For a beginner who’s just stepping into the blogging world, choosing a new WordPress theme could be a daunting task. It is even difficult for someone who’s experienced and who’s already got a website of his own and is looking to change it to a new theme, maybe to jazz it up a bit or because of any other personal reason. Most people do change their theme somewhere down the line and it’s not often that one sticks to a theme throughout. Basically, a problem of plenty, selecting a theme that looks perfect for your website is never going to be easy. There are thousands of themes to choose from, both free and paid ones, each looking more beautiful than the other, and it is practically impossible to decide on one. Should you go for the free or the Premium theme? Is it easily customisable? How is it from the aesthetics point of view? Does it reflect your brand? How’s the load speed? Is it compatible with the popular plugins available in the market?
Different themes for different markets
Most WordPress theme providers bring out their themes under different categories, each catering to a particular niche. Themes falling under a specific category will have designs and functionalities that mostly complement the content being written. These themes show characteristics that sync with the type of market they are used for. For instance, a theme for fashion has a design that’s more image-focused or one that exudes a refined elegance. Likewise, WordPress themes for health and medical websites are created by developers and designers keeping simplicity and robust functionality in the mind. For blogs on social issues or news-related, more emphasis is laid on the readability.
It pays to be extra careful while selecting a theme
There are themes have very limited customisation options. With such themes, the blog owner has to live with the few customisation features bundled with them. Or else, pay more to upgrade to another version with better customisation possibilities.
Some WordPress themes that provide stunning features can have really slow loading speed, which actually is a bummer. No visitor likes slow websites and the sluggish loading time could result in high bounce rates. Google ranks faster websites higher and considers slow loading sites as an indicator of poor user experience.
A theme once selected remain in use for a long time unless compelled to change because of technical issues associated with it (slow speed, for instance). Hence, it pays to be careful in selecting a theme and consider certain things before deciding on one. Moreover, frequent changing of themes could convey a negative brand image too. The theme that you use for your website is the face of your brand and is very important in how users as well the search engines perceive it. So, whether you are picking a theme for creating a brand new website or for an already existing one, consider the following points before making that final choice:
#1: Does the theme reflect your brand?
Your website is symbolic of your brand and is your identity in the internet space. Hence, in choosing a WordPress theme, make sure that it reflects your values, mission and your attitude in general. Does it reflect a feeling of your brand? Brand identity is a set of ideas that are associated with your business and are conveyed to the customers through your website. A website’s overall design should be in sync with your brand image and so when you choose a theme, make sure that the layout, colours, font, navigation style and the rest agree with your image. If you want to convey a techie image, a simplistic theme is enough. If you want a sophisticated feel, choose a theme with visually striking font style and an exquisite layout. A website that deals with, say gift items and souvenirs would want a fun and wacky identity with beautiful colour schemes and fun texts. If you want to convey a serious, no-nonsense image, pick a theme that’s minimalistic and is focused on readability. The idea is to choose one from many themes available according to your type of business and content.
#2: How will the user experience be from the theme selected?
Many WordPress themes come with a variety of designs – lots of colour schemes, complex layouts, flashy animations, many scroll bars that affect the user experience. The question is whether you need all these to carry forward your business. Do all these “bells and whistles” actually serve their purpose? Of course, a website needs to be visually appealing but that should not be at the cost of a good user experience. It’s disadvantageous to use a theme that’s overly complicated. You do not want the visitors to be confused where to go once they land on your website, do you? Even if your website is visually stunning if it has poor user experience and reduced functionality (from your business perspective), then it is definitely a poor theme. Too many functionalities sometimes affect the website speed too. What use is that site that is very beautiful but has sluggish speed? The speed has a huge impact on the user experience, and which in turn, on business conversion. Pick a theme that needs minimum plugins to function the way that you want it to, has a better-organised layout and is optimised for fast loading.
#3: Is there going to be a good support from the theme developers?
