The Magazine Style Theme

This post was guest blogged by Syed Balkhi of

I met John over at Izeafest 2008 where I got an opportunity to write a guest blog for him. As you all know that this site has just got a new astonishing magazine style design, I couldn’t think of any better topic than to explain the What, Why, and Hows of Magazine Style Themes.

What is a Magazine Style Theme?

Magazine style theme is a special type of a blog design which organizes content on the front page using excerpts, headlines, and categories to give the user an overall glimpse of an entire website, so users can easily navigate themselves to their desired location. It acts as a portal to content on the rest of a site.

While this concept is nothing new, but the popularity of magazine style themes lead to suggest that this could quiet possibly be the future of blogs. Many bloggers have begin to switch, including this website, but what is the reason behind it?

Why Magazine Style Theme?

  • Simply Different – Bloggers are trying their best to distinguish their blogs from the other blog looking sites (Personal Diaries). In an attempt, they are switching over to magazine style theme.
  • Content and Usability – Most famous cliche in our industry is “Content is King”, but is it really king when you can’t find it. When you put Content and Usability in the same bowl, the mixture come out as a Magazine Style Theme.
  • Multi-Author Blogs – Blogs that have multiple authors produce more content daily. So sometimes it gets hard for the user to keep up. Therefore magazine style theme can navigate them to their desired article easily.

What are the advantages of a Magazine Style Theme?

  • Allocation of space – As a blogger, you get to pick what goes on your homepage, so you can feature more attracting content on the homepage. For example, if you are running a contest, now you can keep the updates of the contest in the featured area. Example of a featured area can be seen at this blog’s homepage.
  • Easy to Navigate – Magazine style theme enables the ability of easy navigation for the users. Each site take different steps on achieving that. You can navigate your users by using categories like Balkhis. You can have your favorite post like Problogger in the tabs.
  • More Exposure to other areas – You can add other areas of the website like gallery on John Chow, or Job board on Problogger. This way you are displaying your blog as a whole because more and more blogs are now adding on to the blogs, so blogs are no longer just blogs.
  • Organized and Good looking – Just like when your room is organized and it looks good, when your blog is organized it looks good. Magazine Style Theme is another name for an organized blog hence another name for a good looking blog.

What are some of the disadvantages of a magazine style theme?

  • Price – Magazine style themes are expensive in general. Now to hire a good designer which is expensive alone, and then hire them for a magazine style theme can be hard for some.
  • Clutter – While it is an organized style, some people can over do a magazine style theme. So they end up creating a clutter rather than organizing the site. So you have to know your limits. If you don’t, then get someone who does.
  • Sometimes outdated – It often happens with smaller blogs that they can look outdated if they are not updated as frequent as some of the larger blogs.
  • Some users don’t like it – As you can see in the poll here at JC, some users don’t like it. I understand, that users can’t directly see all posts, so it requires one or two extra click, but at least you can spot everything rather than search all day. Remember, you can’t keep everyone happy.

When should you get a Magazine Style Theme?

Personally, I am a big fan of these type of designs, so I will be a little biased. I think everyone should get a magazine style theme even from the start. But realistically, when you think you have a good enough audience. When you think you can write good content in various categories.

How to get a Magazine Style Theme?

Well there is an easy way and there is a hard way. You can get a customized version of magazine style theme (Recommended). It is going to cost you more, but will be beneficial in the long run. It is easy per say, but the money part makes a bit hard. If you know that JC’s design was done by Unique Blog Designs, so you can always approach them. I met with them at Izeafest as well, and they are really nice people. Uzzz Productions (My Crew) can do Magazine Style Themes as well. Special Rates available if you mention this post.

You can reach out for a premium theme (Shortcut). There are a lot options to pick from. The disadvantage of premium themes are that they are not just for your site. But I recommend Revolution Theme because they have some very nice magazine style themes. There are a lot of free magazine style themes as well, but once again you know there will be a lot more people using that. Avoid using these shortcuts.

Hard way is learning by yourself. If you know html/css, and can make simple graphics. You can definitely make your own magazine style theme because most of it is the correct placement of html codes using css. Now there are bunch of wordpress tutorials that you can look up. I have compiled a list of a whole heck alot, and put them in an ebook, but you can read it online as well. There is one feature that is absolute essential and that is featured post. There are many ways to go about it, but if you want to use the slide show one, you can do that by using Auto-Playing Featured Content Slider. It is a harder way of getting a magazine style theme because it takes time to learn, but it is much better than the shortcuts.

