In doing some research for this post, it has become clear to me that horizontal WordPress themes have been growing steadily in popularity over the past few years. I first began listing horizontal themes in 2012 and posted an update in 2013. At that time I noted how the sideways form factor was still a niche category in WordPress theme design. That's still generally the case, but the widespread use of mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – has made horizontal themes that much more usable and therefore desirable.
It's been interesting to me to look back at 2012/13 and see just how far the usability side of these themes has come. The themes listed below excel at ease of navigation; at providing seamless transitions between different types of content (blog, portfolio, pages etc.); and at presenting visual content in a compelling way.
My overall feeling is that horizontal themes in 2015 have finally come of age. They are most suited to websites that want to put visuals first: architects, designers, artists and so on. The only real caveat to all this, is that there's a distinct lack of free horizontal themes – just 3 here worthy of mention.
// Free Themes
Boardwalk was designed by Automattic, the company behind the WordPress platform. The one thing this theme does well is to translate the traditional top-to-bottom blog “stream” into a horizontal layout. The homepage gets you straight into the blog content. The posts are displayed in concertina style with a clear emphasis on images, while the post titles are easy to read and the post dates give you that important sense of time. On the minus side, once you click on individual posts, navigating around the theme seems more difficult than it should be. It would have been nice to have a top layer menu or some breadrcumbs to jump between home page and single page view. It would also have been nice to make the text more accessible – balancing text and images 50/50.
Author: Automattic / Type: Blog / Demo & Download →
Now this is just a brilliant portfolio theme! The first thing I love about Portra is that it takes less than a few seconds to figure out what's on offer. When you land on the front page, you are immersed in the content. Switching between portfolios is a breeze with the top layer navigation bar and transitions are smooth thanks to some nifty jquery action. On individual portfolio pages, I love the option of adding some contextual information about the collection, before you get into browsing the images. The only downside to this theme is that it doesn't come with a blog. But if you're an artist or designer looking for a cost-effective way of showcasing your work, then this theme is definitely worth considering.
Author: Wpshower / Type: Portfolio / Demo & Download →
Samarcanda, get its name from the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand; though it's hard to see quite what the relevance of that connection is. On the surface, the Samarcanda theme seems to offer a wide range of options. You can configure 7 different home page styles, display portfolio and blog posts, testimonials and quotations, and different image sliders. When you probe a little further however, it becomes clear that the theme is based on a single design element: a center-positioned scrollable carousel superimposed on a background graphic. My overall feeling is that the content could do with a bolder, perhaps larger presence. [Note: If you can't get the demo to work, try cancelling the top navigation bar]
Author: YiThemes / Type: Portfolio and Blog / Demo & Download →
// Premium Themes
The Magpie theme is a minimal theme targeted at photographers. In many ways it feels like a more sophisticated and polished version of the Boardwalk theme above. Magpie is not restricted to a horizontal layout. Its portfolio pages can be configured to masonry, case study and vertical pop-up layouts. It also offers an interesting “split-page” configuration option on traditional pages. I also like the inclusion of a client-only password accessible area. This makes it an interesting theme for professional photo companies looking for a front and backend content management solution at a very reasonable price.
Author: Theme Village / Type: Portfolio / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
Camilla is an elegant photography-oriented theme by the developers of Magpie. What this theme does particularly well is to create a seamless visual experience for the user moving from the full-page home layout, to the concertina-style portfolio page and onto the vertical-scrolling blog section. Each part works in communication with the others to create a visually cohesive theme. It comes with 2 main colour variants: Dark and Red. All in all, a solid solution for a commercial type agency.
Author: Theme Village / Type: Portfolio / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
Talent is the 3rd theme by the two-person team known as “Theme Village.” Like the two before it, Talent is also aimed at photographers, though it could just as well be used by designers and artists or anyone looking to showcase visual material. What I like most about Talent are the atmospherics. This has a lot to do with the choice of demo content, but it's also a result of design choices: from the home page slider to the portofolio carousel, the theme's dark background helps give the photos a dramatic feel. One thing I would like to see with this theme is the addition of a top-layer menu bar. That would help make site navigation a tiny bit easier. All in all, these are 3 interesting themes by two designers with a clear command of horizontal form.
Author: Theme Village / Type: Portfolio & Blog / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
Acid is the 4th and final theme by Theme Village, and in my mind the cream of the crop. It comes in three main colour schemes: dark, retro and bright. Each scheme has its own unique feel. The dark variant is moody and subdued and makes the portfolio and blog sections most suited to a fashion type set up. In contrast the retro and bright variants are really playful opening the theme up to young design agencies. The theme does a great job of organising and presenting content in an interactive way. This is definitely one of my favourites.
Author: Theme Village / Type: Blog & Portfolio / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
Despite its slightly awkward name, Horizillax is a really catchy and fun theme, bursting with energy and colour. It's one of the few horizontal sliding parallax themes available at the moment. If you don't know what the “parallax” effect is, in simple terms it's an optical phenomenon whereby when the viewpoint moves side to side, the objects in the distance appear to move more slowly than the objects close to the viewer. What the effect does is make the content feel “animated.” This theme uses that animation effect to its full potential, playing with 2D graphics based on traditional Indian Kathakali theatre motifs. It comes with all the staples of a WordPress portfolio theme and also allows you full control over the parallax visual content. That being said, I'm not sure how easy it would be to replace the Kathakali imagery with material of your own and achieve the same sense of visual wonder. In any case, this is really fun and refreshing theme, well worth a look!
Author: Productive Themes / Type: Portfolio / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
The Regolith theme is a business oriented portfolio theme. The demo content is setup as a real estate or travel agency type business. The front page layout brings the theme's main elements together into a series of windows including an intro message, about sections, portfolio and blog entries. Single pages work in vertical fashion and are set against a grey background with a strong corporate visual motif. This theme would be a great option for a company website.
Author: Planetshine / Type: Portfolio / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →
Reversal is a one-page side-to-side theme with a minimal approach to its design aesthetic. It's easy to scroll through the different elements of the theme. The blog laid out in traditional vertical style. This theme would be a great option for an individual portfolio/resume type website. It is uncluttered and light, making it a fast-loading theme.
Author: Bit Fade / Type: Blog & Portfolio / Price: $44 / Demo & Download →
Author: mountainthemes / Type: Blog & Portfolio / Price: $49 (includes Genesis Framework) / Demo & Download →
12. Modern Magazine
The Modern Magazine theme is, as its title suggests, a theme targeted at web publishing, particularly suited to online magazines, journals, newspapers or blogs. This horizontal scrolling magazine theme does a great job of presenting mixed media content in an easy to use, well balanced design. One of the best things about this theme is its gallery template which organizes your site's photos in a neat masonry style block layout set against a dark background. This feature would work particularly well for a photography magazine or a photo-intensive publication. All in all, this is a refreshing take on the WordPress magazine theme category.
Author: Kluska / Type: Magazine / Price: $49 / Demo & Download →