How to Choose a WordPress Theme

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Cynthia Bartz • September 30, 2015

There are hundreds of WordPress themes to choose from. As of today there are over 2000 themes on wordpress.org and thousands more on third-party sites. If you’ve decided to use WordPress to manage your website content, it is important to choose a theme that not only works with your current needs, but will also grow with the vision for your business.

Where to Look

You probably know that there are a number of themes available through WordPress.com and WordPress.org, but there are also third-party sites that sell WordPress themes. Below is a list of some of my favorite places to explore.

WordPress.com

An excellent place to start with themes that have been vetted by WordPress. There is a very limited selection on this site, and probably every theme you fall in love with will be premium.

WordPress.org

This site is the “developer’s WordPress”. There is a larger selection on wordpress.org. The demo’s on this site are not fantastic, but all the themes here have information about compatibility with the latest updates, information on bug fixes, etc.

Theme Forest

This is the first place I go when WordPress.org fails me. There is a HUGE selection of themes. You can easily hours of your day to this site. Make sure that you read the reviews on these themes before you purchase. Any developer can post themes here and you may not have any support or documentation to get you started. That being said, I’ve had good experiences with them so far.

Mobile/Responsive

Having a desktop only website is just not an option any more. Gone is the age of fixed-width, 1024px wide websites. If you want to convert visitors into customers or clients you need to have a mobile friendly theme.

There are several ways to make a website mobile friendly on the programming side. My preference is always for “responsive” themes. This means that the layout fluidly changes depending on the width of the browser. What it means for your site is that it will look beautiful if you are viewing it on an Galaxy Edge, laptop, iPhone 4, or an obscure Korean tablet. You won’t have to worry about testing on hundreds of different devices to be sure that your website represents your brand correctly.

Key Search Terms:

  • Mobile
  • Mobile Friendly
  • Responsive
  • Bootstrap
  • Foundation

Design

There are lots of GORGEOUS WordPress themes in the market today. If you are starting a blog, online store, portfolio, or any website look for a theme that matches the tone of your business. It is worth it to pay for a theme with good design. The design is the first impression visitors have your business. You want your website to stand out and make a positive impression.

There are no hard rules in choosing a design. Below are some common design search terms you can use as a guideline. Keep in mind that you want a theme that is going to match your brand, not just what you like.

Key Search Terms:

  • Simple
  • Black and White
  • Clean
  • Elegant
  • Parallax
  • Modern
  • Professional
  • Colorful
  • Natural
  • Light
  • Dark

Features

Not all themes are built the same way. Before diving in a looking at themes until your eyes bleed, write down all the things you need the website to do. Do you need a web store? Sidbar? Multiple post types? Photo slider? Portfolio page? Featured products on the home page? Member login? Whatever is on the list, its important to know the features you need before choosing a theme. Below is a list of common features in WordPress themes you may want to consider.

Example Features:

  • Full Width
  • Right Sidebar
  • Left Sidebar
  • Infinite Scroll
  • Testimonials
  • Gallery
  • Ecommerce
  • Woocommerce
  • Web store
  • Customizable
  • Translation Ready
  • Slider
  • Featured Posts
  • Featured Products
  • Recent Posts

Logos and Colors

Not all themes are natively customizable. If you want to use different colors or change fonts to something other than what comes preloaded you will most likely have to purchase a premium theme. Even when you purchase a premium theme you may not be able to change everything you want from the WordPress Admin. If you are using a developer they will be able to make these changes for you on the code side. Most themes will list out what you can specifically change. Highly customizable themes will likely tout all of the features you can customize.

Evaluating Your Themes

After you have found a handful of themes you are considering spend some time in the demo site. Nearly all of the themes will have demo sites for you to see the site in action. View the site on your laptop, a tablet and your phone. It is super important that you look at the site on your phone to make sure that it is mobile friendly. Click on everything, resize your browser window, read reviews of the theme. The bottom line is that you want to be sure that it’s the right theme before you make a purchase.

Theme Evaluation Checklist:

  • View on Desktop/Laptop (and resize the browser window)
  • View on Tablet
  • View on Mobile
  • Click on page links
  • Read Reviews
  • Read Overview (making sure that all the features you need are there)
  • Hover over Everything (look for animations and hover actions)

Do You Need a Custom Theme?

Sometimes that perfect WordPress theme does not exist for your business. If you have scoured the web and still haven’t found the right theme it may be time to call up a developer. The advantage of working with a professional web designer/developer is the ability to create a custom solution for your business. A developer can create a custom theme or heavily modify the theme you are already using.

 

Realized that your website, logo, or marketing materials are not up to par? Contact me to discuss what we can do to improve your branding. I work strategically with startups and small businesses to design competitive branding and develop websites that actually work.

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