Having project managed a couple of corporate WordPress magazine theme builds recently, I loved the end result and the lack of technical headaches even more. So I thought I’d get my head under the bonnet and set up this site:

Wordpress magazine theme

I’ve worked with a few heavy duty content management systems and have to take my hat off to Matt Mullenweg and all the open source contributors –  WordPress is a triumph.  Follow these steps and you can set up a site like this in an evening with next to no programming skills. There are countless great plug-ins out there, but others are a bit dated and cranky. This should help you sort the wheat from the chaff and save the time I spent on trial and error. Best of  all, these WordPress magazine theme downloads are 100% free:

1. Getting set up

  • Sign up and download WordPress – this gives you the basic frame work and back end to upload your  theme to
  • Buy some hosting –  one.com currently offer a year’s hosting and and a domain name for peanuts
  • Notepad – Not vital, but very handy for cutting and pasting code. You should always paste your articles from Word to Notepad, then from Notepad to the WordPress CMS. This ensures you are adding nothing but clean text, and don’t get any weird renderings on page
  • Firebug –  Again, not vital, especially if you do not want to change things too much. This is a fantastic developer plug in for Firefox that allows you to select and locate code and CSS for easy editing. I could not have customized this site without this tool

And finally, the most important thing of all:

Content, content, content. Don’t blog because you want to say something, blog because you have something to say. Brainstorm ideas around something you are passionate about. Try and come up with a unique angle so you can offer new, helpful,  insightful, funny or informative content. Then write a couple of two hundred (ish) word articles to get you going.

2. Choose a WordPress magazine theme

Wordpress Magazine themeThere  are zillions of free WordPress templates out there and some excellent premium themes available for a nominal fee. I was after something that didn’t scream “I AM A BLOG!”, and that offered a rich navigation and structure. After a  lot of  researching, Arthemia seemed like the best free wordpress magazine theme out there.

This theme’s featured content area and thumbnailing works really well, the navigation coding is slick, Micheal Hutagalung has even created a drop down menu if you need it.

Download Arthemia – Free WordPress Magazine theme

I will write up an Arthemia customization guide separately to make your WordPress theme unique – leave a comment and hassle me to get on it!

3. Cumulus – 3D spinning tag cloud
Tag clouds have had the tendency to appear a little cluttered and ugly, that is until  Cumulus came along. This sexy flash based widget renders out tags or categories or both with in a 3D spinning tag globe.   A super simple back end allows you to customize colours of background and font, size and the speed of spin. You can insert your cloud in the predefined Widget docks or place code anywhere in your template.cumulus

Download Cumulus

Make sure you read the readme.txt files in each of the widget downloads, but here’ a quick tip on adding Cumulus outside the usual widget place holders:

You will need some tagged content loaded into the CMS to fill your cloud, but you can choose to pull in the categories just to check it out and have a play with the customization tools.

  • Once you have installed, activated, set the size to 300pixels wide, width is up to you, but the developers recommend 3/4 of the width (225).
  • Int he  left hand navigation, go to Appearance/Editor/ then select in the right hand menu sidebar.php
  • In the sidbar.php text, paste this code<?php wp_cumulus_insert(); ?>

in the place of the following

< ? php echo get_option(‘home’); ?>/wp-content/themes/arthemia/images/banners/square.jpg” alt=”” width=”300px” height=”250px” />

4. Dynamic content gallery

Any WordPress magazine theme can be brought to life with a dynamic gallery of images and post titles. Easy to configure and create on the admin panel,   you can insert this flash gallery by pasting the code line next to the Cumulus code.

Download dynamic content gallery

5. Sexy bookmarks
It’s so important in blogging to make it as easy as possible for your reader to bookmark and tell others about your site.  The trouble is most of the social book marking plugins out there do not look very enticing,  and are not complimentary for a slick magazine style site. Sexy bookmarks allows you to render up to 40 tasteful social bookmarking icons at the foot of your articles, and feature an enticing roll over effect.

sexy social bookmarks

Download Sexy Bookmarks

6. Find me elsewhere
Blogs are becoming more of a community based environment, so you should try to connect with your readers. Again there are lots of choices out there,  I found Find Me Elsewhere most complimentary to the theme although I need to edit it a little so the links are nofollow.

Social Media links

Download Find Me Else Where widget

The next four plug-ins are not completely necessary to create a magazine style  WordPress theme, but highly recommended to optimise visitor numbers and page views, and if you are looking for lots of control over your template.

7. Query posts
Easily create recommended article links and related posts. The various customization channels allow a dizzying number of options. Query posts adds a dynamic links list that pulls in posts dependent on the page, tags, category, template etc etc.

Download Query Posts

8. Custom widgets
This gives you complete control over your widgets – where they do and don’t appear. Particularly useful as you can tailor the right hand sidebar depending on your users’ journey. Whether you want to only have a widget appear on the homepage, on posts or page ID’s, custom widgets is a fantastic Worpdress plug-in.

Download TS Custom Widgets

**Combining the functionality of both Custom widgets and Query Posts gives you an amazing array of options. The possibilities are almost limitless, but bear in mind when you have a lot of content the extra queries will effect the site’s speed and performance.

9. Contact Form 7

A neat and tidy widget that allows super fast addition of a contact form to your website. You can create custom form fields and play with the styling.

Download Form Contact 7

10. All in one SEO Pack
With the number of blogs reaching ridiculous levels, you have to do all you can to get your blog found and read – so search engine optimisation is vital. This plug in will create search engine friendly titles for your pages and allow easy creation of  the usual meta data, you can just plug in with the standard settings and forget about it if you don’t know much about SEO.

Download all in one SEO Pack

Please leave a comment or ask a  question!