For nearly a year, I have wanted to switch to a magazine style theme. It was not that my previous theme – Misty Look with 2 sidebars, wasn’t good enough – in fact, there are very few themes I have liked as much (and nothing else when I chose it). But the list of features I wanted kept increasing, and I wasn’t happy with the idea of ever-increasing plugins.
There are Free magazine-style themes, and there are Premium (read paid) themes, and then there are the so-called “Freemium” or Free Premium themes. The Premium themes have a simple proposition – they are (usually) more professional- looking, easily customizable with lots of theme options, and you get theme support if you run into any problems or want help on customizing something.
Shefaly recommended the Thesis theme, which she uses on her professional blog. It’s a nice, clean theme, though I wondered if it was too clean for me, and I noticed that Shefaly had needed outside help on customization.
Thesis is one of the most popular themes available, and there are some widely-read bloggers who use the theme, and a near-cult following. But there is a debate going on whether Thesis is really the best theme out there. I found that at least one WordPress theme designer – Mayank thinks that Atahualpa is better than Thesis.
Atahualpa is a terrific theme by any standard. It has 2 dozen option pages (really) and free support. If I hadn’t been looking for a news-style theme rather than a blog style theme, Atahualpa would have been my first choice.
Two Magazine styled themes with theme-options pages are Isotherm news and Igloo News. Jaypee Habaradas has a nice review of Isotherm News where you can see a snapshot of the options page.
One theme I really loved was Hybrid News. It is a free theme, and its developer Justin Tadlock even had a long rant about premium WordPress themes and how he would not be entering the pay-for-use theme market. I downloaded and installed Hybrid News – it’s a little more complicated than others because it’s really a child theme of the Hybrid Theme, and because it has any number of layout styles and accompanying php files, and just a single, woefully inadequate options page.
Now, I have learnt to do simple stylesheet CSS customization – changing fonts, colors, headers and even widths (of sidebar, header etc). But changing php files is something I hesitate to do, and in this case it was even more complicated by the sheer abundance of php files the theme had.
So I looked for theme support, and what did I find? You need a paid subscription to sort out any issues. Now how is that any different from having a premium theme? To me, this seemed like a bait-and-switch way of doing the same thing that other developers are upfront about.
The irony is that theme support does not even have to come from the theme developer – the support forums are mainly a place where people help each other out and also showcase their customizations. In fact, the support forums are where, as a developer, you can see all the bugs in your theme.
So I can see more rationale for a developer to charge for the theme than for supporting it. And besides, I would rather spend the money on a fully customizable theme than have to hang out in the support forums hoping to get the developer (or someone else) to troubleshoot my blog.
What theme do you think I ended up choosing? How do you like it?