The Perfect Blog Theme

What is the perfect blog theme? I’ve been thinking about it and I think I have the answer.

For the blogger: The perfect blog theme disappears into the background and doesn’t hinder their writing in any way—in fact, it encourages it.

For the reader: The perfect blog theme disappears into the background and doesn’t hinder their reading in any way—in fact, it encourages it.

Please note what I haven’t included in my answer. It’s important.

Know of any publicly released themes that fit my criteria? I’d really like to know about them. Let me know if you’ve found them, or just let me know your thoughts on the perfect blog theme by leaving a comment.

And don’t be afraid to argue! I’ve been known to be wrong!

20 thoughts on “The Perfect Blog Theme”

  1. Well said. Kirby fits the bill perfectly 🙂 ShiftNews doesn’t do too badly either 😉

    Anything with large, readable type and good contrasts should work. Unfortunately, they’re thin on the ground. Hopefully the 2010 theme will launch more themes in the right direction.

  2. I fully agree on “For the blogger”, however, I do not agree on “For the reader” as I argue that, yes, the theme should encourage reading, but it should also encourage looking around and finding new things. Your “Must Read Ideas” or the “Blog Design Tips” on this site point in the direction I mean with that. Especially new readers badly need this feature of a theme – think about it: On what criteria do you decide whether a site is worth adding to your newsreader or not? In my case it is not just one or two articles, before I add a site to my reading list, I surf the site and get impressions of what this person writes about and what he/she else cares to publicize. But okay, now to your question:

    I very much like A List Apart‘s homepage. It is not overloaded, but with just one click you can either read one of the last articles (plural!) or you can jump to the “Topics” and see a nice overview. However, there is no theme available from them.

    A theme that is available (for WP) is the one, iA uses. It is a joy to read articles there, and with the navigation-bar on top you can easily jump around from articles to pages.

  3. I have to say that those sentences only work for certain types of blogs. You have to consider that there are literally thousands of types, from writers/poets to tech or collaborative blogs.

    Nevertheless I believe that Smashing Magazine’s or A List Apart’s layouts are brilliant. They give the reader what is expected. On the other end of the spectrum something like the theme I use in my blog, “The Erudite” from Soma Design is excellent for my blog’s purpose. Literature.

    In conclusion, there is not only one true answer for that question. As there are several ways to develop (web, portal, shop, blog, wiki, etc) your online presence, there are also several ways to lay them out.

  4. Normally I like to argue but in this case it is very difficult.

    I started another blog that I wanted to be simple. No images, links to sources, just a sentence or two loaded with my opinions on any subject. I wanted a simple theme that I could add complexity to later if I wanted.

    After searching through a lot of themes I settled on Thematic.

    Hence no argument from me.

  5. Ian I agree completely. In fact I wouldm’t limit this to a WordPress theme. I think this is what web design is all about. The best designs stay out of people’s way, whether those people are visitors to the site or the owners of the site.

    The best designs are often the ones that go unnoticed. They simply make the experience of using the site easier and more pleasant without drawing too much attention to the design itself.

  6. A perfect blog theme always user friendly.It highlites the content than other things.There are very less such type of themes.
    Making a post about Free Perfect Blog Themes will be surely benifitial to so many users.

  7. I don’t know if perfection is possible as everyone has their own ideas about this. I did design my own blog from the ground up to “disappear into the background and not hinder reading in any way,” and feel free to judge for yourself whether I succeeded:

    Note that I did use Thematic as my template. I placed (minimal) navigation functions to the right, and reading content to the left. If there was an easy way to make the navigation section a little dimmer, I would have done that.

    Most of the feedback I’ve received suggests I succeeded, but occasionally someone comments that it is so different from the usual cluttered blog look that that in and of itself is a bit of a distraction.

  8. Also – at first I experimented with hyperlinks that were not underlined, but several readers were unable to notice the links (color settings are different across monitors/systems and peoples’ eyes are different – and I very purposely chose a low contrast color combination). I wanted to make the underlines dimmer than they actually are, but couldn’t figure out how to do it. My ideal would be noticeable when you want to notice it, not noticeable when you don’t want to be distracted from reading something lengthy.

  9. One nitpicky thing I dont like about many themes is that they hardcode in a “home” link in the header. If you use your wordpress install more as website (like most customers of our service by creating a page called “home” and using then toggling Reading > Settings to set it as the homepage, it duplicates the “home” link in the navigation.

    Themes need to be a little smarter and respond to the change in settings.

    WordPress used in a website mode is becoming more and more common, the blog themes need to adapt.

    1. To be fair, theme designers do it because whenever they don’t, they always get comments from people asking them how to add it.

  10. I’ve tried accomplishing just this with my blog using Thematic as a starting point. You can gohere to see it.

    I don’t know squat about code so I don’t think I would ever consider releasing it to the public but at least it could [hopefully] serve as a source of inspiration for one or two people.

  11. A bit of an addendum for those reading the comments (and everyone so kind to comment so far):

    WordPress theme developers spend a lot of time adding options for moving sidebars, adding thumbnails, adsense, video, whatever. The list goes on. How much time is spent making blog themes more, well, bloggable? Blogability as a subset of Usability? How much time is spent encouraging the posting of content. Actual, real, web-logging? You can have all those other things, sure, but fundamentally, this is what blog theme design should be about, and what every addition to a theme should be in service to.

    I don’t mean this as snark. I’m really, seriously, concerned about this sort of thing. It’s important. If you’re making publicly released WordPress themes and you’re thinking about this sort of thing I salute you. It’s what I’ll be thinking about for 2010 (and what I’ve been thinking about all along, I guess).

    Also, yes, I have completely ignored non-text-based blogging here. The concept can be transferred to niche themes though.

    1. Considering one of the long term goals for WordPress as stated by Matt in many public interviews is for WordPress to become invisible. Well, I’m wondering how much of that invisibility is the responsibility of the theme in use.

  12. I was thinking of the questions you raise in this post. It’s really hard to come up with the best theme. For me, the theme caries the personality of my blog… and I am not even finished with my blog’s theme… but I am still developing what I think is best for my readers.

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