The late March 2008 release of WordPress 2.5 brought along an administrator area design overhaul by Happy Cog. They took feedback from the entire WordPress community and set out to create a better user experience. Overall, it was a much-needed overhaul and Happy Cog did an amazing job. So this post isn’t about plugins to change or improve the admin or fix broken features. Here are four alternative WordPress admin themes that are compatible with version 2.5.
Admin themes are tough to make. It’s almost impossible to touch anything but the CSS so the theme isn’t broken by future upgrades. There were some nice themes out there pre-2.5, but most of them broke with the 2.5 admin re-design. The following four themes were created entirely from scratch and use nothing but some tricky CSS mastery and images.
Teddy Hwang created the Leopard Admin back in March, shortly before the release of Happy Cog’s new admin interface. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later he managed to preview the new interface and realized that Leopard Admin may break with the new installation. Teddy decided to keep Leopard Admin alive and helped it become one of the few admin themes to survive the latest and greatest WordPress upgrade.
Most of the original admin design is retained inside a frame – yes, a frame – in the center of the page. The links have been moved to the sidebar and given OS X-esque icons. Besides the navigation and header, nothing else has changed. The rest of the page is always contained in that center frame.
Dean Robinson, author of the Fluency Admin theme, decided that the new WordPress admin interface just wasn’t what he was looking for. He was a huge fan of Steve Smith’s Tiger Admin theme – as were we – but when he saw it broke with version 2.5, he decided to go off and create his own clean theme. The result? The amazing Fluency Admin theme.
Fluency sports a subtle gray color scheme and new typography. Also, similar to the Leopard Admin theme, it has main sidebar navigation and lists subpages along the top. Images are few – if any – but the Fluency theme definitely displays a sense of professionalism throughout its pages.
The Stylish Blue theme is more of a color scheme than a full-blown theme like the previous two were. It keeps the same default admin structure but adds a dark blue color scheme into the mix, making it look very professional.
Stylish Blue has no options page, and though it installs as a plugin, you can easily activate and deactivate it for individual users via the Edit Profile page, where it is listed as another available color scheme. While there aren’t any huge structural changes, the Stylish Blue theme certainly ups the coolness factor by a few.
The Mobile Admin theme is the best-looking and most functional mobile admin theme we found. While it can be used on any mobile phone, its focus is the iPhone and iPod Touch. This theme retains the complete functionality of the admin in a visually scaled down version.
At first you are greeted with the WordPress dashboard, which features incoming links, recent posts, blog stats, and comments. The write panel features most of the standard features including auto-save and support for tagging, and posts can be managed like in the default admin. Comments can be easily moderated, profiles can be edited, and almost every admin plugin is supported. Of course, you can always switch back to the default theme if you want.
Customizable color schemes are an awesome addition to WordPress 2.5, and you can be assured that another large design overhaul won’t be applied again any time soon. The four themes you just read about are great examples of what can be done without touching anything but the CSS. I hope that we see many more admin themes in the future.