Bimber Viral WordPress Theme Review

I encountered the Bimber viral WordPress theme about a month ago and I was drawn to it like a moth to a lightbulb.

At the time, I was trawling through WordPress themes looking for a new design for Wpliving, and the Bimber theme just had that immediate punch thanks to its simple layout, clear font work and strong use of images.

Bimber is one of several viral WordPress themes released in 2016 that take inspiration from popular sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy.

Although attracted to the theme, I was sceptical about using it on Wpliving as this is not a viral content site (at least not yet). But after a month of using the theme, I am pleased with my choice and I have received several comments in praise of the new design, including this one by Oliver Dale from wplift.

I thought I’d share my experience of working with Bimber and give you some insight into the pros and cons of this theme. I find the best way to review WordPress themes is through videocasts, because it allows you to see the theme in action. So I made a 2-part video review which covers the following topics

  • Feature Overview
  • Design and Functionality
  • Installation and Usage
  • Summing up the pros and cons

Review part 1

In this video, I introduce the theme’s overall design concept and key feature set, including its emphasis on social media sharing buttons, easy social media content curation and its custom ads and widgets integration.

Review part 2

In the second part of the review I cover the theme installation process; how to set up the theme to look exactly like the demo version; how to customize the theme.

I finish the review by summing up the pros and cons of the theme. Here is my conclusion of using the Bimber viral WordPress theme after 1 month.

Pros

  • Easy to install: from download to activation takes less than a minute. All required plugins and all demo content can be installed with a single click of a button on the theme’s options panel.
  • Easy to use: once the demo content is installed, it doesn’t take long to figure out how to use the theme’s core options. The documentation that comes with the theme is also useful.
  • Clean design: the layout of content is simple and well balanced. There are several options to change the way front page, single page and archive page layouts work. The theme has a professional feel.
  • Visual punch: the theme can be a loud or toned down as you like. The core design elements (layout, fonts, media integration) are well thought through so whatever colour scheme you go for, the content always feels fresh and impactful.
  • Good social media integration: this is the theme’s main selling point. Bimber does a nice job of integrating the Mashare plugin to give readers a range of options to share content.
  • hide or limit comment, share and like counts: this is a very nifty little option that I like a lot. Basically you can set a threshold for when you want comment, share or like counts to appear on your posts. This means you don’t have to worry about your content looking neglected or underviewed.
  • Works well on all platforms: I have tested the theme on an iMac 27″, Mac Mini and 21″ monitor, iPhone 5, iPhone 6, Microsoft Surface and a Windows PC using Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer and the theme worked well on each form factor. It renders particularly well on smartphones.

Cons

  • Mailchimp widget cannot be customized from the admin panel: in order to modify the default text inside the MailChimp widget, you have to edit some of the theme files. I hope the theme developers will change this in a future update.
  • Needs more custom widgets: At the moment, the theme comes with 4 custom widgets, including a Facebook and Mailchimp widgets and custom posts and sticky start point widgets. It would be nice to see Twitter, Instagram widgets and YouTube widgets given the theme’s emphasis on social sharing.
  • No archives, sitemap, contact page template: while all three of these pages can be created manually, it would have been great to see the developers go the extra mile and include some bespoke templates.
  • No fullwidth option for single posts: this is another addition I would like to see in a future update. Having the option to make a single post fullwidth would go a long way in pushing the viral content side of the theme.

In Conclusion

[mks_progressbar name=”Looks” level=”8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Features” level=”7/10″ value=”70″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Usability” level=”8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Support” level=”8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Overall” level=”Highly Recommendable 8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#BF0029″ style=”squared”]

Overall, I have found the Bimber Viral WordPress theme a pleasure to use. It was very easy to get the theme up and running. I particularly enjoyed the one-click automated plugin and demo content installation option. I also found it easy to customize through the WordPress customize panel. The option set is not exhaustive, but offers enough control to modify the look, layout and overall impact of the theme. I also like the ability to set thresholds for when to show comment, share and like counts. This is a small but nifty feature of theme that I would like to see in use across other themes.

There are a few odds and ends that have been left unfinished, such as the lack of an option to modify the MailChimp widget text for example, but given that the theme has already been given 4 updates since its release, I am hoping these small wrinkles will be ironed out.

If you’re looking for a theme that presents your content with a punch and lets your readers share it with ease then go take a look at the Bimber theme.

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Are WordPress “lite” themes useful?

https://www.wedgies.com/question/56f0abae4681271d00ce6b83
 
WordPress lite themes are an increasingly popular part of theme development and marketing strategy, but are they really useful to the end user? If you take a look at the WordPress.org theme repository, 221 out of 3807 themes are classed as “lite,” which is roughly 1 in 5 – and that’s without counting themes that don’t contain the word “lite” in their title.

What is a “lite” theme anyway?

The word “lite” refers to a paired down version of a premium theme. Theme developers release their lite themes for “free,” but disable some of the key options in the hope that users will pay for an upgrade to the full version later on.

Even though the end user might not start out wanting to pay for a theme, once he/she has invested time in installing it and setting it up, he/she is more likely to pay for the upgrade. It’s a tried and tested marketing model.

To give you an example, one of the most popular WordPress lite themes is “Zerif Lite” by ThemeIsle. It is a one-page portfolio theme and it has over 100,000 active installs. The premium version of the theme is priced at $99 and the key differences with the free version are the addition of custom theme widgets and color customization options.

What are lite themes good for?

On the positive side you could argue that lite themes give the user a chance to try out the theme before deciding whether to purchase it. That’s true to an extent, but since the premium options are disabled, there is a limit to how far you can really test the theme.

Another positive point is that for some users, a lite version is sufficient for their needs. In that case, people can benefit from what should be a professionally coded theme without having to pay for it.

From the developer’s perspective, even if a customer doesn’t go premium, many “lite” users will leave the link in the footer back to the developer’s site, creating solid SEO value.

What’s not so good about WordPress lite themes?

With WordPress, there tend to be two types of lite theme: one that is actually usable even though it is paired down, and one that appears to be usable but actually requires an upgrade to be of use. The latter type doesn’t bring any value to the end user and is a cold hard sales push on the part of the developer – a sort of “get your foot in the door” model.

