WordPress X Theme Review: Is It Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?
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You’ve probably seen them all over the place — banners and statements saying things like:
“X — The Last WordPress Theme You’ll Ever Need” and “X — The Fastest Selling Theme on ThemeForest!“
Those are bold statements to lay claim to, and like many other people, this kind of hype around products both piques my interest and, at the same time, somehow turns me off a little.
What is the X Theme all about? Why do so many people seem to love it? It can’t actually be as great as everyone says it is… Can it?
It’s hard to believe the kind of hype you hear surrounding any number of products these days — because we’ve all been burned by it to some degree or other in the past. Therefore, before I dive into this post let me just assure you of something:
This review is completely unbiased.
This is not a paid review from Theme.co. It’s not going to be just another shining review written simply with the hopes of selling it to you — nope.
This review is coming from the perspective of both a genuine WordPress user/web-designer who’s probably even more skeptical than you.
Want to know if the X Theme is all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take a look…
X Theme Review: Looking Beyond the Hype
So here’s what I did: I bought the X theme with my own hard-earned money — because I’ve been genuinely interested in using it on some of my own projects for quite a while.
The one thing I can say, without giving too much away, is that X has a ton of features. Here’s a few of the main ones (check out the official X Theme website for more):
- Four ‘Theme Stacks’ (more on these below)
- Multiple free extensions to help take your theme, design, and site further to create something unique
- Front-end customizations on all major elements of the theme using the WordPress Customizer
- WooCommerce-ready with 4 store layouts that you can use in your designs
Before getting into how the theme handles out-of-the-box, there’s a few items in the above list that need a little elaboration to fully understand, such as ‘Theme Stacks’:
What Are X Theme Stacks?
The term ‘Stacks’ isn’t something that you hear very often (or ever) in the WordPress community. Since the term is something new, it is easy to scrunch your nose at it and think, “What the heck is that supposed to be?”.
The idea behind Stacks is rather simple: essentially, Stacks are templates built into the theme that people can choose to use as starting points from which to create their own designs (instead of having to start from scratch). To break that idea down even further, you could say that each of these Stacks are individual themes in their own right.
X currently has 4 Stacks that each have a unique layout and design premise to base your website on:
- Integrity | This Theme Stack is designed as a multi-purpose theme. It has clean but bold homepage layouts and an overall elegant design to help your site stand out in the right way. It also offers light and dark versions to help create your own unique style (view live demo).
- Renew | The Renew Stack is a template based on the ever-popular principles of flat design that many have come to love. The Stack mixes flat design with clean and uncluttered lines and layouts to make your content stand out — whilst still giving you something genuinely unique and appealing to look at (view live demo).
- Icon | This Stack is probably the most interesting and unique feature that X has to offer. The designs in it are edgier and more modern than the average blog template layout (view live demo).
- Ethos | The Ethos Stack was created to be the online magazine Stack of the group. Whether you’re looking for a new layout or a unique online magazine layout, Ethos is the Stack that you would likely want to use (view live demo).
Each Stack offers both a range of different features and styles from which to work from.
X Theme Extensions
X Theme ‘extensions’ are kind of like WordPress plugins.
Although the theme includes few extensions that are essentially third-party plugins, most of these are made by Theme.co themselves — specifically to assist users in building sites with X Theme.
Here’s a list of extensions/plugins that come with the theme:
- Slider Revolution
- Visual Composer
- Soliloquy (reviewed)
- Video Lock
- Content Dock
- Disqus Comments (as used on this site)
- Custom 404
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Comments
- Smooth Scroll
- Under Construction
- White Label
- X — Shortcodes (40+ shortcodes to choose from)
There are bound to be a few listed in there that you’ve never heard of before; however, to elaborate on each would require more reading than you’d probably care for right now…
My suggestion? Just check out the demos of each of these plugins to give you an idea of what they are and what they do.
One of the great things about these extensions/plugins (as well as the Theme Stacks) is they are included for use with the theme and will each continue to receive free updates for the life of your license.
Are these plugins worth using on a site? Well, that depends on what you’re intending to build, but the fact that they are included as an option is excellent!
More X Theme Features
Honestly, X has some really impressive features that go well beyond it being simply bring responsive and looking the part. Here are a few more features the theme has to offer:
- WooCommerce, bbPress, and BuddyPress ready
- Retina ready
- Multiple content and navigation options
- Over 600 Google fonts to choose from and use
- Developer friendly (i.e. comes with Photoshop PSD files)
- Clean code and built on the HTML5 markup so that it’s SEO optimized
What’s more, as you dig a little deeper, you start to find some real gems, for example: X includes a plugin (listed above) to use their predefined Shortcodes in the theme. Having the Shortcode option as a plugin instead of being built into the theme is a HUGE plus. Why? Because it makes it easier to switch themes down the road without the hassle and mess of cleaning up pages and pages of messy shortcode debris that would have been leftover.
