We’re getting ready to start a new collaboration with Author Teleseminars which ultimately involved looking for some great, professional-looking WordPress themes to set up quickly for some of her clients. There’s all sorts of lists out there, top 10 lists, top 15, Smashing has a list of 83 and another list of 100. That’s a lot of themes to go through. And I hate lists. Here’s 6 that I really liked, and found to be, not only professional quality, but quick to set up, easy to implement, and with some great features to offer.
WP Andreas is a clean, 3-column theme with some nicely done page navigation along the left. I really like the blockquote-style meta at the bottom of the posts. There’s also a big header area where you can throw an imposing graphic or typographic header. Another nice feature he added in was RSS feed links for each category on the right sidebar. WordPress has category feeds built-in, but it’s rare that you see anyone making good use of them, and it’s easy to not even realize they exist.
You can download the theme from the WordPress themes directory or you can check out more of theme designer Andreas Viklund‘s themes and CSS/XHTML templates.
Modern is a minimalist theme designed by Ulf Pettersson. It is elegant in its simplicity with subtle splashes of color in the links and header. Images and out nicely in Modern, the color being a stark contrast against the neutral grays of the sidebar and the white background. Modern is 4 years old, yet the theme still looks stylish and contemporary, and works with WordPress 2.8.2.
Dark Zen is a simple, magazine-style theme with some social bookmarking links built in. Dark Zen also features lots of room for advertising content to monetize your site. It has a wide layout and uses clean, sans-serif fonts so nothing ever looks cluttered even with lots of stuff along the sidebar. It has a popular and common layout to other online design magazines.
The theme author only offers downloading of any of their themes by subscribing to their newsletter, Daily Blog Tips, but with some clever Googling, you may be able to find a copy you can download (like I did).
Mimbo is a fantastic free theme from designer Darren Hoyt. I seriously love this theme, and used it in an RPG I was running for an online news site for vampires and were-creatures. It’s built with a script called TimThumb which will automatically thumbnail and display the first image it sees in your posts to create its’ news-like home page design. The right sidebar is fully editable and widget-ready, while the left sidebar allows you to display recent posts from popular categories you define in the options page. The leading post is featured prominantly at the top with a larger thumbnail and links to category archives are available at the top, displayed like links to newspaper sections. All-in-all, this theme is perfect if you are pushing a lot of content and has all the features you need and none of the features you don’t.
Darren also has a Pro version of Mimbo as a Premium theme starting at $79.99.
The last theme I want to feature is The Morning After by The Master Plan. This theme is truly innovative and has some fantastic things going on. According to the theme’s homepage, designer Arun Kale took a survey on the WordPress forums about what features people would like to see in a magazine-style theme, and the result is The Morning After. Let’s go through some of the awesomeness:
The home page is a fully-widgetized, 3-column layout. You can define a description of the site that appears above the sidebars by creating a page titled Description and entering any copy you want there. The latest post is featured prominantly in the left column, and you can also feature posts by creating a Featured category and selecting that in your posts. You also have an area for “Asides” when you create an Asides category. Asides can be short blurbs or links, or you could probably even feed your tweets into the Asides using a plugin like TwitterTools. Single posts and pages are given a wide column to display the content with the sidebars minimized to one.
But that’s not all.
The Morning After comes bundles with three plugins: Post-Thumb Revisited, WP-Email, and WP-Print. You can learn about the latter two from the plugin homepages, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the Post-Thumb plugin. First of all, none of these plugins are at all required, you can use the theme perfectly fine without installing or setting any of them up. Post-Thumb is similar to TimThumb in it’s utility, but it offers a backend with options about how the images should be displayed, including using Lightbox effects. When Post-Thumb is turned on, The Morning After will automatically select an image from the post to display next to each post similar to Mimbo. When its not, you can still define an image to display next to your posts by using custom fields.
The Morning After has something for just about everyone, even other WordPress theme developers; there’s a lot of great stuff in there for other theme designers to use as inspiration in their next projects.
That’s all, folks
That’s our roundup. I hate long lists of designs or themes that have so many options that you don’t know where to start. Not only that, but most of them are either mediocre or not applicable to what you’re looking for. I know, I looked through a couple of those lists to pick out these 6, which stood out to me as being the best of the best for simple, professional WordPress themes.