Are you looking to create a website? Are you considering going with WordPress, but don’t know much about what to look out for or how to choose a theme? Whether it’s your first website or you are looking to replace an older website built with a website builder, WordPress is a new reality for you.
There are a lot of terminologies and intricacies you probably aren’t that familiar with, but in this article, I will give you an overview about what you need to know before purchasing your first WordPress theme.
What’s a theme?
Using a theme is mandatory. If your website runs with WordPress, you do have to choose a theme to run the website with.
A theme is like the skin of a website.
A freshly created WordPress website looks pretty generic and naked. After installing WordPress, there is already a theme pre-installed, and there are two to three other themes available to switch to. These are the default themes that are provided by WordPress.
A theme gives a website its unique touch. It takes all the content stored in the website (posts, pages, sidebars, headers, – everything) and by virtue of its coding, it determines how this content is organized and displayed to the website visitor.
It may control the look of the menu bar, of the header and of the footer. It may determine the options a blog post can be display, it may determine the way a logo can be displayed, or it may rule the color sets a website can use. It has the power to enable or disable hundreds of features. In other words, it determines the visual logic displayed.
Selecting a theme
The most basic differentiation to make is on the monetary level. I firmly believe the theme’s price shouldn’t be the major factor when making your decision, it is however, a valid option for categorization.
There are many free themes offered in several websites like in the WordPress-owned market place. I’ll reflect on the disadvantages that come with free themes in the last part of this article, but the reason why I believe a theme’s price shouldn’t be the significant factor when choosing a theme is because the premium themes come to a price somewhere between $60-90, which is nothing when compared to the cost a hired web designer will charge.
The most important things to consider
Not every theme provides what you need for your unique website project. There are however, a few things that are not really negotiable and which you must be sure of before making a choice.
1. Does the theme fit the website’s purpose?
Themeforest is a popular market place for themes. If you browse around there, you will notice there are a lot of categories for WordPress themes available, like Real Estate, Non Profit, Education, Wedding, Photography, Food blogs, etc. There are also a lot of multi-purpose themes available that are adaptable and customizable to special demands you may have (see the last part of this article: Customizing a WP theme).
2. Does the theme require a lot of quality images to look nice – and do you know where to get them from?
All the attractive sliders you see in the demo models require professional shots. Wide-angled images are supposed to promote your business – are you sure you can come up with enough resources for that?
3. Does the theme vendor provide limited or unlimited support?
Check the creator’s support guidelines and how long after date of purchase they are willing to provide support to you.
4. Is the theme responsive?
A theme that looks great on all mobile devices is a must-have. Don’t go for anything less. To verify that, enter the URL of the demo site into Screenfly and check how it looks on different mobile devices.
5. Browser support
Not every browser displays the same content identically. Look for information about whether the theme looks good in various browsers before purchasing it. If the vendor doesn’t provide that info, you can use a tool like Browsershots to do just that. Enter the theme’s demo URL and check whether the theme looks good in various browsers.
6. Theme updates
Make sure that the purchase of a theme enables you to get continuous updates. This is an important consideration for security purposes.
Switching a theme
After you have set up a website with pages and posts – a few month or years down the road, you might want to give your website a facelift. A new theme will do just that, it will give your website a more modern, fresh and sophisticated appearance.
That’s when the big BUT comes into play; unfortunately, switching a theme is not that easy.
I mean technically it is, but it might require a lot of adjustments.
After switching a theme, there is often a considerable amount of customization work that needs to be done to get the website into an acceptable state.
The reason for this is the incompatibility of the coding that was applied when creating the themes.