Web design can be approached in many different ways - some creative, and some just plain and simple. It takes a lot of work and experience for a designer to see web design as an amazing form of expression. In other words, there's so much that can be put towards a design of a website, it can be near obsessive.
Theme based web design is one of the types of design that can either go really well and be successful, or just go terribly wrong and be all over the place. The result, of course, is solely up to the creator's imagination, goal, and desire to achieve something awesome. I have come to the conclusion that web designers with a niche in Illustration have the upper hand in theming, but it can also be done just as well by others with a little bit more effort.
Here are some examples that I believe have successfully managed to portray a "themed" look. I searched through my bookmark database of about 5,000 links (the most tedious thing ever!), as well some CSS Galleries online and found some worth showing: More after the jump...
These are in no particular order. I'll go into a little bit of detail with some of them to show what I'm talking about.
- Go To CSS3
- Web Designer Wall
- Radu Ceucă's Blog
- Biola's Undergrad Program
- Team Green Online
- Alex Buga's Portfolio & Blog
- Komodo Media (Currently Under Construction)
- Okay Dave - Dave Werner's Portfolio
Particularly, I like all of these designs for specific reasons, but I'll get into a just a few of these. Websites like "Team Green Online" has a very "recycled" feel to it, hence it being a green dedicated website. I feel that this was successfully achieve because the content is easy to navigate, and almost everything you'd need is quickly accessible. The design makes it feel pretty natural with different paper textures and such. This is a good theme for a "green" based website.
The website that Biola.edu are sporting for both the regular website and the Undergrad program are very impressive. The undergrad website (as linked from the list above) is quite interesting in particular. The theme has an artsy approach at educational values through the use of art thumbs and symbolism from everywhere including the background, header and footer. This makes it all easily integrated with the content of the website, which is the center of attention, after all. The fact that every section of the site has a different and unique approach at content delivery is great. It keeps the user interested - or at least it did it for me, and I'm not even interested in attending.
So, in other words, web design isn't only about being able to throw around a few div boxes and putting some text in it. It's about figuring out the purpose of the website, the values you want to deliver, and how easy all of it is supposed to be to look at and absorb. Of course, don't forget, it's not 100% required for all websites to have this type of approach. Heck, this blog doesn't exactly have a "theme" like the sites I mentioned do. There are hundreds if not thousands of websites out there of similar and better contents. It is up to you to find them and use the ideas you gather to create you very own unique experience for the users.