While I still look to StudioPress and ElegantThemes first, Themes Kingdom has matured into a great resource and value for niche themes. I recently started using two theme builders, Ultimatum and Dynamik, and am very enthusiastic about their potential for building themes with just the right features from the ground up.

Themes Kingdom

When Themes Kingdom had their anniversary sale, I went back and signed on for another year after letting my membership lapse. It was a good decision. Their themes keep getting better and better. The new Charity theme is nothing less than spectacular in its cutting-edge features and good looks. Buying a yearly membership is only a little more expensive than purchasing a single theme and gives you access to some well-executed niche themes that you won’t find anywhere else. Some people, and some clients, need a quality theme that looks great out of the boxt that they can set up and maintain without the baggage of a framework or way too many built-in options. ThemesKingdom seems like just the thing. Their website is a good advertisement for their services and oozes a playful energy that’s inspiring. Highly recommended for both do-it-yourselfers and developers.

Dynamik Website Builder

I found Dynamik Website Builder while looking for some information on Genesis themes and it was my lucky day. Dynamik facilitates building a Genesis child theme from scratch with exactly the features you want and none you don’t. I haven’t had much experience with it yet, but it seems very solid and has good documentation. So many times, I’ve settled for picking a StudioPress theme closest to what I wanted and modifying it for my purposes. Seems like it would be better, and maybe faster, to build out from the Genesis framework than spend a lot of time modifying the daylights out of another child theme. The pricing is reasonable for a one-time purchase and dovetails with the StudioPress pricing model of unlimited usage. I’m confident that with some due diligence, I can learn how to work more efficiently and creatively with Dynamik. Recommended for designers and developers familiar with HTML and PHP. Even though you could do a lot without knowing any coding, I think you’ll get farther if you learn enough HTML and PHP for intermediate competency. For experts, Dynamik will be a piece of cake and a huge timesaver.

Cobalt Labs, which created Dynamik, also offers a Genesis Extender Plugin that I’ve already used on a couple of sites. If you use Genesis with StudioPress child themes, you know that some attractive themes lack support for custom CSS or PHP functions and may include only one or two page layout templates. The Genesis Extender makes it easy for you to add your own custom functions, CSS, Page Templates, shortcodes, labels, hook boxes, and conditionals. I’m loving it more every day and don’t see how I ever did without it.

Ultimatum

When Ultimatum appeared on the scene, I shied away from it because of the reviews that faulted the application for lacking documentation and having a steep learning curve. The new version of Ultimatum WordPress Theme Builder has much better documentation and some barriers to getting started have been removed. It’s now accessible and I’m learning to use it by taking a Udemy course and practice. Ultimatum excels as a layout builder with an amazing array of layout building blocks for full and partial templates, CSS helpings, optional Bootstrap, and built-in plugins, including Revolution and Nivo sliders. You have complete freedom and control over the results. I think Ultimatum is for designers and developers who like starting with their own ideas, but it would also be great for someone who needed to replicate an existing traditional website in WordPress. Ultimatum has a lot of potential as a new toolbox for freelancers. I think it’s here to stay.

Other Tools

Even with the best of themes and builders, there are times when you’ll want to use Dreamweaver and Adobe Edge to create CSS, responsive layouts, and animations. Even though I use WordPress almost all the time, Dreamweaver does some things very well and there’s no reason you can’t build stylesheets or pieces in Adobe apps and move them into a WordPress site to get around the unnecessary complexity of some “wizards” that slow you down with excessive pointing and clicking.