Is a Magazine Theme Right for You?

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Magazine-style themes, particularly for WordPress are very popular right now. The majority of premium themes for sale are magazine-style, and there are some very good ones. With the rise in availability and popularity of premium themes, magazine themes are also being increasingly common. A magazine theme can be a great option for building a website to utilize WordPress as a CMS rather than just a standard blogging platform.

Magazine themes open up some new possibilities to present content in ways that aren’t possible with the typical blog theme, and many bloggers are starting to use them for this reason. However, it’s not always an easy decision to know what type of theme would work best for your blog.

Reasons to Use a Magazine-Style Theme:

Excellent option for websites other than just blogs

Over the last few years WordPress has emerged as a legitimate CMS in addition to being a great blogging platform. However, most websites won’t work very well with a standard blog theme and layout, so the options are to have a custom theme designed or use a theme that is specifically created to suit the needs of a typical website.

When compared to standard blog themes, magazine-style themes are much more effective for traditional websites because of the presentation of content. Many magazine themes make better use of the page system in WordPress and there is more control over what content is featured rather than just having the latest post at the top of the front page.

Give a blog the look and feel of a larger site

We’re probably all familiar with the layouts that are commonly used by large news sites. Magazine-style themes can give a similar look to a blog, which can give the impression to visitors that the blog is larger. In some cases the standard blog layout can make it look deceptively small to new visitors. There may be hundreds of posts in a number of different categories, but the depth of the blog may be difficult or impossible to notice without digging deeper. A magazine theme can do a better job of communicating the size of the blog/site to new visitors.

Appearing larger may or may not be an attractive feature. For some blogs it really doesn’t matter, but for others it might.

Feature more content in a smaller space

One of the major advantages to magazine themes is that the front page will show more of the available content to visitors. For example, you may have sections for an excerpt of the most recent posts in categories A,B, and C. Images and links to all of these posts will be visible above the fold as soon as visitors arrive. With a standard blog layout they’re unlikely to see more than one post without scrolling down, even if you’re using excerpts.

Achieving this without creating a cluttered look is difficult, but the good magazine themes do it effectively. This can help visitors to quickly find what interests them, and it also gives the opportunity for some creativity in the design and layout.

Improves the Usefulness of Categories

Categories in blogs are irrelevant most of the time. The links often get ignored by visitors, and bloggers typically don’t use an optimal system for categorizing posts. Most Magazine themes are heavily dependant upon the category that a post belongs to. What’s shown on the front page will change if a post is moved from one category to the another.

Because content from a particular category will appear at a certain spot on the homepage, visitors become accustomed to looking in specific spots for certain types of content, thus making the categories more relevant. Additionally, this dependency on categorization can force the blogger to be more accurate and put more thought into the best ways to categorize content.

Improved control over what is featured

Standard blog themes will display content on the front page according to which posts were published most recently. While there are ways to exclude certain posts or categories from the front page, this functionality can be somewhat limited.

If you’re looking for more control, and easier control, over what is featured on the front page, a magazine theme may be a good option. Many magazine themes display a recent post from a “featured” category prominently on the page. In this case, if you’re posting something that you want to be featured, all you have to do is include it in that category. If you don’t want it to be featured over another post that was recently published in that category, don’t put it in the featured category.

Ability to scale to handle very large amounts of content

There are a lot of blogs out there that publish a huge amount of content. In these cases, standard blog themes are pretty inefficient. Posts that are not that old will quickly be pushed down the front page and out of the spotlight. Likewise, with posts that are extremely frequent, there is likely a good bit of variety in the types of content. A magazine-style theme would allow for featuring more on the front page and also for categorizing the content to separate it more effectively.

With a well-designed and well-executed magazine theme, you can support a very large amount of content. The scaling possibilities with standard blog themes is much more limited.

Avoid the traditional blog look

Many people really hate the traditional blog look that is seen pretty much everywhere. A magazine theme can make your blog look less like a blog. This will be most notable on the front page, as pages of individual post will be a bit more like the individual posts from a typical blog.

The Downsides to Magazine Themes:

Despite all of the benefits and reasons to use a magazine-style theme, they’re still not a good fit for every blog. Here is a look at some situations where they can be ineffective.

They can be awkward if you don’t publish a lot of content

Standard blogs themes will typically work better if you are not pumping out a lot of content. Visitors may come to your site and feel like nothing new has been added with a magazine theme, but with a standard theme they can’t help but see your most recent post. If the content you post is somewhat time-sensitive, a magazine theme can make your blog look abandoned if outdated content is still being shown on the front page.

Unfortunately there is no black and white number of when you should stick with a standard theme and when you should use a magazine theme. If you’re unsure, think about the content that’s currently on your blog that has been published in recent days and weeks. With a magazine theme, what categories of content would you prioritize? With your current content, what would wind up being on the front page? If you feel that some of it is outdated or would be awkward still being on the front page, stick with a standard theme.

Additional clicks may be neccesary to get to content

Ask 100 blog readers if they prefer full posts or excerpts on the front page and you’ll probably get a pretty evenly split response. With magazine themes there is no option to publish a full post on the front page. One of the downsides is that visitors will have to click on a story in order to read the full post. This isn’t the biggest issue, but still something to consider.

Additional work may be required

The layout and look of the front page of magazine themes is sometimes dependent upon the use of custom fields. For some people this can be enough of an annoying to stay away from these themes. Not all themes will require this, especially the premium themes.

