Tag Archives: Themes

WordPress as a Media Powerhouse

WordPress is a powerful blogging platform, this we know.  And blogging started as a means to distribute information quickly and easily.  Some might argue blogging changed the internet, and turned it into something useful to the non-nerd.  As both WordPress and the internet have evolved, they have become so much more than tools to disseminate text.  WordPress has evolved along with the web as a means of managing and distributing media.  If done right, WordPress can be as powerful as any custom-made or commercial solution for media management.  The following are tools and methods for building a media powerhouse on top of the WordPress framework.

1. Use the Core

WordPress has come with a pretty powerful media management tool built in since version 2.5 (and has evolved with each subsequent version, significantly so in version 3.0).  The media library lets you upload media, manage some of the descriptors and parameters, and attach it to content.  This is particularly useful for themes built around media display.

wordpress media library

2. Enhance the Core with a Plugin

The freely available Media Library Assistant Plugin artfully expands the functions of the core media library.  It adds some impressive features such as bulk editing, a powerful gallery, taxonomy support and other reporting.  This might be my next go-to plugin when building a media-driven WordPress site.  Some of these features could certainly be considered for a future version of the core, but in order to keep things slim, why not leave it to the plugin developers to keep it lively?

media library assistant

 3. Enhance with a Theme

WordPress themes have come so far over the years.  Head over to your favorite premium theme provider, we like Themeforest.  And pick out a premium quality theme that is built to manage and display media.  Some themes are built for static media like images, others for video and even audio.  Some select themes are good for displaying all types of media but choose them carefully to ensure they support your preferred media types.  Also be sure users with all different types of technology can enjoy your site.  (ie: tablets running safari vs. tablets running Chrome vs. laptops running Firefox)

wordpress media theme

4.  Integrate with media services

Most internet users manage, browse and share media from social networking sites like Facebook, and media sharing sites like Flickr.  WordPress has the capability to fully integrate with these services using third party plugins.  This is a two way street, if your site is focused on distributing media, you can use a plugin to share your media with sites like Flickr.  If your site relies on media from other sources, make sure it is easy to pull it in from outside.  The Media Manager Plus plugin lets you do just that, pull media in easily from sites like Flicker, 500px and Instagram.

media manager

5. Embed Media like a Pro

WordPress is very good at inserting static media.  Embedding videos and audio or streaming media can take more effort and not work consistently.  This pro plugin, called Cincopa, is built to make that process easier.  The basic version is free but limited, specifically around storage capacity and file size.  Cincopa lets you upload, edit (resize), encode, distribute, track and even skin video files via WordPress.  The company claims their easy to use wizard is intuitive and makes the process of managing video quick and easy.  They include support for the major media players which is nice to know.  They also let you display media in galleries easily, which WordPress does not do well (for video files) and does very well (for image files).  Cincopa comes prepackaged with 40 skins which should work for most, but not all.

cincopa

Did I miss some key media management feature?  Please share it in the comments below.  We read every one!

15 Spring WordPress Themes

Spring is in the air, and so are some amazing new WordPress themes.  Although it’s not advisable to switch your WordPress theme with the seasons, it is nice to modify it to reflect the changing weather.  A fresh theme, even if just some minor touches, makes visitors feel like your content is fresh.   Here is a collection of Spring WordPress themes to inspire your next design.  Or, if you’re looking for a theme for a spring launch, consider one of these themes.

Mon Amour (free)

A simple, flowery theme with an image slider and right sidebar.  Mon Amour would make a great spring theme for your WordPress site.

mon amour spring theme

Enis (free)

A very professional looking blog theme with nice social media integration, Enis is a good choice for a fresh new Spring WordPress theme.  Shortcodes and some nice custom page options make a complete package.

enis spring wordpress theme

RetroPress (free)

A professional looking spring log theme with a nice teared paper design.  More stitching and some nice depth-creating background color combinations create a multi-dimensional theme.

retropress spring wordpress

Simple n’ Bright (free)

A single-column theme with beautiful nature-themes backgrounds, Simple n’ Bright is a great Spring WordPress theme.  It’s totally free, and comes with a smooth image slider.

