Exodus is the latest WordPress theme from churchthemes.com and as the name suggests, it’s ideal for anyone building a website for a church. Whether you have been handed the task of creating a website for your church, or you are a developer building a website for a client of this type, the themes at churchthemes.com are a great solution.
In this review we will be taking a look at the newly released Exodus WordPress theme, covering its features, and how easy it is to setup and use from both a management perspective and that of a frontend visitor to the site.
By the end of this review you will know if this is the right theme for your church’s website.
Features of Exodus
Exodus has been designed to suit churches with a more modern and mainstream appeal, compared to their first theme, Resurrect, which is described by the developer as having a more ‘urban feel’. This should make Exodus a popular theme thanks to its suitability for a wide range of churches.
The design and layout of this theme is very much in alignment with current web design trends. This can be seen in the optional large homepage image gallery slideshow, as well as the full width layout, and also the flat design of the buttons and other page elements.
Fully Responsive Mobile Friendly Design
Despite the full width and the large homepage images and photo galleries, the Exodus theme is fully responsive for use on smaller screen devices such as phones and tablets. When testing the theme on a smartphone, it was highly usable. All the content and page elements readjusted and rearranged, making it just as easy to reach the different pages on the site as it would be on a desktop computer or laptop.
With so many people now visiting websites on their phones and tablets, this is an important feature to have on any website. For a church website, where the congregation might be checking for the latest news and schedules, as well as seeking the directions to the church, while out of the house or office, offering a fully responsive website is a must.
These design choices all combine to deliver a clean and modern image for your website and the church or other organisation it is promoting.
When it comes to church-specific features, Exodus has plenty that will appeal. These include the ability to easily publish the following online:
- Sermons including text, audio, and video
- Church events
- Custom categories and tags
Other Features of Exodus
Although this theme has obviously been built to cater to those who want to build a website for a church with WordPress, it has lots of features you would find in a more generic-purpose premium theme.
Some of the highlights from those more general features include:
- Custom widgetized homepage
- Custom sidebar areas for specific pages and post types
- Design customisation with live preview
- Google fonts
- High resolution and retina display ready
- Image and video galleries with YouTube support
- Google Map-integrated location pages
- Custom sidebar widgets
- Staff profiles
- Podcast management
- Attractive blog post templates
- Sample widgets and demo content
As you can see Exodus is a feature packed theme that would compare well to many of the more general purpose premium themes, in terms of what you can do with it and the type of sites you can build. Not to mention its attractive design and appearance.
Setting up and Using Exodus
Exodus comes with a great amount of sample or demo content which can be easily imported into your site once you’ve installed and activated the theme.
This is really handy as it populates your site with dummy content such as posts and pages, as well as the content for the custom post types including the sermons, locations, events, and people. By installing this sample content you can see how each of the different types of content on the site are managed, allowing you to quickly get to grips with each of the different elements of Exodus.
While the demo version on the churchthemes.com website includes lots of great church-related photos, the sample content doesn’t include these images due to copyright restrictions, using image placeholders instead. However, if you are looking for some suitable images to include in your church website then some of the images used for the demo, plus many more can be found at Light Stock, a faith-focussed image library.
Custom Widgets and Sidebars
The Exodus theme sample content also includes a set of widgets. These are installed by using the free Widget Importer and Exporter plugin. These widgets can be added to the sidebars that are included as part of the theme, although the sample content will assign these widgets to the relevant sidebars.
These custom sidebars are used to display related widgets and content in the sidebars of specific types on posts and pages on your site. For example the Sermon Sidebar is displayed on any content related to sermons. This sidebar displays relevant information such as links to other sermons by the same speaker, and a list of recent sermons.
This means that whenever a visitor to the site is interacting with the sermon content, for example, in the sidebar they will see links to other sermons and related content. This helps your visitors find more of what they are interested in, helping to increase the amount of time they spend on your site.