Now you know the What, Why and Hows of Magazine Style Themes. If you have any questions regarding it, post below, and I will try to reply.

38 thoughts on “The Magazine Style Theme”

  1. BlackhatWay says:

    Hmm.. I have always tought that magazine-style themes look a bit messy. I wonder if my readers would like it.

    1. Mike Smith says:

      I think it depends on the designer and how complex they make it. I believe that when I am designing a magazine style theme, that a clean, easy to follow look is always best and try to convey that to my clients as well.

      1. Magazine themes seem a bit too busy.

    2. I think that at the end of the day you want your users to have an easy to use solution that doesn’t require a lot of scrolling around..

    3. Ryan McLean says:

      I think magazine style is messy. And you only post 1-2 times per week BlackHat so it wouldn’t be worth having a magazine style blog.
      Truthfully they sometimes frustrate me but sometimes I love them. Generally they are ok but I HATE that thing that automatically scrolls through about 5 feautured posts on this site because when I go to click on it then it changes to something else

    4. I agree with you
      I dont like magazine style themes.
      I want all the posts completely readable on homepage with page navi at the bottom.

  2. Sohail says:

    It will take some time for people to get use to it since its huge change from normal page having Recently posts mention on main page of blog. But yes its good showcase of what you have

  3. These kind of WordPress themes are good for certain kind of blogs. They are not good for all blogs because a lot of times you have to have many different posts so you can fill in your categories every day. This is a great post from a great blogger so you should all check out his blog also.

  4. Tyler Ingram says:

    My front page is magazine-ish. I wrote the index.php so that if page <= 1 then it would handle the showing of the posts a bit differently in order to grab people’s attention more when they come to my site without following a blogpost link.

    I used PHP’s GD2 library to also extract the first image of a post (if it had one) and then create a thumbnail for it and float it before the excerpt for that particular post.

    1. Mike Smith says:

      That is a great way to add a bit of customization to the regular blog look while not overwelming your readers

  5. I’ve been using a magazine/news layout since day one. I guess I’m ahead of the curve for once! yea! 🙂

  6. I personally don’t like the magazine style themes. Most are too cluttered, and if 2 or 3 posts aren’t added on a daily basis, it can make the blog look outdated.

    I’ve used a magazine style theme in past, and I’ve noticed it wasn’t as effective at building my readership as the standard 2 or 3 column themes. (2 columns are the best at this, but that’s for a different time).

  7. I'm Doomed says:

    I disagree. I don’t think that everyone should change their theme to a magazine style layout.

    Like Franklin Bishop said, this type of theme works for certain types of blogs. Take ProBlogger for example, his blog posts typically read more like articles. Many ’10 ways to do this to your blog’ type articles. On a magazine layout, I’m going to click through on those articles.

    However, John has more personal blog posts. (Which ain’t a bad thing!) For example, the Dot Com Pho posts. While entertaining, I don’t see people (especially new visitors) clicking through to see a video of bloggers eating.

    Of course, I could be wrong. John, I think it would be a great post to perhaps do some statistics on the new magazine layout. Are people clicking through? Are there less or more comments? How about ad impressions, more or less?

    So, in my opinion if you have found that a majority of your blog posts are more ‘how-to’s’ and article based, I think the magazine layout can work for you. But, if you’re more personal, the traditional blog format is going to work.

    1. Syed Balkhi says:

      Hmm… I would have to disagree with you there. New users actually want to know what the heck is dot com pho, so they check it out. Magazine style themes are not just for how tos. It is a best way to organize content. You can have your categories in the side, but your readers see what is latest. So they can’t navigate easily.

      As a designer, I can tell you that if you make the navigation easier, it will work for you.

      Take Balkhis as an example. I had a normal theme in the start, everything was good. Changed it to a magazine, traffic doubled …. updated the design and it increased again….

      I didn’t realize any loss of readers as a matter of fact, I saw an increase in readers…

      1. If suppose i don’t know anything about blogging abd landed on John Chow site for the first time it may possible that move out from here without giving too much attentions, as it require digging into article, earlier it was easy to surf through his site.

