WPMUDEV is going into “builder” themes in a big way. These are themes that have drag-and-drop interfaces that let you create pages in layouts that go beyond the usual header/body/sidebar/footer model that you’re used to. Each page can have its own individual collection of modules and blocks than contain images, menus, slideshows, videos, in whatever arrangement you like. The (current) home page of TLTC Blogs is built using one of these types of themes, “Divi” from Elegant Themes. When you see a WordPress site with a full-screen background image and minimalist text, you’re probably looking at one of these types of themes.
We’re also subscribers to WPMU Dev, and they’ve launched a new framework called “Upfront,” and on top of it there are
two three new themes that we’ve installed here for you to try, “Scribe“, “Spirit” and Fixer.”
They come with a cost — a sometimes steep learning curve. Further complicated by the fact that each vendor, be it Elegant Themes, WPMU, Theme Foundry or whomever, has developed their own set of tools and vocabulary for how to make these. If you’re interested in experimenting, you can try some of the basic options from your theme customizer, of if you’re really ambitious just change over and start building a test page. General documentation is available here for Spirit and Scribe.
One thing to be careful of: Oftentimes these types of themes make pages that are filled with shortcodes — those cryptic bits of text surrounded [by square brackets] that you sometimes see (though as one of the developers points out, not these). If you build something in a builder theme that uses these shortcodes and you decide you want to go back, they will stay, messing up your page, and it’s laborious to remove them. So create a test page and work there until you find something you like. That way, you won’t paint yourself into a corner.
[updated February 20, 2015]