But there is a bigger problem with the lite model and it has negative implications for the WordPress platform as a whole.

The WordPress.org theme repository, which is the largest collection of free GPL licensed themes, makes a clear distinction between paid and non-paid themes. There is a separate page on the site for “commercially supported GPL themes” which means that all other themes in the repository are ostensibly non-commercial (aka free GPL themes).

The problem is that despite being free and GPL licensed, lite themes are really just extensions of their commercial cousins masquerading as free themes. This ambiguity sends the wrong message to new WordPress users about the ethos and core aims of the WordPress platform, which are summed up on the site’s About page as follows:

“WordPress is an Open Source project, which means there are hundreds of people all over the world working on it. (More than most commercial platforms.) It also means you are free to use it for anything from your recipe site to a Fortune 500 web site without paying anyone a license fee and a number of other important freedoms.”

So what’s your take on WordPress lite themes? Do you find them useful? Are they a step in the right direction or not? Here’s a quick poll to gauge community reactions.

Feel free to vote in the poll but also to discuss this in the comment section below. Thanks very much for stopping by.

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3D Printing = the Quiet Revolution

3D printing may still only be in the early stages of development, but a growing number of companies and individuals – both professional and amateur – are pushing the boundaries of its potential, creating 3D goods from prosthetics and food stuffs to drones and automobiles.

In this article I take stock of 3D printing today; I think through some of the social and cultural implications of 3D printing, and end with a list of 15 examples of current printing practices that give a sense of how far and wide this “quiet revolution” reaches into everyday life.

What is 3D Printing?

In case you’re still not familiar with 3D printing, technology analysts Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee give a simple definition in their highly praised book The Second Machine Age:

“3D printers deposit materials like liquid plastic that gets cured into a solid by ultraviolet light. Each layer, is very thin – somewhere around one-tenth of a millimeter, but over time a three-dimensional object takes shape. And because of the ways it is built up, this shape can be quite complicated – it can have voids and tunnels in it, and even parts that move independently of one another.” (p.36)

How does a 3D Printer Work. From an article by Andrea Sega.

How a 3D printer works. Image from an article by Andrea Sega.

Although the historic roots of 3D printing go back to the 19th century, the first practical application of this technology is widely attributed to Japanese researcher, Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute. Kodama invented an “additive manufacturing” (aka 3D printing) process using a photo-hardening polymer, controlled by a mask pattern and exposed to ultra-violet light.

According to the Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, Kodama “filed a patent application, and presented his invention in Japan and overseas, but few people took interest, driving Kodama to abandon the process.” Kodama was later recognzed for his contribution to the development of this technology receiving the UK Rank Prize in 1995 alongside the American inventor Charles Hull.

The first patent for a 3D printing process that was accepted was filed in France in 1984 by Alain Le M√©haut√©, Olivier de Witte and Jean Claude Andr√©. The patent covered a process known as “stereolithography.”

Changing the way we produce goods

For the past 200 years, the production of goods has been the domain of inventors, engineers, technicians, workers, managers, administrators, marketers, sales and logistics people, and many other intermediaries operating on a model that looks something like this:

⇣ draft a product design plan
⇣ engineer tools to implement the plan
⇣ train and employ workers to operate the tools
⇣ hire managers to oversee the workers and execute the plan
⇣ hire administrators to audit the plan
⇣ assemble the product
⇣ market the product
⇣ sell the product
⇣ ship the product

This model is time and resource intensive; it requires a wide range of people, skills, materials and infrastructure to generate a single product. The 3D printer has the potential to upturn this model, reducing it to an entirely virtual and digital process that a single individual can operate. That new model looks something like this:

⇣ draft a design plan in a CAD (computer aided design) program
⇣ test the design concept in situ with a 3D printer
⇣ submit proof of concept to safety regulator for approval
⇣ market and sell the plan as a digital download direct to consumer
⇣ consumer prints product at home

Any change in the mode of production in a society is fundamentally connected to a change in the structure and culture of that society. The gradual shift towards a “digital economy” predicated on automated and robotized production processes is already underway and poses urgent ethical questions for the future of the global labor market.

The debate about the negative impact of automated and artificial intelligence based technologies on the future of human employment is still very quiet – particularly at the governmental level. Some people argue that by the time we actually stop to look at what is happening, technologies like 3D printing, driverless cars, staffless restaurants and so on, will already have such a strong foothold that it will be impossible to reverse.

Another area of contention in this “quiet revolution” is the use of 3D printing to create weapons. This blog post by the University of Toronto does a good job of summing up the key issues in that domain.

Others argue that the benefits of these technologies outweigh the negatives, particularly in terms of advancements in healthcare (see the application of 3D printing in prosthetics below) and space exploration (see the NASA research project in to 3D food printing below), but also in terms of the environmental gains that 3D seems to offer. The jury is still out on the real environmental costs of this technology, but studies such as this analysis by Michigan Technological University of the open source printing model called RepRap, already suggest that there are gains in efficiency to be made compared to conventional manufacturing.

3D Printing today

One of the main driving forces behind 3D printing today is the amateur and enthusiast followers who play a key role in exploring the capabilities of this technology. The New York based company MakerBot, launched in 2009, has quickly become a leading player in the home 3D printing field. It provides equipment and materials for printing enthusiasts, but crucially it also runs a social photo sharing site called ThingVerse, where users can show off their latest works and share designs.

In the short term, since it’s already possible to order on-demand 3D printed parts from some of the key printer companies, it’s only a matter of time before “bigger fish” such as Amazon and Google¬†adopt the¬†print-on-demand model, and start¬†building and shipping products¬†through an entirely automated process that would have your purchased item delivered in a matter of hours.

Imagine the scenario: you want a new guitar, like the one featured below, not a¬†mass-produced generic model, but a bespoke¬†guitar, designed by you. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where a few clicks on a website¬†would have your¬†guitar at your front door the next day.

This changes everything. Why? Making bespoke instruments has¬†been the sole domain of luthiers for centuries. The aesthetic value we attach to “hand-made” objects is still embedded in that creation process: time, materials, knowledge. 3D printing has the potential to change those values.

Examples of 3D printed goods

I want to end this post by showcasing some of the most ambitious and trailblazing 3D printed objects that have been created to date. From human prosthetics, architectural models, cars and motorcycles, to art projects and musical instruments, 3D printing gives us a glimpse of future commodity production.

