Choosing the right WordPress theme for your website can be a daunting task. If you have experienced using WordPress before, maybe you have found yourself in a situation where you are not satisfied with the the way your theme looks or the way it works. You have this tingling sensation to change your theme but you don’t have a clear alternative what to use in its place. You have been digging around the WordPress theme lineup of different providers but you just can’t find the theme that you want for your website.
Well, in reality you will never find a theme that you can use as is. We always have this nature to infuse our own designs no matter how great looking the theme is. That is what is taking your search so long because you are thinking that there are themes around that you have not looked yet. Another is, you have found a great candidate, which is likely the case, but you are waryto implement what you want because you don’t have confidence about your knowledge of WordPress, or the codes that make it run, that is why you are holding your decision to grab the theme before your eyes.
Or maybe you just don’t have an idea at all about what you want because you are new to WordPress and still starting to learn the art and science of website building. Well, you are not alone. There are others like you who are facing the same predicament and to help you a little on how to find the ideal WordPress theme, I am inviting you to read on and consider the tips in choosing a WordPress theme below.
Determine What do you need
Before you embark on shopping for the WordPress theme, it is recommended that you evaluate what exactly is the theme that you want for your site. You streamline your options, so it will be easier for you to decide.
What is your purpose? What site you will be making?
Is it a portfolio or gallery, a magazine or news website, a blog or a review site, an e-commerce, or business or corporate presence?
These are basic questions that you need to answer because they will determine the features, design and functionality that you will need. If you will be starting an e-commerce website, certainly its design, features and functions is different from magazine and news websites, or a portfolio or gallery and vice-versa.
Basically, because you are planning to start your website, you have a model that you want to emulate, the design that you want to implement and the functionality that meet your needs. In selecting a theme, make sure that it matches your brand and line of business.
Are you planning to monetize your website?
Future plans for monetization must be determined up front before you select a theme. If you want to earn money from affiliate commissions and advertisements, make sure that your theme support monetization schemes.
Does it have banner widgets that you can drag on your sidebar or your header?
There are plugins that you use of course that can give you monetization capabilities but they can cost money and they might not work well on your design. Thus, a built-in solution is preferable in general, because it works seamlessly with the theme.
Free or Premium WordPress Theme
After you have determined the type of website that you want and the purpose identified, it is now time for you to start shopping around for themes. Before you scour the heaps and piles of WordPress themes however, you have to know first whether you will go for a free or premium solution.
If your website is intended for personal use, without monetization plans, or one that you will use momentarily for the event or occasion, a free WordPress theme is usually enough. If you will be using it for the long term, with monetization programs, then a premium WordPress theme is the better solution.
Premium themes are well maintained in general, with supports and regular updates from their authors. They also have added features that you cannot find in free stuffs. You cannot run the risk of losing the time and effort you have expended by using a free WordPress theme because you don’t have an assurance that they will be maintained and supported if at all, in the first place. With a premium theme, you can call in support from its developer if your theme breaks down and he will help you fix it for free. With a minimal investment, of a few dollars you have an assurance that your site runs smoothly as it should be.
If you are not planning to transform your website into a high-value item, then a free WordPress theme is enough. There are many themes in WordPress directory that will suit your needs and taste. You can also find a free item that can be upgraded into premium for access to support and updates, if that suits your preference for the moment.
Before you let yourself be captivated by the look and feel of a theme, be sure to check its specifications.
Does it support the latest version of WordPress?
You are in a better position if your theme handles the latest version of the platform. It is advisable therefore to look what version your theme says it can support. The newest themes on the market usually supports the latest version, but it is important to check what it really can to avoid incompatibility issues. WordPress releases newer versions on a regular basis and so, it is important that your theme is compatible with current and future versions of the platform.
Is is Responsive?
Responsive layout offers convenience to mobile internet users when they navigate your website, so a theme that adjusts to different browsers and view ports has an edge when it comes to accessibility. The trend nowadays is towards responsive web design so if you can find a theme optimized for both desktops as well as mobile devices, you are in an advantaged position.
According to Techcrunch, the number of mobile Internet users will surpass desktop Internet users by 2014. While mobile devices are not going to replace desktops entirely, it is something worth considering if you want to provide optimum web experience regardless of the device used to access your website. Try to resize your browser and see if your responsive theme works well across different sizes, if it is the kind of theme that you have chosen.
The looks is what you first observe in a WordPress theme, but equally important is what it is capable of doing. To see if your WordPress theme passes functionality requirements try to see if they have these attributes:
Cross browser compatibility
Making sure that your WordPress theme works in all major browser is really required. See, how your theme displays in different browsers and see it goes. Make it a point that the theme displays well in Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and so on.
