September 23, 2013

A few years ago, if you landed on a WordPress site, the chances are you’d quickly be able tell which platform it was running on. The design tropes used by WordPress theme developers were easily recognizable. But, in the intervening years, WordPress themes have become so diverse that it’s often difficult to identify a WordPress site without looking at the code. Since its origins as a blogging engine, the flexibility of WordPress has increased to the point where it’s used by sites of almost every sort, from more traditional blogs to sites that bear very little resemblance to the traditional “list of posts” paradigm.

However, there is still a lingering prejudice among those not familiar with WordPress that, although it’s currently the world’s most popular CMS, building a site with WordPress constrains one’s design choices. We’d like to highlight a number of sites that run WordPress and use imaginative designs that are very far from the cookie-cutter aesthetics of old.

MashableMashablePete Cashmore’s Mashable is a hugely popular blog that goes beyond the traditional blog paradigm and implements a beautiful magazine format, with large images and innovative page layouts. Mashable combines form and function in an interesting way. The choices made by its designers are part of what makes the site so sticky. Content is easily discoverable and the designers have prioritized interface elements that encourage users to seamlessly move between articles.

In fact, Mashable’s implementation of WordPress is heavily modified and uses a combination of WordPress for the backend and Ruby On Rails for the frontend.

Other prominent magazine sites in this niche that are based on WordPress include Techcrunch and GigaOM, both of which maintain a more traditional blog layout.

New York Times BlogsNY Times BlogsOne of the most impressive implementations of WordPress is the New York Times’ popular collection of blogs. If you’re worried about the scaling limitations of a WordPress site, then taking a look at the NYT’s WordPress implementation should put your mind at rest. It handles massive amounts of traffic every day without a hiccup.

WordPress is also the platform chosen for the Washington Post’s blogs. In the video below, the Washington Post’s Yuri Victor explains why WordPress was chosen.

Eyes & EarsEyes and EarsPortfolios are one of the most frequent uses for a WordPress site. E&E, a design agency working with the music industry uses WordPress as the foundation for their deceptively simple and elegantly constructed site, which highlights their work with artists as diverse as Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park.

Tuts+TutsThe Tuts+ site is the most traditionally blog-like in appearance of the sites we’re looking at here, but it puts that design paradigm to a different use. Tuts+ is an Envato site and is a repository for premium educational content. This site is a good example of how WordPress can be used to create paid-for membership site with a mixture of free sample content and premium content that is only available to members.

Harvey NicholsHarvey NicholsHarvey Nichols’ site isn’t pure WordPress, but it’s a great example of what can be done with a the combination of two of our favorite content management systems: WordPress and Magento.

If you’ve come across a particularly striking example of WordPress design, feel free to share in the comments.


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