We're excited to announce a new version of Largo, the open source WordPress framework we build and maintain for our member organizations.
Version 0.4 is a huge update that's been in the works for a while. In this release, we've more or less rebuilt the Largo theme from the ground up to make it more stable and easier to use. Here's a list of some of the things included in this update:
Probably the most visible change is the addition of a number of new homepage layouts, which are much more visual and "magazine-like" to really highlight the feature reporting that many of our members are doing. We've also retained and polished up the previous homepage layouts (with the exception of the "carousel" layout, which is deprecated in version 0.4) and have added a new homepage framework to make it much easier to create your own custom homepage layouts from a child theme. Many of the new layouts also allow a user to switch between viewing "top stories" and "all recent stories" in a traditional "river" view, remembering their preference on subsequent visits.
We've also completely redesigned the article template to allow for more easy creation of immersive stories. The new default article template in Largo removes the sidebar to reduce distraction and adds a new featured media area at the top of the story with support for a large "hero" image, video or other embedded content (maps, audio, etc.). If you prefer the traditional two-column layout on story pages, we've kept that, too. You can simply select the template you'd like to use in the theme options and will have the option to override it on select stories. These improvements also include streamlining the publishing interface to make it easy to add and manage featured media by reducing the number of boxes you have to search through to find what you're looking for.
The bottom of the article page template is now a WordPress widget area to make it easier to rearrange the elements that appear there. This includes the addition of a number of new widgets for related content, author bios, and an optional disclaimer that you can easily add to the bottom of all your stories, or selectively override on a per-story basis.
Site navigation is also cleaner, easier to manage and more mobile friendly, including an option to use a "sticky" header that remains visible when a user scrolls. Article pages now also have a sticky footer with social sharing links, the ability to easily follow authors and topics, and more.
And we've replaced the clunky older/newer posts navigation used on many pages of the site with a simpler "load more posts" infinite scroll.
Category pages have been redesigned to give more prominence to featured stories and it is now possible to create and use custom sidebars on category and tag pages. In addition, we've added a new optional "content type" taxonomy to allow you to group stories by type. For example, if you'd like to have a page for just your data projects without having to use categories or tags, now you can!
User profiles are also now easier to manage with the option to upload avatar photos directly in WordPress instead of relying on Gravatar and with better validation for social media accounts to make sure your accounts get linked up correctly. We've also added a new widget to display a list of the writers and editors on your site with their avatar photos, titles, bios, etc.
On the admin side, we've tried to simplify wherever possible and have moved less-frequently used settings to an optional tab of the theme options to keep them easily available but out of the way. This includes things like optional taxonomies and a number of new integrations with services such as Google Custom Search that you can use to enhance the functionality of your site. One additional option allows you to easily change the color scheme of your site using a LESS/CSS customizer directly from the admin without having to edit your theme files directly.
For developers, we've reorganized the theme files in a way that we hope will make it a lot easier to develop child themes based on Largo. You'll also notice that we've begun to add unit tests for the theme, helper functions for debugging, and more hooks, filters and constants to make it easier to add, remove or modify various pieces of Largo functionality. We also have an updated sample child theme that includes ample documentation and recommended best practices for working with Largo. We welcome your feedback if there's anything else we can do to make your lives easier.
And last but not least, we've completely revamped the Largo documentation, added a knowledge base with answers to our most frequently asked questions and implemented a new help desk system to better keep tabs on your questions for us.
Oh right, and the ubiquitous "assorted bug fixes."
Updating to the new version is as simple as downloading the new theme (zip) and replacing your existing copy of the Largo parent theme. Then, when you login to your site for the first time, you'll be prompted to apply a database update to make sure all of your settings are preserved. As this is a major update, we strongly recommend creating a backup of your site before making the update and, ideally, testing the new version on a staging site to make sure you have a handle on the changes before applying it to your live site. Just a reminder that if you require more assistance making this update, we offer paid services and we'd be happy to help. Details on that program can be found here.
For INN members who host their sites with us, this update is available today but we'd like to spend some time working with you to walk through the new features. Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to be among the first sites to make the update, otherwise we'll be reaching out to you in the coming weeks to schedule these consultations.
Thanks to every member of the INN Nerds team who worked on this release, particularly Ryan Nagle, who took lead on this one, but also to Meredith Melragon who did a lot of the work improving our documentation, Kaeti Hinck who jumped in late in the cycle to help us polish the visual design, and our software apprentices Ben Keith and Will Haynes who both contributed a lot of code to this release. Thanks also to a couple of open source contributors, particularly Ben Byrne and Daniel Bachhuber.
The next release! 0.5 will be focused on improving performance, developer documentation and evaluating third-party libraries, as well as some continued improvements to the design of the default theme. It is scheduled for release at the end of March. We're now keeping the Largo roadmap public on GitHub, so you can see more of what's planned for future releases.