Welcome to Michelle WordPress theme! It sports full block editor compatibility with integrated patterns. This is an inclusive & accessibility ready theme.
In the middle of February (2021), after a long time of maintenance and updates to my themes, plugins and websites, I was ready for a new theme. I was craving that true creative process so very bad, actually. Original plan was to build another paid theme, but then it hit me: I haven’t released a free theme in 1200 days, and that’s a sin… 🙂
I opened a code editor and loaded my custom starter theme, which is a modern code mashup inspired by WP Rig, Mythic, and my own code perfected over years, and it successfully powers all of my new themes released since last year. I had a blank canvas, head full of ideas and opportunity to experiment with new features WordPress brought in recent versions. Also, the theme had to be accessibility ready, of course.
A week later Michelle theme was born and submitted to WordPress.org for a review. From personal experience, I expected the process of approval to be long… Especially when a theme has to undergo also an accessibility review. I had time to build a theme demo website, test it and tweak ti properly, so.
To my surprise, the theme was reviewed very fast (thanks to @acosmin) and was ready to go live on March 11, if it wasn’t waiting for an accessibility review. So, I decided to postpone accessibility review and release the theme now.
And here we are with Michelle being available to download for free for everyone since 25th March 2021.
(As of the theme’s release date, I’m still waiting for an accessibility review, so the theme doesn’t have the official
accessibility-ready tag yet.)
Edit 21 April 2021: The theme passed accessibility review on WordPress.org and received
accessibility-ready tag as of version 1.1.0.
Tip: Check out the theme review at WordPress Tavern.
Like I’ve mentioned, this being a free theme, it gave me freedom to experiment. With block patterns and styles, especially. And I fell in love immediately!
A new creative landscape spreads in front of a theme user now. Entire theme demo website was built using native basic blocks and theme-predefined block patterns. And there is 60+ of them in block pattern library added by the theme! Lay them out however you please with simple drag and drop and your website is built in no time.
Editor styles also match front-end styles so you always get a true live preview of the content you are creating, as it is standard in my themes.
Custom footer and error 404 page
I went even further and made it possible to build your own site footer and error 404 page content using block editor. This decision allowed me to ditch sidebars and widgets support completely, and Michelle is the first theme of mine doing so.
I knew I wanted something different for the site header area too. Personally I’m fine with default site title (logo) displayed on the right side (left for RTL languages), but I understand this is a bold change and so you can tweak it in customizer.
Site header also contains a search form popup which I challenged myself to built different way than what I can see on most websites and still keep it fully accessible. With most of similar popup search forms solutions you get an additional button for opening and closing the popup.
In Michelle this works simply on focus – there is no need for the search form popup to be displayed when you don’t want to use it, plus it eliminates using another interactive element to open/close it.
Edit 21 April 2021: Accessibility requirements are to trap keyboard navigation within any modal window, so I reverted search form modal to classic behavior known from other sites. I’ve learned something new again 🙂
Having a block editor at your servise you can design your own custom page title or intro. Ability to use a full screen cover image with a page title created a need for overlaid site header. And this was made possible with custom templates.
The theme contains a selection of useful page and post templates to hide page title (intro section), overlay header, use a page builder, and display only a page content (perfect for landing pages).
All of these templates work with any post type publicly available on your website front-end, so they are ready for a custom content added via plugins.
While being fully block editor ready, the theme also works with any page builder plugin (Beaver Builder is still the best!) and with help of additional plugins I’ve created for you a full custom theme builder experience can be unleashed if needed.
There is also a plugin for better design integration with WooCommerce.
And as you are used to with my themes already, it should work with any (decently coded) plugin without any issue, basically.
On a blog page you get an option to display your featured posts too. By setting up a featured posts tag, the theme displays 3 of your most recent posts assigned to this tag above the posts list on your blog page. A preview of this functionality can be seen in theme demo website. No need for an additional dedicated plugin.
Demo and starter content
I took a new approach to demo website and thus also to demo content. Images are off-loaded, so they are not imported to your website with the demo content. This speeds up demo content import immensely and also prevents any possible issues that might arise during the process. (You should always replace images for your own ones matching your website project anyway.)
Also posts are omitted from the import as they don’t bring any special value to your website – they are only demo texts and/or tutorials for the theme and all the layout possibilities are shown in demo pages anyway.
There is also a useful starter content available in this theme so you don’t have to start form scratch on a fresh WordPress installation.
A final huge change is an introduction of new theme documentation design. This was on my to do list for a long time, but I kept postponing as a low priority task… But now it is done and I’m very happy how it turned out. Finally, the theme documentation is fully accessible, modular, flexible, and simplified – the same as the theme is.
As a standard in my themes nowadays you can surely expect accessibility readiness for building barrierless inclusive websites complying to WCAG 2.1 level AA guidelines, theme colors, typography and layout customization, multilingual support including right-to-left languages support, speed and search engines optimization, ease of use, flexibility and developer friendliness.
Now you know Michelle and understands how she ticks. Take this free theme and build something incredibly accessible. And with block patterns even very fast!