Last month we wrote a review of the TypeMagz theme from the ColorLabs Project team, an up and coming premium theme website which offers a variety of premium theme designs at below market value prices. This week I received word that their new premium theme design, which was built specifically for those looking for a standard blog design, is now available for purchase.
The premium themes market has had an overwhelming focus on CMS Themes since its inception back in late 2007, but I’ve always felt that there should also be a variety of blog designs available for all of the WordPress users which actually *gasp* want a nice blog design to use with their blogging software. After all, despite being an extremely flexible piece of software, the core function of WordPress is blogging, right?
That leads me to believe that there is a large market of buyers looking for a nice blog design which includes a flexible feature set and is also available at a lower price point than the more advanced CMS themes currently available. The new WellBlog theme by ColorLabs Project is one of those blogging templates which does a pretty good job of achieving the goals I have for a solid premium blog theme.
To start, here is an example of the design and control panel which is included with the WellBlog theme.
WellBlog Theme Homepage
WellBlog Theme Internal Pages
WellBlog Theme Control Panel
If you’d like to test it out, you can check out the live demo of the black version of the WellBlog theme here.
The WellBlog theme also includes a number of features in addition to the 3 built-in skins to choose from. Probably my favorite unique feature is the scrolling “Most Commented” section at the top of the sidebar. Here are a few of the other more notable features:
- Supports WordPress Threaded Comments
- Built-in Gravatar Support
- After-Sales Support and Upgrade
- Cross-Browser Compatible
- Advertisement Banner Management
- Theme Administration Control Panel
If you are interested in learning more about the WellBlog theme, or are interested in purchasing a license for your WordPress blog, it is currently available for $50.00 (single-website license), or $200.00 (developer’s license for unlimited websites). WPHacks.com readers can use coupon code 94F4D as well to get an additional 30% off your purchase!
If WellBlog isn’t for you, you can also view all of the themes available from ColorLabs Project here.
For those that follow some of the more prominent members of the WordPress community, you have probably noticed that those at the top have become a very close group. I’ve always felt that this is a wonderful thing, but it has the side effect of making it difficult for a newcomer to break into those ranks and earn the respect of their peers.
One of those up and coming designers who is trying to get noticed is Roy Guan. A few months ago Roy entered into the crowded premium themes community with the launching of his website, Theme Junkie. In order to grab a foothold within this very busy space, Roy has managed to find a niche within a niche, offering all of his premium designs for under $30.00. In only about six months time Theme Junkie has already made available a large selection of premium themes as well as two free themes.
Below I wanted to take a moment and feature a few of my favorite designs already available from Theme Junkie:
Over the years it has been interesting to watch the WordPress themes market both grow and evolve. If you had asked me back in 2007 where I thought WordPress theme were going, I would have guessed that we were headed towards a strong focus on designs. Instead over the last year especially designs have moved more towards efficiency and simplicity with a focus placed on custom widgets and customizable control panels. These simple designs seem to allow bloggers to get all the features they want and then customize the simple designs to meet their individual needs.
One design that recently caught my eye is the new TypeMagz theme by ColorLabs Project. This website has been around for years now thanks to the extremely popular Arthemia theme, but rather than going with a magazine format, this new design instead places a focus on gathering and presenting news on the homepage. Here is a sample of how one configuration of the homepage may look:
TypeMagz Homepage Design
For internal pages the website converts to a blog format which includes many of the standard blogging features you’ve come to expect from WordPress:
TypeMagz Blog Design
Although this theme isn’t for every type of website/blog, if you run a website which manages a ton of content, the TypeMagz theme may be just what you are looking for. Like any good news-styled template, this theme really excels by taking a bunch of information and displaying it in one easy and convenient page where you can point readers to.
As you’d expect in today’s market all these features aren’t free, but the template is definitely affordable when compared to the competition. The TypeMagz theme is available for $50.00 for a single-use license, or a developer’s license is also available for $200.00. If TypeMagz isn’t for you, you can view all of the themes available from ColorLabs Project here, including their other new design, the Wellblog theme.
