“DePo Masthead” is the WORST Theme available on WordPress.com!

You think I’m kidding, but when was the last time you browsed a blog with this theme and think… “hmm. I can find exactly what I’m looking for!” Not ever!

Before I go on, I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I’ve got nothing against Derek Powazek, the author. I think he’s a very talented guy who’s made a terrible, terrible, mistake.

I’m by no means the greatest designer out there, but even I can tell when something was haphazard and actively user hostile. I mean, have you tried right clicking on any of the “next/previous” post links on a page? And JavaScript to see comments?!

Wanna know how bad this theme is? Even the author doesn’t use it on his own site. Why can’t we have Derek’s other (far superior) theme, DePo Skinny, instead?

And I’m making this post with great difficulty because there are regular blogs I read that have this theme, and I don’t have the heart to tell them that their content will be recieved 1000x better if it were actually readable. I.E. Stop using this theme!

I can’t even believe the WP folks would have this in the allowed themes list. It’s like having box cutters dispensed via vending machines. You just know someone will buy one.

And the real kicker : The description of DePo…
“A classy template that draws on classic magazine design design for a simple, bold style.”

“Classy”? I think not! I’ll give it simple, as in simply unnavigable, and bold, like Yoko Ono only more painful. And classic like the first ever locomotive. A monsterous curiosity you would never EVER want to ride in.

Fits none of the descriptions...

Fits none of the descriptions...

I want to “read” your blogs and not just skim through. I don’t want to stick to feed readers alone because I’ll miss out on things like blogrolls and other extras. I can’t do that when you won’t let me. Please think about your readers!

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58 thoughts on ““DePo Masthead” is the WORST Theme available on WordPress.com!

  1. You have a lot going on here, dude!.

    There is expose of the parasites which I have to bookmark with your recommended link.

    And this one – a meshsup theme you described as the “Worst” wordpress theme. I don’t really like that theme anyway so I didn’t even bother to preview it. But maybe this time.

    Your new blog face lift is really cool! I could not imagine that it would change the way it is now the black background.

    One more thing, the confusing ” Left this page thingy is gone…”

    • A lot of stuff happened in one day :P

      Actually I moved the “This page left…” stuff in the welcome box on the index page. I figured it’ll be less of a distraction in there.

  2. “I want to “read” your blogs and not just skim through. ……. Please think about your readers!”

    Very true.
    Fancy layouts might look great in a snapshot but trying to read some sites is torture.

    • I want to “buy” a new server server for my programming projects and for compiling and testing programs.

      It’s not for hosting. It’s for workstation use.

      I don’t want to bother people with ads and such, which is why I’ve setup the donation button. I’m giving away a lot of programming ideas and scripts on this blog and if anyone has found them useful, I’d appreciate whatever they can give back.

    • Thanks for the comment, Alex. I know plenty about the design, in fact I downloaded it separately and took it apart to learn more before writing about it.

      “Every one liked this theme.”
      Except I didn’t, nor did at least one other who commented before, thereby invalidating your whole premise.

      Feel free to drop by again when you grow some capacity for logic. And, perhaps, the capacity to grow facial hair.

    • But why though?

      I just visited your blog and it seems yours is one of very few that manage to look nice with this theme. But the vast majority of others really do look terrible in it.

      Every time I navigate the theme, it seems so cluttered and haphazard. The columns aren’t quite columns to me. If even one of the colums is longer than the others, the whole thing looks off.

      And the fact that I need JavaScript to even view the comments really drove me up the wall.

      Wouldn’t you be satisfied with one of the other, far nicer, themes?

      How about The Journalist theme? It’s simpler, but I think it presents all of the content in a very organized fasion.

      Or the theme I’m using, Vigilance. It’s got a nice front block (that I’m using as well) that allows you to put a small description or announcement on the top of the front page.

      Then there’s Grid Focus which is a really nice theme and does what DePo was supposed to do, but actually does it well. It’s not convoluted or disjointed and a completely well done theme.

      And lastly Twenty-Eight Thirteen. It’s not simple like the others, but comes closer to what DePo does than any of the others. And still it’s not anywhere near as uncomfortable.

      • well, I have tried all of the themes you suggested. If one day I’ll nedd to change the theme, I would choose the vigilance. But till then I love DePo Masthead.

        Why? Because, it is the unique theme which gives the opportunities for the first comers to see all three last post at a glance. But when you go into the archives you have all the posts one under the other and on the middle of the screen without the annoyance of the other collumns (especially those wite categories, clouds of tags, last posts, popular etc).

        It is clear, gives you what you need (info) immediatly. If a post is longer than the others there is always the option of “more tags” (read more) which cuts the text.

        On the other hands long posts are the probleme with all other themes as well… It’s a nigth mare posts that you don’t finish scrolling down!

