Ultimatum Theme Review: A Theme Framework

Ultimatum Theme Review
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Why Ultimatum Theme Review?

As a fan of WordPress Theme Frameworks, I regularly googled for the term ‘review of WordPress Theme Frameworks‘ to find out more about other frameworks and see if there is any new stuff I should take note of.

Published by WPMUDev recently, Rachel McCollin conducted an intensive review of WordPress Theme Frameworks, which I found very intriguing and also learnt more about other interesting frameworks. The same post also occurred to me that more in-depth & current reviews for Ultimatum Theme are needed as I felt that essence of this framework can be better explained.

Who can explain better than an actual user of the framework, right? Before I begin to write about this Ultimatum Theme Review, I conducted a simple research and found several posts relating to ‘Ultimatum Theme’s reviews’. The posts are:

Most of the reviews on Ultimatum Theme that i found on the Internet are not really in-depth reviews by actual users and most are just ‘touching the water’, which I can understand as the nature of their posts is about “comparison of frameworks”. I figure that I could explain the essence of Ultimatum Theme much more with the perspective of non-coder, coder and using it as a tool to build websites. Some disclaimers & facts:

  • There is no affiliate link in this post and this is not a sponsored post. This post is purely for the sake of education and information.
  • I am not trying to compare frameworks and I have limited experience with other frameworks. This is everything about Ultimatum Theme.
  • I begun using Ultimatum Theme 1-2 years ago when I was not really that much of a WordPress coder. I have since grown to be more of a coder. Not on a guru level yet, still learning everyday.
  • I am someone who prefer to figure my way out, than relying on support.

Using Ultimatum Theme

First Brush with Ultimatum Theme

When we first started out with WordPress many years ago, it is just all about finding premium themes from sites like ThemeForest, then tweaking options, hacking templates, injecting custom CSS codes to twist the templates into the way we wanted it to look.

There are a lot of guessing works as we do not understand the WordPress Templates technically. It was during the phase where we decided to offer web design services professionally, we begun to brood over the issue on “how to build WordPress websites from scratch” than always trying to reverse engineer premium themes.

I do not consider myself as a coder yet and that point of time, I only knew simple CSS & HTML and relatively new to Javascript, PHP and WordPress Template Hierarchy. It was then I came across the term “WordPress Theme Frameworks” and at the point of time, I vaguely remember that I am deciding between Genesis, Ultimatum & Headway. I finally make the move to Ultimatum Theme, largely due to MightyDeals I found in my email, which offer a 40% or 50% (cannot remember) discount from their original price.

Even though I cannot recall much details at this phase of life, I clearly remember having cold feet after activating Ultimatum Theme for the first time. Everything on the front-end is a blank white screen.

Coming from a background of dealing with premium themes, white screens frightened me. I cannot remember why I do not choose to install their child themes, maybe I am not that familiar with the concept of child themes at that point or I choose not to use as I wanted to build from scratch. I backed off for a good 2 months before taking the leap of faith to try Ultimatum out again.

My Opinions

Documentation

There are documentations of the entire framework in the member-only section, which include descriptive articles, videos, webinars and an active forum where support staff and members help one another. In my opinion, I feel that the documentation could be improved greatly with the inclusion of a series of on-boarding tutorials to build a sample site.

For example, I would structure the tutorials in this way: Your First Ultimatum Website Step 1: Creating a blank child theme Step 2: Building Your Header & Footer using Template Parts Step 3: Building Your Homepage Layout Step 4: Building Your Content Page Layout Step 5: Using the CSS Generator / Template Wide-CSS / Layout Specific-CSS These kind of tutorials will be exceptionally helpful for beginners like”the then me” as it provides a structured way of learning the framework.

My first “eureka” moment happened when I finally figured out that the first place I should go is the layout management section, where I can finally saw things appearing on the front-end. I only begin to appreciate the documentation more when i have grown more technical and I started to understand the native WordPress way and how Ultimatum tries to abstract it and make things easier for non-coders.

Key Features I like about Ultimatum

Ultimatum is filled with many features and premium plugins and that is why they called themselves “All in One WordPress Solution”. Personally, I do not like my WordPress sites to be bloated with many plugins, thus I only used those features that are useful to me. Below is the list of features I found particularly useful.

Layout Builder

Ultimatum Theme Layout Builder
Ultimatum Theme Layout Builder

Ultimatum Layout Builder gave me the first insights into how templating system seems to work and what is the difference between layouts and page/post and how are they related.

At first, we were confused whether should we design the elements within the Edit Page Section with Page Builders such as Visual Composer that come bundled with Ultimatum Theme or within the Layout Management Section. It slowly become more and more intuitive to us that we will design the repeatable elements such as header, footer, subheaders, sidebars in the layout section and page-unique elements within the page section.

CSS Generator, Distinction between Template Wide CSS and Layout CSS

Ultimatum Theme Editing Layout
Ultimatum Theme Editing Layout

Ultimatum makes things easy for the beginners by having a CSS Generator function, which we can adjust the CSS settings of elements such as menu, headings, p, anchor, etc.

The framework allows us to compartmentalize our CSS by separating template-wide codes or layout-specific codes, which allow us to organise our CSS codes easily. For example, footer and header CSS will fall into template-wide CSS section, while CSS for our form plugin will fall into the specific layout created for contact page.

Wonder Loop

Ultimatum Theme Wonder Loop
Ultimatum Theme Wonder Loop

At first, I didn’t understand what is the purpose of Ultimatum Wonder Loop Plugin. I avoided using it, until when there is a need for me to think about “how do I customize the blog page?” For example: a. How do I make the date posted, categories and tags elements in blog posts display first or last? b. How do I inject micodata attributes to elements such as date published, author and title? c. How do I customise the looks of blog posts when they are in a loop?

