Earlier this month, during Responsive Theme week, Cheri highlighted BeatRoute, a Canadian alt-monthly focusing on local music. We (and you) were impressed by how BeatRoute made the free Oxygen theme their own, so we thought we’d dig a little deeper into the ways they’re taking advantage of Oxygen’s many features to create a bold, easy-to-navigate online magazine.
Let’s take a look at the standard Oxygen layout and BeatRoute’s home page side by side:
You can see that Beatroute is using many of Oxygen’s standard features, like the home page slider and custom menus, but with tweaks to make it their own.
Featured Posts Slider
Out-of-the-box, Oxygen displays posts in standard blog style on the front page but gives you the option of using a slider to highlight posts magazine-style; you can designate up to six posts as “sticky” to feature them in the slider. As BeatRoute shows, the slider is a great way to draw readers to your best and freshest content and make sure site visitors are seeing what you want them to see.
(To use Oxygen like this, you’ll have to tell your site you want to use a static front page instead of a blog, and then designate which posts should be sticky — head to the Oxygen page in the theme showcase for detailed instructions.)
You can opt to display your site’s title and tagline in Oxygen’s regular format and font, or you can do what BeatRoute did, and brand your site with a custom header — upload and crop your chosen image from right in the WordPress.com dashboard, or create a totally unique banner.
If the idea of designing your own graphics feels like too much, you can still tailor Oxygen with nine different fonts and custom colors for post titles and links (which Beatroute has also done for an extra pop of personality, opting for orange instead of blue), no graphic designer necessary!
One of the reasons Oxygen makes such a great theme for magazines are the three custom menu areas: the primary menu is under the site title (or your custom header), the secondary menu is right under that in the left sidebar, and the tertiary menu — that’s right, tertiary! — is in the footer. With three custom menus, there are endless ways to highlight the good stuff and help visitors explore your wealth of content.
BeatRoute is making great use of the primary and secondary menus. The primary menu links to key evergreen information like their “About” page and contact information, while an extensive secondary menu shows off the variety of content in each section of the magazine, allowing readers to quickly home in on what’s relevant to them.
BeatRoute puts the finishing touches on their online mag with widgets that promote still more content and give the home page the look of a printed piece. Using simple image widgets, they’ve filled both sidebars with images of the print versions of their magazines (see right) and promotions for local radio stations, live shows, and other local events.
Image widgets are a simple way to give your site more visual interest — just upload an image or photo (either into your WordPress.com media library or to a photo site like Flickr), drag an image widget into your sidebar, and plop in the photo’s URL. As Beatroute shows, you can have as many image widgets as you want, so go ahead and give your family and friends a little internet love or upload some cute icons to plug your social networking sites. If you can find a picture of it, you can put it in a widget. (Just make sure it’s an image you have the rights to use!)
It’s also worth noting that all this customization is free — no upgrade needed. The slider, custom header option, custom menus, and image widgets are part of what WordPress.com and Oxygen offer, yours to play with.
To explore Oxygen’s features in more detail, head over to the Theme Showcase for the complete list of what it can do and instructions on customizing your home page, menus, and more. For more help customizing Oxygen (or any of our themes), head over to the Themes Support Forum.
Thank you so much!!
Was wondering what to do with the design aspect of, my now former, theme- saw this post and revamped everything! Thanks for the info–
Hey. I’ve just started using the theme. It looks great but my soundcloud links don’t appear on the main page, they only appear after I click into the actual post. Is this a theme fault?
Hi, I too am using Oxygen theme and my blog looks completely different to Beatroute’s site! Amazing really how different they can be! And I didn’t know that there was a third menu area, so thank you for that info – I will be adding this soon! :)
I use Oxygen for my blog also, but have much still to learn.
Hello, I have tried a number of wordpress themes which are all good, but so far Oxygen is by far the best! I am so pleased with the look of my website now and I have had increased traffic too. I still have a bit of work to do on it, and this post has been very useful and timely. Please visit – I’m always happy to have a chat :) Thanks
Ah, progress! When I started blogging in 2007, I thought WordPress free themes were sophisticated. But advances in the past five years have been awesome. In 2007, most themes came with one fixed typeface. The ability to choose among numerous typefaces was a quantum leap forward. The featured-post slider is a presentation enhancement that never ceases to amaze me, and it’s now available on a number free themes. The ability to customize menus seems like a small thing, and it’s invisible to readers, but I like the flexibility it provides. WordPress also has a variety of advanced themes that can be purchased for under $100. But what you can now do with FREE themes, such as Oxygen or Twenty-twelve, to name only too, was beyond my imagination back in 2007.
I’m using Oxygen for my blog as well. And its a new travel blog! The theme is simple and elegant at the same time. Good stuff! :)
I love oxygen! I tried to customize it in the past months and I think I got something similar to Beatroute, so…I’m proud of my work :)
Great theme! Changed my theme directly after reading this post. Thanks a lot. :)
At the start for couple of days I have been checking ALL the themes for my blog and I must say, OXYGEN is by far THE BEST! My blog is in Spanish but the theme accommodated the language brilliantly! If you want to have a look, check it here in spanish or here with google translate. So few days ago with over 50 posts on, I thought to try some second thoughts themes, lol I was in shock and this is what I learned:
If after trying everything your showcase images/posts do not come up or just some of them, make sure that the images are 750px wide or more, that will do.
If you want to give it a try, do not worry your work of your present theme will NOT go away but activated again… this made me have palpitations…
Definitely on of the best!
I’ve tried numerous themes, but after all those efforts I believe ‘Oxygen’ is the one. I just love how well-organized and simple to navigate it is. I’ve make a couple of changes here and there to fit the theme of my blog, and well, I’m lovin’ it. Thanks wordpress. (I’m using the FREE version, and it’s still quite manageable).
Great post. thanks!
Well this post has me seriously rethinking my choice for a theme. While I DO really like the Greyzed theme and it fits my blogs theme well, Oxygen looks REALLY good. I wonder if there is a similar how to for Greyzed?
This is cool…
THANK YOU for this post! I’ve been looking for a long time for side by side comparisons of how bloggers are using the FREE templates. This is beyond helpful, it’s invaluable. Many many thanks.
Awesome post! This is my first time ever on WordPress.com, is there any advice you might have for me? Thanks!
Wow, you learn something new everyday they say. Interesting write up. Oxygen would not have worked in our case. however it is nice.
I’ve been trying to use WordPress.com to port a local Art & Music site. In order to be successful, I need to backdate posts so they accurately reflect when things were originally written or occurred. I haven’t been able to figure out how to do that – in any theme. Changing my local system date didn’t work, so I’m guessing it’s reading the post date from the wordpress.com server datetime. Is there any way to customize the post date?