10 WordPress Designs That Surprise, Delight and Think Outside Of The “Box”

by Russ Henneberry

Last updated on February 26th, 2018

It doesn’t have to be this way.

If you have developed on WordPress for any length of time you have heard this from your clients:

“All WordPress sites look like templates.  They are all ‘boxy.’ They all look the same.”

It’s true.  Both you and I can usually tell a WordPress site just by looking at it.  The widgetized sidebars and footers.  The scrolling image sliders and horizontal navigation are a dead giveaway.

WordPress sites are decidedly “boxy.”  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

WordPress has become a powerful CMS solution that can handle just about any design you throw at it.  And more and more clients are wanting to take advantage of WordPress without having to settle for that “boxy” template look and feel.

Take a look at these ten WordPress designs that don’t have that “boxy” look.

Mike Rowe Works

Mike Rowe Works on WordPress

This is a wild website design that reflects the personality of Mike Rowe, the man behind the Ford Commercials and the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs.  Most of the images you see in the design are links to internal pages on the site.

Hey Papa Legend

Hey Papa Legend WordPress Site

This design is certainly not “boxy.”  The site communicates that Hey Papa Legend Studios is hip with the times while conjuring of feeling of nostalgia about the roots of music.

Justin Guarini

Justin Guarini Using WordPress Website Platform

This image says it all.  While this design is a nightmare for any SEO person wanting to see more text on the page, it instantly communicates what this singer/songwriter does.


Kantt WordPress as a CMS

This creative agency, Kantt, uses the WordPress platform to incorporate a clean and interesting headline and benefit statement.  While the design below the fold incorporates a more “boxy” feel, the design above the fold feels very free flowing.

Floris Voorveld

Floris Voorveld

This is a beautifully simple and “unboxy” design on WordPress that instantly communicates the work that Floris Voorveld does.  (Graphic design for those of you scoring at home.)


Travelogic Using WordPress

The site visitor can’t help but feel transported elsewhere by the larger than life images used in the background of this WordPress home page.  The focal point is clearly the circular center that contains the text that communicates where you have landed.

Guy Gyngell

Guy Gyngell Using WordPress as a CMS

The use of circles in this design are the antithesis of a typical WordPress look and feel.

Clouds 365

Clouds 365

This site incorporates lots of boxes but not in the way we are used to with WordPress.  A photograph of clouds is posted every day for almost 1,000 days creating a patchwork quilt of natural beauty.

Camacho Cigars

Camacho Cigars

This site is using Flash front and center to break the mold of the typical WordPress design.  The design is dark and woody feeling which is very appropriate for the product.

Start Up Weekend

Start Up Weekend Using WordPress

This design makes interesting use of cloud shapes in its navigation and other elements.  It breaks the WordPress mold by using shapes with rounded edges.

What about you?  What websites have you seen or developed on WordPress that don’t have a “boxy” design?



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. Jane Hooper says:
    January 23, 2012 at 3:07 am

    I think the boxy designs have become more prevalent because people don’t see the need to pay for Web Design anymore. They are focused on cost and see cheap themes and decided, “that will do”. This demonstrates the power of design.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 23, 2012 at 8:09 am

      @Jane Hooper — Agreed Jane! Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

    • Houdino says:
      January 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      @Jane Hooper. Absolutely agree. Our biggest problem is getting clients to give us )pay for) the “quality design time” we need to customize or spruce up a typical wordpress theme. Most of them are plain vanilla. But there’s soooo much more we could do given the time, will, and pocketbook of our clients.

  2. Erik says:
    January 22, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Just a quick note on Cloud 365, the imagery is stunning, as is the Theme. In all fairness, it should be noted, that particular theme is produced by Graph Paper Press (Thad Alexander).

  3. Mohsin Nazir says:
    January 22, 2012 at 5:04 am

    nice collection

  4. Robin Cannon says:
    January 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Some very cool examples there, and a real demonstration of what can be achieved with WordPress.

    I think the issue is not so much that WordPress sites are boxy and generic, it’s that web design itself suffers from those problems. While common standards of navigation and usability are important, it’s vital that designers continue to think more widely and keep pushing design boundaries.

    WordPress is just a tool, and a platform on which to implement a design, just like most content management systems are. It’s great that it’s very easy to deploy, but ultimately the system itself doesn’t really place any major limits on what a designer can do in terms of displaying content in a variety of different and original ways.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 20, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      @Robin Cannon — Great points Robin, thanks so much for your thoughts on this.

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