1. The Visual Editor
The Headway Visual Editor is what sets Headway apart from a vast majority of premium themes that are available for WordPress on the market today. What the heck is the Visual Editor you say? Its the way Dream Weaver should be. But lets just say that it allows you to design and develop your site in a visual manner. With the Inspector you can simply hover over any element of your site that you want to style and then Headway will intuitively select that element for you in the element selector. Or you can simply select the element that you want from the drop down menu and then click “call this element out” and Headway will temporarily highlight that area of the site for you to let you know that that is what is going to be affected when you make any styling changes. For instance, lets say you want to change the color of your H1 tags throughout your entire site. If you are knowledgeable about HTML and CSS this may seem fairly easy. You create a CSS class, add it to your H1 tags and then write the CSS corresponding rule and publish it to your custom CSS file. If you have no idea what I just said, don’t worry, Headway takes care of writing all of this code for you. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a coder. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what the Visual Editor, or VE as Headway users call it, is capable of so much more. For a demonstration watch the video below.
2. Drag and Drop Capabilities
The drag and drop capabilities of Headway are again, something that separates it from other themes. In fact, until Pagelines came out, to my knowledge, Headway was the only WordPress drag and drop theme on the marketplace. That being said, nothing against Pagelines but I prefer Headway as its lighter on my pocket book and I’ve become very knowledgeable on how to use it. Again while using other themes, at times I have wanted to bang my head against the wall or pull my hair out from trying to get the layout or design that I am after. At it seems that what is so simple to do with Headway can be quite difficult in other themes. Getting the layout you want is no problem with Headway. I simply go into the visual editor and click one button which says resize leafs (just to note headway leafs are what are used to build your website, however when Headway 3.0 is released they will be changing the name to “blocks” which makes a lot more sense to me) That being said, you can then resize your leafs to which ever size you want. This is especially cool because with Headway I can make my layouts longer, shorter or wider depending on what my design needs are. If you’ve ever messed with html and div tags you’ll know just how hard this is to do. Trust me, that class in college wasn’t one of my favorites. Which leads me to my next point.
3. I Can Put a Widget Area Where Ever I Want
This is actually something that is quite amazing and I have used in various different website designs. You may be wondering what I’m talking about so allow me to explain. Say you want to have a widget sidebar on your home page but you also want to use an image slider widget on the home page as well. With other themes, the only options you have are sidebar widgets or whatever widget areas the theme author has built into the theme. But not with Headway. With Headway I can simply add a new widget to the page, by default it then puts it in the sidebar but all I have to do is resize its width to the dimensions that I want and I then drag the length to whichever dimension I want. Sometimes the widget area will end up at the bottom below the content but all I have to do is click a button on the Visual Editor and drag the new widget area to where I want it to be. I can even give the new widget area a specific name so that I don’t become confused wondering which widget area is what. Furthermore I can also create horizontal widgets with the click of a button, and then the widgets will publish horizontally across the screen rather than vertically. You can see a demonstration of what this would look like in a finished design in several of my websites such as www.edmontoncleaningpros.com and www.edmontondentalcare.ca Furthermore I can even create a widgetized footer with headway by making the widget area horizontal and using a little custom code compliments of Paul Coughlin of www.headwaytips.com to my custom functions php file. More on that later.
4. One Click Page Styling
Ok, so I’m getting the feeling that as some of you read that last point you’re wondering what I am talking about. Let me explain a little about the web design process to you. For those that know where I’m going please bear with me. All websites are pretty much compiled of two pages. I know, I know, you think I’ve lost my rocker. Well two overall design pages, however there may be more. But next time you’re surfing the web, take a careful look and you’ll see that there are basically home pages and content pages. The structure and layout of Home pages is usually unique and should be a Graphical User Interface design. That is lots of pictures and buttons to click to get you where you want to go (or if it is a good designer to get you where they wanted you to go, its called intelligent design) That being said, then have a look at the secondary pages, they are what is referred to as content pages. These pages are pretty much designed in the exact same way save for the content. At least they should be if the Web designer knows anything about Web usability standards (and you thought your next door neighbours 14 year old son Billy Bob could simply whip a website together for you for free, have fun) So you’re content pages should have a sidebar with contents in it and content published on the page, and the only thing that should change from page to page should be the content. Forgive me if I’m beating a dead horse but I’m getting to my point. With other themes that I have worked with, and I’ve worked with a lot, you have to style each and every page individually which takes a pain staking amount of time. But not with Headway, as it comes to save the day. Cheesy I know, my apologies. What you can accomplish with Headway is you can style your home page and then style and design ONE content page. Then when creating your new pages within the Visual Editor, you can select from a menu item that says Link Pages and you can Link the design and layout of that page to another page. Frankly I find it easier to design that one page in the VE and then when I am creating new pages in the WordPress admin to select from a drop down menu that says link this page to…whichever page I want. I usually remember the page to link the styling to as I write it down so I don’t forget. Basically this saves me a TON of time and is an awesome feature.