        DePo also put a line of pages on top of the entry page which allows the blogger orienting the readers to main topics.

        Well these are all what I needed. And finally I love to put all the extras on foot of the page.

        I wonder why it is not copied by other themes challenging a better outlook.

      • Well, it’s good to know that you’re open to switching at some point.

        If your post is really long, you can use the <!–more–> tag. Say if your post is at about 400 – 450 words, you can use this tag to produce the “read more” link.

        And if you don’t like the “Read more” text that it inserts, you can use:
        <!–more Read on here more!–>
        Where “Read on here” is whatever you want the “More” link to display. You could write it up to be unique to each post.

        This way all your posts on the front page would be the same length.

        On each of your individual posts, if they’re longer than about 2000 words, you can split them into multiple pages. I’ve had to do that on several posts myself.
        Just use the <!–nextpage–> tag.

      • Three columns (two for widgets) can be seriously annoying while I try to read the body text, and it presents too much information on the homepage.

        Vigilance looks no better than the new default TwentyTen theme (which SO MANY people will, or are already, using). The sidebar typography looks slightly better though.

        The journalist looks ugly compared to DePo Masthead. True fact.

    • Well of course it’s an opinion ;)

      As with kucukevim, looks like yours is one of very few blogs that can pull off this theme. But it’s very rare indeed though.

      The vast majority of other blogs with this theme do look terrible.

  3. Depo Masthead is one theme, that looked truly simple and minimal to me. Certain bloggers do away with the need for Widgets, Blog Rolls and other Fancy Addons. No I ain’t talking about Photo Blogs or Comic Blogs that captures the readers attention using photos or comics. I am talking about Blogazines.

    Depo Masthead is very much suitable for Comic Blogs, don’t you think? I too will hopefully use this theme in some new personal blog of mine.

    I am not a designer or anything, and my friends think I have a bad taste for website designs. That might be a reason for me liking Depo Masthead this much!

    • Hi Jithin,

      Thanks for making a reasonable argument. I appreciate you taking the time to explain your point of view. I wish more people would do that these days.

      As I mentioned above, this is all strictly my own opinion. And of course, I tend to be facetious from time to time in some of posts.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  4. I think you need to keep in mind what this theme will work with and what it won’t. It set up like a magazine so pictures are a big help. If you are ALL text then you may not want to use it.

    I just helped my friend set up his first site using this theme and it came out great! So good infact that I want to use it now. But I have to say that with most of my sites it just doesn’t work.

    Here is his site.
    http://thomascronenberg.wordpress.com/

  5. Thanks for the kudos Pauro. A year (and 1,000 posts) ago I created The Stem Cell Blog http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/stroke-stem-cells/and have helped 100′s (1000s ?) get treatments and educated ~3/4 of a million. When I created it, I tried (previewed) virtually all of the themes. I found the DePo Masthead to be the best one to present the huge amount of information available on stem cells.

    Of course, each theme has pros and cons. The navigation between specific articles is a bit hard to navigate for the novice reader but I was really impressed by the layout in general and specifically the 3 column presentation. With stem cell/scientific articles that sometimes run pages long, I found that I…and guessed that readers…would never do more than skim the large articles and would quickly get fed up scrollin down and scrollin and scrollin.

    The triptych approach allows for readers to take in the most recent 3 posts all at once and the pages at the top (which I really need to reorganize) allow the blog to showcase the static pages which readers have picked as most important to read. What can i tell u…works for me. different strokes for diff folks.

    Thanks to Derek Powazek for providing a free theme that works for me.

    • Pauro, David… Thanks for dropping by.

      David, I’m going to ask you a few questions that hopefully won’t offend you.
      Starting with… “where do I start?”

      The 3 most recent posts are sandwitched between a deluge of links on top and an even greater deluge beneath.

      Scientific articles have a lot to teach us about the way the human mind reads information. The mind doesn’t perceive a web page the same way as a paper article and presentation is just as important as the content. You’re trying to educate people, but are they really absorbing as much as they can because the presentation is convoluted?

      I’m faced with the unavoidable fact that your blog is actually a wiki. Simply put, it’s just too much content presented and linked all at once for someone to digest.

      Let me put it in another way…
      Stem cells can be used to regenerate deteriorating tissue from hearts to optic nerves. How many people with vision issues are you leaving out by using your theme?

      Do you believe a stroke survivor with preceptual problems, someone who would surely benefit from your content, would be able to navigate your layout without difficulty?

      Don’t take this the wrong way. I respect your goals.
      But don’t choose a layout because it looks like a scientific journal or feels convenient from your prespective. Choose a layout that will actually benefit the people you’re trying to help.

      • I have to agree here. This website is terrible. An abuse of Minimalism!

        How is anyone supposed to want to read about stem cells when there are so many elements of distracting text?!

