13 Admin Themes +3 : Improve Your User-Side Wordpress Experience

September 8, 2008 by BlogCrafted Staff · Blogging with Wordpress, Wordpress Themes  

If you’re like me, you’re not very keen on the default Wordpress admin look. Perhaps I’m just jaded from logging into too many other peoples’ blogs to do design work, I like to see something different in mine. (Also, am I the only one who thinks this new theme looks completely washed out?)

Well, there are a number of options out there, “admin themes,” as they’re called. Most come in plugin form and transform your admin area simply by being activated. Unlike blog themes, most admin themes only apply to the CSS of the admin presentation, they don’t change up the html elements. Everything is still there, it’s just moved around.

There aren’t nearly as many admin themes as there are blog themes, but there are a good number. Some are sleek, some are retro and try to imitate the 2.3.x look, some are user defined. I’ve included themes which are pre-2.5 as well, because I know some people are still using 2.3.x and may want to vary the look.

Wordpress 2.5+ Compatible Admin Themes

These themes are compatible with Wordpress 2.5+. They may not be compatible with pre-Wordpress 2.5, since the admin area underwent a complete makeover with the 2.5 release. However, some offer the old version for download on their site as well (depending on whether or not they had a pre-2.5 version).

Themes which have a completely different look from the original or current dashboard:

  • Leopard Admin is probably my favorite. The use of color does a nice job of drawing your eyes to the center and the graphics are lovely. Plus, I love the Mac-like look and pretending I have a sleek new Mac instead of an aging Windows machine.
  • Fluency Admin is my second favorite. It’s darker than Leopard, without the pretty graphics, but is still a clean look.
  • The Tiger Admin theme inspired both of the themes above. It’s also a clean look, Mac-inspired, but much too close to the current theme for my taste. Not enough contrast and darkness.

Themes which model themselves on the older look:

  • JP Admin Stylish Blue is a response to the washed out and wimpy classic blues of 2.5+ and creates a bold, almost-classic option. I’ve been enjoying the black vs. blue, but it’s a very nice look. Unlike some, which load as soon as you activate the plugin you have to go to the user section and select it in there.
  • Retro Dashboard makes the admin side look similar to the 2.3 theme, but not quite.

These themes allow the user to choose any of a number of color schemes or even come up with their own!

  • Easy Admin Color Schemes lets you come up with your own color scheme. You can have it match your blog or anything else you’d like. The layout is still WP 2.5+ framework, but the colors are whatever you want them to be.
  • Baltic Amber Themes – I couldn’t make any themes I liked out of this one. I tried, but it just didn’t turn out as I hoped. But if you want to make your own color choices or set up a random theme, it’s user-defined (like the Easy Admin, but a little easier to use with less impressive results).
  • WP Admin Themes has a number of simple color combinations which you can download, upload and activate in your user options section. You can even add your own.

Admin Themes for Pre-2.5 Wordpress

These themes are lovely, but aren’t compatible with Wordpress 2.5 or 2.6.

  • AFD Wordpress2 Admin Theme has a lovely silver look. A little too light and polished for me, but it appeals to my “clean” aesthetic.
  • Deconstructed is another theme that’s a little light for my taste. Still, I prefer it to either the 2.3.x theme or the current ones offered.
  • Deconstructed Remix–another version of Deconstructed, done by someone who enjoyed the first version. Nice look as well.
  • Planet X7 is a very very dark blue. Above, I commended Leopard and Fluency for using darkness to draw attention to the middle area. Planet X7 is just…dark. I like it, but I’m not sure I’d want to use it. Still, check out the screenshots.
  • JS Spot the Milk uses different shated of the classic blue and white colors. It also includes drop-down menus. (User comments note that the drop-down menus don’t work as well with sub-menus.)

Plus 3 Bonus Links

The Admin Drop-Down Menu plugin doesn’t really put up a new theme, but it allows you to save a lot of hassle in the current one. You know how if you want to, say, edit your theme, it takes several clicks to get there? This plugin solves that by creating drop-down menus. I’ve seen it at work on blogs I’ve consulted on and was very pleased with the easy navigation.

Wordpress 2.5+ doesn’t reveal post/category/whatnot IDs in the admin section. Well, it takes hovering over the editing link or checking the location bar when you’re editing. IDs can be very useful in coding, so I’ve found this annoying. This plugin restores them to where they should be. I’m not sure if it’s compatible with all the 2.5+ themes, but it’s worth a shot. Scroll down to English.

And if you want your blog to look like the 2.5 “Fresh” (default) Admin theme, you can find that here. I think it looks better on the front than inside.


1 James Dimick September 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Hey there!

I just wanted to stop in and thank you for featuring my plugin (Easy Admin Color Schemes) in this post. I see some other great plugins here too. I’m glad mine could be among them. Good roundup you’ve put together. ;)

Thanks again!

2 bluntmoney October 17, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Thanks, I had no idea these existed. The new Wordpress admin view bugs me so I’m happy to hear there are options.

3 Patrick October 19, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I couldn’t get Leopard to work (there was no way to extract it from the zip file). So I went with Fluency. Pretty snazzy. :)

(Yeah, I probably could have extracted it first, then uploaded it. Call me lazy!).

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