The Twenty Sixteen theme has actually been out for four months. For most users, though, their first encounter with it came with the release of WordPress 4.4 in December 2015.
It’s already been installed on over 300,000 sites.
I’ve delved into the theme and here is what I think.
You might want to read my review of Twenty Fifteen, as there are a number of similarities between that theme and this new one.
Looking for a Twenty Sixteen child theme? Go right here: A Twenty Sixteen Child Theme With Extra WP Customizer Goodness
Twenty Sixteen Design
Like the previous themes from the WordPress team, Twenty Sixteen is based on the Underscores starter theme.
The theme was designed by Takashi Irie. He also designed last year’s theme Twenty Fifteen, and its successor is not a million miles away from that design. Both are very clean, with plenty of white space.
The main difference is that Twenty Fifteen had a left sidebar. Twenty Sixteen has no sidebar by default but the option of a right sidebar.
The content is in a central area 840px wide, with 180px left and right margin – 1200px in total.
With a sidebar, the content area is still 840px, with no margin. The sidebar is 300px.
I’m not sure I like the thick border round the page content. It also shows on tablet, but not on mobile phones.
The body text font size is 16px, a bit smaller than Twenty Fifteen’s 19px, but perfectly legible.
Twenty Sixteen has two menu locations.
The Primary Menu is a horizontal menu sitting under the site title or logo. Because it’s a menu bar, you don’t get the option to add menu descriptions, like you could with Twenty Fifteen.
The Social Links Menu is a collection of links to your social profiles, shown on the right of the footer area.
You have to add the links yourself in the menu as Custom Links. See my post on Twenty Fifteen to find out how. The method is exactly the same.
The mobile menu is well designed, with a button to click to show the menu options underneath.
Customization with the Customizer
The options are very similar options to those for Twenty Fifteen.
Under Site Identity, you can add a favicon (the site icon), but you can’t add a logo.
The differences from Twenty Fifteen are with the colours and images.
The colour schemes are: Default, Dark, Gray. Red and Yellow.
Out of these I prefer the Dark and the Yellow schemes. The Red is a bit odd-looking, and I think it would be hard to read many pages of it.
You also have the option to change five of the colours yourself:
- Background Color
- Page Background Color
- Link Color
- Main Text Color
- Secondary Text Color
Remember to save and publish your changes. There is no option to save your own custom scheme, so if you revert to one of the supplied schemes, your customizations will be lost. You might want to note down the hex codes of the colours you use.
Adding a header image puts a 1200 x 280 px image under the menu bar. If you use an image larger than this it will be cropped to fit these dimensions. If it’s smaller, it might look stretched.
If you need help with getting an image to the right size read my earlier post.
You might assume that this option changes the background of the page, but you’d be disappointed: your background image will only show through where the border is on the page.
The best type of image to use here is a large one, or a small icon that you can tile.
Here is an example. This uses the Yellow colour scheme, a large background image and a header image.
Theme layout and widgets
As with Twenty Fifteen, you have limited options. There are still no page templates. So don’t go using this theme if you want custom layouts e.g. landing pages, unless you’re prepared to child theme it, use a page builder or ask a developer to do it for you.
However, there are more widget areas than the previous theme – 3 instead of 1. 😮
The sidebar is activated when you add any widget to it.
There are two footer widget areas, Content Bottom 1 and Content Bottom 2. Each takes up 50% of the available space.
You can add any number of widgets to these areas. You might need to experiment a little to get the best look (i.e. equal-looking columns).
Twenty Sixteen displays the post metadata in a column on the left side of the post content, under the title and featured image if you have one. If you have a Gravatar, it’s shown.
There are previous and next links for each post.
One thing I’m not so keen on is that there is no setting to only show the excerpt of each post on the blog page. The full post is shown. It would have been nice to have had the chance to choose between excerpt and full post display.
Featured images for posts are enabled. You need to add one to each post for them to show. They display on both the blog page and single page view.
Featured images are 825 x 510 px in size by default.
If you use a smaller, narrower image, it won’t be the width of the content column – it will stop short, like this:
If you decide to use featured images with this theme, you might find the Quick Featured Images plugin useful. It allows you to bulk add and delete them.
Like Twenty Fifteen, this theme is strong in this area, as the Underscores theme has been coded with accessibility in mind.
screen-reader-text for the benefit of visually impaired users is used in certain places e.g. the word Author is read out before the author’s name.
The theme is fully keyboard accessible down multiple levels, which I like.
The keyboard focus is subtle. It shows as a dotted outline in most areas.
The Default colour scheme meets contrast requirements. as do the Dark and Yellow. The Gray and Red schemes don’t pass – something to bear in mind if accessibility is important to you.
The Yellow scheme might be a good choice for dyslexics – black and yellow is one of the favoured dyslexia colour combinations.
If you want to see a live version, here’s a demo of Twenty Sixteen.
Overall – good, bad or ugly?
- The responsive menu – I prefer a “menu” icon to a hamburger icon.
- The accessibility features.
- The fact that there are not too many options built in. I’m not keen on themes that contain everything but the kitchen sink and require a number of plugins to function properly.
I don’t like:
- Too much whitespace. I don’t know why the margins round the content are so big. I would have preferred the content to be as wide as the navigation bar.
- The border. I think it’s too thick, and we don’t get to see the background image very well through it.
- The choice to show full posts in the blog display, rather than excerpts.
- No option to add a logo. This will be a deal breaker for many.
- Still few widget areas. A header widget area would be nice.
- Unless you vary the colours, it’s rather monochrome.
Twenty Sixteen seems like a logical evolution of Twenty Fifteen. If you liked Twenty Fifteen you’ll probably like this theme. Otherwise, you’ll likely not be a fan. It’s quite elegant, but it’s solid rather than spectacular, and it doesn’t feel as innovative as its forebear.
I can see this theme being used by primarily bloggers, people with an interest in accessibility and users who want to set up a site quickly.
If you’re looking for more features and customization in a theme I’d advise you look for another one, as this theme has been designed to be simple and clutter-free.
What do you think? Will you use Twenty Sixteen? What are you looking for in a WordPress theme? Leave a comment with your thoughts.