I do a lot of work on sites built with WordPress. I like WordPress. It’s probably the easiest way for people who don’t know anything about websites to have a website.

Where things get tricky, though, is when people install third-party “Themes.” There are lots of them out there. For less than $100, you can buy a set of files that make WordPress look much different and do a lot of cool extra stuff. Themes, though, are a “buyer beware” market. I have yet to find one that didn’t have a bug in it somewhere, and customer support varies widely.

Generally speaking, I’ve seen pretty good themes at ThemeForest. TemplateMonster is also ok. Keep in mind, though, that these sites are selling templates that have been written by lots of different people. Both of these sites require people selling themes to provide a baseline level of support for their products, but even then, mileage varies.

Last week, I had a client who had bought a theme (the Corporate Response theme) from Shape5. It had a bug. The footer wasn’t working right. The online instructions said:

You can change the contents of the footer by placing a text widget in the “Footer Credits” sidebar position, and you can replace the logo by doing the same in the “Logo” position.

But the text widget in the “Footer Credits” position wasn’t showing up. As a temporary fix, I put the footer information into a different widget. But using a different widget wasn’t really an ideal solution (more below), so I got onto the Shape5 support forums, and wrote:

So I’ve loaded a text widget into the footer credits area, and nothing. The pre-loaded footer (from the footer.php) goes away, but the widget doesn’t show up. div id="s5_footer_module" is simply empty. Any help here would be great.

(Same thing is happening with the Header Logo).

Thanks.

I was pleased that within 10 minutes I got a response. Not the most helpful response, but having anything back that fast was a good sign:

It’s showing up for me… I’m not sure what you’re saying the problem is.

Tristan

Yes, it was showing up. He hadn’t bothered to look at the code output to see where it was showing up. I took the out of the other widget I had used as a temporary fix and wrote back:

Sorry, yes, I had temporarily inserted the text into a different widget location, “Bottom Menu” (Which was fine as a temporary fix, but won’t do when I get around to putting in an actual bottom menu.) I’ve removed it now so you can see that it’s not showing in the “footer credits” location. Also, the Logo widget area is having the same issue.

From your index.php file, it appears the same function is involved in both places. The construct is:

(same for footer only the else is that it requires footer.php)

So it appears that the s5_module_call() function isn’t working properly in both cases.

If you can point me to where that function is defined, that might be helpful…. or maybe I’m just missing a file.. which would be strange because I just downloaded it a a brand new package…

Thanks again.

Again, within 10 minutes, Tristan had written back:

For your logo image, your HTML is broken, and that’s why it’s not showing up. Looking at it in Firebug, you’re missing a quote mark somewhere and that’s preventing the image tag from showing up.

For the footer, since you seem to be at least reasonably comfortable with code, just edit vertex/footer.php and make it look however you want.

EDIT: You’re missing the closing quote on the image URL for the logo.

Tristan

Sure enough, I was missing a quote in the logo img tag. Now we were getting somewhere. But the footer was still not working. He was right, of course, I could have rewritten the footer.php file he referred to. But then any update to the theme would break my fix, overwriting my modified footer. The clients I was setting this up for wouldn’t have a clue how to fix it. So again, I wrote back:

Thanks. Found the missing quote in the header.

Yes, I realize I could modify the footer.php. I’m pretty comfortable with code, but the people who will be maintaining this site once I’ve set it up for them aren’t. So getting it to work from the widget would really be better if there’s a fix. (Wink.)

At this point, though, I had also been looking around the Shape5 support forums, and had found several other help requests involving the same problem. The answer was always the same. “You can rewrite the footer.php file.” It didn’t give me much hope that Tristan was going to have a fix, so I dug into the code to figure it out on my own.

Fifteen minutes later, I got it. I figured that since the Shape5 people didn’t know what was wrong with their theme, I’d better tell them. So I wrote back again:

Ok, here’s the fix for you:

In the index.php file, you have:

On this line: <?php s5_module_call('footer','notitle'); ?> ‘footer’ needs to be changed to ‘footer_credits’.

Your parameter for the widget name doesn’t match the actual widget name you’re calling.

Might want to make that an update for the next patch/release.

Have a great day!

(Grin.)

Ten minutes later, Tristan had responded:

It looks like you’ve managed to find a bug in the framework… Thanks! I’m working on a patch this week to get all the Vertex-based releases on the same version of the framework; I’ll be adding that bug to the list of changes for the patch.

I actually don’t edit the index.php at all when I “convert” the Joomla releases to run on WordPress, but I know where I need to change the code. Thanks again for catching that!

Tristan

Here’s the bottom line. In this case Shape5 gets high marks for being right there with the customer service response on the help forum. But if I hadn’t solved my own problem, I (or my client) would have been stuck with a defective footer.

It’s only a $50 theme, but something as basic as a template footer really ought to work out of the box. The problem is, in many cases, things like this don’t, and unless you speak “code,” you’re likely to get stuck, or have to use some kind of less-than-ideal work-around solution. If you add the cost of my time to be on the line with Tristan and then to fix the bug myself, the theme actually cost quite a bit more than $50.

(Well, hopefully, if you’ve got Shape5’s Corporate Response theme, you’ll be able to download a theme update soon that will have a working footer widget.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a pre-packaged theme. (But, word to the wise, there are lots of perfectly good free themes at WordPress.org.) Just make sure that when you do, you get it from someone who has a solid customer support record. If you can, check out their support forums before you buy and see what kind of answers support staff are providing. Are they solutions, are they “work-arounds,” are they excuses? Or do they respond at all?