The Definitive (And Easy) Guide To Selecting The Right WP Theme
In this article, I am going to talk about selecting the right WordPress theme for your website. So keep reading.
WordPress is easily one of the best things to happen to the web. Perhaps that is why the CMS evolved from being a choice for newbie bloggers to powering 39% of all websites on the web, including the websites of The Walt Disney Company, Skype, Usain Bolt, Snoop Dogg, and many reputed digital agencies.
So, if you have also decided to create your business or blogging website with WordPress, rest assured that you have taken the right decision.
However, when it comes to creating a WordPress website that your audiences will love, there are more decisions to be made. One such decision that carries significant weight in selecting the theme of your website.
While the theme you select will certainly not be permanent, changing themes can be a lot of work. Moreover, the sudden change in the experience of your website after it is life will influence how your audience feels about it.
Those are just a few of the reasons why you should be careful and diligent while picking a theme for your website.
So, what kind of care is needed while picking a WordPress theme? How do you differentiate between an amazing WordPress theme and an average one?
If you are wondering these things, you have landed on the correct article. In the following sections, we will talk about everything you need to know and do, in order to select a WordPress theme that isn’t just aesthetically pleasing but also contributes to bringing you closer to your business goals.
Don’t Let The Pricetag Make Your Decision
The web has thousands of articles telling you how premium themes are better than free ones. However, most of these articles are written with the objective of selling more premium themes.
How do I know that?
Because I know that premium and free themes are both made with code. There are plenty of free themes that have excellent code behind them. Similarly, there are several premium themes that are powered with a faulty and buggy code.
Similarly, there are many free themes that get regular updates and there are many premium themes that haven’t been updated in months.
Obviously, the opposite is also true for many themes.
The point here is, whether a theme is premium or free is not a measure of its quality. Even if you have the budget to purchase a premium theme, don’t stop yourself if you like a free theme.
All you need to do is ensure that the theme you select checks all the other requirements that we will discuss in the upcoming sections.
Test For Responsive Design
Responsive design ensures that your website loads seamlessly across different devices. A responsive design optimizes your website’s experience for the user’s choice of device.
With mobile internet traffic accounting for more than half of all the traffic on the web, having a responsive website is not optional anymore.
Thankfully, even WordPress theme developers realize that. The evidence of the same lies in the fact that regardless of the platform or marketplace you choose to search for themes, there is a good chance that you will never find a theme without a “responsive” tag attached.
With that said, not all responsive WordPress themes are created equal. The quality of the implementation of the responsive technology varies radically among different themes.
This is why you must test every theme that you like for responsiveness.
To do this, simply open the demo of the theme on your desktop computer and then on your smartphone and play around with it.
Check out how the menus behave on different devices, how the content on various pages is optimized and displayed. Pay attention to your user experience on both the devices and consider how seamless it felt.
Also compare how the themes perform on your devices. The visual experience may be seamless but does the menu work just as well on your smartphone as it does on your laptop?
When doing a responsiveness analysis, make sure you take into consideration as many relevant elements of the theme as you can. Being diligent with this step will enable you to provide your users with an incredible experience on your website, regardless of the device they are using.
Ensuring the user experience of your website is seamless and consistent across devices will also help you appear professional in front of your future website visitors.
Choose A Performance Optimized Theme
The theme of your website, besides holding a great significance in your website’s aesthetics, also has a great influence over the performance of your website.
In other words, website performance metrics like page load times are greatly influenced by the theme you choose.
From a conversion and user experience point of view, every second added or omitted from your website’s load time has immense potential to influence the user experience. Don’t take my word for it, here are a few stats:
- According to Google, the probability of a ‘bounce’ goes up by a factor of 32% when load time increases from 1 second to 3 seconds. A higher bounce rate can negatively affect your website’s performance and rankings in the search engines.
- Another study revealed that 40% of consumers abandon websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1-second delay in the page response time can potentially reduce conversions by a whopping 7%.
