ColorMag – Free WordPress Theme Review

Static front page laid out in a traditional in a conventional blog theme style using the Colormag theme
In addition to building WordPress websites, I also enjoy teaching people about WordPress. I recently decided to change themes on my tutoring site, ColorMag is a “magazine” style theme, with a special front page designed to display posts in different sections by category. The most important content for is in static pages rather than posts, so I ultimately decided it wasn’t the right theme for my site. However, if you have static content that would work as posts, Colormag could still be a workable theme for your site.

Front Page

With a static front page selected, I used Colormag as a traditional blog-styled theme. It has clean styling, and several nice little details that can give a professional look to a simple website.

There is an optional topbar above the header which rotates recent post titles. This is a great way to make your blog content immediately visible on every page, which can be important when your front page isn’t your posts page. Lontano (reviewed here), also offers a rotating post title display in the topbar, but truncates the post title to show the first few words of the post. Colormag displays the full post title, and no post content, which I prefer. There is also an option to display the current date, which I did not use.

There is a social media menu built into the right end of the topbar that will automatically display your social media links with the appropriate icon. However, the preconfigured choices are limited, and there is no option to add others. I would’ve liked to see LinkedIn included, since this could be a great theme for freelance service providers. The social media icons are also spaced just a tad too far apart.

The header in ColorMag is configured to allow an ad to be placed to the right of your site title or logo. This means the header area is broken up, and you can’t use a full width header image. The ad space (which I used for an image) isn’t fully responsive. In vertical (tablet) view, or at rectangular screen resolutions with a higher height to width ratio, your logo or site title ends up left-aligned, with the image below it and right-aligned, which is awkward and unattractive. These should automatically center-align one above the other when the viewing screen is not wide enough to display them side by side.

Image of navigation bar showing non-matching backgrounds of the home icon and the home textColormag’s navigation bar has some nice options. You can add the search and/or random post icons (criss-crossed arrows) at the right end of your nav bar, and a home icon to the left end. However, if you use the home icon, be sure to edit your menu to remove home, as the background color of text menu items extends slightly lower than the icon background color, so that the icon and text home can’t blend seamlessly together into one button.

Blog Page

Posts page in Colormag theme

I didn’t love the posts page in Colormag. There are a couple of options – I chose the two-column format, since my posts page has a sidebar. The most recent post appears at the top, spanning both columns (this is non-optional). There are different featured image options, but my images are primarily screenshots with light backgrounds, so they don’t stand out well as featured images. I liked the large title font, and the ability to customize excerpts, but having categories and tags at the top of the post was way too busy, distracting from the post excerpt, which was more important. I used custom css to hide the tag and category links, but I would have preferred to display them below the excerpt rather than do away with them altogether.

As with Lontano, there isn’t enough differentiation between various sections. I added a left border to my sidebar widgets to break up a vast sea of white space (though this is less of a problem on the posts page than on static pages). The top border on the post blocks is almost invisible, which may not be a problem when you are using a featured image above the excerpt, but didn’t look good in the no-image configuration.

Also, since posts are displayed by date, you don’t get the full masonry effect (in which blocks of different heights are automatically rearranged to create equal columns). You can end up with gaps between posts in the middle of the page.

Of course, you can also use the special front page as your posts page, which allows you to designate different labeled sections for posts of different categories, as shown in the theme’s screenshot in the WordPress theme repository.

Plugin Integration

I only use a couple of content plugins on The Strong Testimonials plugin, which I use for my Testimonials page, displayed nicely in Colormag.

Screenshot of the Restimonials page showing a centered text box with a blockquote and a photo of the client

However, when viewed in FireFox, the CM Tooltip Glossary plugin by CreativeMinds showed bullets on the index tiles that shouldn’t have been there. It should be noted that these bullets also show on the tile index demo page on CreativeMind’s own site when viewed in FireFox, so the problem is not unique to the Colormag theme. However, when I switched to another theme (still viewing in Firefox), the bullets went away, so the problem isn’t due solely to the plugin either. I reported the bug to CreativeMinds, but they closed the ticket after a month without responding. An update was released in late April, but it did not correct the problem.

Screenshot of the Glossary index page, showing tiles for each Glossary word with square bullets on the side margins

Summing Up

All in all, Colormag is a simple theme without an overwhelming number of options that can be used to fairly easily create a clean, professional-looking website. There are some nice details, but there are also some surprising instances of sloppiness, such as the home icon and header image alignment issues mentioned above.

Colormag is a freemium theme, so a little custom css is helpful for things like changing colors on the site title, navigation bar and footer, which is not offered in the free version. Other limitations: You will have to edit the theme file or create a child theme to get rid of the theme link in the footer. You can select a right or left sidebar, or a narrow or full-width no-sidebar page template, but you cannot have two sidebars in the free version of the theme.

The Pro version costs $69, which includes updates for one year only – you will have to keep paying for the premium version annually to keep it updated.

A static page showing text with an image, a sidebar, and social media buttons at the bottom of the page.

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