If you’ve been watching WordPress for years like I have, you will have noticed various design trends that come and go. WordPress is old enough now that it has gone through a number of these cycles. From minimalism to complexity, from sidebars to single column, here is an outline of the latest WordPress theme design trends for your perusal.
This style is coming back, strong. Designers are figuring out how to do more with less and make things stylish without gimmicks. This is very appreciated.
Single page designs were once popular because, well, the internet was boring and there was no reason for multiple pages. Then we went through a phase when every site has millions of pages. Now we are backing off to a more reasonable level. A site that can put most content on a single scrollable page is a user-friendly site because page load speed is minimized.
Masonry is a jQuery library that has allowed designers to compile various block sizes automatically and dynamically. This allows for some impressive portfolio and gallery layouts. The most famous example is the new (WORST OPERATING SYSTEM EVER) Windows 8 desktop.
Responsive is the big kahuna. A WordPress admin no longer has a need for a separate mobile theme. Rather, new themes in 2013 have the ability to scale up and down seamlessly.
Retina is the name of Apple’s latest screen resolution. An ultra-sharp resolution is like a close up camera. It makes pretty things beautiful and mediocre things ugly. The retina displays has so many pixels crammed into each inch, the human eye can no longer distinguish between pixels.
Shortcodes are not new, but their widespread use in WordPress themes is relatively new in 2013. Shortcodes make for good design continuity when they are developed by the theme designer. When executed well, they keep the site fluid across pages, buttons, columns, etc.
Gone are the days of “skins” that pre-determine color schemes for your design. New WordPress themes are including a color selection feature that chooses the primary and secondary colors that permeate the entire theme. Good for most people, bad for the color blind.
As mentioned below, people are focusing on typography more than ever. The ability to integrate Google’s web-friendly font library has opened up a whole new world for designers.
A good single column theme is a nice piece of art. To incorporate usability into a theme of this layout is tricky. But when done well, it makes for a very cool design.
Custom Post Types
WordPress has offered custom post types since version 3.0. But designers have just begun to really take this feature for a ride. Post types let you determine how a particular theme displays content based on the type chosen by the author. This lends itself to nice mixed-purpose blogs that may highlight a link, then a video, then an image, then some text.
New themes are starting to integrate premium plugins through partnerships with developers or custom plugins. Sometimes these plugins are unavailable as a standalone purchase. Sometimes they are readily available but are thrown in as a perk for the theme purchaser.
WordPress themes this year have definitely taken on more high contract color schemes. Bright yellow on black is an example of a color combination we’re seeing more of.
This is a technique made popular by Facebook and Pinterest. Keep users on the page by not requiring a click to see more content. Most designers utilize AJAX for this feature.
The blocky feel has definitely made a comeback. This design trend uses blocks, squares, and sharp corners to define elements like menu items. There was a time when this was a sign of an old, outdated design. But now it’s progressive. Huh.
For some reason the left sidebar has come back with a vengance. It could be the natural inclination to look to the left for navigation. (as opposed to the top or right)
I’m not sure why, but I like the focus on typography in new WordPress themes. Lately, the typography has gotten larger and more pronounced. The text used to be what went in between design elements. Now the text IS a design element.
There was a period of time when WordPress themes moved away from images incorporated into the design. This was often because of the connection between page load speed and search engine rankings. However with faster hardware and ubiquitous high speed internet, this has become less of an issue. So designers are incorporating more image dependence into their themes.
The filterable portfolio is a design element we started to see widely used in late 2012 and early 2013. This is really a user interface feature as much as a design element.
Grid based design is not new but it’s deployment in most new, premium themes is. Grid based designs lay out the content is easy to find, intuitive locations so users experience an easy to interpret design.