Another great feature is the Dashboard area that users gain access to when they purchase an X Theme License.
I mentioned before that I decided to buy the X Theme in order to really get my hands on it, but it wasn’t until after I bought it that I realized that this Membership Dashboard was part of the package — and it really is a boon.
Upon purchasing the theme, you’ll be given access to the member area on their site which is full of all sorts of goodies, including:
- 4 child themes (?)
- A huge knowledge base that’s full of articles and videos to teach you how to learn the theme
- A forum where you can get support and talk with other X Theme users
- Hours of video content from experts who offer tips and training on marketing
- Demo content
My favorite feature for X is the Demo Content. Why is that?
Well, from my count, X offers over 35 demos between the 4 Stacks. Odds are that someone will see a demo that they absolutely love and buy the theme based on that.
The Demo Content feature that’s now built into the theme after the 3.0 X Theme Update means that you can find the exact demo you want and then download all the pages and layouts to your website so that you don’t have to go through the hassle of trying to build it all on your own. After that, you can go in and edit things to look how you want.
Although this be a huge time-saver, it’s sadly a feature that many theme authors tend to ignore. Most WordPress theme buyers will buy a theme based on the demo they view, so giving the option to download and use those demos is really top-notch as far as customer service goes!
The other question that many buyers will have about X is whether or not it’s easy to use.
How Does The X Theme Handle in the Hands Of A User?
Okay — now for the nitty-gritty part of things: the “unboxing” of the X Theme.
Like most themes, after you download the .zip file you will need to unpack (open) it in order to get to the Theme Files. After that, you simply upload and activate it to your site — easy stuff.
But how easy is it to build and customize a site with the X Theme?
Well, the customizing part of your design is going to be easier than most, thanks to all the options built into the front-end Customizer in WordPress (see example below).
After installing and activating the theme, you’ll then likely want to choose which Theme Stack you want to start with and then you go from there. Once you’ve picked your Stack, the predefined style options will display in the Customizer menu and you can start to change the look of the elements.
You can edit colors, layouts, typography, insert your logo, change your navigation placement (which is different in every Stack) and more — depending on which Stack you choose to build your site on.
All of these changes are made with a few clicks of the mouse and can be easily tweaked without ever leaving the Customizer.
The demos for X that are available for viewing use many of the plugins/extensions that were mentioned above.
Slider Revolution, Visual Composer, Soliloquy, and X — Shortcodes are the extensions/plugins that the designers of the theme demos used to create those impressive and dynamic layouts in the live previews, however, every single one of those plugins takes a while to learn how to use.
If you’ve never used these plugins and you plan to build a dynamic site with them on your own, then you can expect to spend a good few hours learning how to use each of them before building your site.
Using the Demo Content can help with the page layouts, but the actual designing aspect will still be relatively time-consuming.
This isn’t a bad thing however, it’s simply a by-product of having so much functionality included in the theme — and in fact, using these plugins for designing is infinitely easier and faster than coding from scratch of course! My reason for bringing this up is simply so that you don’t go into things with unrealistic expectations.
The theme is actually easier to use than most — but it’s not a blink-and-it-will-appear type of theme, which incidentally, don’t exist anyway!
Final Thoughts On The X Theme
I’ve tried out a number of different themes from ThemeForest and this one delivers where others often fail (i.e. great support, documentation, and training) — the amount of documentation and training alone that comes with the theme is both seriously impressive and considerably more than is offered by many other themes with considerably higher price tags!
Overall, the theme both looks great and comes with an absolute heap of different functionality. What’s more, it’s also both relatively user-friendly and gives you an excellent level of control over how things look.
For the average user with very little designing and WordPress experience, this theme will likely present a few challenges — but then so will most other themes. It takes time to learn how to use it all, but at least you’re not left hanging with the wealth of documentation available to learn from.
From the perspective of a designer, X Theme offers a great starting point for creating design for clients — and gives you a heap of different functionality to work with. In a way, you could even consider the theme as a kind of framework with which to build and expand on.
As far as price goes, $63 (or $65 if you pay via PayPal) for the theme seems like a pretty good deal considering everything you get in the package.
To sum everything up, I’d say The X Theme is a great theme that delivers more than you’d expect — it delivered more than I expected anyhow! I liked the way the theme looks and feels and am now considering whether or not to use it on my own business site. Further more, I can also see myself potentially using it on some client’s sites too.
Update (29th January 2015): if you’re looking for a little ‘X Theme’ inspiration (and as an added bonus) check out our list of ‘25+ Stunning Examples of Themeco’s Top-Selling X Theme in Action‘.