Twenty Seventeen

Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
Strictly speaking, I didn’t choose my theme. I decided to stick with the theme active by default, namely Twenty Seventeen.

Saying that “I didn’t choose my theme” is probably an overstatement since I chose to stick with Twenty Seventeen deliberately. As explained in the previous post, being WordPress endorsed, the future longevity of a default theme is excellent (it will be updated and kept current for many years). However, would my decision be the same with another default theme? I don’t think so. Granted, as every new default theme showcases the latest features of WordPress, it makes sense to go with the most recent. However, I didn’t change my theme with the introduction of Twenty Nineteen – the latest theme featuring full Block Editor integration. So, what is so special about Twenty Seventeen?

Without spoiling, it is clear that its business focus – a noteworthy departure from its blog-centric predecessors – had a huge influence on my decision. Yet, let me expound on my choice by giving a description of Twenty Seventeen. By no means, this will be a review and I dare not appraise Twenty Seventeen in comparison to other themes. Still, let see what other people have to say about this outstanding theme.

Twenty Seventeen by

Twenty Seventeen screenshot

Created with the desire to reach a new audience, this ambitious theme was designed by Mel Choyce with focus on business websites; yet, being flexible enough to be used as a blog theme as well1. It was released in December 6 2016 with WordPress 4.7. Sporting a modern look, it also aimed to show off some new core features and enhancements, such as the video header and the edit icons in the Customizer.

Its business-oriented design highlights the new video headers, and has a front-page layout that can be created from multiple sections.The WordPress codex

In keeping with their own saying, Twenty Seventeen allows you to build a striking front page comprised of content from different pages on your site. Each page’s featured image is highlighted, displayed at full screen size and with a fixed position. You can also select your Blog Posts page, and the panel will display your three latest blog posts2.

Aiming for simplicity, Twenty Seventeen has a distinctive asymmetrical grid with one or two column layouts. On pages, it defaults to the two-column layout, with the page title in the right column, and the page content in the left 525-pixel-wide column. Alternatively, you can opt for the wider (740 pixels), centered single column layout. Twenty Seventeen also includes a 326-pixel-wide sidebar widget area on the right and two widget areas in the footer, where you can add widgets below the site’s content. Note that when there are sidebar widgets, the content will appear on the left in one 525-pixel-wide column. Finally, you can add a Social Icons Menu below the footer widget area, on the left of the text “Proudly powered by WordPress”.

In keeping with its features (as listed in the Feature Filter of the WordPress Theme Directory), it comes with Custom Header, Custom Logo, Custom Menu (in the header area), Custom Colors, but not with Custom Background. As already mentioned, it has Footer Widgets and Featured Images (but not Featured Image Header). It supports Threaded Comments, Sticky Post, many Post Formats, Editor Style, Flexible Header and Theme Options. Last, it offers RTL Language Support and is Accessible Ready and Translation Ready. Interestingly enough, if you apply these 15 filters (out of the 22 available), you will end up with only two themes: Twenty Seventeen and Agama Blue.

Beware, Twenty Seventeen “by” (in is not exactly the same as Twenty Seventeen “by the WordPress team” (in For instance, the latter supports Content Options, a feature not available in the .org version.

Twenty Seventeen as reviewed by others

As unanimously agrees upon, Twenty Seventeen is nothing like its predecessors. As nicely expounded in the following article, Twenty Seventeen really stands apart from its predecessors with its business focus3:

In particular, the multiple sections of the front page are perfect for displaying important aspects of a business site3. Moreover, the featured images displayed along with each section, combined with the parallax effect Twenty Seventeen features, result in a creative and eye-catching home page design3. Another standout feature is the impressive header media functionality [which] can have a strong visual impact on visitors3. Definitively, with a modern, professional look, a crisp typography, along with space for all the key information you may need displayed (e.g. logo, social media), Twenty Seventeen sees all the immediate business needs catered for.

To make a long story short, despite very few critics4, Twenty Seventeen is largely acclaimed:

A major step up from other default WordPress themes.Themeora
The perfect dress for new amazing WordPress features.Kinsta
The most versatile default theme
WordPress has ever seen.WPMU DEV
Sleek and contemporary, this theme will wow visitors.WPExplorer
Twenty Seventeen is simply outstanding . . . A free theme that’s on par with a lot of premium themes.Website Creative Pro

What I like and what I don’t

Professional, stylish and modern

As anticipated by Joe Fylan3, I was impressed by its business-centric layout – the attractive section-based homepage, in particular. Perfect to promote CogitActive activities, the static front page, which produces a professional look and feel, was a compelling argument. Certainly, the fact that the large header image and spacious layouts, with the . . . two column layout, give a clean and refreshing appearance, as well as a great user experience3 was also enticing. In keeping with the generous use of whitespace, I also like (and abuse) how it displays pullquotes when the two-column layout is used.

