TwentyTen is the prince, not the step-child



Since last year I’ve been doing more and more theme customization. For much of 2010 it was modifying various themes to do things users wanted that weren’t supported by the theme. Things like move the navigation, additional widget areas, etc. It requires reverse engineering the theme designers work to get there. I’ve worked with some pretty good designs, and I’ve worked with some really horrible ones.

If the theme only has eye candy, and it’s structure isn’t setup for good SEO the theme can look great and kill you in the SERPs.

Design with a Mature Database

Some theme designers I’m sure work only with the bare bones install of WP. One post, One page, One comment. It looks great, then you try and use it on your site with 20 categories 15 pages, 300 posts and suddenly the theme is broken and looks horrible.

If you are going to work on modifying a theme do it on a mature database.  For all my clients I make a mirror copy of their database them I start making tweaks to the theme.

TwentyTen new heir to the WP default thrown

Then along came TwentyTen the new default theme for WordPress.  I liked it the first time I saw it.  I started to look at the structure and most of all the notation in the theme files themselves.  This is one well documented theme.  There are notes everywhere and it is really well designed.  My definition of a well designed theme is flexibility.   TwentyTen, unlike so many themes, is extremely flexible.  I can, in most cases with a few css changes make TwentyTen take almost any shape.

Therefore, I decided after a month of testing, modifying and putting it through it’s paces it would from now on be my design platform of choice.


  1. It is the best supported theme in WordPress since it is the default theme
  2. It is always up to date, when WP makes a change, adds new features, whatever, TwentyTen had those features built in
  3. Creating a child theme for TwentyTen is about the easiest thing I’ve ever done with WP
  4. There is a ton of support for TwentyTen and TwentyTen child themes.  Lot’s of developers and hackers are writing about it
  5. As mentioned above, it is flexible, well documented, and quick to configure and change

But it’s the default theme

Here is where the bias against the “default” theme comes in.  “If it’s free it can’t be all that good.”  The reasoning goes, “I have to buy a premium theme to get a good theme”  Not so, this is where TwentyTen is a game changer.  TwentyTen is as good or better than 90% of the premium theme’s I see.  Better yet, because it is so good, premium themes have had to get better.  TwentyTen raised the bar, not just a little, it raised it a LOT!

Premium themes now have to add things like “sliders”  Oh geez, don’t get me started.  Custom post types, integrated functionality that is unique to make it worth a premium theme.

TwentyTen, the Prince

TwentyTen is the Rodney Dangerfield of WP themes.  It doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  I’ve created about a dozen different layouts and looks with TwentyTen as the foundation.  Everyday I think of new ways to tweak it, integrate new plugins directly into the child themes, new widget areas, layouts, color schemes, etc.

This week when WP 3.1 came out, TwentyTen was quietly updated to version 1.2 as well.  The new post type formats were built in.  I’ve yet to try them, I’ve been busy with 3.1 installs and updates.   But, I know whatever new functionality there is, I have it in the child themes already.  I know it is well documented and plays well with 3.1.  And all my clients using these TwentyTen Child themes, get that new functionality right away.

TwentyTen deserves consideration if you are adding a new site or thinking of making a theme change.

Are you using TwentyTen or a TwentyTen child theme? Do you like it?
If you have a unique TwentyTen child theme on your site, share it, (free backlink)
Any reasons you wouldn’t consider TwentyTen?


  1. I am finding that the more simple theme the better. I am using a theme on some of my wordpress blog sites that is much like this theme. Clean and easy to navigate.

    Thanks, Russ

  2. @Russ, you are spot on. Simplicity is the name of the game nowadays. Also huge to find a layout that is compatible with mobile phones.

  3. Sometimes I wonder if any of my clients / potential clients know my site runs on wordpress, with the default Twenty Ten theme.

    In the luxury market people expect you to have a big budget. For photography, print ads and your website. My default theme came with the default price, but don’t tell anyone 😉

    One thing I love about Twenty Ten is no matter how much you have messed around with it and hacked it apart you always have the original to refer to and as stated above the code is extensively commented so you can easily see what the original purpose for that snippet of code was.

    I’m wondering if they will add more jquery features into the theme over time as this seems to be one hot thing on premium themes.

  4. Seems like the theme is extremely simple and gives you the benefit being able to upgrade TwentyTen if a new version comes out without haven’t to worry about loosing your changes! Nice!

  5. John,

    Actually, you don’t want to make changes to this theme. If you do they could be wiped out anytime WP upgrades. That’s because Twenty Ten is the WP default theme, as such it will replace all the original files anytime there is an update and wipe out any changes you might have made. This is why you create a Twenty Ten child theme. That way you automatically get the latest WP updates and support built into the parent theme, yet preserve any customization you have made (in your Twenty Ten child theme).


  6. I just ran across your web site. You have some fantastic content. I look forward to connecting with you online!

  7. Austin,

    I had to remove the word Realtor after Austin as that is a NAR violation.

    Glad you found the Lab


  8. I am a new agent and new to blogging, SEO and everything involved with getting noticed in this industry. I welcome constructive criticisms of my site and blog, it seems you clearly know what you are talking about. Any advice, suggestions, tips, etc. would be greatly appreciated. That goes for you and everyone else that frequents this blog, I am doing all I can to decrease the ‘learning curve.’ 🙂

    Nicole Arsenault

  9. Nicole,

    Well, I’m not sure what you’ve done to get thrown in the spam filter, but enough bloggers thought you were leaving spammy comments they put your comments in as spam and now Akismet intercepts all your comments and puts them in the spam folder. You will need to appeal to get taken out of there.

    1. Stick with your name in the NAME field of your comments. Don’t try and SEO the title tag by putting an RE term in the name field. (I know there are supposed “Experts” saying this is a good thing to do, trust me, it will get you thrown into spam filters) We do-follow bloggers don’t like to be taken advantage (we already are providing a do-follow link, don’t try and SEO the comment).
    2. When we respond we want to do so to a person, not a location.
    3. If there is a comment policy link on the site, take the time to read it.

    Personally, I’ve never found anything spammy about your comments. I just happened to take a look at the spam filter today and found your comment in there. (Many bloggers set their Akismet to auto delete spam after 30 days and never look in the folder)

    As to your site/sites There’s a lot that could/should be done. But I wont go into that here.

    My digging you out of the spam filter and telling Akismet your comment isn’t spam will help but you still should appeal to be take of the spam list.


  10. Hi Dave, interesting info, thanks. How do you rate Twenty Eleven as a base for standalone sites?

  11. Murray,

    If you have a need for a responsive theme (free) and can live within the provided options for layout and design, it is okay. But don’t try and modify it. (wider sidebar, different header image, etc.) I just spent a couple of days looking into 2011 and in the end threw it away and used 2010.