5. Leafs (soon to be blocks)
I know that I’ve mentioned leafs before but what I have not mentioned is that there are different kinds of leafs. For instance, Headway comes with the standard leafs such as the content leaf (you couldn’t publish content without this but you can do some pretty neat stuff with the content leaf that I’ll touch on later) There’s a widget ready leaf, which I know I’ve touched on, an “about me” leaf, this is really cool. I know you probably think I’m a geek for saying that but allow me to explain. With this leaf, you can insert it between your content and your comments. Its much easier to type that last sentence than to actually do, especially if you’re not using headway, but as I said, the content leaf has some cool options to it as well, one of which is you can create two content leafs on one page. For instance, you can create a Content leaf for your content and then turn the comments off in the leaf options. Then you can add an author leaf right below that in which you can add a picture of yourself with a blurb about yourself with a call to action, which should be to subscribe to your blog or sign up for your list, or if you’re doing a site for local small business you could insert a picture of the owner with a call to action to call for an appointment or a free consultation. You can then publish another content leaf underneath that one and hide the content but show the comments and you’ll then have a “normal” looking page. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about this is exactly what I have done on this blog.
That being said there are other leafs such as an image rotator leaf, a featured posts leaf, an html/php leaf for including custom html or executable php (which without the use of a plugin, WordPress won’t allow you to do in a page, trust me), a twitter leaf (which is also available as a widget) and a text leaf with a built in WYSIWYG editor. These are just the leafs that come with the theme, as there are more free leafs in the members area as well as premium leafs which other Headway users and programmers have developed. One of which is the photo gallery leaf and the new Tabs leaf which was recently released. That’s probably enough about leafs and I think you get my point.
6. Built in Design Wizard
This feature probably could have been mentioned earlier but I’ll be frank with you, I don’t use it that much as I design my sites from mockups that designers have either pre-made or that have been custom made for me. Not to discount it though as for those who aren’t savvy in web design it is a real treat. Basically once you install the Headway theme for the first time it will guide you through a wizard to get your site up and running as fast as possible. You’ll be presented with a series of steps in which you choose which layout you want, which will be applied to all the pages, and then upload your logo and the design wizard will give you a set of color scheme to choose for your blog and the styling will automatically be applied. It really is quite brilliant. Again, however I don’t use it all that much as I design from mockups but it is a feature worth mentioning and one that I’m sure you’ll explore if you become a headway user.
7. Easily Being Able to Implement Custom Post Types
This is absolutely awesome and something that I have not seen in other themes. If I have the need for a custom post type,basically what I can do is install a plugin such as Custom Press from www.WPMUdev.org or a free plugin such as Custom Post UI . For instance, I have developed a site for a local community league at www.millhurst.org and there was a need for a Latest News Post type for announcements and you guessed it, latest news. Now I could simply use the native blog post type of WordPress and use a category for the latest news but then it would be a bit confusing and I want the Latest news to be separate from the blog. With headway it is very easy to do. You simply select from the options of your content leaf for that page and select custom query, upon which a filters menu will come up, you then can select from which category or post type you want that content leaf to draw content from and voila your done. Well its not that easy but I’ve created a tutorial on how to add custom post types to headway. I made a video on how to do it which you can watch below.