spring wordpress theme

WordGrass (free)

A slick theme with nice background texturing and blurry filter.  Infinite scrolling make this Spring WordPress theme a great option for simple blogs.

wordgrass spring wp theme

Originative (free)

A classic blog theme with a nice watercolor style design and a popular design element for Spring 2013 that looks like stitching.  A powerful image slider and media widgets round out this very nice free theme.

originative free spring wordpress theme

Lucid

A premium theme by the guys over at Elegant Themes.  One of my favorite theme design shops, Elegant Themes (and Lucid theme) come with a powerful control panel and a minimalist, light, airy feel.

lucid

Xenon (free)

A grassy theme for Spring, Xenon is a nice gallery style theme that showcases media with nice user interface.  Perfect for anyone looking to highlight their works.

xenon spring theme

Samarcanda (free)

A premium-quality but free WordPress theme for spring, Samarcanda is a horizontally scrolling showcase and gallery theme.  Very fit for a spring collection.

spring wordpress

Nature

Nature is a theme designed for environmental campaigns but the overall design can easily be adapted for a spring update.  Lots of features in this premium theme are worth checking out.

nature theme

Origin Theme

Another Elegant Theme, Origin uses pastel colors (largely dependent on your post images) to create a smooth feeling design.  Nothing says spring like bright but calm colors.

origin

Pulchellus

A seasonal theme, Pulchellus comes with four seasons worth of design templates.  For those who really want to change their theme with the seasons but don’t want to customize it themselves, Pulchellus is a great option.  That being said, this theme doesn’t directly reference Spring or any season, so it could be used for any purpose.

pulchellus

Full Frame

Full Frame is actually a showcase theme that comes with some beautiful Spring imagery.  It can be used to display some gorgeous outside images, or just brighten up the overall look of your site.

full frame

Watercolor

A beautiful, calm theme with some pastel colors make this a great Spring WordPress theme.  Nivo slider, cufon font replacement and a few other nifty features make this a good theme for just about anything.

watercolor

Child Care

Don’t let the name throw you off, Child Care is a great theme for any purpose – especially a Springtime focus.  The designers have incorporated some natural elements like trees and grass which remind me of Spring.

spring wordpress theme

 

20 WordPress Theme Design Trends for 2013

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.

Minimalism

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.

minimal design

Single Page

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 Portfolio

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.

masonry design trend

Responsive Design

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 Ready

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.

retina design element

Image Sliders

Image sliders are back baby.  With the advent of new javascript libraries to handle transitions and effects, image sliders are flexing their muscles.  Big, bold images flying across the screen is a popular design element for 2013.

Shortcodes

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.

shortcodes design

Unlimited Colors

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.

Google Fonts

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.

google fonts in wordpress themes

Single Column

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.

custom post types

Integrated Plugins

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.

High Contrast

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.

high contrast web design

Infinite Scrolling

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.

Block Designs

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.

blocky designs

Left Sidebar

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)

Big Typography

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.

typography wordpress

Image Reliant

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.

Filtering Media

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.

filterable portfolio

Grid Based

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.

20 Obscure WordPress Theme Providers

There are hundreds if not thousands of WordPress theme shops out there.  Many are blow-your-socks-off amazing.  Conversely, many are just throwing themes against the wall and seeing if they stick.

Rather than just list all of the well-known, popular WordPress theme providers, I decided to identify some of the more obscure theme shops.  The following are high quality, lesser-known WordPress theme shops you may never have heard of.  Go ahead, try them out.  This post has no affiliate links.