1. 3D Printed Prostheses

3D printing in Uganda

Four-year-old Rosaline Cheptoo from Uganda wears the first 3D-printed socket for a trans-tibial prosthesis. Photo Semaphore/ginger coons.

I begin this list with one of the most beneficial and noteworthy applications (so far) of 3D printing which is the production of prosthetic limbs. The young girl in the photo above is seen trying out a trans-tibial prosthesis as part of research project led by the Critical Making Lab at the University of Toronto. As part of the project the research team developed leg prosthetics for patients in Uganda. You can read about that project in more detail here.

2. A 3D Printed Electric Guitar, Drum Kit and Bass Guitar

The instruments below were designed by Swedish professor of product development, Olaf Diegel, from the Department of Design Sciences at Lund University. Diegel used 3D Systems printing machines in the USA to make the instruments.

The Hive 3D printed guitar was inspired by New Zealand nature, and features a honeycomb beehive look with model bees inside. The core of the guitar is made of wood while the other parts are printed. This makes the instrument customizable in shape and sound to suit the musician. See more detailed pics here.

3DSystems 3D Printed Drum Kit

The “Atom” 3D¬†Printed Drum Kit designed by Olaf Diegel. Photo by Maurizio Pesce.

3. A 3D Printed Motorcycle

3D Printed Motorcycle

3D Printed Motorcycle. Photo by Steve Jurvetson.

This 3D printed motorcycle designed and produced by US firm Autodesk is made with functional parts using high-strength ABS thermoplastics.

TE Connectivity became the first company to produce¬†an entirely 3D printed motorcycle in late 2014: “The motorcycle is a custom hardtail design and features a frame, wheel bearings, handlebars and seat all printed in plastic. It is 8 feet long, weighs 250 pounds, and can support 181kg, or two adult riders. The motor produces 1 horsepower, allowing it to travel at 10-15 mph for several minutes.” Read more about the design here.

4. A 3D Printed Car

Local Motors 3D printed car

Local Motors 3D printed car. Photo by Lenore Edman.

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Local Motors car company is working on a 3D printed car series. More details on the design are available from the LM website.

5. A 3D Printed Map of the United States

3D Printed Map of United States,

3D Printed Map of United States, Photo by Maurizio Pesce.

6. A 3D Smartphone Holder

A 3d Printed Holder For a Barbie Doll.

A 3d Printed Holder For a Barbie Doll. Photo by Meester X.

7. A 3D Printed Quad Helicopter Frame

A 3D printed Quadcopter Frame.

A 3D printed Quadcopter Frame. Photo by HackRVA Makerspace.

8. A 3D Printed City in a Shoe

A 3D Printed City in a Shoe

A 3D Printed City in a Shoe. Photo by Glasseyes View.

9. 3D Printed Shopping Cart Tokens

3D printed shopping cart tokens

3D-printed shopping cart tokens. Photo by Creative Tools.

10. 3D Printed Spatial Cardioidal Variations

Spatial Cardioidal Variations

Spatial Cardioidal Variations. Photo by fdecomite.

11. The first 3D printed metal gun by Solid Concept

The Austin, Texas based company Solid Concept produced the first 3D printed metal handgun. The gun is composed of more than 30 3D printed parts using stainless steel and inconel materials. The process involved in making the gun parts is called Laser Sintering and uses a high-powered CO2 laser to join powdered thermoplastics together.

The first 3D printed metal gun by Solid Concept

The first 3D printed metal gun by Solid Concept

12. A 3D Printed Pizza by Nasa HD

NASA has been exploring the possibility of using a “3D printer” on deep space missions to produce food, tools and even spacecraft parts for astronauts. Read more about the research project here.

13. Elders React to 3D Printing

As part of their hugely popular “Elders react” series, YouTube stars The Fine Brothers gave its cast of elders 3D printers to play with. The video shows their reactions and thoughts about this technology and is quite revealing.

14. Chappie – a 3D printed robot

Chappie is the main character and title role in South African director’s Neil Blomkamp’s 2015 sci-fi film. The robot was almost entirely made from 3D printed parts by the Vancouver based visual effects company Image Engine. This article chronicles the development process of the robot and explains the decisions behind using 3D printing technology for this film.

chappie

15. An Unsuccessful 3D Print

It’s interesting to see what happens when a 3D print goes wrong. If you think paper jams are bad enough, get ready for new levels of office anxiety ūüôā

An unsuccessful 3D Print.

An unsuccessful 3D Print. Photo by Tim Reagan.

16: A RepCap Open Source 3D Desktop Printer

Mendel 3D Printer

Mendel 3D Printer. Photo source: RepRap.org.

17. The Makerbot Replicator 3D Desktop Printer

MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer

MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer. Photo by Makerbot.

18. The Cube 3 Printer by 3D Systems

Cube 3 Printer

Cube 3 Printer by 3D Systems.

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How Noise Cancelling Headphones Help Me With Writing

Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I write every day since it’s part of my work as a teacher and a blogger, but frequency doesn’t make it any less challenging, and it certainly doesn’t stop procrastination!

On a basic level, writing is the process of organizing the free flow of thoughts and ideas that populate the mind into coherent logic. It’s a process that requires following rules (grammar), avoiding pitfalls (logic), and delivering value (content and style).

A couple of years ago, I remember listening to a talk by the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, in which he mentioned his own dislike for writing. He remarked that the only way he could sustain his writing practice was to “trick” his mind into believing that he was just “putting down ideas” – albeit relatively elaborate ideas – but what he was doing wasn’t “writing.” After after a certain point he would tell himself that he just had to “edit” these ideas. By doing this writing would disappear.

I’ve since discovered a YouTube video clip in which Zizek repeats the same points that he brought up in his talk. You can watch that below.

Writing not only demands logic, but it requires time and focus too – two qualities that seem to be in increasingly short supply in today’s 24/7 social web. Why? Because our attention is the main currency of the web and people are vying for it every second through tweet, Facebook updates, Vines, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, Snapchats, and other types of media.