Over the past year the premium themes market has continued to grow and expand, causing designers to search for ways to separate themselves from the competition. Because many buyers choose to customize the design to meet their personal needs, it only makes sense for the focus of designers to instead turn to building custom settings pages that allow for a ton of flexibility.
These settings pages have become very complex in many cases and can offer a variety of features, including selecting where you want your sidebars placed, how many sidebars, which color/design style sheet should be used, or it can also offer simple things like places to enter your custom RSS feed, twitter feed, and Google Analytics code. As I’ve watched these control panels evolve over this past year, it has been truly amazing just how much can be changed without changing a single line of code!
Nick Roach, the founder of the popular Elegant Themes theme club, has been offering complex settings panels on his themes for as long as I can remember, but earlier this week I was given a peak at the new revamped settings panel named ePanel. This new settings panel is extremely complex and will eventually be added to all of the themes included with an Elegant Themes club membership. As of today’s date, ePanel is already integrated into the following themes and available for download: eBusiness, eNews, ePhoto, PureType, Bold, and CherryTruffle. Nick promises that the remaining themes will receive the same treatment over the coming month(s) and all themes will include this new ePanel.
So, what exactly is ePanel? Here is a screen shot of the updated design:
As you can see from the screen shot above, there are a few bonus tabs under the General Settings tab alone, and there are a total of 8 tabs down the left sidebar. The General Settings has the following 3 tabs: General, Homepage, and Featured Slider.
After loading up the theme to see how the settings panel works, I have to say I am very impressed! It looks like the General tab (under General Settings) allows you to select the style sheet color you want to use, enable/disable blog formatting on the homepage, Feedburner integration including all your Feedburner settings, and selecting the date format (dates are displayed differently depending on what part of the world you live in). In the Homepage tab you’ll get access to category display, as well as the ability to exclude certain categories of your choice. Of course the Featured Slider tab allows you to control how the featured slider works.
That is just the beginning though, as on the left there is also a series of tabs which include a large number of other settings. You’ll find Navigation options, Layout Settings, Ad Management settings, Colorization, and you’ll even be able to control certain SEO settings on the SEO tab (mostly meta information similar to how All-in-One SEO Pack works).
The best part is that all this new functionality is available for all Elegant Themes club members! Currently a membership to Elegant Themes is only $19.99 for an entire year, and stays at that price in order to renew your yearly membership. You can learn more about the Elegant Themes club here.
Over a year ago, I was among those that speculated on custom widgets and their role in the future of WordPress themes. One thing that wasn’t speculated on, however, was the rise of WordPress theme frameworks. Now, just over a year later, many of the leaders in the premium themes market are building their own internal frameworks which are used as the backbone to design their premium WordPress themes. For example, Woo Themes now has their own Woo Framework. Brian Gardner of StudioPress also recently informed me that he is also developing a framework for his StudioPress themes.
Premium theme designers are not the only ones using frameworks these days, however, and a few can actually be used by anyone in the development of their own personal themes! As with traditional WordPress themes, WordPress theme frameworks have free options, as well as paid alternatives. In the post below, I’ve collected the five major theme frameworks, and I intend to update this post as I learn of more WordPress theme frameworks.
Note: If these theme frameworks look a little plain, that is intentional. Frameworks are designed for someone to use as a building point, so they lack a lot of images and design elements. Once downloaded (or purchased), you can then build upon the framework to make your design. Many of these frameworks also include child themes, which allow you to quickly convert your framework into a ready to use design.
Thematic WordPress Theme (FREE)
Thematic is a free, open-source, highly extensible, search-engine optimized WordPress Theme Framework featuring 13 widget-ready areas, grid-based layout samples, styling for popular plugins, and a whole community behind it. It’s perfect for beginner bloggers and WordPress development professionals.