Theme Trust

They claim “beauty and function” and I would agree.  Very professional, clean and easy to navigate themes.  Nice work Theme Trust.

theme trust wordpress

Para.llel.us

A creative shop mainly selling their stuff through ThemeForest.  They make one of the most popular themes of all time on ThemeForest.

parallelus themes

Chimera Themes

Not the top of the list in terms of cool designs.  But there are many themes to choose from, many of which are unique and serve a specific purpose which is convenient.

chimera themes

Shaken and Stirred

Some neat and clever, creative themes here.  One designed for the sole purpose of accepting invoice payments only.  Neato.

shaken and stirred wordpress themes

ThemeShift

Lots of high quality themes with an elegant, minimalist style throughout their portfolio.  Like the big boys, ThemeShift will soon be releasing their own theme framework upon which to build their future themes.

themeshift wordpress themes

ThemeFuse

Slightly higher priced ($59-99) put the “premium” in premium themes.  But they back up the price with some nice designs with specialized functions and clean, stylish lines.

themefuse premium wordpress themes

Dessign

Beautiful, minimalist designs pulled off with a classy and professional look.  In this case, minimalist does NOT mean boring.  This provider was once featured on SmashingMagazine.com, but still remains under the radar.

dessign wordpress themes

Mint Themes

Nice, run-of-the-mill themes, basic functions and designed well.  Mint Themes wins the award for “keep your eye on them, they’re going places.”

mint themes

My Theme Shop

Great styles come out of this obscure theme shop.  Clean, grid-based designs offer a creative spin on simplistic design.

my theme shop wordpress

WPCrunchy

Clean, crisp themes with a professional spin.  I’d call this an economy theme provider at the tune of $39 per year.

wpcrunchy wordpress

ThemeZilla

Gotta say, one of my favorites.  Orman Clark and ThemeZilla can really put together a slick WordPress theme.  They are clean, professional, simple and fast.

themezilla themes

CSS Igniter

Cool, usable themes using some of the latest but important techniques like responsive designs.

css igniter themes

SoloStream

Business-y themes with a true blog feel.  Many of their themes are really just built for standard blogging.

solostream themes

Rockable Themes

Some nice forward-thinking designs for professionals and graphics design folks.  Nothing ground breaking here, just good wholesome themes.

rockable themes

Gavick Pro

Like Rockettheme, Gavick Pro started with Joomla Templates and realized just how awesome WordPress was.  They now offer both.  I’ve no personal experience with Gavick themes but they sure look nice.

gavick themes

Theme Warrior

Badass name. They offer some inexpensive and free themes with a classic flair.

theme warrior themes

OKAY Themes

Very simple themes with designers in mind.  Lots of portfolio and media focused themes.

okay themes

Press75

Some excellent themes, some for just $5.  Press75 calls their themes “unique, clean and efficient.  I would agree.

press75 themes

Designer Themes

Cool block-style themes with a nice color-contrasting kick.  Creative use of minimalism and scrolling effects are sprinkled around their portfolio.

designer wordpress themes

WP Explorer

Great themes, very well conceived and put together.  They are usable and professional at the same time.  This one is more of a collection of themes from various providers.

wp explorer themes

 

 

25 Free Nonprofit WordPress Themes for February 2013

What to consider when choosing a WordPress theme for a nonprofit.

Today’s nonprofit can no longer depend on generous donors to send money because of the quality or depth of the mission. In a tight economy, nonprofits need to act like businesses – adopting business principles and strategy in order to stay competitive. One major component of a competitive nonprofit is a powerful and dynamic web presence.

Because this new reality for nonprofits and non-governmental organizations requires an intentional focus on their website and design, and WordPress is miles above the competition when it comes to building a community online, I thought it important to look at what makes a good nonprofit WordPress theme.

First, how these themes were rated.

1) A good nonprofit WordPress theme must be easy to navigate for non-tech savvy visitors.

2) A good nonprofit WordPress theme incorporates multiple avenues for converting visitors to participants.

3) A good nonprofit WordPress theme is stylish but professional.

I examined each of these three factors, along with basic standards for usability, good design principles and quality coding. The following are standout themes that would be good for virtually any nonprofit.

Yasmin

A fixed layout, 3-column theme with lots of social media engagement for potential donors or volunteers. Comes with a slick portfolio feature too.

yasmin nonprofit wordpress theme

Western

A 2-column business theme with striking color contrast and up-top social links.

western theme for nonprofits

Stylish Church

An easy to implement branding platform (like – just upload your logo easy) and an integrated events calendar make this a great option for nonprofits.