We consume micro content like a whale consumes plankton; constantly searching for nourishment in a sea of “noise.” We call it “noise” but it’s not necessarily audible and can take the form of images or text. To me, noise is anything that disrupts focus and productivity – anything that keeps you locked inside a loop.

Now this is where my headphones come in.

A few months ago, I was browsing Amazon for some computer gear when I noticed some sexy silver and white headphones. I clicked the photo and started reading about the Bose QuietComfort 25 noise cancelling headphones.

One line in their blurb really stood out:

Bose noise cancelling technology monitors the noise around you and cancels it out, helping you focus on what you want to hear–whether it‚Äôs your music, your calls or simply peace and quiet.

So you put these headphones on, flick a switch, and the noise Рauditory or otherwise Рis gone. Too good to be true right?

Somewhat sceptical, I thought I’d bite the bullet so I ordered a pair and what I got after flicking the switch was indeed quietness. Simple quietness. Not only that, after using these headphones for the best part of 3 months, I found that whenever I wear them, I get straight into work mode. I find myself able to focus for much longer periods. I don’t even use the headphones for music, even though the audio quality is decent.

Of course the headphones don’t create a total vacuum. Loud outside noise still filters through. But on the whole, I find most¬†background noise in my¬†office¬†is cancelled. Refrigerator hum, computer fan buzz, outside road traffic and so on.

So all this has left me with a couple of open questions:

1. Is our reception of “noise” in the social media sense in some way connected to the part of the brain that deals with the reception of auditory stimuli?
2. Is my attachment to these headphones and my sense of increased focus and productivity a placebo effect? A way of tricking myself into believing that what I’m doing is not writing?

Whatever the case may be, I haven’t been in love with a gadget as much as I am as with these noise cancelling headphones in a long time. I don’t know if they will work for you like they do for me, but for what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my experience. More information and tech specs see here.

noise cancelling headphones

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How to Make Viral Lists with WordPress

Viral lists or listicles are a mainstay of the social web for one simple reason: time.

A good list saves you the time it would take to research and curate a wide range of content related to a specific topic or keyword.

Sites such as BuzzFeed, Upworthy and ViralNova have built million dollar businesses on top of viral lists. But what is the key to making a great list and what is the best way to make one with WordPress?

In this post, I begin by thinking through the steps to making viral lists, and then explore 4 different WordPress plugins that you can use to make the list creation process (potentially) easier.

How to make viral lists

On the surface, list making is a simple process:

choose a topic > research and bookmark content > arrange those bookmarks in a blog post > add a title, photo and descriptive text for each item > hit publish!

In reality though, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at each step of the list making process and think through¬†some of the strategies involved.

1. Choose a topic: this is the market research phase of your list. For me, it’s¬†the most important part. It starts with choosing¬†a general topic then narrowing it down to a select combination of keywords. For example, let’s say you’re¬†interested in making a list about lions, the narrowing down process might¬†look something like this:

lions > lions as predators > lions’ eating behaviour > other predators that lions are capable of killing ¬†>¬†lions against¬†leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs

The next step is to check your keyword combination on the Google Adwords Keyword Planner app. Try different combinations of your keywords to gauge for search frequencies against your keywords.

At the same time, you should also run a¬†google general¬†search and a google blog search for your target words to see what sort of competition you’re up against. Is your topic completely saturated with posts already or is there room for more? In the case of the former, think about ways or refocusing your keyword choice.

2. Bookmark the best stuff you find: once you’ve found your topic, you can start searching the web for content. This step is relatively straight forward. Of course, you need to have a good grasp of the topic to discern which content will bring value to your users. You can use popular bookmarking apps such as Pocket or Diigo to save your items. You could also use Pinterest boards and add¬†links back to your blog post to generate extra traffic.

3. Choose which bookmarks to share: once you’ve collected material, you begin the curation/editorial process, which is really about creating the right order for the list.¬†You might start with a strong impact, or build up the intrigue factor as your list progresses; you might make it a logical progression, ordered by time or place; you could also opt for strong contrasts between list items to draw attention to a particular item. It really depends on the content matter and your overall intention.

4. Write some accompanying text: not all viral lists have text for each entry, but many do for the simple reason that it helps contextualize the content and also allows you to fulfil some basic SEO requirements (reusing targeted keywords; reaching the minimum 300 word post quota etc.) In any case, the copy should be informative and relevant and should improve rather than detract from the impact of the list.

5. Double check everything before publishing: is your post SEO optimized? Do your keywords appear frequently enough? Is each list item clearly dinstinguishable? Is the list order effective? Would you be interested in reading this list?

Ok, so that’s an overview of the list creation process. Let’s move on to making lists with WordPress. Below are two free and two premium plugins that can help you create your list.

Free WordPress plugins for Viral Lists

Why use a plugin? Why not just make your list straight in the post composition screen? One of the reasons why I began searching for plugins was that I found myself spending more time on the composition stage of the list than on the research. This is because the default WordPress post list is limited to single functions. It works well for numbered lines of text, but it gets trickier when you started adding images, videos, animated gifs, text and titles. With that in mind, I started looking for some plugins to help me compose viral lists and this is what I found.

1. Listic Listicle Creator

Let’s start with free plugins. A quick search in the wordpress.org plugin database returns these 2 plugins:

Listic Listicle Creator

The first of these plugins, called the “Listic Listicle Creator” is not really what I was looking for. It “allows users to quickly and easily create multi-page listicles of any size within a single post. This is accomplished by using the [listic] shortcode along with item names or numbers of your choice.”

The result looks like this:

listicle-view

It breaks a manually drafted WordPress post list into a string of paginated posts. The type of lists I am interested in are full page lists. So this solution is no good for me.

2. Listly: Listicles for WordPress

The second plugin is called “Listly: Listicles for WordPress.”

Listly WordPress Plugin

This is exactly what I was looking for. However, here again there’s a caveat. In order to use this plugin, you have subscribe to and create you lists¬†using the list.ly service.

It’s a free service for basic users, but if you want more options and plan on making a lot of lists, you’ll have to buy into their premium plans.

Their plugin basically allows you to embed a list created on list.ly into a WordPress post.

Here’s an example of a list in masonry style:

listly

It looks cool and it has all the dynamic elements I want, but having to always go through the list.ly service and essentially publish your list twice (once on their site, once on your WordPress blog) was too much of a drag for me.