Thematic Framework | Live Demo
WP Framework (FREE)
WP Framework is a blank WordPress theme framework by Ptah Dunbar, which aims to cut down on your theme development time. It gives you a solid theme foundation to build your project on top of so you can focus on project-specific features right from the git-go.
WP Unlimited Framework (Single-Use $59.00 | Developer’s Pack $150.00)
The WP Unlimited theme has a fairly simple design but a very complex control panel, allowing the user to set up their blog without touching any code. Once the functionality is in place, then you can easily customize the design to meet your personal needs. Here is a screen shot of the control panel:
Thesis Theme Framework (Single-Use $87.00 | Developer’s Pack $164.00)
The Thesis theme framework is the most popular theme framework which has a cost associated with it and has built a loyal cult following. Among those followers are some very high profile WordPress sites built upon the Thesis framework, then customized for their personal needs. You can look through a list of these clients on their homepage.
Among the reasons people love Thesis is their attention to SEO techniques and the complex control panel:
One Theme Framework + One Panel (Single-Use $60.00 | Multiple-Use $110.00+)
By default, One Theme offers a variety of styles/looks to choose from and a complex control panel to get your site setup without having to hard code anything. The One Theme also features several child themes to give the user more customization options.
In addition to the design, you get their comprehensive control panel which they call One Panel:
One Panel Control Panel
Know of a WordPress theme framework we are missing? Please leave a comment or let us know about it!
As much of the WordPress themes market continues to move towards the premium (paid) model, it can sometimes be a chore for the consumer trying to find the best value for your dollar. There are certainly a few overpriced themes out there, but with a little effort you can also find a few premium themes you can find which are often undervalued.
When it comes to value, I usually recommend people start by looking at the various theme clubs available. Of the theme clubs out there, there is no doubt the best overall value is with the Elegant Themes club. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, lets take a look at their latest release, the new eBusiness theme:
eBusiness WordPress Theme
You can view the live demo of the eBusiness theme here.
The eBusiness theme also includes a very impressive control panel, of which the author lists the following features:
Design Layout – The layout tab houses some of the major overlying options that effect the structure and appearance of your website.
- Color Schemes – eBusiness comes with three skins, and each skin comes in three colors. You can switch between these 9 different variations at any time from the drop-down menu.
- Website Structure – The essence of eBusiness is to act as a CMS, creating a page-based layout. I have, however, included the option to bypass the page-based homepage in favor of a normal blog layout. You can switch between Page Structure and Blog Structure at any time.
- Footer Options – You will notice that each page has a widgetized footer on the bottom.
Homepage Options – The homepage tab allows you to manage your homepage. If you are using blog style then most of these options do not apply, but if you are using the Page-based system then you will have to use this area to set up your homepage.
- Slider Control – You will notice that the demo features 3 sliding elements on the top of the homepage. These are managed via the Homepage tab. Here you can customize the content text, the title of the tab, the text used in the button, the thumbnail image (which is automatically re-sized) and an optional read more link, which can be pointed anywhere. You can also choose how many sliding elements to display (up to 3).
- Pages Control - The content on the homepage is made up of WordPress pages. You will create a page in wp-admin and then define the page to be used in the Homepage options tab. Simply input the page id of the pages you want to use and they will appear. You can also choose how many pages you want to use (up to4).
- Blog Scroller – Even if you are using the page-based system you can still have a blog area on your site. For this reason I have included a blogroll on the homepage with a link to your most recent posts. This can be turned off if you don’t plan to have a blog section. You can choose how many recent posts to display. You can also customize the RSS link if you want to point it towards your feedburner account.
Blog Setup – If you are using the Blog Structure, or if you plan to include a blog within your Page-based website, you can customize your blog here.
- Post Format - You can choose between “Blog Style” mode or “Default” mode. The Blog Style mode displays your posts in full on index pages, while Default mode automatically truncates the post to create a short preview with a “read more” link.
