WordPress Themes I Like

Clicking on a link below will take you to the demo for that theme. Most elements of a theme can be changed. The theme is like a skin, but it is more than colors and fonts. Think of the theme as the bones of the site.  It will determine how your pages are structured, how you feature new posts, and how your site presents your post’s images. Don’t get attached to the pretty photos in the theme, all of those would be replaced with photos picked just for your site. But notice the size of the images in relation to the text, how navigation is laid out, how many sidebars you have and how much space is between them.

You don’t need to understand anything about design. In our consultation we can decide what the best kind of theme suits the pages and posts you will be featuring on your new site. It helps to have an understanding of the most common layouts for home pages in web design. These days most sites with a blog (or any kind of ongoing content, like a podcast) will be either magazine-styled, one-page styled, or styled like a classic blog. Thus, I’ve separated the themes below into these styles, to help you think about what kind of layout you want for your new site.

Classic Blog Style

Before websites got savvy about featuring a lot of attention-grabbing images, the design of a website emphasized the text. It is the style of every Blogger, Medium, or Livejournal post. You have one one post stacked on top of another, until the end of the page. You may or may not have a sidebar. For example….

Fans of Medium Will Love the Hoffman Theme

Medium is known as a blogging community with great typography and presentation. If you want the flexibility and freedom of WordPress, there are plenty of blogs that capture Medium’s style. In particular I like Hoffman.

  • Like Medium, the single column with no sidebar is simple and beautiful. It puts the focus on your writing.
  • The giant featured image across the top of any blog post is wider than the text of the post, and that big photo really grabs you (Medium does this as well).
  • Beautifully spaced and sized typography.
  • I love how the left-aligned or right-aligned images pop slightly out of the margin of the text.
  • Note that the lack of a sidebar means that you can’t promote any of your books or your other posts until the footer at the bottom of the page. There are a few workarounds for this, but overall if you want to have a lot of stuffy vying for the reader’s attention, probably a theme with a sidebar would be better. The point of this theme is to clear the reading space, so that when the reader is in the post there is nothing competing for her attention.
  • Hoffman supports the gallery, quote and video post formats, all presented in unique and impact ways.
  • For those on a budget, Hoffman is free.

Longform

The Longform theme is designed to work with the Aesop story engine, which is a way to add a lot of the fancy features of digital magazine spreads to your content. This includes interactive maps, or a story timeline.

Magazine Styled Themes

When you have a single author, it makes sense to have a simple list of the most recent blog posts in order, like the classic style. But what if you have a lot of different categories, such as a site that features music and politics? Or a site with several authors, like a magazine? If you want to feature a wide variety of content “above the fold” you need shorter excerpts in columns. That’s magazine-style. For example…

Baskerville Is a Clean and Fast Magazine-Style Theme

  • While doesn’t have a lot of fancy animated effects, this also means it loads faster, which is good for SEO (particular effects can also be added with plugins).
  • The theme has special page styles for different kinds of posts: the gallery slideshow, audio player, video player, or showcase your favorite links and quotes (this is similar to how Tumblr works).
  • A special template for guest posts, so you can easily add a byline if you have a guest contributor.
  • I would change the fonts and colors, but the sizing and spacing of content is neat and legible.
  • This theme is free.

Heuman Is a Magazine-Style Theme Packed with Options

  • Though Heuman has a similar masonry layout to Baskerville, in one way it is the opposite. While Baskerville is all about clean and simple, Heuman is all about having a ton of different ways to display your content. For example, any post or page can have one or two sidebars, if you so wish, on either side of the main content.
  • It comes with a lot of options for displaying your most recent posts, great for a site with a lot of different categories.
  • The bigger header image with text over it is an appealing way to present content, but if your chosen image is too bright or high-contrast, it can make the text hard to read. That’s why the dark overlay effect behind the featured images is a nice touch (see this image at the top of any post or page in the demo).
  • On the main, Home page, the way it loads additional posts seamlessly, no matter what your image dimensions or screen width, is a lot harder to pull off than it looks! This is a very nice design.
  • Despite putting a lot of content on any page, the typography is still clean and legible.
  • If you have sponsors for your site, this theme makes it easy to add advertisements or special promotions.

Oblique: Magazine-Style Theme with a Unique Slant

  • Neat effect where the header and featured image are cut with a slant.
  • Sites like Medium are making it more popular to have a single-column site with no sidebar. But then you have no way to promote your latest book, or feature recent comments or popular posts. The way Oblique hides the sidebar hidden behind a button on the left is a nice compromise.
  • On the Home page, nice balance between the text and the images.

Cubic

From the makers WordPress, a clean, bold theme with a nice overlay effect.

Hitchcock

From the maker of Baskerville, so the same focus on clean design and legible typography, plus nifty pull quotes

 One-Page Styled Themes

One-page styles are a big trend in web design right now. No sidebar, full-width, the page is divided into banners, as if your home page is a series of billboards. This style relies on huge background images, short  headlines, and often parallax effects. Instead of having a page for About, Contact, Blog (etc.) the content of these pages is presented as banner sections on the home page.

Though one-page styles can be used to make a site that is all on one page, it can be used multi-page sites as well.

One advantage of the one-page style is it is a good way to tell your story. Rather than a one-paragraph About section, you can use this style to draw people into your world section-by-section. I recommend this style if the content of your site requires some explanation.

OneTone

A flexible one page theme that I have used on several sites. It features special sections for reviewer blurbs, About, and a stylish image gallery. This video makes it very easy to use a video background, like on this site for author Emily Silverman.

Juno

Versatile, adaptable, and bold, Juno makes good use of flat design principles. Juno has custom styles for reviews/blurbs and events.

Variants

Of course not every theme fits into the three styles I described on this page. Here are a few styles that do something a little different.

Zeal Theme

Similar to a classic blog style, in that it’s one post on top of another, but with a huge featured image to the side of every post.

  • The giant header that gets slowly covered as you scroll is captivating (but you’d need just the right photo!)
  • I love that there is zero border on the post’s image.
  • Note the lovely effect of the building behind the Pricing Tables (this effect is called parallax).
  • The Testimonials section could feature your blurbs or top reviews.
  • The events widget would be useful for many writers.
  • The layout of single pages that puts a feature image filling a side column is unique.
  • Note that this layout works best with portrait-oriented photos. It would not work well for a site promoting a book of maps or a landscape photographer.
  • Zeal has many of the features of a one-page theme, but the top section features your latest posts, magazine-style.

Beryl

Beryl is a simple theme that combines many of the nice design features of other themes listed here.

  • If you like the big, borderless portrait-oriented featured images of Zeal, you’ll love the Home page of Beryl.
  • Like Oblique, it has a pop-out “hamburger” menu.
  • Like Longform, it’s built to work with Aesop Story Engine.
  • Design loads fast on variety of screen sizes, including phones.
  • Stories load from the right, an innovative design.