Overview of the Balance Child Theme from StudioPress

I was previously using the Generate Child Theme from StudioPress on this site, and I loved it. That theme was designed for effective lead capture and it worked great. It took me from zero to a few hundred email subscribers for my 7-part email course in the short two months that I had the theme installed.

I’ve tried the following list of services to increase email subscribers:

  • Pop-up domination - which displays a nicely designed pop-up ad with your offer and email capture.
  • Hellobar - which displays an unobtrusive call to action in a bar on the header of your site (I used this to direct people to my email sign-up page).
  • ViperBar – which displays an email opt-in form on the header of your site.

All three are great options, but neither worked as well as the Generate Box via the Generate Theme. That’s probably because it was less intrusive, and not so “all up in your face.” Now granted, the other options probably didn’t work so great because I failed to communicate the benefits of subscribing so I don’t want to discount them as useful options. Still, I liked the Generate theme best.

But I’m OCD and the StudioPress team keeps releasing awesome new themes that make me feel indecisive about which child theme to use on this site. So I’ve changed themes yet again…

Introducing the Balance Child Theme:

Features Include: 

  • 5 Color Styles. I’m always a fan of red, thus the red color scheme around here.
  • 3 Layout Options. I always use the content/sidebar lay-out option and the landing page template for the tutorials in my 7-part email course.
  • Custom Background & Header Uploader. I love this because it makes it incredibly easy for the novice to upload a custom header/background without having to use an FTP client. StudioPress has some free (light) background patterns if you’re looking to play with a custom background. As for the header, as long as you upload an image that’s 960 x 135 pixels, you’re good to go. If you do upload a custom header, just be conscious of how long your tagline is as I had to revert to the dynamic text header here because my tagline was getting cut off on mobile devices.
  • Featured Images. I think a blog post should always be accompanied by a strong, complementary image. Especially if you’re using a magazine (two-column) layout theme like this one.
  • Footer Widgets. Website footers have evolved from a simple place where you host your copyright information to a section where you can host an extended set of navigation items, links, sources of contact information and more. A point I addressed in this post here. Even if you’re Genesis theme doesn’t come equipped with footer widgets, here’s a great step-by-step tutorial for how to manually add your own footer widgets section to your site.
  • Mobile Responsive. In the last month, I’ve only had 14.68% of site visitors visit via their mobile device. My guess is that number could be a lot higher. And the Balance theme does look awfully sexy on a mobile device…just saying.

The Balance Child Theme is the perfect blend of a minimalist design with lead capture build in. It reminds me of the Minimum Child Theme (my favorite theme and the theme I use for Real Estate Blog Topics), except with more lead capture built in.

Favorite Plugins:

Here’s a short list of some of the plugins I’m using to organize, edit or otherwise enhance the site… It’s not a list of all of the plugins I’m using, just a list of the one’s that I think you might find useful.

  • Ad RotatorIn short, this plugin allows me to display different chunks of HTML every time you load a page. So if you look at the ads on the sidebar when you load the home page for example, you’ll notice that they are displayed randomly and in a different order every time you load the page.
  • Akismet – For spam protection. I activate this by default any time I do a new WordPress install. Akismet has protected somewhere around 44,025,529,554 instances of spam to date. That’s a lot of spam. I hate spam. I’m sure you do too, so get on it.
  • Contact Form 7 – I use this plugin to generate the simple form on my contact page. If you want something higher level, and with the power to do more, check out Gravity Forms and this post to see all of the creative stuff that you can do.
  • Genesis Simple Edits – This plugin allows me to edit 3 areas easily: 1.) the post-info byline, 2.) the post meta, and 3.) my footer.
  • Genesis Simple Sidebars – From here on out, when you load a post on this site, you’ll notice that my sidebar is different than the sidebar on the home page. I’m loading a genesis ad first, then my email opt-in form with options to subscribe via RSS or connect via Twitter. I’m not sure how much else I want to add to the sidebar on individual blog posts but I’m sure I’ll test variations of this to see how it performs. But basically, this plugin makes all of that very easy to do.
  • RSS Footer - This allows me to add content to the beginning or end of my feeds. Right now, I’m using it to display a StudioPress affiliate ad. I’m not sure it’s done to well to be honest, so I should probably change it up a bit. But this plugin makes it easy for me to interchange whatever content I’d like to display/advertise to my RSS subscribers.

Here’s what I’ve changed…

The Balance Theme works right out-of-the-box. To activate the welcome and lead capture sections that you see on the theme demo, all you need to do is activate widgets in the “Home Featured Left” section and in the “Home Featured Right” section as seen below:

You can use the “Genesis – Featured Page” widget to display intro text from the About page on your site or you can use a simple “text” widget to tell visitors what your site is about.

For the “Home Featured Right” section, you can use the “Genesis – eNews & Updates” widget if you’re simply using Feedburner to manage your email-to-RSS updates. Otherwise, a text widget with your email opt-in form will do (mine is hooked into Aweber for example).

In my case, I edited the style.css template to center the “Home Featured Right” widget and added a width of 960px so it spans the width of the page. I did that for two reasons, really:

  1. I didn’t know what to put or link to on the left-hand side, and
  2. Frankly, I like the look of it as it is now, better.

Other than that, the theme works beautifully and with minimal customization effort (just like any other StudioPress theme).