- Categories Bar – The categories bar, with links to your various blog categories, only appears on blog pages. However, if you are using the blog as simply a recent news section, and don’t plan to have several categories, you can turn off this categories bar.
- Further Post Preview Control – In addition to editing the length of the post previews you can also adjust the size of the thumbnail, as well as enable/disable the “read more” link and post info bar. All thumbnails are automatically re-sized, cropped, and cached, via TimThumb which means you can change the size of your thumbnails instantly at the click of a button.
Navigation Options – The navigation options allow you to customize the navigation bar. You can use this to exclude pages from the navigation, adjust the order of the links, add a link to your Blog section (if you are using one) and so on. Both the categories and pages navigation bars can be edited here.
Advertising Management – As with the rest of my themes I have included a banner management system. You can add 125×125 and 468×60 banners and choose how many 125×125 banners you want to display (up to 8). You can also choose where you want banners to be display. You can add them to your pages sidebar, blog sidebar or both. You also have the option to disable them completely.
How To Get a License for the eBusiness Theme
If you’d like to give the eBusiness theme a try, it isn’t free, but it almost is. Currently this theme, along with ALL of the themes released by Elegant Themes (close to 20 available currently), is available for only $19.99! Nick, the web designer behind Elegant Themes, has also upheld a pretty impressive release schedule, offering up a new theme just about every month (which should give you close to 12 new themes each calendar year), many of which can be viewed in their theme gallery.
For a couple years now, the premium themes market has been growing steadily and the competition has been elevated. Designers are pushing each other to be more innovative trying to earn your dollar, which is great for potential buyers like us, but can sometimes be difficult to for a new theme designer to jump in and hold their own.
One guy that has successfully done this, in my opinion, is Pavel Ciorici of WP Zoom. Earlier this year he released his first premium WordPress theme, the Yamidoo theme. The title of the theme is interesting enough that it grabs your attention, then when when you look at the theme, it is hard not be impressed!
Now, Pavel has released his second premium theme, the Zenko theme, which I wanted to mention here. With this new magazine theme, the homepage design is a traditional magazine theme layout, but is designed in a way to feature the most important content in areas where readers will see it. Here is a default sample of how the homepage features your top content:
Zenko Magazine Theme Homepage
The homepage is also very image intensive, which is an important part of a magazine-style homepage to draw the readers attention. For the internal pages, the Zenko theme switches to a more traditional blog page layout with the sidebar on the right side:
Zenko Magazine Theme Post Page
A full live demo of the Zenko theme can be viewed here.
The Zenko theme also includes a number of great features. Some of my favorite parts are the featured content and popular posts on the top of the homepage, the built-in navigation designed to function like the WP-PageNavi plugin, and of course the footer area, which was designed to provide a place for you to put your less important content (footer is a great place to put categories, archives, etc. so they are available for readers that want to find it, but is also out of the way for people not looking for it).
Other features included with the Zenko theme:
- Built in support for Google Analytics and Feedburner
- Integrated Banner Management System
- Custom templates for categories, archives
- Auto-resizing and cropping for images
- Threaded Comments for WordPress 2.7+
- Built-in widgets
- Support for WordPress 2.7.1
- Cross-Browser Compatible – tested on IE (6,7), Opera, Firefox, Safari, Chrome.
- Flickr widget
- Theme Documentation
- Integrated Theme Options
- Tabbed Widgets
- Widgetized Sidebars
- Built-in Gravatar Support for Authors & Comments
- Drop-Down Menus
- Integrated social bookmarking in posts
- Photoshop Files (.psd) included
I also had the privilege of digging through the backend of this theme and was glad to see the code structure is very SEO friendly and well setup for someone who prefers to manually hack their code. Another thing that I really liked was the fact that this theme doesn’t require any WordPress plugins or custom fields to function properly. I always try to find at least one thing missing, and the one feature that I couldn’t find was the option of a traditional blog template for the homepage, which has become a pretty common addition with most premium themes.
