WordPress bloggers rejoice! RocketTheme, designers of the world’s best looking Joomla! and phpBB3 templates has launched their WordPress Theme Club with a handful of WordPress offerings ported over from their renowned Joomla! Template Club.
When I began writing for the web again a couple of years ago I first used WordPress to publish my content. Coming from a background of writing html in a text editor back in the 90′s, I saw a friend working on his WordPress blog and immediately thought how accessible it was. Anyone could publish web content using this tool I thought.
So I dove in, and WordPress allowed me to have a nice looking site with an article on it after an afternoon’s worth of tweaking the design. It’s a brilliant tool that has a simple interface to a simple end, and it just works.
However, within a month it just wasn’t enough. I soon made my own WordPress theme from scratch in an effort to get my web pages to look more polished. Even then I felt handcuffed by the limitations of working within WordPress.
Before my second month with WordPress was up I had migrated to Joomla!, and I’ve never looked back.
Don’t take any of this as a slam against WordPress, because it isn’t. WordPress is a great tool that has brought the ability to publish web content to millions of users across the globe. We have a much richer web today because WordPress exists.
I had always wondered why WordPress themes looked so amateurish compared to the really good Joomla! designs. Was it some inherent limitation of WordPress, or were there simply no great designers making WordPress themes?
As time has gone by better looking WordPress designs have surfaced. A host of magazine and newspaper style themes exist, some commercial some free. WordPress design is much improved in 2009, but at the end of the day every time I see one of these new themes right after I get over my initial admiration of the layout I realize that I can identify it as a WordPress web site within about two seconds.
WordPress themes and the WordPress backend will continue to improve, but WordPress will remain WordPress, which is exactly as it should be. If the powers that be behind WordPress ever moved it into more CMS-like behavior than it already has I think they would be shooting themselves in the foot. They already have the right product. Refine it, but don’t change it to be like the other CMS solutions. They have different markets.
Ok, so WordPress is the logical choice for the vast majority of people wanting to jump in and put some content on the web. For those WordPress users who need more out of their page design than the standard two or three column blog layout there are more choices today than there were even a year ago. Many of them still look like lipstick on a pig however.
RocketTheme to the rescue.
RocketTheme has made the first seven offerings in their WordPress club available. You can demo all of them here. These are all existing designs from their Joomla! club. I’ve looked them over, and they are not exact replications, but they have come close to offering WordPress themes that look and function as great as their Joomla! counterparts.
The Mynxx theme for example has VirtueMart integration in the Joomla! version, which is absent in the WordPress theme. I don’t know whether or not if there is a plugin for WordPress that would add the ecommerce functionality back into the Mynxx theme. You can look at the original Joomla! template here to see what I am talking about.
The RocketTheme WordPress Club is $50 for a 90 day membership, gives you full access to all of their WordPress product, and allows you to implement their WordPress themes on two sites. For $75 you get the same for a year, and you get to implement the themes on three sites instead of two.
The RocketTheme Joomla! club receives a new template on the first of every month, rain or shine. The WordPress club is only five days old as I write this, so I don’t know how many of their templates they intend to port to WordPress or what their WordPress release schedule looks like. My guess would be the whole ball of wax as WordPress users represent a considerable market. Membership also gains you entrance into their support forums, where answers to problems you encounter are answered by RocketTheme members and other users with lightning speed, in my experience.
If you offer a web forum attached to your site, RocketTheme also offers phpBB3 versions of most of their designs so you can have a perfectly matched site and forum. I used to use one of their SMF templates on AV Enthusiast, and I felt pretty slick having a forum that exactly matched my main site. Of course, no one used the forum, but it looked very nice. The phpBB3 club is a separate membership and not included in your WordPress club fee, so if you want one of their phpBB3 templates you will need to shell an additional $50-$75 clams.
RocketTheme offers Joomla!, phpBB3 and WordPress designs that seamlessly plug in to your site, offer incredible flexibility with page design, produce valid markup and just flat out look better than anything you’re going to get short of paying someone to create a one-off design just for you. Take a look at their demos and see for yourself.
The bar for WordPress theme design has just been raised.