I’ve been playing around with the new Catalyst Theme 1.1 release for the past few days now, and one of my favorite new features is the EZ Widget Areas. With this new feature you can do some creative things, like create your own custom front page layouts. Or you can use it to add top or bottom widget areas to your site. With EZ Widgets, you can truly use Catalyst Theme to create almost any common site design you can think of.
EZ Widget Areas
Most WordPress Theme Frameworks give you the standard layout options (1, 2, or 3 column layouts) and it’s used throughout the site. But what if you want to use a special layout for the front page of your site? With EZ Widget Areas you can do this using the new Static Homepage EZ Widgets options.
Look at JohnChow.com for example. His front page 2 sections in the top (Featured Posts and an Opt-In Box) In the middle section, he has Recent Blog Posts, Featured Video and Blog sponsors areas. And then in his footer, he has a single section that spans the width of the site that contains all of his categories.
Previously, doing something like this with Catalyst (or any other theme) would of been a lot of work. But with the new EZ Widget Areas, this can be done very efficiently with just a few clicks. After installing Catalyst 1.1, you will notice now in Dynamik Options, that there is now a tab called EZ which is where you can play around with these new EZ Widgets. At the top of this page you will see the Static Homepage EZ-Widgets settings.
Lets say we want to mimic John Chow’s layout. If you use the Static Homepage Structure dropdown, you’ll notice that it contains a long list of different layout options. The one we would select would be ez_home_wide_left_2_3.php. This gives us two sections on top and 3 sections in the middle.
Once you’ve chosen your layout, you can also customize the Fonts, Colors, Borders and Padding of the widget boxes to style them how you like it. To add content to each section, you can then head over to your WordPress Widgets settings. From there, you will now see widget areas for each section where you can drop in the whatever widgets you like.
Feature Top and Fat Footer EZ-Widgets
If you head back over to the EZ Tab and scroll down a bit, you’ll notice there are also sections for Feature Top and Fat Footer EZ-Widgets settings. They both work similarly, except that the Feature Top adds a section to the top of your page, while the Fat Footer adds sections to the bottom of your page. You have the flexibility to add between 1 and 4 sections. And you can choose whether the section appears on your Front Page, Posts, Pages, Archives or any combination of each.
Going back to our John Chow example, we would probably just enable the fat footer, and choose the ez_fat_footer_1.php layout. This gives us a one section footer that spans the width of the site. Then we could add in the Categories widget to this section.
As you can see, the new EZ Widgets are an amazing new feature of Catalyst 1.1. They basically enable you to create a whole new class of websites that you weren’t able to previously. If you haven’t upgraded your Catalyst Theme install yet, then make sure to do so as soon as possible.