Here’s a question that plagues anyone looking to start a new WordPress-powered blog. With countless free WordPress themes available on the Internet, in addition to an infinite number of custom designs, there are an unfathomable number of options for your new WordPress blog. Before proceeding with your choice, you must first decide on this very crucial issue: how many columns should your WordPress theme have?
It doesn’t get any simpler than a one-column WordPress theme, but this presents many severe limitations. You must include the navigation in the header and you cannot simultaneously present more than one piece of information at a time. Without a sidebar, it’s difficult to feature things like top commentators, RSS feeds, and blogrolls. Very few blogs — both personal and professional — make use of a one-column layout.
Many of my favorite blogs feature a two-column design, including the BlueFur blog and Beyond the Rhetoric. The key advantage to a two-column WordPress layout is that it is typically a lot “cleaner”-looking, because it has far less clutter than its multi-column counterparts. Unfortunately, with only one sidebar, there is a several limitation in the amount of space for web 2.0 widgets and other information. Blogs like John Chow dot Com have overcome this with the creation of “fat” footers. I personally like two columns the best and it seems much of the blogosphere agrees.
Many blogs feature a three-column design, because it can still take on a “clean” and uncluttered appearance when applied correctly, while providing lots of extra room for advertising and other secondary content. I am currently experimenting with a three-column design on my new fighting games blog, because it gives me more room for advertising. Three column layouts are more conducive to commercial blogs, I find, than personal blogs. For Hadouken Online, I have a sidebar on either side of the primary content, whereas Contest Blogger has two right sidebars. There are pros and cons to either selection, but I find having two sidebars on one side emphasizes too much asymmetry.
Very few blogs make use of four columns, because it severely restricts the space reserved for the primary content. I highly recommend against a four-column design unless you have a very specific version for doing it. Anyone out there with a four-column WordPress theme want to chime in with their rationale?
How Many Columns For Me?
The number of columns in your chosen WordPress theme is largely a matter of personal preference. As I said, I am partial to two-column designs, though I recognize the advantages of having three columns. I’d love to hear from the BlueFur community to see why they chose the theme that they did for their respective blogs. Let the world know through the comment form below.