A WordPress theme is like the house you live in. Like houses, themes come in various shapes and styles. So how do you choose one?
The Main Things To Consider
- Function – What you want your site to do
- Appearance – How you want it to look
- SEO Readiness – Do you wish to rank high in search engines?
- Responsiveness – How it looks on various devices
Decide What Functions Your Website Should Perform
The right questions precede the right answers. If you’re able to be crystal clear about what functions you’d like your website to perform, you will avoid sifting through too many theme options.
For example, must your site have a searchable directory? Should it be a magazine with many categories? Or have a search bar in the menu? Do you want to run an online shop?
Once you have a list of the functions your site must perform, move on to how it must look. Notice I use the word MUST instead of should. It’s because you’re likely to have a long list at first. It’s important to narrow your lists down to the absolute minimum since:
- No single theme can do everything.
- Themes that do too much tend to load slowly and send customers away.
So do that. Make a list.
Make A Note Of What Your Website Should Look Like
If you do not yet have a full picture of what you want your website to look like, think of some of the sites you like. Maybe even your competitor’s. To have the same look and feel they do, you can find what WordPress theme they are using (if any), test that theme for everything mentioned in this article and decide if you’ll buy the same.
Here are some tools you can use to find out what WordPress theme and plugins a website is using
Alternatively, make a list of the visual elements you want to see on your website. For example, should your site show comments under each blog post? Should it have 2 columns? Do you like grid layouts? Or great typography? Write your visual preferences down before beginning your theme search.
If you’re wondering where that image came from, read on.
3. SEO Readiness:
Choose a Theme That Is SEO Friendly
The main advantage fo choosing an SEO friendly theme is that it will help you rank well in search engines from the start. If you’d rather go with beauty first and ignore every SEO consideration, you’ll be in a world of hurt when you try to fix your SEO down the road.
What are the main features of an SEO friendly Theme?
- It loads fast: Search engines favour websites that load fast.
- Customer friendly navigation: Are the menus clear and easy to use?
- It can link to social media profiles: Links between your social media and your website increase your link count, which increases Google’s perceived value of your site.
- Blog post share buttons: When your content can be shared by others, it increases the number of links pointing back to your site, thereby increasing your perceived usefulness and ability to rank higher in search engines.
- Compatible with all popular browsers: Does it work as well in Chrome as it does in Firefox and other browsers?
- Responsive, works well on various devices: Nearly half of all internet traffic is mobile. Google prefers putting in front of people sites that they can view on any device.
- Has a valid code: A poorly coded theme can make your site slow to load.
- Good information hierarchy: Clear headings in different font sizes make reading easy and lends to better ranking.
All these will make your site easy to crawl and ultimately index by search engines. And with the help of a few plugins and good housekeeping rules, you will be able to boost your website’s SEO even further.
How can you test a theme’s SEO friendliness?
To test for speed, use Pingdom’s Website Speed Test
To test for code validity, use the W3C Markup Validator
To test for browser compatibility use Browsershots
To test for blog post share buttons, simply visit any blog post and check if there’s any button or way to share it.
To test for information hierarchy, visit your theme’s live preview. Right-click on any page and go to “view page source”. Then press Control + F on your keyboard. In the search bar that just appeared, type H1. Count how many H1’s get highlighted. You must have no more than 1 on each page. Now, type H2. You may have multiple H2’s, but make sure they are all using the same font size and family.
What is the easy way to end up with an SEO friendly theme?
Often, when extra care was taken to ensure that a WordPress theme is SEO friendly, the theme authors will mention it as a major selling point. So look for themes that list SEO readiness as a major feature.
You can find scores of SEO friendly themes here:
Always Choose A Responsive Theme
As mentioned above, nearly half of all internet traffic is now mobile. If your theme is not optimised to work well on mobile devices as it would on a laptop, you run the risk of loosing about half the traffic you would have otherwise received, and subsequently hinder your SEO efforts. Hence, always choose a responsive theme. Always.
An easy way to check for responsiveness is to use these tool:
Where And How To Choose A Free WordPress Theme
The best place to look at is the WordPress themes directory. Alternatively, you could look within the many free theme lists on the internet (examples below). There is a case for using the WordPress themes directory because it allows you to refine your search using its inbuilt feature filter . No need to look at hundreds of themes before you can make a decision.