I want something standalone, that I can control. So I started looking at paid plugins. Here’s what I found:

Premium listicle WordPress plugins

1. ViralPress

The first premium plugin I looked at is called “ViralPress

The ViralPress WordPress Plugin

ViralPress is a widget that transforms your WordPress blog into a BuzzFeed clone, allowing you to post viral lists, quizzes, videos, images, news and polls.

Here’s an example of the plugin in action:

ViralPress WordPress Plugin

Reading through the plugin’s comment thread, it seems to have good reviews and good user feedback. But for me, I didn’t want to transform my entire site into a buzzfeed clone.

2. Xlist

The second premium viral list plugin I looked at is the one I ended up buying. It’s called “Xlist – Multi-Purpose WordPress listicle Maker“.

Xlist Viral WordPress List Plugin

The plugin is simple to use and allows you to insert dynamic viral lists into your posts from your WordPress post composition screen.

It also allows you to extract content from popular lists sites or any lists with an RSS feed.

Once you install the plugin you get an additional section in your post composition screen which looks like this:

Xlist Viral Lists

You can insert a url to extract content automatically and render it in list form, or you can add list items manually.

The manual input screen looks like this:

Xlist Viral Lists

The plugin allows you to organize your lists in different layouts, and comes with 8 templates preinstalled, including basic, grid, article, numbered article and others.

Xlist Viral Lists

This is what the Xlist screen looks like once you’ve created a list:

Xlist Viral Lists

Xlist was a cheap option and while not perfect, it does what I want. It allows me to cut down on list composition time, it has social connectivity and it is easy to use. I recommend it.

If you know of any other plugins to make viral WordPress lists, I would love to hear about them.

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Meet “Create” – a Clean Multifunction WordPress Theme

In this post, I review a¬†premium multifunction WordPress theme by ThemeTrust called “Create.” It is billed as the company’s “most powerful and flexible theme yet” and it is built on the open source Page Builder plugin by SiteOrigin. So let’s put this theme to the test and see if it lives up to the claims.

Background to ThemeTrust

ThemeTrust was established in August 2010 and has released 26 themes to date. The two main types of theme that characterise their work are portfolio and personal blog themes. “Create” is a hybrid of these two styles and part of the ever popular trend in multifunction WordPress Themes.

ThemeTrust is a design company that I always keep an eye on.

Why? One word: consistency.

Looking around today’s premium theme markets, I feel there’s a tendency with some creators to get sucked into the numbers game and sacrifice quality for quantity.

That being said, if WordPress themes were my main source of income, I suppose I would be focused on sales figures too. But I look at this from the perspective of a buyer / user and what I value most in a premium theme is clean code, professional design, ease of use, decent support and fair pricing.

In this sense, ThemeTrust has always struck me as a bit of a different “player” in the premium theme field. They take their time with new theme releases (on average 4 themes per year). A lot of work goes into detail such as font treatment, layout balance, effective use of whitespace, true responsive design and so on.

A quick glance at their portfolio reveals a commitment to simple and clean WordPress themes. This is echoed in their company slogan:

BEAUTY + FUNCTION
Premium WordPress Themes that are beautiful and easy to use!

The one thing I still find a little mysterious though is that it’s difficult to know who is actually behind ThemeTrust. There is no “about” page on their website and no introductory post on their blog. Even their Twitter and Facebook accounts don’t get into any personal detail. Not that you have to put your whole life story online, but it would be nice to get a sense of who’s behind the design work and general running of the company.

So if someone from ThemeTrust happens to read this review and feels compelled to¬†drop me a line¬†with a short bio blurb,¬†then I’ll be happy to update this post…

Create Theme Core Features

Let’s get started with a quick look at¬†the core features of this theme. Here are some of the essentials at a glance:

Features Description
Homepage 6 different layouts, including: Agency, Professional, One Page, Shop, Fullscreen Slider, Portfolio.
Backgrounds Add parallax image backgrounds to sections of the theme; video and image backgrounds.
Page Templates 5 different templates, including: Contact Us, About Us, Testimonials, and Pricing.
Portfolio Layouts 5 different layouts, including: two,three and five column layouts, as well as masonry style layouts.
Blog Layouts 4 different layouts, including: standard, standard full width, masonry and masonry full width.
Shop layouts 3 different layouts, including: full width, with sidebar adn custom.
Miscellaneous Includes popular Slider Revolution image carousel; Google Fonts; Mega menus; boxed or wide layouts; unlimited widget areas; multiple headers; 1000s of icons…
By laying¬†the features out in table form, you get a good sense of the balance of components in this theme.¬†Equal weighting has been placed on the theme’s core templates, meaning that the theme actually does try to live up to its “multifunction” claim.

On the one hand you could quite happily¬†use Create as¬†a simple blog or portfolio theme, or to run¬†a small online shop, because¬†each core function works very well on its own. On the other hand, you can combine these functions using¬†the 6¬†homepage templates and make use of the theme’s multifunction capacity.

Page Builder

The modular nature of these templates (thanks to the excellent Page Builder plugin) makes it easy to integrate a range of elements from sliders to portfolio and blog entries, about and contact information and widgetized areas too.

Once you have installed the theme and its included plugins you will be able to work with page builder in the default WordPress page composition screen. The plugin operates on a drag and drop basis, separating the various options out into sections. Check out the screenshots of the core page builder options below.

While page builder allows you to control the basic layout components of a home page template, it gives you control over the look and feel of each component. You can modify colours, layout sizes and other options via this plugin.

Slider Revolution

The inclusion of the Slider Revolution WordPress plugin plugin is a big plus too. It would usually cost around $20 to buy it as a standalone plugin. It allows you to create dynamic slider content with multiple actions. You can see the slider at work on the front page of the main Create demo site or in the animated gif below.

The Slider Revolution plugin comes with its own admin section that you can access via your WordPress dashboard. It will take new users a while to learn the functions of the slider, though help and tutorials are at hand within the slider admin panel. Here are some screen grabs of the admin in action:

So all in all, the Create Theme’s feature set is well thought through and comprehensive. ThemeTrust have made the admin side of the theme as pain free as possible using drag and drop interfaces where possible and tried and tested plugins too. As with any multifunction theme today, new users must¬†be prepared to put in some work in order to¬†learn the fundamentals of theme management.