Free Church nonprofit wordpress theme

Simple Nonprofit Theme

It is what it says, a simple nonprofit theme with a header menu to highlight what’s important. A clean blog and latest news function round out this nonprofit theme.

free nonprofit theme

Fanwood

More striking contrast to make the theme pop off the page. Above the fold social links and easy navigation.

fanwood nonprofit theme

Pure Line

A truly simple design with the old school menu header. This theme is super free (full GPL) because it’s found in the WordPress theme depository.

pure line nonprofit theme

Simple Catch

It’s right in the name: “simple”. A smooth, clean design but a pretty powerful back end with a complete administrator panel.

simple nonprofit theme

Unique & Responsive

Responsive is the key phrase here. With more people accessing the web via mobile devices than ever before, this theme will set up your organization to catch people wherever they are, and in the future as more and more people use mobile web.

responsive nonprofit wordpress

Foundation Theme

One of the very few themes out there specifically designed for nonprofits. Foundation theme is from a small (2-theme) shop so who knows about support or consistency. But the theme looks pretty tight and clean.

wordpress foundation theme

Panoramica

Some nonprofits generate some great images as part of their work. Panoramica would be a good theme for them because it is built to showcase powerful images.

nonprofit wordpress theme

Simple n’ Bright

Again, built to rotate great images, Simple n’ Bright also has some beautiful built-in photography that can make the visitor feel all warm-and-fuzzy and maybe a little open-the-wallety.

bright wordpress nonprofit theme

Boldy

Another theme with rotating imagery. Boldy is put together by Site5 hosting as a “free premium” theme. Lots of social integration and a clean column look make this theme a winner.

boldy nonprofit theme

JournalCrunch

Generating lots of written content? This theme is the one for your group. A very clean, professional look with sutle vertical lines make the user feel like they’re sitting in grandma’s living room (in a good way).

journal nonprofit wordpress theme

WP Anniversary

OK, the “thank you” isn’t meant for your donors, it’s meant for Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress. But it could be customized to provide a very nice message to your visitors.

wpanniversary nonprofit theme

Simplo

Yep, I really dig the simple themes. Most themes today only look good with amazing, popping images and we don’t all have those accessible and appropriate for our site. Simplo is super simple and super easy to navigate. Two great design principles.

wordpress ngo theme

Academica

A very professional looking design, obviously targeted toward universities. With universities comes instant “cred” so tap into that if possible.

academic wordpress theme

Iris

Nice, calming but exciting blue permeates this design. Great for kids charities or other child-focused agencies. The navigation is simple, but the layout doesn’t allow for much content above the fold.

iris nonprofit theme

Respo

One of my favorites on this list, Respo is clean but really professional. The menu is boring, but the rest of the design is simple in a nice, clean and usable way.

respo nonprofit theme

Financio

One of my other favorites on this list, I think it’s the subtle vertical lines and the off-black menu. I love how this theme draws your attention immediately to the name, then the content.

simple wordpress nonprofit theme

Goodchoice

This one is modern in terms of design style. The static image background, overlaying screening, and round social buttons are all “design-forward”. If your nonprofit is progressive, this may be the design for you.

good wordpress nonprofit theme

Tint

Rounding out my list of favorites among favorites, tint has a cool, retro color bar at the top that serves no function other than to make me happy. The user is drawn to the content of your message or mission right away.

nonprofit theme

Quintel

Not my favorite design, can’t really explain why. But it has all the right components. Maybe it’s my hatred of the color teal. Yes, that’s it. Otherwise, Quintel might work perfectly for your nonprofit.

quintel nonprofit theme

Orion

A simple and straightforward nonprofit theme. If you care most about your content and images, this might be your theme. It doesn’t distract with flashy features, just clean lines.

orion nonprofit theme

Rolex

Rolex is nice because it has front page widgets you can use to highlight your work with nice icons. Plus the images are nicely displayed above the fold.

rolex nonprofit theme

Faith

I liked faith because it has an elegant quote or statistic spot at the top. Highlight a fact about what your organization does, or some inspiring word of wisdom.

faith nonprofit theme

Ready for the next level? Go premium, like this theme:

mission nonprofit theme

Five Ways to Discern a Quality WordPress Theme

There are probably 100,000 WordPress themes out there for the choosing.  Take away 50% broken or outdated and  another 20% unfinished junk and you’re left with 40,000 usable WordPress themes.  Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the truth is there are way too many themes to choose from.

