Linen: The Cleanest of WordPress Magazine Themes?


A while back I reviewed an innovative horizontal sliding WordPress theme called Shelf. Today I’m covering a new theme by the Theme Foundry and it goes by the name of “Linen“. It’s billed as a clean and flexible magazine theme and I’ll be putting it to the test to see if it lives up to its claims.

On first glance Linen is an elegant, spacious and professional looking magazine/blog theme with a well integrated home page slider; a clear and simple layout and a useful extended footer. But it’s not something we haven’t seen before. Linen sets up shop in a fierce market of minimalist WordPress theme designs. So the question is: what – if anything – sets it apart from the competition? To answer this, we have to look beyond the surface at a little thing called detail.

Let me give some examples. Much work has gone into balancing the various sections of the theme. Starting with the top layer navigation, moving through the home page slider, onto the blog entries, the sidebar lists, right down to the extended footer; each component is given enough space to “breathe” independently while still working as a holistic whole. The overall result is that the theme feels very easy to use.

Another example is in the subtle colour variations. Leaving photos aside, the palette of greys, whites and blues worked into the font colours and background tones makes reading lengthy articles easy on the eyes and allows for enough contrast between elements to pinpoint featured content.

A final element of detail worth mentioning is the transition between the main body and the main background. The subtle shadow that contours the theme body adds that extra element of class. It is possible to add a custom background via the theme’s admin panel, but my feeling is that anything other than a solid colour would lose out on this item of detail.

Moving onto the admin panel and theme customization, WordPress users who like to change the look and layout of their themes without getting into the style.css file will appreciate the array of options in Linen. In particular, Linen allows you to select from a wide range of font types thanks to integration with the Google Font Directory; users can also tweak font colours and background images at the click of a button.

Linen also allows for a number of structural variations such as the removal of sidebars, the removal of the extended footer, changing the number of footer widget columns and so on. This broadens the theme’s target audience from publishers looking for a fully-fledged magazine theme to bloggers looking for a simple and elegant single column blog solution.

The theme is distributed in two versions: free and pro. The free version is bare bones and doesn’t include the majority of options outlined above. The pro version is on offer at $68 and also includes a number of core templates (archives, sitemap and full width templates) and full support and updates. Here is the complete list of differences between the free and pro versions.

Where the theme fares less favourably with the competition is in its omission of the increasingly popular WordPress shortcodes. These short and simple code snippets allow users to add simple elements to a WordPress post or page on the fly. I would also like to have seen a wider variety of dedicated templates such as a styled contact form, gallery and portfolio pages – these simple additions would go a long way to making the theme more flexible than it already is.

All in all, I think this is a praiseworthy attempt at executing a simple and effective design concept. The word ‘linen’ conjures the image of a pile of crisp and bright sheets and the theme certainly lives up to that image. What it lacks in terms of extended features, it certainly makes up for in its excellent usability and relentless attention to detail. They say “the devil is in the detail”, but I think the Linen WordPress Theme calls for a momentary amendment to that saying: while the devil may be in the detail, heaven is somewhere in there too. I leave you with a screenshot of the theme’s front page. Click the image to explore a full working demo.


 
As with all the theme reviews on this blog, my interest lies in that tiny group of themes that extend WordPress functionality through design innovation. In short, I’m looking for game changers. If you would like to recommend a theme for review, please get in touch via the contact form and I’ll be happy to consider your work.
 

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  1. [...] Theme Foundry’s Linen Theme [...]

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Comments 9 comments | Leave a comment »

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Cédric Duhame
Feb 11th, 2011, 3:39 am | #

Ah now this looks amazing, some really nice work there. agree with your point about detail.

I think there's been a real problem in recent WP theme dev of churning out themes with lots of eye candy but no substance.

Many of the theme designers submitting stuff to ThemeForest simply aren't trained and lack experience with the usability side of design. The tend to emulate each other's work and throw in the latest bit of javascript or the latest flash gallery for some wow factor.

I'm glad to see a theme that takes its time and gets the balance right. Thanks for the review and bringing this to my attention.

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Mark Forster
Feb 11th, 2011, 5:36 am | #

I was impressed by their Shelf theme, but kind of thought their other stuff was meh…this on the other hand is pure simplicity. Just right for an upcoming project of mine.

OSL you should do a theme review column or something…make it a regular feature…I dig your style…

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OSLiving
Feb 11th, 2011, 5:44 am | #

@Cedric – thanks for the comment. Yes, I think there is too much duplication in terms of theme design and not enough thought goes into what really matters: functionality, ease of use, professional appearance etc.

@Mark – I don't know, I thought their Traction Theme was a winner, but each to his own. Thanks for the kind words. I'm thinking about doing some more theme reviews. I'm always on the look out for themes that have the potential to make a difference. If you have some suggestions, ping me an email (osliving at gmail dot com). Thanks.

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Lloyd
May 3rd, 2011, 6:09 am | #

Wow, I think this is a classy theme and in comparison to some of the wordpress theme designs less really is more!

Does anyone know whether, if purchased through wordpress.com you still get the homepage features post slider? I know that they restrict a lot of things.

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OSLiving
May 3rd, 2011, 10:38 am | #

Hi Lloyd,

Thanks for your comment. I’m pretty sure the slider is included on WP.com. However, to be absolutely certain, why not ping Drew an email over at ThemeFoundry. They’re usually quick to respond: info@thethemefoundry.com

Tell them OSLiving sent you! And do let me know if you decided to go with the theme. Post a link to your blog here too!

Thanks and best of luck.

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Sonia
May 6th, 2011, 1:19 pm | #

Nice review :)

Do you now if the left side bar can have other widgets than the ones presented?

Does the theme support a gallery or several galleries to work as a portfolio?

Thanks.

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OSLiving
May 6th, 2011, 4:20 pm | #

Hi Sonia,

Many thanks for stopping by and taking the time out to leave a comment.

To answer your questions, the left sidebar can have any number of widgets from stock WordPress widgets to plugins you install yourself. The clean code gives most widgets a good chance of behaving and looking good.

As for the gallery, it will support a default WordPress photo gallery, but as far as I can tell there is no dedicated gallery or portfolio template. That being said with a little creativity you could easily use a full width page, add images and align text next to them to create a clean presentation of your work.

Hope this helps.

P.s. Love your photography!

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