The main Design features

On first glance of the default Create demo, the impression I get is of an elegant, spacious and professional looking multifunctional theme. Nothing is rushed, nothing is brash or out of character, there is an overall sense of balance to this theme which is very pleasing to look at.

I was particularly impressed with the font work on this theme. The font faces, the work on font shadows, line spacing and font size make text a joy to read.

For example, take a look at the bold font work on the intro section of the theme. It is ultra clean and easy to read. The rounded Helvetica font face creates a friendly welcome feel.

design 2

I also like the font and layout work on the different core pages of the theme, including the blog, shop and portfolio pages. Each of these is designed with a strong use of whitespace. Let’s look at the blog page for example.

blog design

The subtle mix of greys and blacks on the text, coupled with the airy use of whitespace, put the blog content front and center. Photos really stand out and catch the eye.

On the shop page, you get a real sense of the overall attention to detail and balance with this theme.

Shop design
It feels classic and professional. There is no excess clutter. Navigation is simple and logical.

The portfolio single posts are beautifully rendered too.

portfolio design

There’s very little there. Just the fundamentals. Image, title and text. It’s simple but effective web design at its best.

In Conclusion

[mks_progressbar name=”Looks” level=”9/10″ value=”90″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Features” level=”9/10″ value=”90″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Usability” level=”8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Support” level=”8/10″ value=”80″ height=”20″ color=”#333333″ style=”squared”] [mks_progressbar name=”Overall” level=”Excellent 8.5/10″ value=”85″ height=”20″ color=”#BF0029″ style=”squared”]

You might have gathered by now that I am a big fan of minimal design. I think the overall appeal of the Create multifunction WordPress theme is its simplicity – at least on the front end. ThemeTrust have put a lot of effort into making each key part of the theme as effective as possible. They didn’t cut corners. What you get is a theme capable of powering a blog, portfolio, shop or professional website with elegance and style.

The only negative point I can find with this theme is the learning curve involved in setting up the home page templates and designing dynamic slides for the Slider Revolution. But this is counterbalanced by the fact that ThemeTrust offers excellent tutorial and documentation material. Users who are not versed in WordPress can also benefit from well staffed support forums.

All in all, I think this is a home run. Great job ThemeTrust!


As with all the theme reviews on this blog, my interest lies in that tiny group of themes that extend WordPress functionality through design innovation. In short, I’m looking for game changers. If you would like to recommend a theme for review, please get in touch via the contact form and I’ll be happy to consider your work.

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20 Free WordPress Themes For Bloggers in 2017

For the past week, I spent about an hour every evening after work searching the Web for reliable free WordPress themes that I could use to launch my new blog – Curatable.net

I set up a Pinterest board to keep track of the best ones I could find.

In total, I installed 102 themes. Many simply didn’t meet my requirements for a blog theme in 2016, and among those that did, many performed poorly on mobile platforms.

Finding themes that were a) well designed, b) user friendly, c) elegant and stylish and d) fitting for a content curation blog was no mean feat.

In this post I want to share with you the 20 free WordPress blog themes that were potential candidates for my new site. In the end, I went with the Shamrock Theme by Meks and I will be posting an in-depth review of that theme shortly.

So if you’re looking to start a new content oriented blog and you’re on a budget, then take a look at this list of free WordPress themes.

1. Looki Lite Theme

Looki Lite Theme

Looki Lite is a simple and clean masonry style theme that comes with all the up-to-date WordPress features, including different post formats, customizable colors and settings, a changeable background image and a range of shortcodes.

Good for: a personal blog.

2. Sean WordPress Theme

Sean WordPress Theme

Sean is a clean yet bold design, allowing your articles and images to do the real talking. With a fully responsive layout, you can customise fonts and colours to add more impact to your site. The theme is based on the popular Bootstrap framework and is therefore fully optimized for mobile devices.

Good for: a personal blog or portfolio.

3. Silk Lite WordPress Theme

Silk Lite WordPress Theme

Silk Lite is a fashion oriented blog theme developed by PixelGrade. As its title indicates, this is a reduced option version of the company’s premium theme by the same name. The premium version is priced at $125, which for me is a little too high. The lite version is more than capable of powering a personal blog or simple magazine website.

Good for: a personal blog or a simple magazine.

4. The Vesta Lite WordPress Theme

4. The Vesta Lite WordPress Theme

Vesta lite is a minimal and clean, content-focused theme with an emphasis on simplicity and readability. I really like the layout of the front page, which is separated into sections, including a carousel with your latest blog posts, a personal intro section and a masonry blog area. The typography is also well thought through and it comes with some dedicated widgets too!

Good for: a personal blog or portfolio site or a simple magazine.

5. Diamond WordPress Theme

Diamond WordPress Theme

Diamond is a minimal magazine and blog theme arranged in a simple masonry layout. Single posts shift the layout to 3 columns with a sidebar either side of the main content. The theme is customizable and widgetized.

Good for: a personal blog or a simple magazine.

6. Riba Lite WordPress Theme

Riba Lite WordPress Theme

This is a beautifully designed minimal blog theme with an emphasis on strong visuals. It is fully responsive and works across browsers. It also supports translation.

Good for: a personal blog; a photography Blog; or a creative design company.

7. Atwood WordPress Theme

Atwood WordPress Theme

This is a clean and simple blog theme, built with solid coding on the Bootstrap framework. You can choose from hundreds of different fonts thanks to Google fonts support and you can also customize colors and widgets through the default WordPress customizer. This is a traditional blog theme that works right out of the box.

Good for: a personal blog or a simple company website.

8. The Journal Theme

Journal WordPress Theme

The Journal is a sophisticated free blog theme with all the bells and whistles of a premium theme. First of all, I just love the design aesthetic of this theme. It oozes class. It comes with separate homepage, blog and portfolio templates as well as dedicated “about” and “contact” pages. It also has built in shortcodes and offers a decent array of customization options from the main WordPress customizer. This is a fantastic theme!

Good for: a personal blog; a writer’s website.