Twenty Seventeen presents a modern, professional look, built upon readable font selections and strong use of striking visuals balanced by the generous use of whitespace.Jon Penland

It is understood that Twenty Seventeen fulfills all the important criteria to consider when looking for a theme (see How did I choose my theme?). In particular, not only is it responsive, but also the Responsive Controls (displayed at the bottom of the Customizer) allow you to test how the pages will look on desktop, tablets and smartphones. As expected from the WordPress team, the code quality is very high and everything is done by adhering to best practices. Hence, it is not a surprise that this theme is great when it comes to site performance – it is fast and mobile.

We recommend the Twenty-seventeen default theme for speed. Even for year 2019.Steve Teare

As emphasized by its detractors, Twenty Seventeen – being a default theme used by many – may not enable your site to stand out by its originality. However, it has potential most people don’t realize. Like all default themes, it is easily customizable for users and developers. Moreover, Twenty Seventeen also implements new theme functions to make child theming easier. Besides, it includes a handful of filters, all of which are documented in line in the code. In fact, it is a perfect theme to use as a parent theme if you want to create a custom theme based off Twenty Seventeen – an ambition I cherish.

You’ll need to tinker with the code yourself

Of course, there are things that I don’t like. Maybe the biggest issue I have with Twenty Seventeen is how it displays the Featured images in single posts and pages, i.e. under the top menu and above the post. Clearly, the result looks unappealing. Since the Featured image is in the header (header.php), it may as well be integrated into the header area – a feature (Featured Image Header) not offered in Twenty Seventeen, though. Importantly, the way the theme displayed the featured image should not refrain you to add one to every post or page you create since featured images also play a notable role in social media sharing. Yet, I did…

… until I wanted to implement the eye-catching sections (homepage) and realized the parallax image is pulled from actual pages: no Featured image no parallax effect!

In keeping with the Featured image problem, I don’t understand why the Content Options available in the .com version of the theme is not offered in the .org one. A regrettable omission knowing that this would allow, among other things, to hide Featured images on blog, archive, single posts, and/or pages with just a click.

I am also dissatisfied with the Tag Cloud Widget, which does not display the most common tags in larger font size, but the actual number of posts instead – even if this is an accessibility improvement. A tooltip (with the number) on hover and focus would have provided the best of both words.

Last, but not least, there are few bugs that remain to be fixed (even though the tickets are closed). The first concerned the “ character, which is not properly displayed in italic. The ticket (#38775) was closed because this defect is linked to the Libre Franklin font (used by Twenty Seventeen) and not the theme per se. The issue was reported to the person in charge of this Google font, but apparently his “fix” was never uploaded and the issue remains. The second problem concerns the missing RSS Social Icon. A solution was proposed – hence the ticket was closed – but the RSS icon is still missing. Thus, my RSS feed link (in the Social menu) defaults to the chain link.

To sum up, while designed to build business websites, using Twenty Seventeen for a blog or my podcast isn’t a bad choice either. It is perfectly suitable for both personal and professional purposes. With a simple and clean design, this theme will make an excellent starting point for my project(s).

1 Interestingly enough, Business does not figure among the 9 subjects available in the Feature Filter of the WordPress Theme Directory. Nonetheless, Twenty Seventeen is registered as a Business theme in the theme directory (one of the 26 subjects available). It is worth mentioning that Twenty Sixteen and Twenty Nineteen, as well as 4 other defaults themes, are labeled as Blog themes in the latter, but not the former, directory. ^
2 See Twenty Seventeen. ^
3 Joe Fylan (2017) Twenty Seventeen: an overview of the new default WordPress theme. Elegant Themes. ^
4 In particular, Ruth Maude expressed some concerns with the Header image that does not let room for the content above the fold (i.e. visible without further scrolling or clicking). As agreed by George Plumley in his book Website Design and Development, you don’t want that the header area takes up too much of this valuable real estate. However, he also specifies, home pages are one of the exception to this rule. ^

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