Feel free to poke around and let me know what you think. If something’s broken, or doesn’t display properly, please let me know so I can get it fixed. Otherwise, I’m going to keep fiddling with the lay-out and sidebars on the interior pages a bit more…

And if you’re into minimalist design and want to build an email list, check out the Balance Child Theme, I think you’ll like it ;-)

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the comprehensive review of Balance – we’re glad you like it!
    I can’t wait to hear what it does for you in terms of increasing subscribers :-)

    • says

      Thanks Rebecca!

      It reminds me of the Minimalist theme (which happens to be my favorite StudioPress theme). Only, with lead capture built-in. I really liked that about the Generate theme (that it emphasized lead capture). Anyway, Balance has a great design and I’m very happy with it all around!

  2. says

    Hi Ricardo, I’ve decided that I have a new tagline for you: Ricardo Bueno – the real estate blogger who never saw a Studiopress child theme he didn’t like. ;)

    But really, I appreciate this review and agree that the theme looks great on mobile devices. Thanks for all of the great reviews of the Studiopress themes and showing everyone how to get the most out of them. I look forward to more reviews in the future!

    Good luck with everything,

    Joseph

    • says

      Heh, it’s fitting.

      Speaking of mobile devices, I had a funky lay-out when I was using the Generate theme. It’s not the theme’s fault, but rather my own in terms of the widgets and other content I was using on the theme – it just didn’t render as nicely as this one does on mobile.

      But anyway, this one’s the perfect blend of minimalism (which I loved about the Minimalist Theme) with lead capture built in (a la Generate). So I think I’ll be sticking with this one for quite a while.

    • says

      My pleasure Mike!

      As for the “sandbox” domain, I think that’s a great idea. I have a domain that I use to test new themes and try new ideas before implementing them on a live site. Works great!

    • says

      Hey Bruce,

      I noticed you weren’t using any of the “welcome” or “sign-up” forms on the home page. Those were a big factor in why I changed to the Balance theme – they make it easy to enable that lead capture.

      Dig the logo otherwise, looks solid.

  3. says

    Hey Ricardo,

    Well I don’t know anything technical about Studio Press themes since I have never used them myself. I am running a business that offers micro sites to local businesses and I recently purchased a developer’s license for Studio Press.

    So having said that, I really enjoyed your article, gives me a few ideas of what’s possible to achieve with at least this theme in specific.

    Will definitely have to invest some time learning how to customize the themes but I know it will definitely be time well spent.

    Take care and have a great day!

    Sergio

    PS. Did you ever tried WPSubscribers in order to put more optin boxes through your site?

    • says

      Hey Sergio,

      Good choice on purchasing the developer’s license. That’s certainly money well spent and I agree, there’s lots you can do. Not just with this theme, any of them really.

      When I’m looking for design inspiration, I usually wonder around the showcase on the StudioPress site just to get some ideas on what others are doing – things I like and don’t like, et cetera. So yeah, I think you’ll have some fun with it.

      As for the WPSubscribers plugin, no I haven’t tried it. But I’m also pretty happy just using and customizing the web forms provided by Aweber. They work very well and I can track which one’s are converting.

  4. says

    Hello Ricardo I am currently use Copyblogger theme and also love it best looking blog and design I have every had. I am still learning about Genesis so there are still things that are very new to me….I hope we can stay connected my friend I am sure we can learn a lot from each other…Have a great day

  5. says

    Heya Ricardo!
    I really love this theme on your blog. It’s minimalist without being too minimalist. Which other themes have you used from Studiopress, and if I might ask for a (shortish) summary, what did you think of them?
    I’ve currently got a barely-modified free child theme of Genesis on my blog but I’m working on coding my own as I keep going “Oh, I like this feature from this blog, and this one from this one and… ooo shiny!”, well, you get the idea ;)
    Of course, I probably shouldn’t be asking about templates because it will just delay this project further, oops!

    • says

      Ha, you and I think alike!

      Yep, I often get in that mode where I like one thing from one site and one thing from another. The problem with me now is that I’m indecisive. I’ve switched themes so many times in the last few months.

      I’ve used the Minimalist Theme, Generate, Prose and now, this one. The Minimalist theme and this one are by far my favorites. That said, I think I’m going to stick with this theme for awhile.

      As for whether I like Genesis? You bet. The more you play with it, the more you learn. Once you learn your way around using hooks, it’s really easy to add new stuff and make things work.

      But anyway, happy to bounce ideas around with you!

      • says

        Genesis is actually drool-worthy. At least from my point of view. It does all the hard work leaving me to have fun with the bits I want to play with. Definitely my idea of coding heaven!

        I’ll look into the themes you’ve mentioned. I only have the basic framework, but there is that 25% off code… Eek!

  6. says

    Hi Ricardo

    Thanks for this review. Very helpful. I’m using the Enterprise child theme at present but I like the idea of having a responsive theme and there is no sign that I can see at this stage that StudioPress is making Enterprise responsive (I am not a coder but I imagine that kind of retrofitting is not easy, or not easy to do well).

    Looking at Balance and appreciate the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of the review.

    Des

  7. says

    Hi Ricardo,
    brilliant review, thankyouI am thinking of using this for my http://suziecheel.com site as I am changing think it is good to go with a mobile responsive theme. I just have one question is it difficult to change the font size and color on the widgets- I find the grey too faint and size so small
    thanks
    Suzie

  8. Daniel Marting says

    Balance is a cool theme. Do you know how the Featured-Widget could be added to any page (and not just the blog page) ?

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