This is why choosing a performance-optimized theme is important. While some developers may mention this feature of their theme in the description or the name, others will not.
So, if you like a theme, make sure you test it for speed before you purchase it or install it on your website. GTmetrix is an excellent and free tool that allows you to test website loading speeds in different countries, on different devices, and in different browsers.
When selecting a theme, choose one that offers minimal features. While it might seem counterintuitive to choose a theme that does not offer a calendar feature when you need a calendar feature, keep in mind that more features make the theme heavier and slower. So, instead of looking for a WordPress theme that has all the features you need, look for plugins that offer the features you want and then find a theme that is compatible with said plugins.
Pick A Customizable Theme
Speaking of features offered by themes, wouldn’t it be amazing to find a theme that looks exactly the way you want your website to look?
Sadly, real life is often disappointing and chances are slim that you will fund such a theme.
That’s why you will have to resort to looking for a theme that comes close to what you want and then make it your own with customizations. To make these customizations, you will need to work with the WordPress Customizer, an in-built tool that allows you to customize various aspects of a theme.
The user interface of WordPress Customizer is incredibly intuitive, making it an absolute joy to use, even for beginners.
With that said, not all WordPress themes are compatible with the WordPress Customizer.
This means, besides looking for a theme that closely resembles the layout, design, and color elements of the kind of website you want to build, you must also look for one that is compatible with the WordPress Customizer.
Even the themes that are compatible will not all give you the exact same freedom to customize. Moreover, themes that have a paid “pro” version only give access to all the customization features to their paying customers.
In other words, it isn’t enough to simply ensure that the theme you select is compatible with WordPress Customizer. You must also check to see if the theme(s) you like offer the kind of customizations you need to create your perfect website.
Check When The Theme Was Last Updated
The minds behind WordPress are consistently working to make the platform better and more powerful.
Naturally, the platform is regularly updated to implement the new features and abilities developed by its creators.
In a similar way, themes also need updates to stay compatible with the changes in the codes, algorithms, and features of the WordPress platform.
This is perhaps the reason most theme marketplaces mention when a theme was last updated. If the date of the last update is more than six months old, there is a good chance that you will run into compatibility and utility issues with the theme.
So, choose a theme that has been updated recently.
Check The Developer Support Policy And Reviews
The final and one of the most important checks you have to make before purchasing or installing a new WordPress theme is to look for the developer’s support policy.
Even if you consider yourself technically adept, it is helpful to have support from the creator of the theme you choose for your website.
Most reputable developers offer 6 months to 12 months of complimentary support with their themes. Beyond that, you can avail of their support for an additional retainer.
However, as mentioned earlier, this may or may not be true for all the themes you come across.
You can find a detailed description of the developer’s support policy on their website. Besides verifying if the developer offers support, you must also check for the scope of support that you can get.
For instance, some developers will limit their support to ensuring their theme’s built-in functionalities are working as they should. This means, if the theme isn’t working with one of the plugins of your choice, the developer may not be able to help you with the same.
While you are ensuring that the developer offers support with their theme, it is also a good idea to check out the reviews of the theme.
Make sure you are not limiting your research to the rating of the theme and check the actual reviews for mentions of quality of support and the ease of using the theme. The reviews are usually prominently highlighted on most theme marketplace platforms.
If you are updating your theme and already have a website, this would be a good time to conduct some domain research. With a domain research tool, you can figure out which pages or content pieces were performing the best previously and make sure they are at the front and center of your new website as well.
Creating a website involves a number of critical decisions but only a few are as significant as choosing the theme for your WordPress website.
While being diligent with this step will mean investing more time in making the decision, doing so will help you avoid a lot of headaches and trouble in the future.
Keep in mind that you are creating your website for your users/consumers and the theme you select will make up for a significant part of their experience on your website.
Do you have any other tips that have helped you in choosing an excellent theme for your website? Share them with us (and everyone else) in the comment section.