New WordPress themes are launched every day and the number of options on offer for giving your website a makeover shows no signs of slowing down.
While choice is a good thing, too much of it can lead to “analysis paralysis” and a feeling of being overwhelmed, due to the increased effort required and the level of uncertainty in making the right choice. It becomes so easy to resort to inaction or choosing a low-quality theme.
In cases where you have a lot of options, it pays to know exactly what you need. In this post, we’ll share what we believe are the 12 most important factors to consider while choosing the perfect theme for your WordPress site, so that you know exactly what to bear in mind the next time you’re on the hunt for a good theme.
Why Should You be Careful When Choosing a Theme for Your WordPress Site?
Because committing to a theme is just that – a commitment. You’ll be together for a while, so you’d better pick the right one!
Having said that, let’s take a look at the 12 measures you can take to make sure that you choose the perfect theme for your WordPress site.
1. Appropriateness. For a website to be effective, the content of your website must come first. Define the purpose of the website, the overall structure, and the media and text resources that will be used to build the website before you even begin to start looking at themes.
If you have a website dedicated to showcasing your art portfolio, a theme that uses large images and has great gallery options would be your best bet. But if you use your website to sell merchandise, it is essential to choose a theme that is made for eCommerce purposes.
2. Simplicity. Always choose a theme with a simple and elegant design. As a developer, designer or blogger your basic goal should be the creation of a design that can attract the maximum number of the visitors, who spend enough time on the website to browse around. With good a design, it is easy to attract and engage the visitors. You don’t need a WordPress theme that is full of color and with a super fancy design.
Always try to find out a WordPress theme with simple yet professional design, suitable for your business or blog. By choosing a WordPress theme with nice design, you can be sure you will have people coming back to you (but you should not forget about the content as well of course).
3. Speed. Will you stay on the page that doesn’t load quickly? Modern users want everything instantly, otherwise, they go elsewhere to get it. On average, people wait for three seconds for the website to load fully. It would seem a three-second wait is not that long.
However, when online it can feel like an eternity. That’s why you should be especially selective when choosing a WordPress theme for your site. Many problems with load speed will vanish once you pick a well-coded, clean template and dedicated plugins created to speed up your site.
4. Responsiveness. While mobile traffic varies between industries, most reports seem to agree that, on average, about 30% of all website visits now come from mobile and tablet devices.
Regardless of the exact ratios, there’s no excuse to use anything but a responsive theme.
Thankfully, virtually all reputable themes are mobile-friendly out of the box, so the lack of responsiveness in a theme is really a red flag. Most theme vendors allow you to filter out themes that are not responsive.
5. Updates. WordPress themes require regular maintenance so that they will continue to function properly as the platform undergoes updates and changes. Before making a purchase, look at when the theme was last updated and if comments are responded to in a timely manner. If the last updated was in November of 2006, you’re going to be better off choosing a different theme that receives more frequent attention from the developer. Themes that offer support are also helpful in case you stumble across issues that you cannot resolve on your own.
Navigation. You should never ignore usability. You have to make sure that your website will be easy to navigate and pretty simple. Always choose a theme with fully responsive and accessible navigation menus. Make sure that the website navigation is straight forward and it has SEO-friendly information architecture.
Theme Customization Options. In nearly all cases, any theme you buy will need to be tweaked in some way to match your own personal vision for your website. Some themes provide the user with countless theme customization options, all delivered through a custom control panel.
While this sounds great in theory, too much freedom to make changes can result in an end product that has lost some of the qualities that attracted you to the theme in the first place.
Other theme developers take the “less is more” approach, and give you a few options for changing certain elements of your website from a selection of pre-determined choices.
If design isn’t your strong suit, then opting for a theme that gives you a small selection of carefully crafted options for altering the appearance of your website, or exercising restraint when faced with an unlimited number of choices are the best options.
Some theme developers also offer an additional bespoke theme customization service. If you have any personalization requests that go beyond changing fonts and colors, this is something you should look out for.
SEO. Your WordPress theme plays a crucial role in your site’s SEO friendliness. A good looking theme can still generate poorly coded HTML, this could affect your site’s performance on search engines.
It could be difficult for beginners to analyze a theme’s source code on their own. This is why many premium WordPress theme developers will let you know that their pages are optimized for SEO.
You can also take a look to see if the page generates proper HTML5 by checking it with W3C Markup Validation service. However, please note that the W3C tool will generate many warnings which are nothing to be worried about.
Pre and Post-Sales Support. Once you’ve whittled down your shortlist and are considering the sources for your new theme, it’s definitely worth spending some time investigating the pre and post-sales support on offer.
Some theme stores and marketplaces allow open access to their support forums and customer communication areas. This gives you a good opportunity to see how they deal with queries and requests for support.
It’s also a good idea to find out how you can get in touch with the support team, such as email, forums, or even telephone, to see if your preferred method of communication is on offer.
Cross Browser Compatibility. People are using a variety of different browsers nowadays. Alongside such popular solutions as Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, there are many lesser known browsers (like Konqueror) that are also being used to view your site. That’s why it’s important to know your site will perform properly across all major media platforms.
To release you from the heavy burden of checking out your web page each time changes are being applied, modern template providers make themes cross-browser compatible for you to feel safe these will look and work effectively in all browsers.
Social Media Integration. It is impossible to ignore Social media nowadays. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other social networking websites are very popular. It’s unusual to find a modern user who doesn’t have a social media account. If you are running a blog or a corporate website, chances are you are trying to attract more users to participate in discussions and comment/like/share your posts.
With the help of social sharing buttons, this can be easily achieved. Social media integration is known as a proven effective way to increase page views and sharing stats.
Plugin Support. WordPress plugins are what that makes your WordPress site do anything. They are the real power of WordPress.
Ensure that your WordPress theme supports all popular plugins.
Summing it All Up
While ticking off all of these boxes might sound ambitious, the truth is that they’re interrelated, and they all come back to a single point: Themes should be built with quality in mind. But by taking into consideration the 12 aforementioned elements while choosing the perfect theme for your WordPress site, you can set up a one that will be user-friendly, easy-to-customize, intuitive, easy-to-navigate, appealing and remarkable.
One of the best things you can do when choosing a theme is to learn about the person or company who made it. You will most likely be able to read comments/reviews left by other users. Going through full-length reviews by people who what they’re doing is the best way to do it.
Of course, no theme is perfect, and you’ll almost always have to make some compromises. That being said, with the recommendations in this post, you are hopefully now better informed to avoid the really bad themes and to choose one that is fast, well coded and SEO-friendly and that includes all of the features you need.