My next client is a famous think-tank known for the original research it has done on policy issues. They have maybe 50 writers on their roster. They are asking me to make major changes to their site, though their budget is extremely limited.
They tell me that they want the front of their site to look like huffingtonpost.com. In the interior of the site, each of the writers gets their own page, and each writer needs their own list of events (for instance, when they will be giving a public speech). Each one of these lists of events should have its own RSS feed.
The budget on this project is very limited, so I'm going to try to find a theme that delivers most of what I need. Anyone from Woo Themes or StudioPress or ProThemes or Headway should feel free to self-promote, if they feel they have a theme that matches what I'm looking for.
<strong>Update</strong>: so far 2 of you have suggested I look at Woo Themes. Any particular theme?[[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/themes/"]] I look at their site[[/LINK]] and I see an abundance of options.
If I were you I would have a look through the selection of [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/themes/"]]WooThemes available[[/LINK]] and select one. The rest of the functionality you mentioned can be achieved with using categories as built-in to WordPress.
Ok, in particular I would look at their [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/themes/magazine-news/"]]Magazine / News themes[[/LINK]]. I personally like the looks of [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/2009/06/the-journal/"]]The Journal[[/LINK]] and [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/2008/02/gazette/"]]The Gazette Edition[[/LINK]] the best, and they seem to be inline with what you mention above. Though to be honest, only you can really select which theme best matches your requirements.
Tony Geer answers:
What may also be a good idea is to use a framework that you can design around.
In that case one recommendation would be the Thesis framework: http://diythemes.com/thesis/ . In addition to SEO, accessibility (very important if they do government work) and usability, it's also very flexible and allows you to do a lot of control via the administration area.
Another recommendation for a framework would be [[LINK href="http://www.darrenhoyt.com/products/gravy/"]]Gravy[[/LINK]]. It's not as full featured as Thesis in the backend, but it's not aiming to be. It's really a solid code-base that allows you to do whatever you want.
Both of these are updated often enough to keep up with the latest versions of Wordpress and functionality.
While going with a pre-made theme has lots of advantages, you'll have the following issues, which may vary depending on your needs:
1. It may require more work to change the look and feel than building it yourself using one of the frameworks mentioned above.
2. It would take quite a bit of time to make it not look like the off-the-shelf package that it is.
Hope that helps.
Alex Cragg answers:
I too would recommend any of [[LINK href="http://woothemes.com/themes"]]Woothemes themes[[/LINK]] in terms of giving you a very strong and flexible base to work from, I've used a fair few of their themes and they're fantastic. If the budget will stretch, it may be worth looking into a developer package that will provide you with the PSDs to work with. Woothemes also currently have a 5 for 1 offer, so you could choose a few to play with. Something like [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/2009/09/daily-edition/"]]Daily Edition[[/LINK]] could be manipulated to look like huffingtonpost.com
If the budget won't go that far, http://themeforest.net is another great place to find designs, either html or WordPress ready, and they start at around $15. Again, I've got experience with using a few of them, and they are usually to a very high quality.
As for some of the other functionality you mention, take a look at the [[LINK href="http://davidebenini.it/wordpress-plugins/events-manager/"]]events manager plugin[[/LINK]]. It has RSS feeds built in, and handles some other very awesome stuff such as RSVPs and email notifications, as well as google maps integration.
Hope you find something that suits.
<strong>Update:</strong> As I suggest above, Daily Edition is similar in structure to the site you quote as being a target, and [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/2008/02/gazette/"]]The Gazette Edition[[/LINK]] is another similarly structured design.
I would choose [[LINK href="http://www.woothemes.com/2008/02/flash-news/"]]Flashnews[[/LINK]]
It has nice featured content area and built-in widgets.
I think it will be easy adding multiple navigation bars and making a three column layout.
* I would check out 'the Local', created by co-founder of this site Darren Hoyt. This is an add-on for another theme of his 'Elemental'.
[[LINK href="http://prothemedesign.com/themes/thelocal/"]]theme site[[/LINK]]
[[LINK href="http://demo.prothemedesign.com/wordpress/thelocal/"]]theme demo[[/LINK]]
There are two screen casts available of the theme on the theme site (third one seems to be in the make).
Although it's a 'hyperlocal' newssite theme, I think it can be easily modified to fit your needs. It has an incredible feature set and has out-of-the-box already a professional look. You can easily rearrange all important stuff thanks to an incredible amount of widgetised areas. One of the most important assets I think will be the custom control panel that lets you "rearrange content, typography and navigation". With that many authors I think your back-end needs to be 'fool-proof', so that the writers can focus on their articles and you don't have to worry about some-one messing with your overall design.
* In addition to a powerful theme I think you really need to make sure your backend is secure. With 50 writers I guess there will also a be a few different levels of backend access rights (authors, editors, admins,...). I highly recommend the Members plugin by Justin Tadlock to manage the different roles. It will be a definite time & headache saver. [[LINK href="http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/members/"]]Members plugin[[/LINK]]
* I don't think there are any plugins out there that will easily let you separate the different events of the authors and let them manage it themselves. I think your best bet is to custom make this using Pods: [[LINK href="http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pods/"]]Pods CMS[[/LINK]] & [[LINK href="http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pods-ui/"]]PODS UI[[/LINK]]
* On a sidenote: although I am convinced of the flexibility of Wordpress and I know you can use it as a full-blown cms, I think there have to be *easier* alternatives out there to get this specific site to work properly. Is the existing site already running Wordpress?