Want to design a popular WordPress Theme? Then you better take a look at what Chris Pearson is doing. He knows the secret of designing a popular theme.
Chris is arguably the most popular and successful WordPress Theme designer in the short history of blogging. Press Row, Cutline, The Copyblogger Theme, Neo-Classical, and now Thesis, have all struck a resounding chord with the WordPress community. It’s impossible to find a blogger that hasn’t run across at least 1 of these 5 themes and admired them.
What’s his secret? Why are his simple-looking themes more successful than others? Can any theme designer duplicate his success?
Last year’s Future of WordPress Themes (read it here) found 11 people committed to thinking creatively about WordPress themes stopping to look where WordPress theming was heading—and now we’re doing it again! These 15 people—designers, developers, and WordPress enthusiasts—are some of the people who will shape WordPress themes, and what they mean, into version 3.0 and beyond.
Here is how they answered the question “What is the future of WordPress Themes?”
I think the future of WordPress themes is heading into a very positive direction – there are a lot of designers who are developing some really great themes. It seems that a lot of us have our own unique style, which makes it great for users to enjoy a wide selection of quality themes. Another thing that I have personally experienced is building plugin-type functions into a theme, which enhances it that much more. Special thanks go to guys like Nathan Rice who are focusing more on the code/functionality of a theme, because they are adding to the overall impact that themes are making. Overall, I’d say that the next year of WordPress themes should be as productive, if not more than the last, and the ability to use WordPress as a content management system only seems to become an easier thing to achieve.
What will happen to the WordPress Themes community as the main portal for theme downloads moves from a host of developer sites and their interlinked communities to the individual WordPress administrator’s Theme Panel—much like what has happened, and is happening, with WordPress Plugins?
I imagine this will have an effect on pay-to-download WordPress themes. Every year there are more and more new WordPress users, and every year there will be more and more users using only the Themes Panel to find their WordPress themes. And likely limiting their search to the top 15. I predict these users will rarely seek out, or even consider, other theme choices.
But what will happen to the free WordPress Theme community that produces the themes hosted on the current directory? What will happen when the personality of the theme designer is muted? When their ego can’t be fed with traffic and links and what have you? When no one knows or cares about them. When their theme is just another thing on WordPress.org?
Don’t get me wrong, I like the WordPress theme directory and I’m anxiously looking forward to Theme update notifications and automatic download-updates. I just worry that where we’re gaining a strength we’re also gaining a major weakness.
In this post we take a look at four excellent, and popular, designs, from simple to complex, that can help inform your next blog design. The sites we’re going to look at are Lifehacker, PSD Tuts, Smashing Magazine and Canada’s National Post.
We’ll look at the general layout in great detail, via a wireframe of the main sections, and the details generally, with a bit of a writeup, in the form of notes, on what’s going on. Clicking on the wireframe opens up a full-size version. Feel free to use the wireframes in your own projects to help you get a handle on just where your stuff should be in a successful blog design.
Studying the masterworks and previous success is one of the key ways to breed success in your own designs. Let’s study up.
My favorite thing about the Lifehacker template is the top posts of the day featured for maximum (literal, even) effect at the top of every page. Each featured item gets a thumbnail image, a category, a title and a cool hover effect.
The blog branding is almost a secondary item here but is still highlighted and serves to further highlight the search which is almost exactly in the middle of the above-the-fold screen. And note that the search takes up just as much visual area as the site logo. Can you make search anymore prominent? Anyway, the real Lifehacker brand is the reams and reams of excellent content. A fat logo and pretty header just gets in the way. In fact, all of the sites we’ll look at, mostly eschew cuteness and large headers that only serve to brand their site.
This is the only layout in this little study with a sidebar on the left. But the sidebar on the right is mostly negative space and really helps to focus your eye on what’s happening in the main content area.
Plan your WordPress site design
Figure out what sort of pages we’ll need
Before a visual design can begin, you need to do content design. Determine what exactly you’re going to say. Words, sentences and paragraphs are the building blocks of your site’s foundation. Make sure you’ve put them together correctly. And make sure you know what you need that foundation to do. I mean, think about how those words, sentences and paragraphs are going to effect your bottom line. Remember, we’re making this site for a reason. Whether it’s to get a laugh or make a buck, all those words, sentences and paragraphs need a reason for being there. They mean something.
Anyway, you’ve done all that right? We need to think about how we’re going to present that content. To put things really simply, once you know what you’re going to say with your content and what you want it to do site design comes down to designing series of page templates. That’s it really. As a practical matter, site design becomes a series of templates. Continue reading “WordPress as a CMS: How To Think About Building a Website With WordPress”
Hey There! If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out The Future of WordPress Themes 2009 after you’re done reading 2008’s predictions. It’s a good read.
When I predicted the downfall of premium WordPress themes I immediately began to think of the future of WordPress theming in general. Where was it headed really? And if I really wanted to know, who should I ask? Well, if you want to know where WordPress themes are headed in the future, these are the kind of people you want to ask—and the people to watch. And wow, am I glad I asked.
Here are 11 people committed to thinking creatively about WordPress themes and what they mean. These are some of the people who will carry and lead WordPress theming into 3.0 and beyond. Some of these people will set the agenda for the future of WordPress themes. And this is what they think it will look like. Continue reading “The Future of WordPress Themes 2008”
Bear with me, this one is going to hurt. Load up your blog with your favorite WordPress theme on it. Ready? Scroll down.
Yep, scroll your theme down, down past the header and menu, down past the post titles. Scroll down to a page full of text and links and no distractions. This is where The Ultimate WordPress Theme Test will take place. This is where the best themes shine. Because this is where your readers will spend the bulk of their time and this is where your theme does the real work. Columns too wide or narrow? Font too big or small? Typography lame? Remember, content is there to be read. Don’t let your theme get in the way of that. Continue reading “The Ultimate WordPress Theme Test”
On January 30, 2006, A List Apart published In Search of The Holy Grail, Matthew Levine’s answer to the leanest, semantically correct, and bulletproof structure for a web-standards-based, 3 column layout with a liquid center—The Holy Grail.
Three columns. One fixed-width sidebar for your navigation, another for, say, your Google Ads or your Flickr photos—and, as in a fancy truffle, a liquid center for the real substance. Its wide applicability in this golden age of blogging, along with its considerable difficulty, is what has earned the layout the title of Holy Grail.
This article, and others like it, probably saved 1 million tons of lost hair among the web development community. You should read it if you haven’t already. But it’s not the end of the story. Continue reading “The Holy Grail of Blog Design”