  8. Israel says:

    Balkhis, good write up. I personally like magazine style for sites with a lot of traffic and different categories of things to do on the site. Video sections, blogs sections, forums, etc are sometimes best displayed in magazine style.

    1. I agree. Great post here Balkhis! and John, I love the new theme. It looks amazing!

  9. bob cobb says:

    admit it, it’s done for pageviews.

    1. Syed Balkhi says:

      It could very well be done for the page views because I know that page views increases, or it is just done to navigate the audience well 😉

  10. Syed Balkhi says:

    Thanks John for getting the post up 😉 I will send you some more…

  11. syiru says:

    magazine style theme? yea but its depends on your blog topic and also depends on the magazine that u choose as your theme.

  12. Dhyarga says:

    Hmmm…..The Magazine style? How about my blog style?

  13. Fausto says:

    About a magazine themes…I love this style but it’s perfect for a blog with a lot of traffic…and on your blog topic…

    Question…what about my blog topic and a magazine theme… together? 😉

  14. Magazine style themes took blogging to a new level, a great example being “The Huffington Post”. Nice post Syed, really informative. Thanks!

  15. VeRonda says:

    I like the magazine style, like Alex said, of those like the Huffington Post and even similar types like the CNN site. I like being able to have so many options to navigate through.

  16. Mat Packer says:

    Magazine themes have been around for a while now and there are some really awesome ones out there however I’ve seen some shockers.

    For them to be most effective you need to be updating 2-3 times a day bare minimum, you also have to take the time and energy to edit your photos just right so they really draw attention to the articles, and you have to have a good number of categories that are different enough under your niche blog so that it just doesn’t end up looking a mess.

  17. Ryan McLean says:

    Great post.
    When you say expensive, how expensive do you mean?

    1. Syed Balkhi says:

      It can cost anywhere from $1000 +

      I know that this theme that John have cost around like $2500 as UBD mentioned in the conference. If you want me to do it, contact me for a special rate. Just mention this post. It will be less than UBD 😉

  18. Depends on the number of categories and how easy it is to navigate.

  19. Colin says:

    I use a magazine theme on my blog (click my name).

    The main reasons for this is:

    * Great navigation accross different categories
    * Displays the most recent post from multiple categories on the front page
    * Further from lat point, the front page does not have to display the most recent post from *any* category – you can exclude categories

  20. Deep Arora says:

    I’ve seen quite a few magazine type blogs. Some are pretty impressive, while others you’d feel, haven’t quite grasped what they have gotten themselves into. I believe not all blogs are suited for magazine type themes. If your blog updates often through a team of writers, you as the blogowner would like these content organized so that they are given the attention they deserve. If your blog updates 2-3 times a week, I do not think the magazine type theme is right. People would expect the theme to have more content than you can produce. You may end up losing your readers.

  21. ian says:

    I don’t like the magazine theme one bit, good thing I can still access the traditional blog format. I think it is trying to look too smart and cool, but it detracts from the functionality.

  22. Tushar Dhoot says:

    Wow, John, you lost an chance to make even more money!! Revolution Theme has an affiliate program 😛

  23. Israel Writes..

    “I personally like magazine style for sites with a lot of traffic and different categories of things to do on the site. Video sections, blogs sections, forums, etc are sometimes best displayed in magazine style.”

    I agree. I want to start a products blog with all the features you mention here. I did not know which type of theme to go with. This discussion is timely, as well as the points Israel makes in his post. And, combined with the content auto slide, I think magazine style seals the deal for me in terms the type of format I am looking for..

    Robert – The Wholesale Products Guy

  24. Miki says:

    I think it depends on your blog topic/contents.
    Our history;
    We are interested on sell our rallye photos but some content is needed to attrack traffic so we start to put press news on our blog/site.
    We had a lot of organic traffic, but all was new visitors so global visits didn’t really grow.
    Some weeks ago we change our theme to a magazine style one and waaau ! Analytics say’s that from last month returning visitors have increased from 10% to 20% and also the time on the site and page visits, plus organic new visitors, so these are very good news for us because whole visits are really growing now !
    In conclusion, as most things of our lives, the better you can do is try it by yourself and see what happens (or watch what are doing the experts 😉 )

    (Please sorry for my english)

  25. Keral Patel says:

    I do want that tabbed comments, most read posts etc. But then I want it simple so I am thinking to code out something like that myself.

    Maybe in somedays 🙁

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