Pavel also has a very competitive pricing structure, which allows just about any WordPress user to be able to acquire one of his themes. Currently, the Zenko theme can be purchased for $69.00 (single-use license), $119.00 (for 5 site license), or $149.00 (developer’s license).
Have questions? Want to learn more about this theme? Check out the official Zenko theme page by WP Zoom.
Recently our friend Andrew of WP-Fun.co.uk wrote an interesting post titled A New Name for Premium Themes: Themes. In his post, Andrew attempts to define what a premium WordPress theme is, then compares that definition with the most downloaded themes at the Free WordPress Theme Directory. In my opinion, blog posts like this are great because they really spark some thought on the part of the reader. After reading his post, I felt that the point Andrew is making is that if you look at the designs, feature sets, and quality of the most downloaded free themes from WordPress.org, they are all comparable to at least a few of the premium WordPress themes being sold on the market today.
For those of us that have been using WordPress for at least 2-3 years, the evolution of the WordPress theme is simply amazing. Back in 2007 themes weren’t necessarily even standards compliant, and the idea of widgets was still new and many themes didn’t support them. Now the idea of a control panel being included with your theme, having your theme be widget ready, and having several color options included with the theme have almost become standard, (even with the free WordPress themes available).
I’m sure there will always be some free themes available, but you have to wonder if at some point premium themes will become the standard. I suppose if this is the case, then my next question is, if premium themes simply become themes, then what is next? The top designers begin to release elite themes? If premium is a fancy word for better, it seems that designers will just come up with a new fancy word for best like “elite” and use that as the word for next level of themes. It may never end!
There are also things like Theme Frameworks to consider as WordPress themes continue to evolve. Give us your thoughts in the comments!
Over the past week we’ve had a good response from the affiliate marketing topics we’ve covered, so I wanted to draw your attention to what I’m now using to build my affiliate marketing landing pages with WordPress.
In the past I’ve gotten to work with Unique Blog Designs and have always enjoyed their work, so I have to admit I was excited when I saw that they have released some new affiliate landing pages for WordPress. This new theme package, known as the Affiliate Theme, is an affiliate marketers dream!
With the purchase of this premium WordPress theme you get 6 different landing pages, 30 different header graphics built into the affiliate landing pages, and lifetime theme support.
Here are the features listed by the creators of the Affiliate Theme:
- Choose From 6 Layouts to Improve Conversion – If you are an experienced affiliate marketer, you are probably familiar with manually updating multiple layouts in order to split test your affiliate landing pages. With WordPress, it is easy for you to input all of your affiliate offers and tracking URL’s and then easily change the layout for the purpose of split testing. We have built six (6) effective multi-post layouts. Say goodbye to the days of wasting time re-creating variations of the same landing page, review site, or blog. Save time (and money). This theme would also work brilliantly with the LP Jumper plugin.
- Optimized for your PPC and SEO Campaigns – Once you have set up Affiliate Theme, driving targeted traffic is, of course, the next step. That is why we coded Affiliate Theme to improve the SEO (search engine optimization) over the standard WordPress theme. You write the headlines and page copy, Affiliate Theme takes care of the rest! Proper use of header, alt, title and META tags can go a long way in improving your search engine ranking and quality score. Also, save time by integrating tracking scripts from the Theme Options panel.
- Built-in Color Picker (Perfect for every niche) – Our advanced “Photoshop-like” color picker makes it easy for you to change Affiliate Theme to any color scheme you want! Red for dating? Blue for web hosting? You will be amazed at how effortlessly you can rebrand your Affiliate Theme. You can change the color of everything from post headlines to button rollovers and site background.
- Lifetime Access to Resource Center and Support – Need help using Affiliate Theme? Excellent! Watch over a dozen video tutorials, browse and search through our extensive knowledge base, and even post your questions to the Affiliate Theme support forum. Watch tutorials and read articles on everything from how to use Affiliate Theme to creating specific types of affiliate websites.