9. Poris WordPress Theme

Poris WordPress Theme

Poris is a crisp and clean 2 column blog theme with a clear and simple layout. It comes with some nice add on features such as a dedicated contact page, shortcodes and several widgets. I love the simplicity of this theme and its use of grey and white colors. It was crafted by the guys over at ThemeWarriors.

Good for: a personal blog.

10. The Pencil WordPress Theme

Pencil WordPress Theme

Pencil is a clean and minimal blog theme that comes with 3 different homepage layouts, 4 post formats, 2 widget areas and supports a range of social media plugins making this an interesting prospect for a new blog.

Good for: a personal blog.

11. The AcmeBlog Theme

The AcmeBlog WordPress Theme

The AcmeBlog theme is a professional looking, SEO friendly theme with strong visuals and an overall “tech” feel. It is easy to customize and very lightweight.

Good for: a tech blog or simple magazine.

12. Sanremo WordPress Theme

The Sanremo WordPress Theme

Sanremo is a light and elegant theme with a user friendly backend system managed through WordPress Live Customizer. It comes with an awesome front page slider, and a bespoke social widget. It is built on top of the popular Bootstrap framework making it fully responsive.

Good for: a personal blog.

 13. The Lontano WordPress Theme

The Lontano WordPress Theme

Although this is the “lite” version of the theme, offering users fewer options than its premium cousin, I include Lontano because it still packs a good punch as a free theme. I particularly like the classic design and layout. It is very lightweight and fast loading and looks good on mobile devices too.

Good for: a personal blog.

14. The Scripted WordPress Theme

The Scripted WordPress Theme

This is a timely and elegant theme. I just love the simple use of white and gray and the excellent font work. The theme comes with a blog template and also supports the WooCommerce plugin making it easy to set up a simple online shop. Very cool looking theme.

Good for: a personal blog or portfolio site.

15. The Freedom WordPress Theme

The Freedom WordPress Theme

This is a minimal blog theme with an emphasis on visual images. The front page contains a nice slider an a two-column masonry layout. Single posts have a widgetized sidebar/ You can also customize the theme using the standard WordPress customiser.

Good for: a personal blog.

16. The Munchkin Maestro WordPress Theme

The Munchkin Maestro WordPress Theme

This is a clean and simple blog based on the popular Stargazer theme by Justin Tadlock. Munchkin is a traditional two-column blog with high contrasting tones that make it very easy to read. It comes with two top level navigation areas and some simple customization options.

Good for: a personal blog.

17. Kouki WordPress Theme

Kouki WordPress Theme

This is the first of three themes in this list by German web designer, Felix Dorner. Each of his themes are inspired by Japanese aesthetics and this particular theme is called “Kouki,” which means brilliance or brightness. It is the most minimally designed theme in the list, but I love how easy it is to navigate and use. It looks sleek and slender and works brilliantly on smartphones.

Good for: a personal blog or small art project.

18. The Kiyoshi WordPress Theme

The Kiyoshi WordPress Theme

Kiyoshi is the second theme by professional web designer, Felix Dorner. This theme is oriented towards designers and architects, offering a simple image and title based front page to showcase visual work. This is a very simple theme, but that doesn’t mean the design is simplistic. It is fully widgetized and the font work is brilliant. It also works well across all form factors.

Good for: a personal blog, a simple photography or architecture website.

19. The Yuuta WordPress Theme

The Yuuta WordPress Theme

Yuuta is a clean and free Word­Press theme de­signed to serve as a vi­sual di­ary. It is the third theme in this list by the German designer Felix Dorner. The theme supports all post for­mats making it ca­pa­ble of being a compelling mixed media blog. What I love the most about this theme is its airiness and beautiful font work. Amazing attention to detail.

Good for: a personal blog, a design agency website.

20. The Shamrock WordPress Theme

The Shamrock WordPress Theme

Last but by no means least is the great Shamrock WordPress theme by the awesome design team known as Meks. This is the theme I chose to use for this website. I am currently running a modified version of the theme. I chose it because it does several things very well. It is lightweight and has a solid code base that is easy to modify. It integrates all WordPress core functionality and works well with the Jetpack plugin. It is elegant and spacious and has very easy to read fonts. It comes with some bespoke widgets and it works well across all platforms and screen sizes. This, ladies and gentleman, was the right fit for me.

Good for: a personal blog.

Bonus. The Bundler WordPress Theme

The Bundler WordPress Theme

As a bonus entry in this list, I have added the Bundler theme. This is the “lite” version of a premium theme that was designed to run coupon style websites. While the free version still retains the ability to generate coupons, it has been paired down and repackaged as a blogging theme. The homepage supports the popular revolution slider plugin and content is laid out in grid form making this a light, bright and airy theme that works well for building collections of content.

Good for: a personal blog; a portfolio; a coupon site.

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Introducing some of the Best blogs and websites for WordPress news

Note: this is a “post in progress,” meaning that it is being frequently updated with new recommendations. If you would like to suggest a reputable and valuable WordPress news related blog or news source to be included in this post, please leave a link and brief description in the comment section below. Thank you.

I’ve¬†just¬†started using the popular Q&A website¬†Quora. So far the experience has far outlived my expectations.

The premise of Quora is simple: you ask a question connected to a specific topic and people¬†following that topic category (in this case “WordPress”) can answer it. People can also “follow” specific¬†questions, upvote good answers to that question and even comment on answers.

It’s Q&A for the social web. The best thing about it is that you often get instant responses. This is a real incentive to use the site.

One of my first questions to “Quorans” was: “What blogs or websites do you follow to get the latest news about WordPress?” The answers I got were brilliant and motivated me to write this post.

So if you’re looking for great sites to follow to keep up with all things WordPress, check these links out. Many thanks to¬†Joel Rivera,¬†Calvin Shoop, Frank Johnson, Dave Chu and Davis Brown¬†for their invaluable responses¬†to my original Quora question.

1. WordPress by WordPress

One of the first and most obvious places to get WordPress news is right from WordPress itself.

WordPress Blog: this is the official WordPress blog and the main focus is on the development of the WordPress application. It also includes community related news and event announcements.


WordCamp Central: a site listing all the WordPress conferences (WordCamps) taking place worldwide.


WordPress.tv: this is a video site housing many of the talks and presentations given at the various WordCamps around the world.


Matt Mullenweg: the personal blog of WordPress co-founder. Matt often writes about pressing issues related to WordPress.