It was then I realized the beauty of this Wonder Loop Plugin where the author has integrated with Visual Composer Plugin to allow a drag and drop customization functionality for customizing “the loop”. As I grew more technically, functions could be easily injected using PHP in the same Wonder Loop Plugin if what I wanted could not be achieved through the pre-defined widgets. Example of a customized loop with Wonder Loop:  https://www.foodzaps.com/blog/

Custom Post Types / Advanced Custom Fields

Ultimatum Theme: Creating Custom Post Type
Ultimatum Theme: Creating Custom Post Type

I am not sure if this is a well known feature but when Wonder Loop Plugin is activated, Advanced Custom Fields came in bundled too. This opened a whole new area of things I can play with. I may not know about Advanced Custom Fields at that time, if Ultimatum Theme does not include the plugin. This allows me to innovate some flexibility like:

  • Unique Subheader for Content Page where users can just upload their preferred sub-header banners and taglines at the Edit Page Section for every page without creating new layouts.
  • Created Custom Fields for Custom Post Types so users can have an organized way to inject new information systematically
  • Together with Wonder Loop, I can again customise the look and field of the custom post types’ loops, drawing in ACF’s fields.

Premium Plugins Bundle

Ultimatum Theme Plugins
Ultimatum Theme Review: Plugins

Of course, Ultimatum came bundled with a few premium plugins like Visual Composer, Slider Revolution, ConvertPlug, etc.. This can be very subjective to individual’s preferences. We will usually limited ourselves to using the plugins only when necessary to avoid bloating the websites. My most commonly used plugins are (in order of popularity): Wonder Loops, Visual Composer, Ultimate Add On & Intense Shortcodes

Things I think Ultimatum can improve on

Mobile Menu

The mobile menus do not really work very well, they are not very fluid during actual interaction. It can be replaced by 3rd party menu plugins for now.

Microdata

The framework can be further optimized to work with Schema.org for improving the SEO of Ultimatum websites.

As a Business

One night, while I was working on a Ultimatum Site, I started to wonder if Ultimatum can sustain as a long term business as previously, their license was pay once for a lifetime license, effectively eliminating their possibility of any recurring income stream. In recent months, things have changed with some changes in the licensing terms for a new Ultimatum Product, which they will implement a yearly fee for those who used the new product. From the perspective of a business (not from end user), I feel this is a much more sustainable business model.

Support for Premium Plugins

I feel that including premium plugins can be a double edged sword. This effectively means that the authors have to be responsible for the support of using these plugins in Ultimatum. This means that more resource have to be channeled towards the support of these plugins together with the framework.

Flexible Layout Builder

The current layout builder is not really flexible, If I wanted to make some changes to the number of columns per row, I have to delete the whole row. P.S: I do note that they are addressing this issue in the new Ultimatum Product.

Speed

With that many features, Ultimatum Theme does “feel” bloated. I must stress again on the word “feel”. It is just a feeling, knowing that usually many features do not equate to speed. This site is built with Ultimatum Theme. With plugins like WP Rocket, Plugin Organizer and careful consideration what features to use, I can still achieve an optimum speed test result for this website.

GTMetrix Website Test for Thinking Notes
GTMetrix Website Test for Thinking Notes
Pingdom Website Testing for Thinkng Notes
Pingdom Website Testing for Thinkng Notes

Conclusion

Who I will recommend Ultimatum Theme to?

If I could rate website designers from a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of coding ability, I would recommend Ultimatum to folks from scale 1-6. A highly skilled coder who prefer to work with the native WordPress way, may find working with Ultimatum Theme more of a hindrance than an effective tool. The best group to recommend Ultimatum Theme to will be Non Coder/Semi Coder Web Designers who wanted to offer custom website design solutions to end clients, just like my partner who can only do CSS, HTML on top of her designing abilities.

What next?

At the moment of writing this Ultimatum Theme Review, my opinion is Ultimatum Theme is a good tool to use and we will still be using it for the foreseeable future. It has been an invaluable tool in helping me to understand WordPress and web designing deeper. However, personally, I would think that I may have outgrown Ultimatum Theme.

Over the past 1-2 years, with the help of online community and courses, I have grew much stronger technically. There are many times, I wish I could code directly into the files to achieve what I want instead of trying to work within Ultimatum Theme, which kept the layout configurations in database.

I have already been trying to learn and improve the way I do things such as adding WP Customizer Support in the Ultimatum child themes my team designed and built and enqueuing custom jQuery scripts.

I am now avoiding the Ultimatum CSS generator and their CSS functions as I now prefer to code them directly into CSS files which I will enqueue through my function.php file in the child themes. You can take a peak at the child themes we built using Ultimatum Theme. I am also motivated to try my hands on developing parent themes to contribute back to the WordPress community and Ultimatum Theme is not an ideal tool for that.

It is a good tool to provide custom web design services for clients, but as for parent themes that need to be distributed, I will need to learn a different set of frameworks or go the 100% native WordPress way. While I am eagerly waiting for the next Ultimatum Product, which is supposed to be many times better, I have begun to dwell into the HybridCore Framework that I am very excited to learn about and with it I believe I can grow stronger as a WordPress developer.

Ken Toh

SEO Consultant & WordPress Engineer at Thinking Notes
Ken graduated with a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from Nanyang Technological University, specializing in Human Computer Interaction and Usability Engineering. Beside WordPress development, Ken provides professional SEO consulting services to SMEs and has helped his clients improved their businesses significantly through top page ranking results. In his free time, Ken runs a top children birthday party website, which provide specialized children birthday party photography services.