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12 WordPress Theme and Plugin Reviews

So, you are ready to spiffy up your web portfolio with a new theme and some handy plugins, but there are too many out there to sift through. Let me take you through a few themes and plugins that will help make your web portfolio pop.

Themes

Themes are the foundation of your WordPress site. Whether you use a free theme, buy a premium theme, pay a developer to make a custom theme for you, or make your own, your theme provides the core functionalities of your WordPress site. A good theme will have a slew of features, shortcodes, and customization options built-in. Mass consumption themes fall into three categories: basic, premium, and fully flexible:

  • Basic themes are free and tend to offer limited widgets and limited creative control.
  • Premium themes  are purchased and offer a wider range of control with a slew of shortcodes.
  • Fully flexible themes are designed to be a canvas, allowing you to give the look and feel to your site.

Let’s look at a few themes that are worth considering.

Euphoria

This highly flexible and responsive theme has a lot of powerful features. The list of shortcodes is extensive, including an accordion, tabs, two image sliders, buttons, downloads, and several options for portfolio pages. The theme is responsive, so will be readable on a phone or a widescreen cinema display. But, the most powerful aspect of this theme is it’s flexibility. If you visit the live preview, you can quickly see how many unique looking websites can be created from this one theme.

Purchase from Mojo $39 

Swap

Another theme from Mojo, Swap is beautiful for different reasons. Swap is a responsive theme like Euphoria—looking good on screens large and tiny—but it lacks the level of flexibility. It makes up for that lack in its simplicity and minimalist design. The typography, clean lines, and simple interface make this theme look both professional and easy on the eyes.

Purchase from Mojo $39

Simplicity

Another minimalist design, Simplicity offers a similar clean feel, but with a slightly more solid feel. It’s hard to put these things in words, but where Swap had texture, Simplicity has solid colors. It is a different look, but both are powerful for the minimalist portfolio.

Plans from WooThemes starting at $70

Mixfolio

Can you tell I appreciate a minimalist design? The advantages of minimalist are a plenty: they work great with responsive design, they make your website easy to navigate, they look good, and they are “in” at the moment. This simple design comes from GraphPaperPress, a group that prides themselves on minimalism. It has a solid portfolio format and is fully responsive.

Plans from GraphPaperPress starting at $99

PageLines

PageLines is an innovative theme for WordPress. Instead of providing a design, PageLines turns WordPress into a drag and drop web builder. If you are interesting in futzing around with your own design, but don’t want to dive into the HTML, CSS, and PHP needed to build your own theme, this is a solution worth considering.



Purchase PageLines $197 (for a single site license)

Plugins

Plugins offer additional options and functionality to your site. Plugins can affect layout, back-end functionality, user interface, and much more. Here are a few plugins worth considering.

CommentLuv

CommentLuv is a commenting system that relies on gravatar identities. Unlike systems like Disqus and LiveFyre, CommentLuv does not require the user to log in. However, CommentLuv is great for a blog wanting to be social. Users who comment on your site, leave behind a link to their most recent articles when they give a valid URL with an RSS feed. This allows links to a user’s site to contain relevant keywords which is gold for SEO. It also offers a slew of anti-spam features including the ability to reject comments from user-defined search terms and comments left with too few clicks (i.e. copied and pasted comments). I like CommentLuv for its simplicity (minimum effort for users to leave a comment) and its social nature.

Purchase $67 for single site users

Simple Notices

Ever had a need to leave an important message on your site for users, but not sure how to make it stand out? Having an on the fly important message tool is a great way to deliver key information (like a URL change or upcoming down-time) for your users. Simple Notices allows you to leave clean and prominent messages at the top of your

Purchase from Mojo $6

WordPress Portfolio

One of the essential functions of a web portfolio is to display your work. If you are building a site to be a portfolio, I highly recommend getting a theme that supports this in a variety of ways. However, you can add this functionality with plugins. WordPress Portfolio allows you to easily show off a series of websites you’ve worked on. You provide the links, and it generates thumbnails and a little gallery of the various sites you’ve worked on.

Download from WordPress.org Free

WEBphysiology Portfolio

Interested in including a little more in your portfolio? This plugin allows you to include more detail along with the thumbnail of your portfolio. This is excellent for describing your process, role, and the tools used in any given project.

Download from WordPress.org Free

Portfolio Slideshow

Does your portfolio include an image album or two? This plugin allows you to share a gallery of images quickly and easily in your web portfolio.

Download from WordPress.org Free

myPortfolio Plus

This portfolio plugin displays your portfolio items as thumbnails, but instead links to a page where more information about the process, your role, and the tools used in the project can be displayed.

Download from WordPress.org Free

GPP Shortcodes

Does your theme lack shortcodes, but you’re hesitant to give it up? GraphPaperPress offers a plugin to solve your woes. This plugin adds a slew of basic shortcodes like columns, boxes, and buttons.

Download from GraphPaperPress Free

 

This just scratches the surface of the things you can do to customize your web portfolio. The possibilities are limitless, so it’s time to go out an explore.

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