One of the best things about open source software is that you can change it to your heart’s content. That’s why WordPress is a great blogging platform – you can choose from hundreds of themes and also extend it with plugins and improve performance with helpful tricks.
If you’ve always wanted to create your own WordPress theme but didn’t have the coding skills or time to invest in learning it, Layers is definitely for you. It’s a theme framework tightly integrated with the standard WordPress options, allowing for a seamless customization experience. You can use it to design WordPress themes without any coding knowledge via a drag-and-drop interface and user-friendly dialogs.
Installation & integration with WordPress
Layers is free and open source, so you can simply download the zip file and install it into your existing WordPress setup via the theme installer dialog. To use layers, you must select them as the active WordPress theme.
Once enabled, layers can be accessed through different parts of the WordPress interface. A new menu called “Layers” will appear in the main WordPress sidebar. Here you can control all aspects of layers from a dedicated dashboard.
Layers are also integrated into the Appearance menu, which you can access by clicking Customize, and the Pages menu, where you can add a new page as a “layer template”. When you preview your WordPress site, you will see a new option in the toolbar: “Edit Layout”.
If you just want to try layers without installing them, there’s a demo version that runs in the browser but requires (free) registration.
Editing WordPress Layered Pages
Layers essentially function as a fully customizable WordPress theme. Unlike other themes with predefined features, you can customize every element of your website by adding, removing and editing widgets. If you don’t feel like creating pages from scratch, you can choose one of the preset layouts. Some templates are created for specific purposes, e.g. a portfolio page, landing pages, or a video page. To work with layouts, either click Edit Layout on the main toolbar or click Edit Page on the Pages menu in the WordPress sidebar.
In the layers editor, on the left is the main sidebar where you can choose what you want to edit (page body, mobile sidebar, footer). Each section is a drop-down menu where you can add and rearrange widgets. Clicking on a widget will open the options dialog on the right for further customization.
The vertical toolbar of icons is called the design bar and changes depending on the widget you select. Each widget has its own functions. Layer widgets are marked with a blue icon to distinguish them from standard WordPress widgets. You can edit CSS for this widget by clicking the Advanced button on the design bar. In this way, Layers offers advanced, CSS-savvy users a higher level of control over content.
Of course, you never have to touch the code if you don’t want to, even when it comes to responsive design. Layers adds mobile device support by allowing you to create a special mobile-only menu by selecting and reorganizing widgets.
Editing a layout only affects the selected WordPress site. However, layers can also change site-wide settings. To access it, navigate away from Edit Layout by clicking the back arrow in the Layer Editor sidebar.
Adjust site settings
The Site Settings menu lets you control elements like logo and site titles, navigation and sidebars, and thanks to Layers’ integration with the service, use Google Fonts.
If you plan to create a layered theme, we recommend starting with these common elements (site-wide settings), and then customizing individual pages and creating templates that you can apply to a set of pages.
Export & Advanced Features
Once you are happy with the layout you have created, you can export it to various formats. On the WordPress dashboard, go to the Layers menu and select Backup to see all options. You can export only the layouts or take a full backup of your content along with the modified widgets settings.
Sub-themes and style kits can also be created with layers. These are larger exports that include all website interface elements. However, they can only be applied to a layered WordPress installation. The official documentation explains how to create and import style kits.
Another useful feature of layers is WooCommerce support, which makes building ecommerce websites much easier.
Layers is a growing project. So if you think some features are missing, chances are they will be added in future versions. It’s an easy way for WordPress beginners to quickly create a custom theme and it doesn’t block the site. The user interface is clean and straightforward. The left-to-right workflow takes you from the sidebar to individual widget dialogs via drop-down menus. Of course, Layers isn’t the only WordPress extension of its kind. If for some reason you don’t like them, you can try Platform or Unyson, which we covered earlier.
Have you tried levels? Do you prefer to create your own WordPress themes or do you rely on the creations of other designers? Tell us in the comments.