Nobody loves slow websites. Google hates it, so as everybody else. It is already a public knowledge that Google incorporates site speed in search rankings, thus a website with sluggish performance will be placed at the lowest part of the totem pole. Not all themes are created equal, some are loaded with extraneous graphics and codes that bog down performance. A theme with simple and minimalist design with superb features always stands out in this area. See if on your theme, you can integrate performance enhancement plugins such as W3 Total Cache or Minify.
Design and Customization
The single most noticeable aspect of a WordPress theme is its design, or its look and feel. So, what do you have to take into consideration in choosing the design which is right for you?
Initially, it is better to look at the theme as a whole. Do you like its overall appearance? Its grungy, or minimalist design? What things you don’t like and as such you want to change?
Vis-à-vis with the question of design, is the ease or complexity in initiating changes. That’s it, its flexibility. Can you change certain elements on your theme without going under the hood on your theme files or not? These are usually laid down by developers to help clients decide. A glimpse of the admin panel can usually give you an idea if you can make changes without touching the codes. To be specific, try to see if these are available:
A bad navigation menu can drive visitors out of your site. When evaluating the navigation menu of the theme, make sure is is not complicated and pleasing to your readers. Menus can be found at the top just below the logo, on the left sidebar, on right sidebar, or in some cases at the bottom. Determine if you will put large contents that necessitate putting a navigation setup not only horizontally at the top, but also on the left sidebar.
For small websites it is advisable to use simple horizontal menus although this is not a rigid rule. Navigation menus should have categories and sub categories if necessary and pages.
Widgets are useful as you can add functionality on your website on a fly by dragging the item into your sidebar. You can also disable them if you want to by dragging them back. Try to see, what built-in widget your WordPress theme has. If you are planning to run ads on your site, see if you can post banners using widgets. Also check if social media buttons and etc. can be added in the same way.
Another crucial element in choosing a WordPress theme is color. When you have found a WordPress theme of your liking, see if you can change the color on your admin panel, or if it comes in different color schemes or combinations that you like. This is useful if you are a beginner WordPress user and you don’t have knowledge of CSS.
Most WordPress themes, have lots of fonts to choose from. It does not mean however that it comes loaded with all the fonts that you like. Make sure that you like the typography of your theme as displayed on your navigation menu, your content area, your sidebars and other parts of your theme. Also, if you can change their color to match your brand and your taste.
Header is a valuable part of your website. Watch for themes with customizable header area. One that you can change a logo with. Also, one that can be integrated with advertisement banner if necessary, a site search box or social media buttons.
Other Design Elements
Background – WordPress themes come with a default background but you might want to change it. Make sure to see if you can do so easily.
Image Slider – Some themes come with sliders some don’t. Depending on your needs, a theme with a slider that you can turn on and off can give you more control of your website.
Image Resize Feature – Themes have default image sizes when they display them. Those that offer resize feature, in their thumbnails, or header image etc. can help you should you want to change them for some reasons.
Video Support – Video support is important if you want to make a site with lots of videos on it. If videos are important on your site, make sure that the theme allows you to embed and watch them easily. There are also plugins that can do the job but having it packaged with your theme matters since videos will make up a substantial part of your content.
Social Media Buttons – Themes don’t come with the same social media buttons. They have different designs and way of integration on your site. See, if they are displayed the way you want and that you can used them even without customization.
Author Box, Testimonials and Comments – If you will make a portfolio website, testimonials are important. It is thus helpful to see if a testimonial form come with the package and if so, if you like its design. Same goes with author box and the comment section.
Subscription form – If you want to leverage the power of email subscription, try to see, if your theme has a subscription form. If not then, you are missing something significant.
Theme support is important to the welfare of your website. This is where premium WordPress theme apparently have an edge. In general, they have a dedicated support team ready to answer your call for help should you find your theme broken for some reasons. There is hardly such thing with free WordPress themes. Authors of such freebies are not obliged to update nor to fix them should you encounter errors when using them. For long term, a premium solution is advisable.
To see if a theme has an active, continuous theme support from its designer or developer, notice its change log. Also, try read the support thread if the theme author is active in answering the inquiries. It can also give you an idea what others say about the theme.
These are the things that I consider when I choose a WordPress theme. This is not a definitive rule of course as each of us have our own methods and preferences. If you have some advice to others who are searching for a theme, please don’t hesitate to write your thoughts below. We will also welcome your suggestions and comments.