Exclusive Interview with Founder of OneHertz.com, Designer of the Mandigo Theme for WordPress

One of the most powerful features of a custom blog installation is the ability to store content in a database and then display that content dynamically within a theme that outlines the layout, style and often contributes additional functionality for the site.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of themes available now for WordPress, many of which are free and many that transform a basic WordPress installation into a very powerful CMS.  Free themes usually add some color and design to a site but not many free themes afford as much extra ammo as Mandigo

by independent developer OneHertz.

A Default Home Page Using Mandigo, a free theme for WordPress

A Default Home Page Using Mandigo, a free theme for WordPress

Mandigo offers a wide variety of color schemes that can be changed on the fly, dynamic sidebars that can be moved from the right to the left side, automatic bolding of hyperlinks, auto drop caps at the top of paragraphs and even additional fields for HTML, Javascript and CSS inserts – all without having to know a thing about code.  From the huge array of free themes available, I have found it to be by far the most versatile and powerful option out there short of having to pay a hefty license fee for comparable premium themes.

Intrigued by this hefty “Donationware” package, I conducted the following interview with Tom Picard, the creative mind behind Mandigo.

WP-Blogger: Tom, tell us about how you got started in design?

Well, I started making websites for personal projects, family and friends some 7 years ago but only started making a living out of it in 2006. This decision has its roots in some kind of frustration about the lack of usable websites in the travel industry: each time I needed to plan a trip or book a hotel room, it turned almost impossible to get information or see pictures of the place without asking people to send them by email. Since I thought I had the required skills and there was a market, I decided to open a business and registered OneHertz.com.

WP-Blogger: What led you to create your first WP template?

Curiosity (and to be honest, SE ranking). A few months into my entrepreneur venture, things were not going as well as I expected, particularly because of lack of traffic, so I decided to focus on improving the ranking of onehertz.com with Google. At the same time, my interest in WordPress was growing rapidly (I was making static HTML sites then) and I thought releasing a theme would be a cool way of learning something new and get a few backlinks at the same time. So I made a copy of my Kubrick folder, started tweaking it, and ended up releasing Mandigo 1.0 in December 2006.

WP-Blogger: Does it require a strong grasp of CSS?

Yes, and no. It doesn’t take much to get started. For the most part, you can just look at existing themes, use intuition and search for what you need on Google. Things only get worse when you implement options in your theme or want cross-browser support (read IE6 compliancy), and standards compliant markup.

WP-Blogger: Talk about www.onehertz.com

Things didn’t turn out as I planned, but the outcome is probably better this way. I wanted to make static sites for the travel industry and instead of that I ended up doing all kinds of WP-related development (be it custom plugins or themes) for all kinds of businesses from all over the world and this has been very rewarding so far.

WP-Blogger: What one piece of advice (that the rulebooks don’t tell you) would you give someone just getting started today building and customizing their own WP templates? XXx movie

Get Firebug, definitely. Firebug is an extension for Firefox which eases the debugging of web pages. You can monitor and edit HTML, javascript and CSS on the fly, so it’s a real life saver. It’s particularly useful for debugging CSS since it shows which properties are applied to each DOM element, and how rules override each other.

The top of Mandigo's backend Admin panel

The top of Mandigo's backend Admin panel

WP-Blogger: Mandigo is an amazing achievement of template design – it affords so much customization, is beautifully integrated into WP, powerfully SEO friendly, and yet even a beginner could use it without breaking anything.  Give me a brief history of its development:

I’ve always been more a programmer than a designer, so I tend to add fancy features in everything I make, and Mandigo is no exception. Right from the start, the theme had options inspired by what was available in the Freshy theme by jide, and this contributed to make it stand out from the crowd. After the first few updates, the theme gained in popularity and people started to contact me with ideas they wanted to see implemented in Mandigo. Each release came with its lot of new features and bug fixes thus making the theme even more customizable and popular. Actually, most of the features in Mandigo, including some of the most popular ones like HTML Inserts, have been suggested by users.

WP-Blogger: Anything else you’d like to share, let us know, have in development, parting words?

Working as a freelance designer is very rewarding but also very time-consuming. It doesn’t leave much time for family and hobbies. But when I happen to have some free time, I try to focus my attention on a few projects: a one-of-a-kind premium theme codenamed “OSes” which I’ll be releasing sometime this year, more free themes and some other personal WP-powered projects (which happen to not be suitable for all audiences.)

About the Author:

Infamous psp Keram is a new media consultant, music producer and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com