Finding the right WordPress theme for your website or blog is not that easy as you may think. In fact it can be a hard process. One of the major benefits of using WordPress is the fact that there are thousands of great free themes available, along with premium and custom themes. But all of these choices can sometimes make the decision even more time consuming.
A good place to start is to consider if you are willing to pay for the theme. In many cases this pays off long term when you need support. E.g. when WordPress needs to be upgraded. A good and very popular fashion is to take an existing theme (free or premium) and alter it to fit your needs.
The tips below was created as a checklist to ensure a theme decision process is as successful as possible:
1. Are you planning to make an income from the site? A premium theme is a must for most commercial sites as they have included some kind of support. Upgrading WordPress can be a mess if themes are not maintained and then you are in trouble. Failing to upgrade WordPress is unsecure and almost invites hackers into your admin area! If not, a free theme should do but consider a free theme form a premium vendor. The good thing about WordPress is that you can change the theme later.
2. How important is the look and feel for your site to grow and become well known? Numerous free themes have decent quality and will be OK for a personal blog or website. For a businesses attempting to convey a professional image, spending the money for a professional theme design is more than worth it. You should know the importance and effect of getting your website or blog set up with a professional design.
3. Does many blogs or sites use the same theme? It is worth noting that several of the more popular free themes are used by thousands of blogs. Using such a theme for sure makes it difficult to build a unique look and feel, but there are advantages as well. Most popular free and nearly all premium themes are updated and errors are fixed quickly. This is important e.g. when WordPress needs to be updated.
4. Will the theme help you rank well in search engines? Free themes does not always take SEO into consideration. It can be problematic for people that are not both professional marketers and web developers to assess how well the theme has been designed for search engines. In this case, a solid decision is to select a premium theme from one of the major theme vendors or consider one of the popular and widely used free SEO-ready themes.
5. Is the theme easy to manage and change? Flexibility is key when you start up a new site but also when needs change over time. Normally it is important that the theme comes with a genuine “Options page”. Having a theme with a powerful options page will keep you from digging into the code for just doing simple changes everyone have to do. Also check if the theme does come with multiple color schemes, shortcodes systems, page templates, etc.? This will further increase the flexibility and your options for making a site that stand out!
6. How does the theme match your company style, logo and your customers? You’ll see a lot of free WordPress blog and website themes just doesn’t quite look right when they have a vertain types of logos added to the header Keep this in mind and select the theme to fit the logo you have making sure that style, colors etc. match each other.
7. Is it widget-ready? With widgets added to the right locations in your theme it is very simple to add and manage non-post and page content like sidebar, footers etc. I recommend you look for themes with many widget zones as you will need the flexibility sooner or later.
8. Is the theme supported and does it look like it will be in the future? You need it because WordPress always need to be up to date for security reasons and when WordPress is updated some themes stop working and need to be updated as well. Further if you want to do something smart and can’t figure it out support can be very useful. If you can afford it buying a premium theme typically entitles you to get good support. Some free theme designers will provide limited support and others (vast majority) will provide none. If you think you might need support somewhere down the road, take this into consideration. If you are familiar with themes and feel comfortable solving your own problems, don’t worry about support.
9. If you have monetization plans for the site will the theme make it easy? There are themes that intentionally was designed to help you make money from your site or blog. Why not use one that fits your monetization plans? If you are planning to add text link ads, AdSense ads, or banner ads on your website or blog, the theme should make the management for this simple and have a design where the ads was part of the design Trying to stuff them into a theme that isn’t intended to allow room for ads will create a very cluttered look that will distract and annoy readers.
10. Will the theme code validate or is it filled with errors? It is not for fun when skilled designers proudly announce that their code validate. While most don’t know about this or don’t care few know that it is rather important. Valid code e.g that follow the HTML specification, will give you the best chance of giving your visitors a problem-free visit. While users may not notice validation errors I can assure you that search engines will.
Recently Google updated their ranking logic and now it actually take a lot more factors into consideration and adding some keywords is far from enough any more.
11. Has the theme been created with good intentions? Question is if the theme is free (sounds good right) but only released to the public because someone have added hidden links to build backlinks to some porn or poker site… You might be surprised how many free themes include some form of hidden links to build backlinks to sneaky marketers sites. By using a popular free or premium theme you should be safe.