How to choose a WordPress Theme

How to Choose a WordPress Theme

Before you design and launch your business website / blog, you will have to choose a WordPress theme.

If you are reading this article in another language than English, it has been automatically translated by our WordPress Multilingual Plugin.

There are close to 2,000 themes in the WordPress repository alone. When one includes all of the premium themes on marketplaces and those offered by independent theme companies, the number jumps to over 5,000. With so many alternatives, one is certain of finding the perfect theme for your purposes. However, with such a selection, how does one choose a WordPress theme? It can be overwhelming at first, but if you follow these steps, you will be able to narrow your search down to only a few alternatives.

Before embarking on your theme search, you should have an idea of the type of website you want the theme for. If you want a personal blog to share your insights in your subject area, then a theme which allows easy reading would be best. If you want to run a site that sells a diverse range of products, then a more customizable theme would be best. Hence, be clear on the type of website that you are building. It can be quite difficult to re-purpose a theme that was designed for a multifaceted E-commerce business into a news blog for example. If you follow these best practices of how to choose a WordPress theme, the process becomes a lot simpler:

Let design drive your choice

When it comes to theme selection, let design be the most important criteria. And, when choosing a theme design, simplicity is usually the best option. There are many themes that come with a long list of functional extras which you think may be needed down the line. Similarly, some of the designs are flashy with many ‘wow’ features. These themes may work for you, but they may also slow down the speed of your site and send users elsewhere given the complexity of the layout.

WordPress is a wonderful product as it allows you endless adaptability. Hence, if you establish that there is a feature that you require that is not included with your theme, a Plugin is the trick. These ‘Plugins’ can adapt your site’s functionality and design. It is usually much simpler to add a plugin than to discover your theme is resource heavy and will need to be changed. Changing a theme can be quite a complicated and cumbersome process.

Bearing that in mind, there are some features that you should look for as standard when you choose a WordPress theme.

Translation Ready Theme

Translation ready theme

If you want your site to be in a language other than English, then a translation ready theme is a important requirement. This could be because the site you are developing will be in your native language which is not English.

Similarly, there is the possibility that you would want a multilingual version of your site down the line. Having a theme that is easy to translate will greatly simplify this process.

Fully Responsive Theme

fully responsive theme

Given the wide array of small devices from smartphones to tablets, your website’s traffic will most definitely not be limited to PCs. Having a fully responsive theme is an essential way to greatly improve user experience.

Most WordPress themes these days are responsive. In order to make certain that the theme is indeed mobile friendly, simply resize your browser screen. The website elements should adjust to your re-sized browser.

Another important consideration is that of mobile search requests. Google indexes mobile optimized websites higher in mobile search queries. This is something that you can check with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Easy Navigation

Easy navigation

Although a theme must look aesthetically pleasing, it is also essential that your users can easily navigate it. If a user is struggling to find what they are looking for then they will merely leave.

Therefore, when you choose a WordPress theme, place yourself in the shoes of your potential visitors. What information will they be looking for? Can it be reached on the first page? Is the navigation bar in an easy to reach location? An efficient way to assess this is to take a look at the sites that are currently using your prospective theme and navigate around.

Plugin Compatibility

Plugin Compatibility

As mentioned above, Plugins are a powerful feature that extend the functionality of WordPress. Hence, checking the compatibility of some of the most popular Plugins is a prudent move. There are many essential plugins which may be needed down the line. We have summarized a list 40 of the most useful WordPress Plugins

Browser Compatibility

Browser Compatibility

There are a number of different browsers that your visitors may be using. It is important to make certain that the theme you are going to use is compatible with all of these browsers.

Most themes available nowadays are well tested on all browsers yet it would still be a wise move to test it yourself on Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Chrome.

Theme Support Options

Theme Support

If you are purchasing a premium theme, they usually come with dedicated email support for up to one year. Some free theme developers offer great support for those in need, yet many do not. Hence, when it comes to support, you pay for what you get. This could be an investment in an insurance policy down the line should there be any issues.

Payment Options for Premium Themes

Payment Options

If you do select a premium theme, there are a number of different pricing options that are available. It helps to know exactly what payment plan you will be signing up for prior to purchasing a premium theme. These include the following:

  • An upfront fee that will give you lifetime access to updates and support
  • Monthly or Yearly payment plans where you will have access to updates and support while paying
  • Multiple theme options. These are usually offered by a theme store and allows you access to all the themes that they have designed.

Although it may seem like a more financially prudent decision to pay upfront for an unlimited option, this can have it’s drawbacks. You have to be certain that the developers will still be providing the same level of service for the foreseeable future. Similarly, many theme developers now prefer this option as it allows them regular cash flows to be able to provide this ongoing support.

The other option is to buy a theme package. This allows you access to all of the themes in the designers portfolio. These are usually at bargain prices and are a good purchase if you are going to be launching another website down the line and would like to try another theme.

SEO Considerations

seo optimised theme

Apart from looking great and providing a user with a good experience, a website must be able to attract viewers. A theme that is well optimized for Search Engines is hence an important consideration. This is because even though the look of the site may be attractive, Google scans the underlying HTML code in order to determine where the site should be ranking. If the theme developer is not following SEO best practices, it could be difficult for you to rank in the future.

This is usually a more technical aspect of theme selection for new users to analyze. Yet, there are a few SEO best practices which you could ask the theme designer about:

  • Avoid multiple homepage sliders. These are usually themes that have a number of images and titles which you can slide through on the home page. They slow down the functionality of the site and have multiple title tags.
  • Check whether your theme uses the schema.org markup. This markup helps organize information on the web and is an important signal to the search engines.
  • As mentioned above, mobile and plugin compatibility are important for SEO purposes. A mobile optimized site with the best WordPress SEO plugin can most easily rank

Do some Due Diligence

Theme online reviews

There are usually many reviews and ratings that are available for you to read up on. These are either on the WordPress repository or on a third party marketplaces.
After all, the best indicator of the ongoing support and effectiveness of a theme are what fellow users have written about it.

There are some additional indicators that you can look at if you are about to download a free theme from WordPress.org. These include:

  • By viewing the number of downloads, one can roughly assess the popularity of a theme
  • A theme that has been recently updated (in the past 6 months) is usually a wiser choice
  • Take a look at the number of outstanding support questions. If users are asking questions that are not getting resolved, it is a good indication of how quickly your potential questions will be resolved

Conclusion

Finding the right WordPress theme for you does not have to be a daunting task. Keep in mind what you want to achieve, the image you are trying to project and the user you are trying to attract. Once you are clear on these objectives, the above steps can help hone your theme search and set you on the path of launching your very own blog or business website.

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Pascal Evertz
p.evertz@buyersunited.nl