Clutter

The front page of some blogs that use a magazine theme simply give too many options for many visitors. With too many options, visitors may leave rather than finding one that they like. While the presentation and layout can be a major plus for magazine themes, it can also have reverse effects in some situations.

How Can I Know if a Magazine Theme is Right for My Blog?

Now that I’ve listed the pros and cons, some of you may be find the question to be more complicated than ever. If that’s the case I’ll try to simplify things by listing a few factors that should be major considerations.

How much content do you publish?

If you publish tons of content on a regular basis, chances are a magazine theme would be a good fit. If you don’t, chances are you’ll be better off with a standard theme.

Does some of your content need to be featured over other content?

If you would like the ability to easily keep your best posts in a prominent position for a bit longer, you could benefit from a magazine theme.

What is typical in your niche?

You need to also consider your readers in the decision. Most likely they are also visiting and reading other blogs in your niche. What do they expect when they arrive at a blog? Will they be comfortable with a different layout? If you’re in a news-related niche for example, a magazine layout will be more comfortable to most of your visitors.

Which approach will give better navigation for your content?

One of the major differences for users of various styles of themes is navigation. As the blog owner it’s easy to overlook the fact that many of your visitors won’t know exactly where to find everything. What layout style will make it easiest for visitors to find the content that they want?

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you feel about magazine themes, and what factors would you consider if you were making the decision?

If you like getting design inspiration by looking at excellent blog designs, you’ll love our new gallery site Blog Design Heroes.

Published July 27th, 2008 by

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19 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • devjargon, July 27, 2008

    This is one of the problems we’ve encountered with our blog. We’re not sure whether or not a magazine theme would work.

    We publish 4-6 articles a week and they’re of decent length. I just don’t know whether or not it would be worth it to have a magazine styled theme.

    Good points to ponder.

  • pablopabla, July 28, 2008

    I am “still” mulling over whether to switch to a magazine theme for my food site. It would be a drastic change, I am sure, especially for my regular readers. Hence, I am still mulling over it :P

  • When Rev Mag came out, we knew that’s what we needed. We published daily at the time, we wanted to keep posts on the home page longer to get more hits and we wanted to present people with a buffet of choice. We also wanted to highlight certain categories as well. It was the perfect fit.

    Is it for everyone? No. There are many people who ask us to customize their Rev Mag for them, but often, we steer them away to a theme that is based on their needs.

    Never pick cool or pretty over the perfect fit for your blog or business.

    Cheers!

  • Smart Savings 101, July 28, 2008

    I am thinking about using a magazine theme. How do you think they affect adsense revenue?

  • pearl, July 28, 2008

    Hey Steven

    I chose to use Options theme because it does give you the option of showing full text posts on the front page.. I might switch back and forth between the two

    Although I knew these points as I had asked you before making the switch, I just hope it’s not looking awkward and you haven’t moved on to a ‘better looking blog’ :)

  • Vandelay Design, July 28, 2008

    Pablo,
    In your case I would think a magazine theme would give your site a look that’s more similar to other websites in the food/cooking industry and make it look less like a blog. You could probably separate your different types a recipes a bit more. It’s just a matter of what you want to do with the blog and what your visitors will respond to.

    Smart Savings,
    I have no idea, I don’t use AdSense. If that’s your main concern I would probably try contacting some bloggers that use AdSense with magazine themes and see if they’re willing to share their experience or their opinions with you.

    Pearl,
    To me your blog theme isn’t that much different than a standard theme that uses excerpts on the front page, like mine for example. You’ve got the fancy feature at the top, but other than that it’s pretty typical use of excerpts in my opinion. I don’t think it’s a bad choice.

  • pablopabla, July 29, 2008

    Thanks for the valuable feedback Steven! The daunting task of using a magazine theme is the possibility of having to rearrange some formats and spending precious hours tweaking it :P

  • MarketingDeviant, July 29, 2008

    I tried using a magazine theme once, but everything got screwed up and had to revert to a blogging theme. I think blogging theme is the way to go for me!

  • wow cool review for a theme. I have not used magazine style theme yet but i think i will consider using them and probably make one myself. Bu t I do agree that presenting too many options for the user will sometimes cause them to leave your site.Thanks a lot for the insight.

  • Jackson, August 11, 2008

    Rise in the popularity of premium themes, magazine themes are also being increasingly common. It can be a great option for building a website. I think magazine themes are helpful.

  • Elegance in Web Design, August 16, 2008

    It’s my preferred design, however know your clientele and your market. Like the article says, if you’re not publishing a regularly update site, this type of design has a tendency to reflect poorly on your site as your site will look stagnant.

    Cheers
    Mike Farley =)

  • Yogesh, December 25, 2008

    Well it really depend upon the blog is all about :)

  • Chelsy Davy, December 27, 2008

    My is a news blog then it might be bit helpful for me as a mag theme

  • Baskin Demir, December 27, 2008

    Thats interesting i mean Magazine Theme Never tried it though

  • Shelly, June 10, 2009

    Thanks for the awesome tip!
    I want to try it but I can’t even find such a magazine theme or how to get started at WordPress.com. ????

    Also, does anyone else besides WordPress offer a magazine theme?

  • Vandelay Design, June 10, 2009

    Shelly,
    If you’re using WordPress.com I believe you are limited to certain themes. If you host the blog yourself and get a domain name you can choose from hundreds of magazine themes.