There are a lot of articles out there on what to look for when choosing a WordPress theme, but many of them are written from the user who doesn’t have too much design experience, and doesn’t really think about the average beginning WordPress user. When I say ‘average beginning WordPress user’, I do mean someone who is either new to using WordPress or has been using WordPress for a couple months, but still may be learning the ropes.
Hopefully this article will help explain what to look for when choosing a WordPress theme from a better angle.
What to Look for When Choosing a WordPress Theme
A theme is the cosmetic piece of the site. It calls into play all the wonderful functions and filters built into WordPress so your website can what it needs to be, whether it’s a blog, an online boutique, a website listing for a restaurant, or something else.
For that, in choosing a WordPress theme, initially you need to think of the following:
- Do you like the theme?
- Will the theme do or allow you to do what you want your site to do?
Do you like the theme?
The look of your site is important, especially if you wish to build a brand. Also, you don’t want a site that you absolutely hate the look of, right? Even if you’re just beginning, you do want to start off with something you can decently present to the world.
Just don’t forget that you’re building a site to get a return on investment. You can be a blogger, and not place up some type of advertising system on your website, but you are seeking engagement… and that is an expectation of getting some type of ROI.
Will the theme do or allow you to do what you want your site to do?
If your theme doesn’t offer some type of flexibility to implement what you need your site to do (example: subscribe to a newsletter, share your articles, fill out your lead form, or buy your product), then that’s not theme to choose, especially if you have no experience with HTML code or with WordPress theme development, nor the money to hire someone to make those changes.
And on speaking about hiring, don’t get trapped in a theme designer’s vision. Make sure you list your expectations on what you need your theme to be able to do. This will eliminate the problem of getting a theme you won’t like, can’t use easily, or it doesn’t have the functionality you need it to have.
Wait… remember I said earlier “initially you need to think of the following”, so there’s more to on what to look for in a WordPress theme. Whether you hire someone to build your theme, buy a pre-made one, or download a free theme from WordPress.org, you kind of need to get a little more technical. Here are more things to think about when choosing a WordPress theme:
- Is the theme easy to use?
- Is the theme’s code up to date and cross browser compatible?
- Will the theme work well with the plugins you want to use?
- If you need to add more to the theme, will it be easy to learn to change?
- Is the theme out of the box optimized well so you only have to worry about optimizing your content?
Is the theme easy to use?
The majority of my clients that are new to WordPress at least have a handle on Microsoft Word, but if you tell them to go pick a theme, install it, and then configure it, that’s a whole different story. They have to learn how to configure it, and then even how to use it.
If a theme has a custom built front page with a bunch of widgets, and there are no instructions that came with the theme, then the average beginning WordPress user will get frustrated. It’s the cause of why there are a lot of topics in the WordPress Support forums on just setting up the theme.
Don’t be afraid to ask the theme developer questions, especially premium WordPress themes that you are buying. Ask them if their theme comes with some instructions, at least instructions on how to set up the website exactly how it looks in the theme demo site.
Is the theme’s code up to date and cross browser compatible?
Nothing is more annoying then finding out the reason why your site got hacked is because your theme had a vulnerable script. Make sure the theme is up to date.
Also, make sure it is cross browser compatible. There are tools like Browsershots that can let you see if the theme, will work well and look good in most major browsers. As a side note, if you’re looking for a responsive theme, Responsinator.com is helpful, especially if you want a mobile or tablet friendly website.
Will the theme work well with the plugins you want to use?
Some theme developers add extra theme options to add more functionality to your site. If you choose a theme that has some added scripts, and then go install plugins that may have similar scripts, you may end up with a conflict. The conflict could be that some areas of the front or backend may not work or display properly.
Be prepared to create a test site first. This is a great way to test a theme and the plugins you want to use before using them on your live website.
If you need to add more to the theme, will it be easy to learn to change?
Even with paid themes, you’re choosing them because they usually have what you need, but sometimes you want to add stuff to it. It could be extra widgets, or perhaps the original theme looks great, but you want to customize the front page template a little bit more. That is perfectly okay to do.
However, if you don’t have much money to spend, and the developer has made a theme with an elaborate file structure, then it’s going to be hard to make the changes by yourself.
Is the theme out of the box optimized well so you only have to worry about optimizing your content?
When I say optimized, I do refer to search engine optimization. If you can choose a theme with fairly good semantic markup, and that is built to be lean, that removes less work for you to apply more optimizing techniques after you’ve added your images and content.
Switching around files, and playing around with the theme to optimize it for speed is a hassle.
Hopefully these tips don’t confuse you when you are choosing your next WordPress theme. However, with so many themes out there, it can be daunting, and in this aspect, you will need to think of what you want your website to do, or what your expectations are. When is comes to what to look for when choosing a WordPress theme, a lot of people just kind of go look at themes like lost children in a forest.
If you don’t know what your site’s focus is, and don’t have some type of plan, most likely, you’ll not pick the theme that most suits your needs, and thus, you’ll be missing out on your potential return on investment. Hopefully some of the questions listed above will help you on what to look for when choosing a WordPress theme, either now, or in the future.
What do you look for when choosing a WordPress theme?