There are a number of Genesis Themes to choose from when you sign up to Rainmaker or you can build your own custom Genesis theme.
Read on to learn about my experience building a custom Rainmaker theme for Working With Dog.
Chance Meeting @ WordCamp London
I met Tracey from Woven Websites over at WordCamp London last year. I told her that I use the Genesis Framework to build custom WordPress websites and we exchanged business cards.
A few months later Tracey’s client, Nichole Smith, was looking for a new solution for her WordPress membership site. They had looked at Rainmaker which provided what they needed – a robust, secure, well supported, content driven platform for membership. But there was one problem; they wanted a custom design and so needed someone who could build Genesis themes. Tracey remembered me from WordCamp London and got in touch.
Although I have built and customised many Genesis Themes over the years, I hadn’t built one for Rainmaker so I needed to do some research.
I spoke to folks in the Genesis community on Slack who had experience with Rainmaker and I read through Rainmaker’s list of best practices to understand how to build a theme that would be approved. Every custom theme is fully tested by Rainmaker before they make it available for you to use.
I found out that to build a theme that would be approved I had to avoid the following:
- Custom post types
- Hard coded images
- Imported files
- Hard coded text or content
- Additional theme settings that are not in the customiser
Although it’s rare for me to hard code images or content, I do use plugins and custom post types on most of my projects. As this was not an option I had to build the theme using text widget areas containing HTML. In some ways it is a little like going back to the days of building static websites with HTML.
Nichole provided me with a design mockup and from this I worked out what widget areas and WordPress queries I needed to create for the homepage.
As the Genesis theme Showcase Pro was close to the design I started with this and customised it.
The Home Page Layout
1. Introduction – Text Widget with HMTL.
Featured in logo section
2. Featured in – Text Widget with HMTL containing logo images.
Become a member section
3. Membership Video – Text widget containing Vimeo iframe.
4. Membership Copy – Text widget with HTML.
5. Social Proof – Text widget with HMTL including elements that are used in JQuery bxslider*.
6. Podcast Copy – Text Widget with HMTL.
7. Latest podcasts – custom query included in the front page template to display the latest podcast posts. Podcasts are a custom post type that exists in Rainmaker. I contacted Rainmaker to find out what exact name the this was registered as.
8. Podcast Subscribe buttons – Text Widget with HMTL.
Featured area section
9. Featured Area – Text Widget with HMTL.
Get the book section
10. Book Copy – Text Widget with HMTL.
11. Book Image – Text Widget with HMTL containing book image.
Sign up form section
12. Opt in – Widget area containing Rainmakers opt in form.
Free Resource section
13. Custom query to display latest 6 blog posts from the category called “free” wrapped in html elements that are used in JQuery bxslider*.
Meet our experts section
14. Team grid – Text widget with HMTL including overlay which is displayed on hover using css.
* bxslider was already included in the Showcase Pro theme so I included some custom JQuery to create the sliders for the testimonial and free resource sections.
The background images in each section are included in the stylesheet. I also added the section titles, e.g. become a member as background images.
I created the theme and added all the HTML text widgets on my local server to fully test everything before submitting to Rainmaker.
Because the Rainmaker Platform is a closed environment, you don’t have a regular access to FTP. You have to submit your theme via Rainmaker support.
I zipped up my theme and submitted it to Rainmaker support for review. They check if there is any suspicious code in your theme and if you have stuck to the custom theme guidelines.
I only had to wait 1 day before I received an email saying my theme had been approved and was now available to use on my client’s Rainmaker account.
Because most of the homepage content is in text widgets, I had to add these once the theme was activated.
Check out the live Working With Dog website.
Should you use Rainmaker?
Carrie Dils wrote an article on How to know if the Rainmaker Platform is for you but I will summarise my own experience of Rainmaker here.
The main advantages for clients are that it is an all in one platform that offers built in membership, marketing and e-commerce – perfect for selling online content and courses. It is also perfect for delivering podcasts. Clients don’t have to be technical as the Rainmaker user interface is very easy to use and they don’t have to worry about WordPress updates or hosting.
The main disadvantages for clients are that some content can be hard to edit if it is in text widgets. Some of the text widgets in this theme contained several lines of HTML and the layout can be broken if you accidentally delete a closing div.
From a developers point of view, creating a theme for Rainmaker feels a little like going back to creating a static HTML website, which I actually really enjoyed. It took a bit of research to learn how to Rainmaker Platform works and what you need to do to build a suitable theme but if you are familiar with Genesis Themes then it isn’t too difficult.
It is slightly frustrating not having full access to the codebase and not having FTP access. Every time you need to update the theme (during development for example) you have to re-submit it to Rainmaker and wait for their approval.
However, there is something reassuring about getting approval from Rainmaker, as if your code has passed a quality control check and you know it’s good!