A WordPress theme for news

What you see below are my early (very, very early) outlines of a WordPress theme that I’m working on. After the Revenue Two Point Zero Conference posted the ideas that came out of that I’ve been tossing this idea around in my head for building a better news theme for WordPress sites.

The screenshots below (click for larger images) are just the really rough drafts that I sketched out in a couple minutes. If you’d like to see a more functioning demo then head over to my development page. This will also be kept up to date as I work on this.

First, some key points/goals with this design:

A much wider design than is traditional In order to take advantage of today’s wider displays the site is 1100 pixels wide. This may prove to be a bit too wide, but it will be at least 1050.

Remove ads from the homepage Keep them on article pages and limit it to one (extremely relevant) ad on that page.

Redesign category pages Category pages will be based off of the homepage and will work on the premise that if a reader wants an article from a long time ago they will search for it or browse the archives by month, etc. By not needing to allow for every article posted in that category to appear I’ll be able to make the category pages much more specific to their subject. Look for a scoreboard on the Sports page, a breaking news section on the News page, and much, much more.

Make it easy to incorporate videos, Twitter, etc. This has already been beaten to death elsewhere, but any news site that doesn’t think about incorporating these features is worthless in my eyes.

What I want to do with this is put some of what Rev2Oh thought about into practice. My initial design started with the homepage. For a while now I’ve been frustrated with newspaper homepages. Sure, they get a ton of information conveyed, but they do it in such an inefficient fashion. Because of the prominent placement for banner ads the content keeps getting pushed further down the page. My goal is to remove the ads and make the homepage something that people can look at quickly and then move on to actual articles (after all, that is what we want web users to do right?).

To this extent the homepage is designed to be a sort of digest. It’ll give a few key highlights of various sections, include some of the most photo-ready stories but ultimately its goal is to get readers to explore the site further.


The second thing that I thought of was article pages. Again, working off of the Rev2Oh model I wanted to incorporate one large ad that doesn’t distract but perhaps adds to the content. The analogy that Rev2Oh and others have used of designing a page like a magazine is a good one and it’s what I’m working with here.

Another feature for the articles is an “About the author box.” This will make it easy for readers to get a quick sense of the author. It’ll have a picture, short bio, and perhaps one more thing.

The article pages will also incorporate two narrow columns under the ad which will be able to display whatever someone wants them too. This will be a place for more features via plugins, etc.


There are definitely somethings that still haven’t been ironed out yet (a footer for one) and some things that will just be changed before the final version, but this is what I’m working with right now. Any thoughts, comments, etc. are more than welcome in the comments.

Update: I’ve got the prototype for article pages up now to. Check it out here.


Joey Baker says:

Love the idea here Andrew. One comment immediately comes to mind: why are you burying photos on the story page? Visual elements will draw people in, I’d make the photo much more prominent.

Daniel says:

Seesmic is broken, I think. I left you a pretty gorgeous, albeit unfocused, comment and the machine ate it. Might want to get that fixed 🙂

The short of what I was saying is that you need to be more radical in your design. I like what you’re thinking, especially in terms of no advertising on the homepage, but it’s too much like a traditional newspaper website in my opinion.

A couple more ideas. It would be sweet to have a “News Feed” that gave me the most recent comments, forum questions, etc. of my friends. I think this is one of the things that would push me personally back to using the website instead of an RSS reader. What if there was also a desktop client that allowed me to keep tabs on site activity during the day?

Second idea: make it more interactive. Videos posted on the homepage, ability to vote stories/comments/images up, and other ways of playing with the news are all a plus.

Andrew says:

@Joey Agreed. The photo wasn’t meant to be all the way down there. My article page prototype (see update above) shows how it would be more likely to look.

@Daniel Apologies for Seesmic being broken. I thought it was working, but apparently not. You make some great points. I think the “News Feed” idea would be a great one and is most likely something that can be done with Facebook Connect. I’ll definitely look into this.

Voting on stories is definitely part of the plan. It’s one of the things that I’m saving for until I actually have it into WordPress as a standalone theme. I’m also thinking of incorporating the top stories (decided by votes instead of page views) into the popular posts section. Pageviews just seems to be a poor way of determining the best stories.

I’m interested in the idea of a desktop client. What kind of features do you see this bringing that wouldn’t be on the web? Are you thinking of something akin to an iPhone app but for a desktop?

Miles says:

In general, I like the design. I’m not 100% sure I love the left-nav bar though.

Daniel says:

Right. Not necessarily an “iPhone app for the desktop”, but something that fits the desktop environment better than a browser. There’s a lot of additional functionality you might be able to build (including an application that taps into that social stream, or one that mimics the reading experience of a newspapers, i.e. a compilation of what someone thinks are the top stories of the day).

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