- Need to test more? Change everything you need – Want to try a larger call-to-action button? How about changing the size of the product image? Button color? Font-size? Keywords in the title? Don’t worry about going back to Photoshop or hacking code to change any of that – Affiliate Theme allows you to change all of this and more! We wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to build dynamic sites that require no skill to modify.
- Hate coding? No problem. Love it? Great – Coding newbies, rejoice! You will be able to take full advantage of the powerful Affiliate Theme Options Panel, allowing you to change the layout, logo, colors, fonts, background, header graphic, even rollover button color – all without touching a single line of code. If you are a code-head, you will Dig the clean XHTML + CSS + PHP, fully commented source code. We even have put together an advanced customization guide for people who want to get extra friendly with Affiliate Theme.
Pretty much everything is done for you, allowing you to avoid touching code and giving you the ability to create an affiliate landing page using WordPress in under 5 minutes! Here is the control panel so you can see what I’m talking about:
And here are a few of the templates which are included with the Affiliate Theme:
Affiliate Theme (Dating Version)
Affiliate Theme (Ringtone Version)
Affiliate Theme (Make Money Version)
Affiliate Theme (Acai Berry Version)
You can view the live demos of each of these landing page themes here.
My favorite part when I learned of this new affiliate theme was the price. You have the following three purchase options: Single-Use ($97.00), Multiple-Use ($147.00), or the Developer’s Pack ($197.00).
If you’d like to learn more about the Affiliate theme, or are interested in purchasing a copy for your affiliate landing pages, you can get additional information here.
Although WP Hacks was originally setup with WordPress Hacks in mind, based upon our readers needs we’ve invested a lot of time over the past year and a half into researching WordPress themes and providing you with a large selection of WordPress theme galleries.
Back when this website was launched the premium themes market didn’t exist yet, so we had originally placed our focus on the different types of free WordPress themes. The result was a bunch of galleries broken down into types.
Since that time, a second market has emerged known as premium WordPress themes (premium was the term originally used to describe a more advanced or higher quality WordPress theme). Over time we adapted and now offer a variety of both types of theme galleries.
I always felt there is a market for both types of themes in the WordPress community, but some shoppers don’t know which of the two they should be looking at. Add in the fact that too many designers over the past year have released low quality themes under the ”premium” business model, and a lot of people have been left unhappy with their purchases and an overall loss of trust in the premium themes market as a whole.
So, if you were shopping for a new WordPress theme for your website or blog, what should you be looking for? Based upon the individuals needs of the shopper, there are a variety of factors that should be considered, but it mostly boils down to three essential factors:
- Price - Is the theme free? If there is a cost associated with the theme, am I getting the right value for the price? In the price category, free WordPress themes are always going to have an advantage, but there are a few downsides to going this route. Free themes usually require you to leave the link in the footer, while many premium themes do not. Many free themes are also unsupported, so if you aren’t comfortable hacking your own theme, it may be worth the price to purchase a supported theme. There is also minimal risk of sponsored links or malicious code showing up in a purchased theme.
- Quality – Another obvious point of comparison between free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes is the quality of the themes. There are a number of high quality free WordPress themes and (as mentioned above) there are some low quality premium themes. When looking for your theme, the designer or design companies reputation is everything. Does the theme I want offer control panel options, cross browser compatibility, or widget support? Are there multiple layouts and color choices to choose from?
- Support – Although support isn’t going to be relevant for some people looking who have the ability to customize their own theme, for most shoppers this should be the most important factor. Some free themes offer support from the designer, but most do not. If you decide to purchase a theme, you are usually paying as much for the support as you are for the acutal theme! Does this designer have trustworthy testimonials? Do you know any existing customers who are happy with the support they are receiving?
What do you value most when shopping for the right free or premium WordPress theme for your website or blog? I know most of the WordPress theme designers read this site and will see your feedback, so let us know in the comments!