Continuing my ongoing discussion about using WordPress as a CMS platform, today I would like to discuss themes. One of the really great things about WordPress is the tremendous amount of themes that are available and how easy it is to install and try them out. I admit to being somewhat of a theme junkie and will download several at a time to see how they would look on one of my sites. If you find you too like to try out new themes it is a good idea to have a practice or dummy site set up with your favorite plugins and some content to see how it all works together. After a while you will find those theme features you really like and also those you do not want on your websites.
To find themes you can google ‘WordPress themes’ and get enough feedback to keep you busy for days. Instead of the google approach I usually go first to the themes section of WordPress.org. As I write this there are 532 themes available for download at WordPress.org. A great source for new themes is weblog tools collection which highlights a collection of new themes every week or so.These are sources for free themes, premium themes are the subject for another post.
When you are looking for a theme as a CMS application the features to consider are different than for a theme that will be used for a blog. Two features that will be most important for your WordPress website will be the page template (pages will hold most of the content of your site) and the menu system (websites usually need a more extensive navigation system than a blog). To illustrate these points I am going to discuss a couple of sites I have built and why I chose the theme they use.
My first WordPress CMS site was for my wife’s ceramic studio, Pintalo Tu. My search for a theme led me to the Drikatruu Jelly theme. The Jelly theme was designed to use as a CMS and gives the beginning WordPress website designer lots tips and directions on how to modify the theme to fit the user’s desires. Besides the very informative website the theme is well documented in the PHP and CSS files to help make many of the typical changes to personalize the theme. I liked the theme for the all white style to highlight the colors in the content. The horizontal menu was fine for the simple nature of the site. One nice feature of the theme is an additional page template without the sidebar.
For my next site I wanted to get away from the typical WordPress layout of header, main column and 1 or 2 sidebars. I ended up going with a premium theme from iThemes. The Business Card theme comes with 6 color combinations. The layout of the theme and site is compact and I have used nested pages to guide readers through the site. I like the fact that the entire home page fits on the screen (or close). The picture rotator on the top of the main column is definitely a plus for a real estate oriented site. I would like to have a more robust menu in the side bar and I will be working on that in the near future. You can see how the theme worked out for my site here.
These examples are from the someone (me) who has very little programming knowledge and was able to put together WordPress websites that accomplish my purpose. For a truly top-drawer looking WP based website I suggest finding a designer that specializes in WP to give you something really unique (sounds like another upcoming post).
Finally, before the fun of installing WordPress and trying out a bunch of themes make sure you have a good outline of the content you want on your site and how you want it organized. That will take you a long way to finding the theme that fits the image you are trying to project.