I’m back today with Part 2 of my WordPress Themes series.
In Part 1 I set you up with some links to resources where you can find truly beautiful themes for your self-hosted WordPress blog, store or site.
Today, I will be sharing with you some tips and things to consider on how to choose a WordPress theme.
It can be overwhelming when you start looking for just the right theme for your blog. There are thousands of themes out there for WordPress, everything for the gorgeous to out-right ugly! So, how do you know what is a good theme to choose and what should you look for when choosing? The tips and suggestions below should make the process a little more clear.
What Will You Use It For?
Firstly, you need to ask yourself what you will be using your site for. Will it be a showcase of your photos? Will it be a portfolio for your work? Will it be a blog? Will it be a store? Or will it be a combination of a few of these, or something else? What you intent to use your site for will determine what kind of theme you will need. For example, if your site will be a blog, then focus your search on blog or magazine style themes. Want a portfolio? Then search for themes that have beautifully laid out portfolio sections that offer flexibility.
Free Vs. Paid
There are some great free themes out there. These themes are usually very simple in how they function and the features they have. They are great for the beginner blogger who is still finding their way. However, free themes are usually limited in how they can be customised, or the functions they offer. Remember, you get what you pay for, so paying for a theme that is well designed and coded will give you a better site in the long run, if you are wanting to be serious about your blog or present a professional image through your portfolio or site or store.
The design of your theme is obviously a very important part of the decision process. There is a lot to consider here. For starters, do you want your readers to arrive at a static landing or home page? Or do you want them to come directly to your blog feed? Do you want a traditional scrolling blog feed, or a mosaic or Pinterest style feed (like this blog has)? Are you looking for full blog posts to be displayed in your feed, or just an excerpt? They are all important things to consider. Many themes now have options on displaying home pages and blog feeds, so if you are unsure what you like or what might work best for your blog and your readers, then these kind of themes could be a good option.
Visiting the theme demo site will help you see how the theme looks when running and how it functions.
Of course, there is more to consider when it comes to your theme’s design including:
- Layout – The theme’s demo page should have a menu option that allows you to click through and see the different layout options. This will usually show you the different home page and blog feed options.
- Headers – Does the theme allow for a full header design, or just a logo? Can the header be customised?
- Menus / Navigation – is there a single navigation area, or 2? What do you need? How does the theme display submenus?
- Widths – How is the space divided? Is the blog area the full width of the site or does it have one or more sidebars? If you are looking to add advertising to your site you will need to make sure your theme allows for sidebars.
- Title Area – What does the theme display around the title area? Does it have the date, author name and categories that post is included in? What information would you like to see displayed here and will that theme fulfil those requirements?
- Typography – is a big part of your blog. The way the text appears in both font and layout can totally change the reader experience from being a pleasure, or just being difficult to read.
- Fonts – do the font options with your theme give the feel or style you want? Are they easy to read when in paragraphs of text?
- Headings – check the various heading options that come with your theme – are they a good size? Do they stand out enough among the rest of the blog design?
- Block Quotes – these are designed sections of text that you can use for a quote or to make some text stand out or appear differently to other text within a blog post. Different themes will treat this text differently. For example:
This is a block quote designed into my theme.
- Lists – how do unordered (dot point) and ordered (numbered) lists appear?
- Links – Are links highlighted in a different colour? Do they have a new colour or underline on hover?
- After Post Areas – The way a theme looks after the blog post can vary a lot between themes. There are four main areas to consider after the blog post: the tag and category links, the author box, the after entry widget area, and the comments.
- Comments – Does the theme allow for threaded comments? That is, if someone leaves a comment on your post, can you then hit reply and have your reply appear set in under their comment. This makes it easy to keep track of a thread of thoughts or comments. Also consider the look or design of this section. Is it easy to use and lovely to look at?
- Footer – The footer of a blog is very commonly overlooked, but it is a great way to help direct your readers to other blog posts, more information or to get them to sign up to your newsletter, so consider these things when looking at the design of your theme and if it allows for them.
This is a big one! Using a theme is a great way to get a fab looking site when you don’t have the budget to have a designer create a completely custom site, but you don’t want your blog or site to look the same as every other blog that uses that theme. Many themes allow for customisation, but some more than others. Some themes are promoted as having custom colour options, but they are pre-set colours. Too bad if you want to use a colour that is not in their pre-set range. Some themes state that you can customise your header, but they may not allow for a full header, just a small logo. If you really want to customise your theme, look for themes that state they are “fully customisable” and you will have more chance of being able to adjust the theme to suit your style. If you are not very savvy with making customisations yourself, you could consider hiring a designer, like me, to make some affordable custom changes for you, or use a service like Elto that will make more technical tweaks for you at a very reasonable price.
In a world where more and more readers are visiting their favourite blogs on smart phones and tablets, it has never been more important to make sure you blog looks its best on all devices. A great way to do this is to choose a theme that is Responsive. This means that the layout and functionality will automatically change and adjust depending on which device is used to view it. Not all themes offer a responsive design, so double check that the theme you are considering does.
In my time as a blogger I have found that good tech support is a must, and your theme is no exception. Does the developer of your theme offer good and fast free support? What is included in their support? Will they help you sort any issues that may arise with the theme? Will they answer questions about customisations? A great way to tell how good the support for your theme is, is to check the support page, or comment thread on the theme’s page and see if questions are answered quickly and thoroughly. Does the person seem to want to help out, or do they just sort of wave people with questions away? This is super important if you are just learning the WordPress platform or are setting up your first theme. It’s always great to have someone who knows what they are doing on hand to help you out!
Search Engine Optimisation is a very important element to consider when it comes to your blog. While there are awesome plugins to help the search engines like Google find your blog/content, many themes now also include ways to optimise your blog for search engines. Take a look at the feature listed by the developer about the theme. If their theme offers SEO they will definitely list it, and you will have an extra bonus for your site!
Take the time to really look at the themes you are considering. Ask yourself the many questions included here and click on every link, tab, button, menu etc on the theme demo to really see how it works and performs. Considering the areas above will show you how to choose a WordPress theme with confidence for your blog or site.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.