8. Being able to force Regular or Small Post Excerpts
Now this again is an amazing feature that quite frankly I haven’t seen in any other theme (If I’m mistaken let me know). One of the main reasons for doing this is to sculpt your blog for search engine optimization. For instance, you do not want to have full excerpts of your blog posts on your home page, as that is where they will be indexed, but you rather want them to be published under your categories (if that is how you are structuring your site) and with Headway this is easily achievable. You simply open the content leaf options and choose whether or not you want to have a featured post, which I don’t recommend, and if you want to force regular or small excerpts. Regular excerpts will display snippet introductions of your WordPress posts which you can see on the home page of my current site, while small excerpts will display smaller excerpts of your posts in a block format which can be used for a magazine style look of a website.
9. Child Themes
Headway is more than just a theme. Frankly it should be marketed as a Theme Frame work because you can use it to build child themes. I’ll be the first to admit that the folks at Headway have fallen behind other premium WordPress themes in regards to child themes but with the much anticipated release of Headway 3.0 Grant Griffiths, the Co-Founder of Headway Themes has informed me that their new API for Headway will make it even easier for developers to develop child themes so I think we’ll see some catch up pretty quick. I myself am waiting for Headway 3.0 to be released so that I can get started building my own child themes (as I find myself doing some of the same work over and over again and it would be much easier if I had a child theme) That being said, I’m eagerly waiting.
10. Easy Custom PHP Hooks
So not only does the Headway visual editor make it easy for you to design the look of your site but should you need any additional functionality the Headway theme has built in Easy Hooks for you to further customize your site. What are hooks you say? Well the easiest way to describe it is a hook is a placeholder. It gives developers or anyone working with Headway the ability to insert code without modifying the core Headway theme files. Using a Headway hook was the way that I was able to achieve using a third party image slider on www.edmontoncleaningpros.com The reason I did this was I needed it to be flush with the content area of the site and had I simply inserted a widget area it would have added additional padding and margins which I did not want. So you can use easy hooks for almost any thing that you need to customize that the Headway theme doesn’t already do.
11. A Custom Functions PHP File
Every WordPress theme has a functions.php file which basically acts like a plugin and is the brain of your theme, so to speak. However, if you ever need to add some custom code to your themes functions.php file you could end up breaking your theme and your site. Also, when the theme is updated you will lose your custom code as it will be over written by the update. However, again Clay Griffiths and the folks at Headway have thought ahead and created a customfunctions.php file in which you can add custom code and not have to worry about breaking your theme (well not entirely you could still screw something up but at least all have you to do is go in and delete the code from the custom functions.php file) and the customfunctions.php file will be migrated over with every update. One of the practical advantages of doing this has been demonstrated by some of Paul Coughlin’s tutorials at www.headwaytips.com in which he teaches how to use the WordPress menu system for your footer links and create a widgetized footer using custom code and the customfunctions.php file. I highly recommend you subscribe to Paul’s Blog.
12. The Live CSS Editor
Yet another cool feature of Headway. Lets say you want to add some custom CSS to your website but you don’t know how its going to look. With other themes you have to add the CSS rule to the theme style sheet, save it and then open up an new browser window to see what the changes will look like. But not with Headway, enter the Live CSS editor. While in the VE mode, you can simply add the code and the changes will show up live but for your eyes only so you don’t have to worry about shutting your site down and putting up a “website in maintenance mode” page nor worry about your visitors seeing the wonky changes. Still headway also has a custom CSS style sheet in which you can apply the changes the old fashioned way I described earlier and because it is a custom CSS file it will not be overwritten with theme updates and will retain all of your custom code.
13. The Ability to Easily Add Scripts to the Header.php and Footer.php files
I hope you can see by now that the folks at Headway have put a lot of thought into the theme and here is one more. They have enabled users to easily be able to add scripts and code to the header or footer of the theme. So what this means is you don’t have to mess around with the core code of the theme and say you want to add a Google analytics script to the footer of your website. All you do is copy and paste your code over the footer field of the Headway administration, click save and you’re done. No need to install a third party plugin which can enable you to have a faster website.
14. Favicon Support
You may or may not have heard of a favicon but it is the graphic at the top of the web browser that is displayed and while it is not essential it does give you the ability to add a bit of personalization to your website. This isn’t a make or break feature for some but the fact that the folks at Headway have thought to put it in shows the level of thought that they put into the theme’s features. I don’t use a favicon on all of my sites but I like the fact that it is there.
So what about you? Are you a fellow Headway user? If so, what do you love about Headway? If not, are you considering converting? Or do you have your own WordPress theme that you absolutely love? Please leave a comment below and share.