Among every theme that is built for current versions of WordPress, there is bound to be a design you like and that meets your needs.  This article will help you develop your ability to identify quality themes from the rest.  Separate the wheat from the chaff.  The cream from the milk if you will.

It begins with a careful eye, and ends with reliance on your gut instinct.

1. Look for the obvious rating

This only really works for marketplaces where the user base moderates quality.  Obviously a premium theme provider won’t rate any of their own themes poorly.

2. Read the Discussion and Feedback

Almost every theme designer has a feedback mechanism or a discussion forum.  Some providers make these forums viewable for only purchasers.  Read these forums carefully and see what the common issues are.  More importantly, how fast are the theme developers in responding and resolving issues?

3. Check Compatibility

Well developed WordPress themes are compatible across all modern browsers, operating systems and across commonly used WordPress versions.  A quality theme should be backward-compatible to version 3.1 and fully compatible with the latest version of WordPress which is currently 3.4.  Cross compatibility should be seamless (ie: no hacks or core modifications required).

4. Check for Comprehensive Documentation and Instructions

Every theme claims to be “well documented“, but what does that really mean?  Just including two pages of instructions does not cut it.  Look for a long, detailed PDF of instructions.  Check every feature you are interested in against the documentation.  If anything is missing, confront the developer.  Documentation should be detailed enough that you can easily set up a theme, but not so detailed that it takes forever to read.  It should be well organized with a linked table of contents as well.

Good documentation should also be written well and grammatically correct.  Not everything needs to  be written in English, but for documentation that is, it should be correct English.  Theme documentation built into the theme itself can be very helpful.

5. Look for Frequent (but not too frequent) Updates

Frequent theme updates mean the developer is committed to ongoing support and quality.  But daily updates mean they are quick to make changes without being thoughtful.  You can check for update frequency through the WordPress SVN or developer download page.

Ready to find a quality theme?  Check out two of our favorites: ElegantThemes and ThemeForest.

WordPress Theme Generators for 2012

Lubith WordPress Theme Generator (free & pro versions)

Lubith is pretty new to the theme generator frontier.  They have a nice looking interface (you need a free account to even play with it).  It is easy to drag/drop what you want in your theme.  This is pretty different compared to most theme generators that give you finite options for layout, background, etc. and you must choose among them.

It would be nice to see Lubith in action without signing up for an account.  If it’s that good, why not let the product speak for itself?

WordPress Theme Generator (free)

This one has been around a while, I call it “yo-shap” because that’s how I read the TLD it sits on.  I’m not sure if that’s the creators name or what, but it’s one of the original theme generators out there.  It is clean and quick, but doesn’t come with any flashy options.  Maybe that’s what you’re looking for.  It supports up to WordPress 3.1 as of the writing of this post.  If you just want a basic layout generator, this is the one for you.

 WP Theme Generator

A more all-inclusive WordPress theme generator, this one has countless options.  Again, you’re stuck with the options that are available, but it would be difficult to find one that did not work for your purposes.  My challenge with this type of generator is that the themes are not truly unique.  But I’ve yet to see a WordPress theme generator that will come up with something truly unique.

Artisteer

You’ll quickly gather from our previous review of Artisteer that it is all for show.  The interface is the best one available, it works as any other Microsoft Office program might, which is very nice… at first.  Then you realize Artisteer is just another pre-packaged WordPress theme generator with limited options.  If you want to churn out cheap themes quickly, this is the tool to use.  However each file is filled with Artisteer references so you can’t pass themes off as your own.

ThemesPress

A very cool tool that I have admittedly not tried myself is ThemesPress. Unlike the others listed here, ThemesPress lets you turn HTML into a WordPress theme.  Why would this be helpful?  For several reasons: paying for a custom HTML design is cheaper than a full blown WordPress design.  Also, sometimes you’re given an HTML design by a client that you must convert.  It costs $10, but could be well worth the investment.