WordPress itself has regular updates that take care of the technical as well as security flaws in the design. As such, it is important that your theme is able to incorporate these updates to maintain its functionality within your WordPress site. Pick a theme that has good support from the developers to integrate the updates. Before purchasing a theme, check different forums for comments on any issue with updates and check the developer’s notes on the regularity of updates. It’s better not buy one that hasn’t been updated in a long time. Many free WordPress themes do not have support systems or have no guaranteed support. This means, if anything goes wrong with your theme, you will have to sort out the issue on your own. Check the ratings and reviews to understand the quality of the theme better.
#4: Is the theme mobile responsive?
Nowadays, most WordPress themes are responsive by default. When a theme is responsive, it adjusts its layout according to the device used, be it a desktop computer, a mobile or a tablet. This characteristic is important because a significant proportion of the website traffic is generated from mobile and other handheld devices, and ignoring this chunk of the traffic would be hurting your business. Further, from the SEO perspective, websites that are mobile-friendly tend to rank higher in the mobile search results. A fully responsive website means it gives a good user experience, which is an important ranking factor. There are still vendors selling themes that are not responsive and that have fixed width layouts. These themes are not mobile-friendly and it only makes sense that you do not buy them.
#5: Have you considered the type of content that you intend to write?
Yes, it is important to consider the type of content intended for your website to pick a theme that goes well with it. Is it going to be a conventional blog with emphasis on the text part of the content? In this case, you will need a theme that provides better readability and something that is minimalistic in its design. Is it going to be a fashion or lifestyle site where the focus is more on images and other visual aspects rather than the written texts? Here, you will need to have a theme that is designed for photographs and one that has large image sections. Or is it going to be an e-commerce site? There are themes designed specifically for these.
#6: Is the theme compatible with different browsers?
Most WordPress themes are compatible with all browsers and they are released after rigorous tests about their compatibility. However, when a theme is not compatible with specific browsers because of which it has reduced functionality there, then we should not be buying it.
#7: Is it compatible with all plugins?
There are a few plugins that you cannot do without. These plugins are needed to run specific functions on the website and if you want them in your there, make sure that the theme you intend to buy is compatible with them. There are a few plugins that cannot work on a particular theme. Visit the different online forums and see if there are comments that indicate incompatibility some plugins that you want. If you intend to go for the Premium theme, and if have doubts, it’s good that you ask the theme developers about plugin compatibility before buying.
#8: Is the theme translation-ready?
If your website caters to audiences across the globe and is not limited to native English speakers only, you may want a theme that supports translation functionality. If you intend to create a multilingual site and have doubts about its translation-readiness, it makes sense to ask the developers directly if the theme you pick would serve the purpose.
#9: Does the theme allow good customisation options?
Not all WordPress themes are versatile as far as customisation is concerned. How well a website could be customised according to our personal preferences depend on the theme we use. Hence, if you are fond of personalising your stuff, get a theme that actually allows you these options. Many WordPress theme developers offer the full version of a theme for a trial period. Check if the theme has the customisation options you had been looking for during this trial period.
You should always check if the theme follows current best practices for search engine optimisation. How well a theme is designed is crucial for a website’s SEO-friendliness. A good-looking theme can be poorly coded which could have serious implications on your website’s performance on search engines. You should pick a theme that is optimised for SEO. But how do we know if a theme is poorly coded or not? As usual, go to various online forums to check on the particular theme’s SEO performance in the comments. You can put up your question in different online communities to gather answers from the members. Again, most WordPress theme developers offer the full themes for a trial period. Download the theme and check your website’s performance during this trial period. If you’re planning to buy a premium theme, you can always contact the developers about this concern of yours.
Choosing a theme that is perfect for a website is not as easy as it seems. You need to be very clear about what you want and how your brand is perceived by the audience. The purpose of your website is to help users find the information they had been looking for and, how easily they find them very much depends on the design and layout of the theme. We do not want to go on a theme-hopping spree. Hence, consider all things wisely in selecting a theme.