If you do choose to import the sample content and widgets, your site will be setup to closely resemble the demo version of Exodus on the churchthemes.com website. After that it’s simply a case of either editing the existing content or adding your own new entries.
The theme also makes use of section banners. These work in a similar way and allow you to set a featured banner image and title text that is displayed for posts from a particular section, such as sermons, or events.
Using the Theme Customizer
Exodus includes a set of theme customization options. This allows you to modify many aspects of the theme’s appearance by using the visual editor, without the need to edit any code.
The WordPress Theme Customizer can be found under the Appearance menu and once activated, will allow you to modify the following elements:
- Select a colour scheme: light or dark, or set your own colours
- Fonts with Google Fonts integration
- Logo including a HiDPI retina logo
- Background image and colours
- Footer notice
- Social media icons with links to profiles
- Plus much more
The theme customizer gives you a live preview of the changes you are making, and then once you are happy with your modifications you can save those changes.
Working with the Custom Post Types
Exodus uses WordPress custom post types to store the sermons, events, locations, and people content. This means all these different types of content, including your regular blog posts are kept separate.
It also means that adding the different types of content, such as the sermons, is done through a slightly different editor to the standard WordPress posts. This allows you to add content-specific information to the post you are creating.
In the sermon post type example above, you can add links to the video, audio, and PDF document, as well as creating an excerpt which is shown on the listings page. Once the sermon is published, visitors can then simply click on the buttons to access the different formats.
You can also use the sermon custom taxonomies which allow you to categorize and tag the sermon content very effectively, making it easier for visitors to find more of what they like.
By combining the custom tags and categories with the section banners and contextual sidebars, you can ensure that all the links and content that is surrounding each post is relevant and useful to the visitor.
While this theme does make use of custom post types and custom taxonomies as detailed above, they aren’t actually included as part of the theme code. These features are added to the site by using the free Church Theme Content plugin. During the theme installation, this plugin is easily installed by simply clicking a few buttons.
The decision to include these elements in a plugin shows the developer is following theme development best practice guidelines, by keeping the functionality separate from the design aspects.
This also has a benefit to the end user as it means should they deactivate or change themes in the future, they won’t lose all the content stored in the custom post types, such as events, locations and sermons. Providing they install another theme that supports these post types, that content can continue to be used.
Surprisingly this isn’t a very common approach that is taken with theme design. This can result in users getting locked into certain themes or face a very frustrating experience when trying to migrate to a new template, so it’s great to see this approach has been taken for Exodus.
Support and Documentation
This theme has got some of the best online documentation I’ve seen lately. There aren’t any videos, but the written content is all very easy to follow and nicely organised. This makes it easy to get started with this theme and then discover some of the more advanced features once you are setup.
As well as the online guides, and published common questions, existing and potential customers can also contact the developer via email to ask a question.
If you aren’t an experienced WordPress user then the process for installing the sample content and supporting plugins, along with the clear documentation makes working with Exodus very straightforward.
The themes from churchthemes.com, including Exodus, are available for $99 each. The themes include a risk-free 45-day money back guarantee if you are not happy with your purchase.
The $99 payment covers updates and support for one website, lasting for one year. After the year is up you can use the theme unsupported or pay $49.50 for an additional year of support.
Exodus is a really great WordPress theme. The easy setup process and sample content will appeal to anyone who hasn’t created a site with WordPress before, or who just needs to get a website up and running quickly.
The theme has got lots of great features and functionality such as the theme customizer, the custom sidebars, section banners, and the custom post types. There are also lots of nice little touches found around the theme when exploring a site using Exodus, such as the context sensitive header links, which all add to the end user experience.
The use of custom post types to store and present the different types of content has been really well implemented. This allows you to easily add lots of relevant additional information to each entry on your site. Depending on the custom post type being used, this could include displaying location of the different campuses with a Google Map, dates for an event, linking to a podcast, or using groups to arrange the people of your church.
If you are building a website for a church then you can’t go wrong with Exodus from churchthemes.com.