A few months ago I stumbled upon Semplice, a new portfolio-building system for WordPress, I immediately liked the look of it, so bought a copy to build my latest portfolio website.

Overall I’ve been pretty impressed with it, so I thought I’d write a review of my experience of Semplice. I would like to point out that this is not a paid review; just my personal thoughts on using a new WordPress product.

What Exactly Is Semplice?

Whilst you install Semplice like you would any other theme, it offers a lot more than your average template-based theme offering. Semplice advertise the fact that you can break away from pre-defined templates to create a more personal and unique online portfolio.

They also promote that you can have fully-branded case-studies for each page or portfolio piece, this basically means you can set specific layouts, font-sets, colours and navigation on a per-project or page basis.

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Another major feature is that Semplice effectively has its own backend and content-editor, which effectively sits ‘above’ WordPress. A number of premium themes claim to have ‘page-builders’, in reality most are pretty crude, but I have to say I’ve never used one as good as Semplice. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty slick when you get used to it.

Installation & Recommended Plugins

As mentioned earlier, you install and activate Semplice in the same manner as you would any regular theme. They also recommend a couple of plugins to use with the system. The first is Simple Custom Post Order, this basically allows you to drag from within the ‘work’ tab to change the order of your individual portfolio projects.

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The second recommended plugin is the Toolbar Publish Button, this adds an update/save button to your top WordPress toolbar, so this is a nice time-saver as you prevents long scrolls to save changes on certain occasions.

Working With Semplice

Semplice has many fairly standard options like social media and Google Analytics integration, adding custom CSS, favicons etc. What is different to most themes is how the main backend and content editor work, so we’ll have a look at those in more detail.

Logo, Navbar and Menu

I’ve used uniform navigation and menu across my entire website, but it’s easy to assign different style to different projects or pages if you want to have individually branded case studies. To ensure that your logo looks good on retina devices it’s best to use the SVG option, you can just paste the code in and away you go. This way you can also change the logo colour when you wish.

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You can then choose a style of navigation bar, there are all the options you could wish for here, you can change the opacity, colours, menu style (text or icon), choose whether the nav bar is fluid/sticky or not, font weight etc.

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Custom Fontsets

It’s easy to integrate Semplice with the main suppliers of web fonts, Google Fonts, Typekit, FontDeck etc. I’ve set-up custom sets from Typekit and Google and it’s pretty straightforward if you’ve used these web font services in the past. There are video tutorials available from Semplice if you’re new to these services and may need a little help.

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Remember these custom fontsets can be applied on a per-project or page basis if you want to keep things varied in style.

Project Branding & Settings

You can specify and style a whole bunch of elements for your projects, for your thumbnails you can choose the width and size (including full width if you don’t want a grid), hover style, font weights, opacity etc.

In the branding section you can set which custom navigation to use, and also set which style of social media sharing you want for your projects, you can use either icons or buttons, and also fully customise their colours.

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The Fullscreen Cover section/option is one my favourite parts of Semplice. With this you can set a full-width image that fills the browser with a background image and project title. This gives real impact and can also be applied to both your homepage and regular static pages.

There has just been an update to Semplice, this brings the most welcome addition of a slider option for your homepage cover, this can be made up of selected portfolio items etc.

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You can see how this looks on the above screengrab of my current homepage. At the bottom of the page is an arrow that then reveals the rest of the page/project when clicked.

There are full customisation options for your full screen covers including opacity, colours, images, fonts etc.

Content Editor

The content editor in Semplice is where things really get going. You can either add full-width elements or work to a grid. For my photography portfolio pieces I’ve used mainly full-width images, but for my design work I’ve gone with a full-width hero image, and then set the rest of the content to a set-width.

The primary reason for this is for some web projects I don’t have super hi-res artwork that you really need for full-width images to look good.

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The screenshot above shows the top menu of the content editor, here you can choose to insert an image, a gallery, video/audio, spacer, portfolio grid or a multi-column layout with which to work with.

There is also a branding dropdown (shown below), this is where you can choose from your custom font sets for your projects, and also choose a project background image should you want one.

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Each element you add is made into a layer, you can then edit and re-order them, and change element layout and padding. There is also a grid overlay option (shown below), this is very handy if you are working with multi-column layers and layouts.

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The last option in the top content editor menu is for templates, if you want to keep your projects in the same style this is essential, as it means you can choose a pre-existing project as a starting point (which obviously saves a lot of time as opposed to creating your layout from scratch).

Conclusion

In my short time using Semplice I’ve been very pleased with it, if you’re a designer or photographer that wants a high-quality website with real visual impact then Semplice could be just the ticket.

It’s easy to use, and whichever type of layout you create with it, the end result is a slick website that looks great on all devices (Semplice is of course fully responsive). The animations and transitions are particularly nicely done.

Another aspect that I like is the fact that you buy Semplice as a one-off product, it’s not a subscription-based service, like an increasing number of digital products are these days.

I should also point out that Semplice does offer basic blog functionality, but I have not used that yet, if and when I do, I’ll update this article.

If you want to check out more examples of portfolio websites that have been made with Semplice, be sure to check out their showcase section.

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