        I do feel like hacking this blog, and at least switching it to TwentyTen.

  6. Interesting perspective. Do you have any suggestions? I am open to suggestion and I am in the process of transferring my blog to a private domain site. WordPress and that theme worked very well for a number of reasons. So now I guess it’s time to put your money where you mouth is as the saying goes. ;)

    • Well, then…

      If you are going to move your site, don’t think about the layout yet. First, think about your content. A big part of selecting your layout is first restructuring your content. Don’t make the content mold to the layout, it should always be the other way around.

      How is your content related to each other and how would you categorize articles and posts.
      Articles aren’t the same as posts. Articles are generally static being liked to many others, whereas posts are a bit like news. You may update your articles with new information from your posts, but articles themselves essentially stay where they are.

      So, you would have to have an information section which is basically the majority of the content or maybe a wiki. Then you have your blog where you can post new information on research, discoveries other up-to-date content.

      Generally you would need to present your content with an introduction. This can be a paragraph or a whole page, but it must be easy to digest. This introduction can have a list of contents that can link to the rest of your articles.

      And if you still want to go with the three column route, don’t put the posts in three columns. Use one for that and the others for something else. You can still put a lot of content on your front page. The trick is to balance it in such a way as to not “appear” to be putting a lot of content at once so as to not overwhelm the visitor.

      …And that isn’t impossible.

  7. I don’t mean to necro this post but I can understand someone who doesn’t like a theme (I disagree, I think it’s a beautiful theme). But what I don’t understand is someone who criticizes another person’s free contribution to a community so harshly. You’re quick to point out the shortcomings of this theme but offer no suggestions for its improvement, nor do you release any themes yourself.

    You said:

    “Wanna know how bad this theme is? Even the author doesn’t use it on his own site.”

    The fact of the matter is the vast majority of people who design themes for WordPress as well as other CMS’s don’t use the theme themselves.

    TLDR: Your complaints are void because 1) it’s a free theme and 2) you haven’t released any themes yourself.

    • Hi Ben,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You’re quick to point out the shortcomings of this theme but offer no suggestions for its improvement, nor do you release any themes yourself.

      Feel free to read the reply to David’s post above and head over to my Experiments page where I’ve released several templates into the public domain. I like practicing what I preach.

      BTW… Being “Free” doesn’t make anything immune from criticism. In fact criticism is far more valuable on a free commodity as there’s a prevailing sentiment that “Free” automatically entails something that is worse than a paid solution in many circles. Criticism, harsh or otherwise, ensures the final product is equal to, if not better than, paid alternatives.

  8. I actually agree, as much as I like the ‘cleaness’ of this theme, it can too easily be abused.

    However, I think at its core there is a good idea that can be adapted to fit nicely with the right sort of blog or site. I’m working on something like that now…

    • Thanks Marcus, and thanks for reviewing my themes.

      As the old saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” ;)

      Conceptually, I completely aggree that it’s a good idea, but the potential for abuse since there’s no real mechanism to limit how much information can be presented all at once, really makes this theme go by the wayside.

  9. I have tried all the available themes in wordpress but i end up preferring always Depo mast head … Though I am waiting for a better or designer magazine , diary or news paper type theme.. But until then this one serves the purpose.

  10. Just stumbled across this post. I’ve been using DePo Masthead for about a month and I find it to be a refreshing change in blog design. I’ve had to make extensive use of images and the more function to make it work, but I think it’s entirely possible. I also spent considerable time reorganizing the widgets at the bottom so that they have a nice balance. I haven’t found anything I like better, and used my prior theme for over two years. Not sure if this one will make it that long, but I can’t see why not.

    BTW, I think most of the blogs linked to above are a perfect case in point for your horror. I would like to think that my usage is a bit more carefully planned and organized. Images, more tags, and organization are essential to making this theme work at all. Enjoyed the post, even if I’m a bit late to the discussion.

    • Hi Nathan,

      Thanks for dropping by.

      I think your’s is one of a handful that manage to pull this theme off quite well. Like you said, you haven’t flooded the front page with all that available jazz.

      And therein lies the problem. By labeling it “Magazine” friendly, most people don’t know when to stop with the widgets and their posts are obscenely long as they don’t use the more feature in WordPress to make their height even.

      • For about two weeks I experimented with publishing three posts in quick succession. I focused specifically on balancing the images and length of posts before the more tag on the front page. I was trying to simulate the editions of an in print newspaper, where the front page is unique with each edition. It was a fun experiment, but not well suited to the blogging format. Sometimes I only have 1-2 posts pending, and at other times I had 4-5 ideas. I’ve left that behind and resumed my regular posting rhythm and it is more natural (if less refined). Thank you for the kind comments.