 

Beautiful Free and Premium Responsive WordPress Themes

A new word is being used to describe some WordPress themes, “responsive WordPress themes”. This descriptor is used when a theme can fit any screen size without needing multiple versions of the design. For example, a theme that adjusts when the screen size changes without reloading or redirecting to a “mobile” version.

There is a simple test for whether or not a theme is responsive. Visit the theme, make sure the browser window is not maximized, and drag the corner of the window in and out, changing the size of the viewable window. If the theme gracefully adjusts without losing perspective, key features or dimensions, the theme is responsive. Think of it like the theme is responding to the window size.

Of course, there is some pretty tricky coding that goes into creating a truly responsive theme.  If you already know how to create a WordPress theme (not using Artisteer) and you have a basic knowledge of CSS, you can check out this tutorial on creating a responsive WordPress theme.

If you are a WordPress administrator that wants to use an ipod/ipad/iphone/tablet friendly design, check out any of these amazing responsive WordPress themes:

Alyeska | Download | Demo

Core Minimalist | Download | Demo

GoodLayers | Download | Demo

Reaction | Download | Demo

Shapeshifter 2 | Download | Demo

This is the second version of a popular theme we reviewed here.

Balita | Download | Demo

Angular | Download | Demo

Bones| Download | Demo

Flexible | Download | Demo

Mixfolio | Download | Demo

Chameleon | Download | Demo

How to customize your WordPress 404 page

I previous discussed how to customize your WordPress 404 page in a previous post, but I was brief.  This tutorial is intended to be a more comprehensive guide for this important customization step.  Customizing your 404 page tells your readers you went the extra mile to ensure they have a quality experience with your site.  Additionally, from an SEO perspective, users who need to take extra steps or “dig” to find your content are less likely to follow through.  They are also less likely to trust your site in search results in the future.

WordPress makes customization easy with logical theme files and template tags.  Here is how to leverage those features to customize your 404 page.  For those who don’t know, and I can’t imagine anyone reading Pingable that doesn’t, 404 pages are a catch-all page for any time a user stumbles upon content that does not exist.  Perhaps the URL has been changed, perhaps you’ve deleted the content, perhaps someone has incorrectly linked to a post.  The 404 page will be found by readers in these situations.

Step 1: Prevention

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  The best way to improve the 404 error page experience is to prevent it entirely.  Here are some steps to prevent most 404 errors.

  1. Use Google Webmaster tools to track dead links and 404 messages.  Google’s huge brain knows how to tell when it has found a 404 page, and if Webmaster Tools has been set up for the domain, it will notify the owner via some nifty charts.  Find out who is linking to these incorrect URL’s and kindly ask them to update their link.  If the error is from inside your site, go through each one and correct the links.
  2. Check and re-check your internal links.  There is no reason you should be the source of errors.
  3. Use a search engine approved site map.  There are several good free plugins that automatically generate sitemaps for you.  This allows search engines to track your content quickly and efficiently.
  4. Internally link through the WYSIWYG hyperlink generator.  This uses post ID’s to create internal links so if the slug is changed, the link is not broken.
  5. Use a consistent url structure.  This is selected through the WordPress settings.  Whatever you choose, don’t change it once your site goes live.
  6. If you must move a post, consider deleting the content and replacing it with a link or 303 redirect to the new location.

