Magazine themes are quite alluring. Sliders, pictures, columns, unique blocks of different content on demos. But beyond the perfectly crafted demo marketed to entice you to purchase what you’ve convinced yourself you must have, you probably don’t need it at all.
I’m willing to bet almost no content driven website actually needs a “magazine” layout. In fact, for those that utilize them, it may hurt what’s most important to their bottom line — me, the reader. My page views and my time on their site.
By design, the traditional magazine theme I’m writing about is meant to show newcomers a great deal of content in a relatively small amount of space. Some of these themes are column-ized, some have big feature sliders, video widgets, or mega menus. Most have small fonts and line heights, headers tall enough only for a logo and a banner ad, and the general feeling that they’re trying to stuff everything possible onto the front page. You know the ones I’m talking about.
And they are wildly popular. Nearly anyone ready to start a content driven website wants one. Many that start on more traditional blog themes think they need them at one point or another. But they don’t.
Don’t try to be bigger than you are. Be yourself.
When I go to a website with this look, I quickly get lost. They’re not telling me what to do or where to go. They usually do a poor job of featuring either the most important or the latest content. Instead my eyes go all over the place trying to find a place to land before I start scrolling to see more of the same and inevitably leave to go somewhere else after only a short time. Not because their content wasn’t good. I never had a chance to find out. They just didn’t tell me what to click on.
But I haven’t even mentioned the worst part. All the negative aspects above make a big assumption: that your blog even has enough content to support all that stuff. More than likely, your post rate is no more than a couple a day (at best), and unless you’ve got a pretty good theme to prevent it, many of the same articles are in the slider, the latest posts feed, and the little tabbed box of posts by category. Now I’m really confused. But not only am I confused, I’m also unimpressed. I suddenly think you’re not really a serious operation or a veritable source on the subject that brought me there in the first place. And, I leave.
Instead of finding the most impressive magazine theme on the market, I hope that you will consider my advice. Look for something simple. Something that takes the distractions away and brings the calls to action at the forefront. Nice, crafted images that make sense for the post and entice my eyes to focus on the content. Easy to read, 14 pixel or larger fonts with plenty of whitespace between lines. A simple but noticeable “read more” button for long-form content. One column of posts on the home page, with maybe a subtle feature area if you really do create a lot of content. A sidebar where you scrutinize every widget for its necessity, and take it out if it doesn’t absolutely add value. Look at that — many of us just lost our sidebars entirely.
Don’t try to be bigger than you are. Be yourself. Write awesome stuff and don’t worry about trying to show me every bit of content you have so I have plenty to choose from. Choose for me. I’ll find what I need if I’m not looking for your latest posts. Tell me what to do first. Keep it simple. Make it impossible for me to not click the first thing I see, rather than impossible to focus on anything I see. And please, quit using magazine themes.