    • You definitely get it, nice blog. I hate it when blogs don’t have a recent comments feature though (and you have space for it in the bottom right).

      It is becoming pretty obvious that heavy use of the more command, or short posts, is required for a clean presentation with DePo Masthead.

  11. Whether or not a writer uses this theme is his choice. If you have gripes, email whoever it is. I personally think it is yet another great choice in the already large theme database.

    • Hi thinsmek, Thanks for dropping by.

      I think you misunderstood… This is a public criticism of a public theme used by authors to express their views publicly.

      I.E. Authors wish to make their content available to the masses, however a significant percentage of said masses would be distracted by their choice of theme. This is a PSA, not a “gripe”.

  12. Oh. Sorry about that.

    I still can’t find anything about the this theme that bugs me. I just like this theme a lot. The best example of working minimalism I have seen on a wordpress theme.

    • Then it seems we’re at an impasse, my good fellow.

      It may be minimal, but the “type” of minimalism just doesn’t work well. It feels too clutered and haphazard, especially if authors have a lot of content. And I know I’m not alone in this view.

      • I have been looking at blogs like the stem cell blog, and realise that many people don’t understand what this theme is for. They eagerly fill up the header and footer widgets with clutter, in an attempt to display a lot of good information. They don’t know the more tag.

        Perhaps I am bugged that people don’t know the basics of design (and writing); focus on few elements, don’t bombard the viewer with information from all sides.

        How do you eat an elephant?

        But I digress.

        [DePo Masthead] feels too clutered and haphazard, especially if authors have a lot of content.

        Thomas Cronenberg Tapestries is a good example of an amateur (?) who doesn’t post often using DePo Masthead for a professional style presentation. He uses photographs to showcase his works. Well, he probably hasn’t even configured the widgets, but this layout is just fine.

        “Meet Thomas” at the bottom left is well placed (by default?) for the curious viewer to read on. He doesn’t have much information to share, but minimalism applies to everything. The front page doesn’t show many posts, but combined with the informative header and footer, you can pretty easily tell what this is all about.

        A recent posts widget on the bottom right may be in order to compensate for the lack of posts on the front page–and drive readers of an old post to continue browsing the blog.

        I did find annoying that I couldn’t easily see a lot of his posts. This was remedied by browsing the archives, but still, that isn’t good enough in most situations. The back-fowards texts just before the footer are a nice touch if you aren’t inclined to show off your oldest posts (now when would that be the case?!).

        platformsutra.org is a best case scenario of when you might want a functional, handsome, and minimal theme. DePo Masthead fits very well on this meditative site. There is nothing wrong here (in my humble opinion).

        As I see it, choosing DePo Masthead is all about the right type of blog, and even more about being a discerning blogger. This means cutting out the unessential ____ and placing it in the about page, for example. Simplifying your approach to blogging in general.

        Typominima is another handsome minimal theme, but with a slightly different layout. I am thinking of trying this for my personal blog, but I don’t know if it is available to others in WordPress.com.

        Masthead is not designed for noisy breaking news, attention seeking, and sprawling information sites. There are other themes out there which are far better for these blogs.

        DePo Masthead needs a warning notice to deter “unminimal” bloggers. You have provided a warning by writing this post. Thanks for doing so, and drawing our attention to this issue.

        - Edit by eksith
        Fixed Typominima link.

      • Thanks for being civil with your comments. I wish I could say the same about some of the others and some of the emails I’ve received regarding this post.

  13. Actually, I really love this theme, but I admit it’s not perfect – but I find that every theme has something different lacking.

    Except when I posted a 10 page short story (that looked a little weird on the 3-column front page!) – I actually really like it when the lengths of the three columns are varied – it seems more natural and organic. Having three columns of exact length looks, to me, a little forced, blocked, and boring.

    But after previewing every theme on wordpress.com – this was the only one with any oopmh for me. Though Grid Focus caught my eye, too.

  14. I have been using this theme for almost a year now. I would love some feedback on if you uys think it works for my content which is sports poetry. I think it works well but I am obviously biased because I love my sight. I was drawn to the theme due to the simplicity and magazine style 3 column layout. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  15. I appreciate all the discussion here. I really like DePo Masthead because I can use Three Columns to have recent opinion posts. My blog is about Middle East Opinion and Analysis, and I like that I can have my most recent and previous posts side by side right on the main page…

    However, I hear all of your arguments, and further, I can’t seem to find the DePo Masthead theme available on my GoDaddy Hosting (i’m a novice so if this is a bad platform to use, let me know what may be better). Do you have any recommendations for a theme which has a similar main layout (I looked at ones you previously suggested but they don’t do it for me.)

    Thanks in advance for your response.

  16. I love DePo Masthead. I’m trying to find the damn thing and WordPress isn’t letting me find it. I have it on another blog, but can’t find it for my newest blog.

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