How To Choose the Perfect WordPress Theme

March 8, 2016
Laptop wordpress dashboard

Here you will learn how to pick a WordPress theme like a pro. With its rise in popularity, it’s likely you’re considering or already have a WordPress website. Over 59% of websites with a content management system (CMS) worldwide now use WordPress as the platform of choice (source).  This has led to a flood of beautiful, highly functional themes (design templates) in the marketplace on sites like ThemeForest and Elegant Themes. With thousands of free and premium paid themes to choose from, it can get overwhelming. Many of them look great on the surface, but how do you pick a WordPress theme that’s right for you? Here are five tips that will help you hone in on what you should really be considering when choosing a WordPress theme no matter what type of website you’re building.

Balance Design with Functionality

As mentioned, there are a lot of nice themes out there. But the first step to building a WordPress website is not design, it’s planning functionality that will support its business purpose. For example, if generating a leads is a top goal, you’ll want to pick a conversion focused theme with an email form as the focal point of the design. Look for themes that already include this, or can easily support your ESP. This will help avoid you having to recode the homepage or parts of the theme. Customizing CSS is one thing, but recoding PHP or HTML code to add something missing can be time-consuming and expensive, especially when testing and revisions are considered. While mobile friendly themes are becoming a standard, not all come that way. Mobile is a must for today’s web standards so look for a theme that is responsive. Recoding a theme to be responsive is not worth the time.

Consider Themes that are Versatile, Flexible, and Extendable

A WordPress theme that is geared more towards blogging in a magazine style isn’t going to be as good a fit for a professional corporate website. WordPress has grown in use to becoming an exceptional enterprise website platform. Look at a theme’s live demo and click-through all of the page options before purchasing it. Most importantly, make sure the homepage and other page templates support the types of content you plan to put there. Do you need a portfolio for case studies, listing of corporate officer bios, or locations directory? There are plenty of themes that come with all of these things built-in.

Avoid Framework Themes

A framework is a layer of functionality on top of the WordPress platform. The benefit to designers and developers is that it provides advanced functionality that a normal theme does not provide. With advanced functionality comes complexity. Unless you or someone you hire has in-depth knowledge of how to customize them, avoid framework themes. Some frameworks have child themes available that change the look and feel of the parent framework, but to customize a child theme usually requires knowledge of how the parent framework works, beyond just normal WordPress methods. Customizing premium themes that are stand-alone non-framework themes allows easier customization via your own child theme. It can also save you time or money on specialized development.

Avoid App-Focused Themes

Unless app-focused themes are exactly what you’re looking for now, and will be in the long run too, avoid using them. Some themes are created with massive functionality built-in, when that functionality really should be coming from a plugin. For example, a job board theme. Themes control look and feel, colors and structure. Plugins should extend functionality using any theme you like, making the functionality shine through the theme’s design, and the site’s design can evolve with your site without losing the functionality you’ve already invested in.

Evaluate How Often a Theme is Updated

Choose a WordPress theme that is created from a reputable theme author and is updated regularly. Look for this information on the theme’s change log and theme or author ratings/ranking. There are security updates, bug fixes, core or plugin incompatibility fixes, and font or icon pack updates that are regularly released. Your theme shouldn’t break over time without it being updated for the latest WordPress core versions. Keep your WordPress core and plugin files updated as well so that your site doesn’t become vulnerable to hacking over time.

How to Pick a WordPress Theme

In general, be sure to do some research on the themes you are considering and read through some comments or support forum posts as well. Get a feel for how responsive the author is and see if anyone complains about the theme being poorly written, loads slowly, etc. These tips should help you focus on your site needs, balanced with the desired look and feel. They should also guide you towards themes that are reliable, updated often, will serve you now and into the future, and can be customized fairly easily with a child theme.

Need help choosing or customizing your WordPress website? Learn about my WordPress services or contact me for a Fandom Marketing quote.

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