 Customizing the WordPress 404 Page

  1. Find the 404 template file. In most WordPress themes, there is a file called 404.php.  This is the 404 error page.  Also in most themes, it will not be customized much.  Only super premium themes come with a custom styled 404 page.  If there is not a 404.php file, you can create one and place it in the theme directory.  WordPress will look for this file automatically and use it in the event of a 404 file not found error.
  2. Edit the file. The file can be edited with the built-in theme editor.  In the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Editor.  Choose your theme and choose the 404.php file to edit.
  3. Choose your message. Make this message a little quirky, a little different, but be clear and concise.  Give users a next step like a search link or a link to the main page.  Apologize and tell them you will be checking into this error.  A little personality goes a long way.
  4. Give them more information. Even better than asking them to search is displaying information automatically.  This plugin will display search results similar to the document title they attempted to access.
  5. Go the extra mile.Make the design something memorable, and funny.  Humor is tied to memory anchors.  If a site makes you laugh, you are more likely to remember it in the future.  If you aren’t a designer, consider using a pre-designed 404 error page.  Here are some very inexpensive options.
  6. Need more? The following premium themes come with custom 404 pages.  If you’re feeling the need for a professional and cohesive design, this is the way to go.

Additional Resources

Premium Theme Provider Roundup

I have wanted to do this post for a long time.  There are lots of premium WordPress theme designers and I love browsing the good ones.  But has anyone put together a comprehensive list of them all?  I have seen some short lists, but nothing that covers everyone.  This is the beginning of what I hope will be an all-inclusive list of premium WordPress theme designers.  I need your help to find other providers though.  If you have a favorite, leave it as a comment below.  If they’re good, I will move them up to the main section of this post.

ThemeForest

The first place I go to look for a new theme, hence it’s place in this list.  There are so many designers selling on the ThemeForest marketplace, you get a really eclectic selection of premium themes.  Some are junk, but most are vetted by their editors and therefore are of very high quality.  Support for these themes is up to the individual developers so read reviews and comments before buying.

Organic Themes

A relatively new (?) player to the premium theme game, Organic Themes has done a great job developing a core of high quality themes.  They are fresh (as their tagline suggests) and professional themes for multiple purposes.

ElegantThemes

I have been a member for years.  So long ago, I have a much less expensive grandfathered price.  These themes are not updated as frequently as others, but are very high quality and have lots of built-in features.  And for some reason, they have a different “feel” than other themes.  I can spot an Elegant Theme a mile away, even if I’ve never seen it before.

GraphPaperPress

Besides have a very clever logo, they produce some very nice minimalist themes.  GPP knows how to do WordPress themes right.  These themes are great for media folks like photographers and videographers because the themes are light and fast.

WooThemes

A good old standby, WooThemes has been around a long time.  Just check out how many themes they produce!  You’ll see a new one each month consistently.  They have also gone into the framework business, producing their own ecommerce framework.

YooTheme

These are by far the most tricked-out themes I have ever seen.  When new technologies emerge for theme designers, they tend to show up in YooTheme stuff first.  Just browse their themes, there are features incorporated that the other players haven’t even begun to use yet.

RocketTheme

I am a recovering Joomla! user.  Back in my J! days, I used Rockettheme consistently.  They produce really high quality themes for Drupal and Joomla!  A couple years back, they wised up and started created stuff for WordPress.  The rest, is history.

Premise (by CopyBlogger)

A themeshop with a very specific purpose: to create a versatile landing page theme.  They achieved this goal.  Is it an ethical way to clutter up the interweb?  Not so much.  But lots of people are making lots of money with themes like this.

WPShower

WPShower, although an odd name, produces some of the nicest minimalist themes I have seen in a long time.  And they do so consistently and dependably.  Nice, clean style.

StudioPress

The copyblogger theme shop, StudioPress makes some pretty good stuff.  Some good real estate themes and other specific function themes come out of here.  No designs are “knock-your-socks-off” good.  But many are worth the price.

DIY Themes

They’re famous for one theme which is arguably a million themes in one.  The Thesis Framework was designed by DIY themes. Lots of people swear by this theme with allegedly amazing SEO.  Personally I think they reached fame and fortune with an aggressive affiliate program.

Templatic

Templatic specializes in specialty themes.  Each one is designed with a specific purpose.  This is great for real estate professionals, wiki admins and shop owners.

Press 75

Simple, functional themes with nice styling.  Press75 designs great themes for professional media moguls -er- producers.  Photographers and artists rejoice!

WPZoom

Minimal themes with lifetime support.  WPZoom has some really nice stuff.

Who did we miss?  Either leave a comment or drop us a line with your favorite premium WordPress theme developer.