Automattic News: Automattic is the development company behind WordPress.com as well as some of the most popular WordPress plugins (JetPack, BuddyPress and VaultPress for example.). Matt Mullenweg is the CEO. Their news page pulls in feeds from an array of key WordPress news sources.

2. WordPress by bloggers

This section highlights some of the most popular and reputable blogs about WordPress, many of which include contributions by leading developers, designers and WordPress community members.

WP Tavern: This is one of the most popular blogs on WordPress. The site has an interesting backstory in that its original founder and current contributing writer Jeff Chandler who writes alongside Marcus Couch and Sarah Gooding , founded the site in 2009, but sold it in 2011 to an owner whose identity was revealed 2 years later to be WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg. Topics covered  in this blog include WordPress plugins and themes news, how-to articles, WordPress resource lists and more.


Wpmudev blog: if you’re not down with the whole brevity thing, Wpmudev stands for WordPress Multisite Development. The title might not be catchy, but the content of this long-standing blog certainly is.¬†This is one of the most frequented¬†WordPress focused blogs you can find right now. Wpmudev specializes in theme and plugin development,¬†and their blog reflects that developer spirit with a wide range of how to style articles on making the most of WordPress.


Woothemes blog: Woothemes is one of the early premium theme companies that emerged during the 2008 “premium rush.” Over the past 8 years they have become one of the mainstays of the WordPress theme developer community and have contributed a great deal to the development of WordPress as a whole. Like Mpmudev, their blog takes a hands-on approach to using WordPress.


Post Status: this was recomended to me by WordPress developer Dave Chu who called Post Status “a site for WordPress cognoscenti.” Post Status offers free and premium content. The premium posts are reserved for paying members. Among the membership are some of the most well known people in the WordPress community. Topics covered in both the free and premium content includes WordPress theme, plugin and core development, but there’s also a strong emphasis on running businesses based on WordPress.


WP Engine Blog: this a popular blog by one of the more popular WordPress dedicated web hosting companies. You’ll find alot of tips about optimizing WordPress from a server-side perspective.


Torque: this is an online magazine run by WP Engine and devoted to WordPress. This magazine covers a much wider array of WordPress topics than the WP Engine Blog and it also offers content to WordPress beginners.


Elegant Themes Blog: this is the blog of another long-running premium theme company, Elegant Themes. This multi-authored blog offers practical tips on running WordPress sites.


WpBeginner: as its title indicates, this site is all about helping newcomers to WordPress. You can find a lot of 101 style guides on the site¬†including their much read “start your WordPress blog in minutes” guide.


Sitepoint WordPress Blog: SitePoint is a hub for web developers to share their passion for building incredible Internet things and their blog contains a lively and informative WordPress section, well worth a look.


WPLift: UK based blogger Oliver Dale created WPLift in 2010 and it continues to go from strength to strength. The main aim of the blog is to help people with WordPress through tutorials, theme roundups, plugin guides and WordPress news. Check it out!

3. WordPress by Podcast

Podcasts have seen a real revival over the past couple of years and this includes WordPress related broadcasts too. Here is a selection of some of the best podcasts to tune into.

WordPress Weekly: this is run by WP Tavern and airs every Wednesday evening at 9:30 pm EST. The show covers WordPress news and highlights community members through interviews.


WP Watercooler: this weekly WordPress talk show airs every Monday at 11:00am PT via Google Hangouts. Topics covered include themes, plugins, software and services.


Your Website Engineer: this practical podcast created¬†by Dustin Hartzler has been running since 2010 and airs every Wednesday. Each podcast covers a specific topic related to WordPress, often based on audience submitted questions. It’s a great way to learn new tricks with WordPress.


The WordPress Chick’s Podcast: Kim Doyal, a freelance WordPress specialist, is now 90 episodes in to her popular podcast. While Kim does put an emphasis on WordPress related topics in the show, there is also a good deal of content on running a business and being a freelance professional in the tech space.


The DradCast: a long-running show by Brad WIlliams and Dre Armeda on all things WordPress.

4. WordPress by Newsletter

Another great way to keep up with all things WordPress is to subscribe to some of the many newsletters out there. Here are a few noteworthy email lists.

wpMail.me: This is a brilliant weekly newsletter  curated by Cristian Antohe and Bianca Petroiuwith a round-up of the best WordPress news and posts in a no-nonsense email.


WP Mastery: Run by Jan Koch, this newsletter is “a free weekly training session for non-techy WordPress users.”

This is my list so far. As I mentioned in the beginning, I intend to update this list as and when I find new resources, but also as people post new suggestions on Quora or indeed here in the comment section. I’ve missed out many amazing sites, so let me know how you like to get your WordPress news.

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70 Free Seamless Wood Backgrounds for 2017

It’s the start of a new year and I’ve been going through some of my old hard drive files, tidying things up. I came across a series of seamless wood backgrounds that I collected over the past year or so and rather than delete them, I thought I would share them here.

A few years back I posted a similar collection of seamless wood backgrounds and they proved to be very popular. This new collection is made up of images that I have downloaded from different sources over time. To the best of my knowledge they are all creative commons licensed files that are ok for commercial use but not for resale. However, if you come across a file that shouldn’t be in this collection, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll remove it.

As with the previous series, I’ve arranged the images into 2 simple packs: one with dark wood backgrounds and the other light wood backgrounds. They are archived in a zip file and you can download them for free from my mediafire account without hassle.

Please let me know what you think about these tiles and if you decide to use one on your blog or website, post a quick link in the comment section. I love to see what people get up to with my resources!

Pack 1: Light Wood

This pack contains an assortment of 35 high quality light seamless wood backgrounds tiles, free to use and modify on personal or commercial websites, but not for resale.

Pack 2: Dark Wood

This pack contains contains 35 high quality dark seamless wood backgrounds, free to use and modify on personal or commercial websites, but not for resale.

Add a little love to your download!

The files are free to download. If you found this resource useful and would like to return the gesture, please consider sharing the backgrounds on Twitter or Facebook using the buttons below.

Download the images (.zip)

Alternatively, if you feel like making a small donation, click the link below. Anything to keep the coffee flowing and the free resources coming! Thanks for your support!

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