In your effort to have a successful WordPress site, one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make is selecting a theme best suited to your needs.
How do you pick just the right theme?
The magic answer is: There isn’t any magic answer!
Everyone and every business have different needs, so there are no Golden Rules.
Here’s some advice from someone who has answered this question countless times as a WordPress instructor.
Before you buy a theme – which is what most people jump to do when first using WordPress – STOP! Learn WordPress with a free theme. A free theme invariably has many fewer options and features than its premium alternatives. I’ve seen too many people give up with a premium theme because they didn’t bother to first learn a simpler free theme.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind With Free Themes
1. Many Good Sites Use A Free Theme
There are many decent free WordPress themes despite what some may argue. Add a few good plugins and that may be all you need.
Besides, your site visitor could care less if your theme is free or purchased.
2. If You Buy A Premium Theme That You Don’t Use, You’ll Probably Waste A Lot Of Time
Money is not the issue here. Most people can afford even the priciest of themes which can top out at about $100. But if you abandon the theme you purchased, I guarantee you’ll waste a lot of time. Likely it’ll be because you didn’t bother learning just what WordPress themes do and how they work.
Think of a free theme as a premium theme on training wheels.
3. You Can Always Change To a Premium Theme Later
That is the beauty of WordPress and themes. You can change your mind. Switching to a paid theme is no big deal. Your content remains in place if you decide to change your theme.
Let’s Go Shopping
When I’m vetting a premium theme to recommend for a client, these are the criteria I’m usually looking at. Take them into consideration because (in most cases) returns are not allowed.
Every premium theme has a demo site. Take your time and go through it carefully while considering these criteria.
Since you can expect 50% or more of your site traffic to come from something other than a desktop computer, your theme MUST be responsive. Fortunately, most themes are, so finding one will not be difficult. Make sure to test out any demo site in tablet and cell phone displays. Don’t just use the emulators that demo sites provide to simulate what your theme looks like in a mobile device. Give it a test using the real thing.
I’m also checking to see if Retina (high resolution) Display is supported.
Most WordPress themes include Page Templates (alternate layouts) that can be applied to pages as needed. It’s important to consider your website’s layout needs and look for a theme that includes templates that meet your needs.
Page templates could include:
- Full-Width Page
- Right Sidebar Page
- Left Sidebar Page
- Landing Page
- Archive Page
- Home Page
- Contact Page
- Portfolio Page
Font And Layout Options
What choices do you have to change the typeface, font color, and font size that’s built into your theme? Does your theme have an option to use downloadable web fonts? Aside from the templates which ship with your theme, what ways are there, if any, to alter page layout?
These options can be very handy but will certainly add complexity to working with your theme that you wouldn’t experience with most free themes.
While there are many plugins that will allow sharing content with or linking to social networks, determine whether your theme has these capabilities built-in.
What special widgets, if any, come with your theme? Usually, they are used to carry out whatever the theme’s developer has designed for the theme. Note: This may be difficult to determine from the theme’s demo site.
What sort of support is provided after you purchase the theme? Is it possible to get direct support from the theme’s developer when needed? How long will it take to get an answer to your query? If a theme is very well known (such as Genesis and its child themes or Divi from Elegant Themes), your support may be community-based and you are not likely to be in direct communication with the developer.
Spend as much time as you can reading about your theme before you buy it. If you can’t understand the documentation, if it is poorly written or not written for you, then don’t buy it. If you like video instruction (as we all do at WP Apprentice 🙂 ), see if videos are available to help you. You may even find a good video on YouTube to help you make a decision about your theme.
Reviews And Ratings
It’s always best to read opinions from those who don’t have a commercial interest in the theme. You’re likely to get a sense of the speed and quality of the support provided for your theme.
Will you be getting lifetime updates for your theme or will updates be limited for a set period of time?
In The End
Since you can’t download and test drive a premium theme as you can with a freebie, you’ll need to take your time when choosing a theme that is right for you.
To do a thorough job of choosing a theme, take into consideration your own WordPress skills. After all, if you’re not up to working with a premium theme, then don’t buy one. But if you’ve done your homework learning the basics with a free theme, then go for it!