WP Theme Review: Fresh Journal from Simply Fresh Themes

by Robb Sutton

Keller Hawthorne at Simply Fresh Themes sent me over a copy of her first premium theme for Wordpress blogs, Fresh Journal, for review on RobbSutton.com. Keller is the mind behind FresheVenture.com and Fresh Journal is her first step into the premium Wordpress theme industry. With a clean overall look, included documentation and long list of admin options, let’s take a dive into Fresh Journal and take a look at how these theme will operate on your blog. Note: For the purposes of theme testing, I use another site I own, whatannoys.me, that may or may not have this theme live when you read this review.

Fresh Journal Install and Setup

Fresh Journal installs just like any other Wordpress theme on the market. You can upload it via FTP and activate or use the built-in installer in Wordpress. Once you install and activate the theme, the administration panel where you tweak the inner workings of Fresh Journal are found under the appearance tab.

Once you are in and installed, there are a ton of options available to customize the look and feel of Fresh Journal. There is everything from Twitter and Google Analytics integration to thumbnail resizing.

One of the best features in Fresh Journal is the ability to change the custom image tag. For those of you that are running another premium or free Wordpress theme that has a thumbnail for each article, you are able to change Fresh Journal to match your previous settings keeping you from having to go back and update every single article. In my case with whatannoys.me, I was able to change that tag to the Thesis post image tag and all of my images were up and running instantly. That was a huge time saver.

This administration panel is also where you can control your overall site link/box color, featured posts options (shown at the top of the content section on the homepage), home page excerpt length, ad spots on homepage and single article pages, rss and Twitter box options (at top of sidebar and bottom of single) and how many related articles you would like to see at the bottom of each article. As you can see by the screen shot in the gallery, there are also other included options that allow you to change things up as you need to.

Once you have your settings all tweaked up, you can head over and arrange your widgets in the sidebar and footer, and…as you can see by the included screen shot, there are more options for sidebar layout than I even use. From single to dual column in two different areas of your sidebar, you can really mix things up as much as you want to.

Fresh Journal Look and Feel

Outside of the administration options, Fresh Journal has a sharp and clean overall feel. Everything is laid out nicely on the page with adequate spacing between elements and the lack of imagery within the theme framework makes for a fast loading page. Those looking for a more custom look are going to want to tweak the CSS file to include a custom background and custom page elements, but the CSS is laid out cleanly…so that shouldn’t be an issue for those that are used to diving into design code.

Overall Thoughts and Review On Fresh Journal

At $39.95, Fresh News is about 1/2 the cost of most of the premium themes on the market. At this price, I really consider this theme a great deal for many Wordpress users. With a clean and easy to use interface combined with a clean look, you are able to get up and running with a professional looking blog on a budget and easily.

That said, there are a couple of things missing from the administration panel that I would like to see included in future revisions: changing the fonts, changing individual element colors (coming in next release), changing background image.

If you are looking for a clean theme that everyone isn’t already running (since this is new and relatively under the radar…you don’t have to worry about everyone having the same theme as you), Fresh Journal is a great option for those of you that are not ready to drop 75-100 dollars on a premium Wordpress theme. I had whatannoys.me up and running as pictured in about 10 minutes without any real effort. I can imagine that spending some time on it would create a great look in the end.

What I Liked About Fresh Journal
  • Great administration panel for those that aren’t coders.
  • Clean look and fast loading pages.
  • Incredible documentation included.
  • New theme, so everyone on the block is not already running it.
  • Ads for affiliate or Adsense easily installed.
  • Custom image tag changer is a HUGE time saver.
  • 1/2 the price of most premium themes on the market.
What I Think Needs To Be Included In Later Revisions
  • Easy way to change background and fonts in administration panel.
  • Scrolling feature panel on homepage instead of click to move.
  • Replace links for social media with icons.

Overall, great job by Keller on her first drop into the premium Wordpress theme market. I am looking forward to the other themes that Simply Fresh Themes is going to produce over the coming months.

To check out Fresh Journal for yourself, click here.

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Ainslie Hunter March 30, 2010 - 3:17 pm

Hi Rob,

I just bought Keller’s theme for the new site I am developing. My other sites are on Thesis. I am really enjoying the change, and the magazine feel to it.

I also like how easy it was to create to place info on various sections like the footer.

Keller Hawthorne March 30, 2010 - 3:20 pm

Thanks for the awesome review Robb! I’m really interested in what features I should add to the theme, so your suggestions are a huge help. I just implemented the color customizations last night. Now, I just need to look into some of the others, like font customization. Next version should be released soon. Thanks again and I hope your readers enjoy it!

Robb Sutton April 2, 2010 - 3:13 pm

Sure thing Keller! I’m stoked to see what you come up with in the coming months.

Keller Hawthorne April 15, 2010 - 5:59 pm

Hey Robb! I wanted to give you a heads up that I just released Version 2.0 BETA. Thanks to feedback from you and other FJ users, I added tons of new theme options, including complete color customization, a background image option and the ability to add compact share buttons to posts with one easy click. The link to the announcement is in my name. Thanks again for your review – your feedback was a great resource!


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