web design

4 Trends in Website Themes You Need to Understand

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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In the last several years we have seen a dramatic change in website themes – the layout and style of websites.

In this post, we’re going to look at what has changed and why. While this is applicable to all websites, we’ll also look specifically at how it affects the migration of websites from our NE1 website builder to the new WP-EZ Website Builder.

A few years ago it was standard for a website to be designed with a big graphic in the header and the menu in the left sidebar. These types of designs or themes work well when the website is viewed on a computer.


Older theme with big header image and menu on the left side

Trend 1: Rise of the Mobile Web

In recent years there has been a dramatic cultural shift towards mobile devices…

  • More than 2/3 of American adults now own a smart phone
  • Almost 50% of American adults have a tablet
  • About half of all website views are done on a mobile device.

Trend 2: Menus on the Move

Website developers have responded by developing websites that are “responsive.” Responsive websites detect the size of the device the visitor is using and display a version of the website optimal for that screen.

It is challenging to develop websites with left side menu that looks good and functions well at all screen sizes. As a result, most responsive themes have the menu at the top of the website.

In fact, when we were researching and testing themes for WP-EZ only 1 of the 28 themes that met our criteria had the menu on the left side. (We will be adding more themes with top and left menus in the near future.)

Trend 3: Menu Reorg

Another factor that makes the transition from a left side menu to a top menu is challenging is the space limitations in the website header. When the menu is on the left, it’s possible to add lots of items to the main menu without “breaking” the site (as in the example above.)

However, themes that have a top menu, often “break” when the number or length of the menu items goes beyond what can fit on one line. The menu items can overlap or displace other elements of the website (as in the example below.)


Too many menu items in a top menu

It may seem like the easiest solution is to find a theme with a left side menu that will accommodate lots of menu items, but the best solution is to reorganize the menu using sub-menus and no more than 7 main menu items.

Trend 4: From Theme to Content

Another trend in web design influenced by the rise of mobile is fewer graphics in themes. With NE1 we offered themes that have pictures of crosses, churches, children, families, nature and more. Modern themes tend to be much simpler and don’t have images built in. But that doesn’t mean images are any less important. No, the images have moved out of the theme and into the page content – image sliders, galleries, videos.


Website with a mobile-friendly, responsive theme and image slider

Advice for NE1 Users Migrating to WP-EZ

If you build your website using our NE1 website builder and you’re now migrating to WP-EZ, let me offer some advice to help you with the transition.

1) Seize the mobile opportunity – Chances are you weren’t planning to redesign your website now. But your NE1 website is not mobile friendly and is not easy to read or use for half your visitors. When you migrate to WP-EZ you are effectively doubling your audience.

2) Use a top menu – It’s what most modern, mobile-friendly websites use.

3) Reorganize your menu

  • Make use of drop-down sub-menus
  • Limit the number of main menu items to no more than 7
  • Make the menu text as short as possible

4) Put images in your content

  • WP-EZ has an image slider plugin; put an image slider on your homepage.
  • Include at least one image on each page
  • Add a Photos page and regularly add new photo galleries to it

If you have a website built with our NE1 website builder, login to your MyOCC dashboard, click the “Website Builder” menu option, and start your migration.

Or to build a brand new website with a mobile-friendly responsive theme using the WP-EZ Website builder, click here.

Comment and Discuss

  • What trends are you seeing in website theme design?
  • What are you doing in response to these trends?
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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • Good post, Paul. For most people, change is never wanted nor is it easy. However, in this case it is necessary and will be beneficial for the future of your website and organization.

  • Is there a way to add a menu button without creating a new page? For example, I added a "More" page to my site just so I could have a sub-menu with some miscellaneous pages which used to be part of my main menu. Later I was looking at info on Word Press on the internet and found some instructions for adding a custom menu item which is not a url (and not a new page). Will that work on WP-EZ? I'm not sure I want to change mine just now – I have a LOT of other work to do on the new site – but if you would put some instructions up for things like this, it should be helpful to others.

    • Yes, you can do that… To create a menu item that is not clickable but will contain submenu items, just add a Link menu item and add a # symbol in the “Link Address (URL)” field.

    • David, the migration itself takes just a minute or so. After that you can take as much time as you like to tweak your new WP-EZ site before making it live. So, the time it takes is the amount of time you want to spend tweaking your WP-EZ site.

  • What is an image slider?
    You're right, I wasn't planning on redesigning my site right now, and I really don't have time for it. We will probably be going with a new hosting company at our renewal, unless this is a LOT easier and less complicated than it seems right now.

  • Is there a way to get rid of things on my site, such as the huge "blog index box" that appears right under my heading and menu? I don't want things like that.

  • i used to use a lot of html to manage parts of my site and contents. Does not appear to be available now. I've seen most of your videos and they are, for the most part, good. But they don't give a complete "operators manual." Is one available anywhere?

    • Hi Jim, the 59 WP-EZ video tutorials are the operators manual. If you have any specific questions you don't think are covered in those videos, please let us know and we would be happy to answer them for you and possibly create additional videos.

  • Do you mean the orange "RSS" icon under the search box to the right of your menu links? If so, I don't think there is a way to remove it. It is a very helpful tool people can use to subscribe to your blog.

  • Just Completed the conversion Silver NE! website to WP… went well
    Will we or do we have the option to change our
    login password for WP_EZ builder to something
    the Admin can remember? Also will we for the future have to login to Our Church Console
    with one password and the into or WP-EZ with again another password to edit Website?.

    • Hi David, great questions… You can change the password used to login to WP-EZ. When on the WP-EZ dashboard, go to the top right corner where it says "Howdy…", hover over that and select the "Edit Profile" option.

      We do have a single login for OCC & WP-EZ on our list of features to add in the future. There's no timetable for it yet, but we all agree that would make WP-EZ even easier.

      • When I go to the "Edit Profile" option in WP-EZ – or anything under the "Howdy" – I get an error: "You are not allowed to access this part of the site. Contact OurChurch.Com if you need Advance Support." I thought it probably just wasn't turned on yet. Is there something wrong, or will this not become active until I complete the migration?

  • Great Post Paul. Most beginners feel overwhelmed when it comes to selecting a theme for their your site. There are thousands of free and paid options. Each theme looks better than the other.

  • Hiii Paul,
    Many new design trends come from the tastes and preferences of designers and users in design and usability. What makes those changes possible is improvements in technology.

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