Last week we turned you on to an article on Decision Points involved in selecting a WordPress Theme, and promised a breakdown. We had no idea when we invoked the image of former President George W. Bush that we’d also be using the name of potential future President Hillary Rodham Clinton here so soon, but we knew we’d be bringing you this piece. Strap in; it’s time to talk about selecting a WordPress Theme.
The article at Torque laid out twelve issues to worry about when selecting a WordPress theme. We say there are even more, but for now we’ll stick with that dirty dozen of WordPress theme selection ideas:
- 1. Aesthetics & design
- 2. Customization options
- 3. Functionality
- 4. Plugin compatibility
- 5. Reviews
- 6. Support
- 7. Continued updates
- 8. Browser support
- 9. Responsive
- 10. