One of the great things about WordPress is it’s adaptability and ease of customization Just download a new theme, and your entire site changes in an instant. It’s powerful, yet addictive; the search for the best theme is never ending – believe me – I have been known to spend literally days trying to track down that elusive theme that will make everything right in the world.
Never fear though, because we’re here with a rundown of the best magazine themes.
Oxygen [No Longer Available]
I’m starting with the best first: Oxygen, unlike most of the themes in this list, is responsive; meaning that it adapts to various screenwidths. This is typically quite a difficult task to do with magazine style themes due to various column and content areas, but Oxygen achieves it admirably. As the name suggests, it’s a very clean and simple theme with powerful typographic elements, built upon the Hybrid Core framework. The theme also comes ready with multiple ad blocks of varying sites, ripe for monetization.
It isn’t for everyone though – you may have trouble applying an existing brand to this design, and the homepage is focussed on featured photography; but if you can work around it and this matches your content then I strongly suggest having a go with this one. Beautiful and free.
A fixed-width 2 column plus sidebar layout, GoPress feels rather generic, which is a great thing if you plan to heavily customize and brand it. If you just want something to install and be done with, I feel GoPress might be a bit bland; though you’ll certainly be up and running without much effort.
It’s lightweight, simple, and has put a little thought into advertising, while the fixed background content area will work great for background takeovers if that’s your thing. Certainly worth considering.
The Morning After [No Longer Available]
From the talented WooThemes, this one is a bit of legend having achieved well over 100,000 downloads: one of those was me, and it served me well until the site was sold a year later for a tidy profit. It’s still one of the best though. With a unique but not overpowering style, the theme also allows for quick updates as a custom post type. Other than that, it’s very simplistic, not too feature heavy; though integrating advertising will need to be custom coded. Give it due consideration!
This has a distinctive Apple-blog feel to it, but the sole use of greytones won’t be to everyone’s taste. The homepage is jam-packed with content highlights and widgets, but you could simplify. There’s a few pre-made ad-blocks, which is nice. Worth checking out, but you’ll probably either love it or hate it.
Severely minimalist with sharp lines and defined blocks of content. I’m not too keen on the blue highlight, but that’s easy enough to change. It’s a nice, clean theme, but you’ll struggle trying to find a place in there for advertising, so this is definately a theme to focus on the content (which honestly, should be the goal of any site).
A very attractive, fixed width, multiple column layout with lots of little widgets and fucntionality to keep you amused. Possibly best suited to a local town newspaper, and I’m not keen on the background bleeding into the main content area; but otherwise, superb. Advertising is slightly limited with just a tall banner above the fold, but the single article pages allow for more via widgets.
A fairly old theme from Theme Junkie but compatible with the latest 3.4 WordPress. The design is definetely aged, but otherwise this two column + sidebar theme is quite functional and includes a nice above the fold adsense area built in (and editable via the admin screen). Theme Junkie also have some more modern designs in various magazine styles, all starting at around $39: Blacklight is a particular favourite of mine that would be suitable for a technology blog.
Is a Magazine Theme Really Right For You?
Before spending valuable development time with one of these, I’d suggest you rethink your decision to go with the magazine style. They may look nice initially, but do they really suit your content? Let’s take a quick look at the downsides to using a magazine theme:
- Featured articles will require high resolution artwork
- Generally fixed layout with no fluidity for different devices (Oxygen being the exception)
- Eye-catching, but difficult to follow the text
- Difficult to develop as one small change can wreck the layout; for example; if you want to place advertising.
- Favours high-output with large archives of content
Rather, I’d encourage you to look at what is known as responsive layouts. These adjust to the device – accomodating different widths using CSS. The site will look appropriate whether viewed on a widescreen monitor, a regular monitor, a tablet or a phone – this is incredibly important in today’s world where a large percentage of your users will be on mobile devices. For a fantastic example of a responsive theme, check out SmashingMagazine and try resizing your browser: notice that it can use the full width of your browser, but goes right down to the size of a mobile screen, cleverly rearranging elements into more suitable locations and display styles.
Or perhaps a more traditional blogging theme is more suitable. I wonder, why does everyone want to emulate the style of dead printed media, anyway? Embrace the traditional blog format, I say, and don’t simply jump on the magazine or responsive theme bandwagon.
How about you – do you have a favourite magazine theme that we didn’t mention? Are you a developer whowould like us to take a look at yours? Perhaps you’ve already got one installed and want some advice: I’m happy to give a free critique and suggest improvements. Also, don’t forget to check out my extensive monetization guide if you’re struggling to make your blogging pay, and the growing archive of web developer focused articles here at MakeUseOf.