The feature filter will allow you to search for themes based on the list of functions and visual elements you specified in the very first part of this article.
Here is a detailed explanation of how well the WordPress feature filter Works:
And here are some showcases of free WordPress themes:
Where And How To Choose A Premium WordPress Theme
What makes a theme premium?
- It’s not free.
- It’s visually unique.
- A lot of care is put into the coding and SEO readiness.
- It comes with extensive support.
As far as support goes, you may receive it in the form of questions answered if you have a problem, or offers from the theme developers to help install your theme, in addition to extensive documentation to show you how the theme works. All of that rarely happens with free themes.
That’s why if you’re financially able to, it would be preferable to choose a premium theme.
So Where Can You Get A Premium WordPress Theme?
Out of many, here are some we recommend:
- Elegant Themes – Their one time, Lifetime package offers you all their premium themes, plugins and support for life.
- StudioPress.com – Supremely SEO Friendly themes, bundled with their secure Genesis Framework. Large support community.
- Themeforest – Houses more premium themes than anyone else on the internet.
A Few thing to consider when shopping for a premium theme on Themeforest
1. Live Previews:
Click on the live preview button to see what your site would look like in real-life. Once there, make sure to look around for social share buttons, aesthetics, readability, the page formats available and even responsiveness (click on the corner of your browser window, resize and see what happens. A responsive site will adjust to maintain readability as you resize your window).
2. Demo Content:
On the developers’ theme homepage (usually accessible after the first click on “Live Preview”) check for any mention of demo content. Demo content is temporary content that can be downloaded to make your site look like a live preview. When you don’t want to build every single page from scratch, you can import demo content and replace it with your own later.
How about demo content when you’re not buying on Themeforest?
Demo content is not limited to Themeforest or themes that advertise a “one click import”. It is possible to import demo content using your WordPress import function and the .XML file that comes with your purchase. The best way to find out if this is available for your theme of interest is to ask the developer.
3. Reviews & Comments
On your theme’s Themeforest page, scan the reviews and comments tab to see if you’d be happy to endure any of the problems that other users are facing with this theme. And pay attention to the responses from the theme developer to see if the issue has since been resolved. If in doubt, ask a question yourself. A quick response will be an indication of possible good support.
On the right hand column of your theme page, check how long the developers will be offering support for. Next, google the theme’s name with the word “documentation” to see if there’s documentation available to help you fully take advantage of your theme after purchase. Make a final purchase decision based on what you feel comfortable with.
5. Presence of Page Builders:
Page builders are drag and drop tools that allow you to easily edit and create WordPress pages & posts. They often require no coding skills. To save time, you’re likely going to want one. So look for a theme that comes with a pre-packaged builder.
How To Install Your New WordPress Theme (For the very first time)
For Premium Themes
The theme you purchase will be a .zip file. Open this .zip file to see if it contains another .zip file with your theme’s name. For example, if your theme is called “Themedelic”, you will have a Themedelic.zip, which will contain another Themedelic.zip. The second file is what we want.
- Next, log into your WordPress dashboard ( find it at yoursite.com/wp-admin )
- In your dashboard, go to the left menu column, click or hover on “Appearance”, then select “Theme”.
- Next to the Theme header, click on “Add New”.
- Next to the Add New header, Click on “Upload theme”, then “Choose file”.
- Locate your .zip theme file in your computer, select it and approve the upload (“Open”).
- In the installation window, once you get the “theme installed successfully” notice, click on “Activate” to activate your theme.
And you’re done.
To see what your site looks like now, go to the top left corner of your dashboard, click on your site’s name and select “view site”.
For Free Themes
- Repeat steps 2 to 4 above.
- In your Add Theme window, select any of the free themes displayed or search for a suitable one using the “feature filter” link in the grey, themes menu bar.
- Hover over the theme you like, and click “Install” to install your theme.
How To Choose The Right WordPress Theme: Step by Step
Here is a final snapshot of what we’ve just seen; how to choose the right WordPress theme.
- Make a list of functions your site should perform
- Make a list of visual elements it should have
- Go to your preferred theme marketplace
- Preview themes + Test them using the tools provided
- Read the reviews and comments
- Purchase if satisfied
- Install theme
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