their potential now that WordPress has standards to make them easier.

My enthusiasm for block theming continues to grow with each new project that lands on WordPress.org. Tomorrow I can only hope to see something new. But, for the moment, I think I will continue to play with Framboise for a little longer.

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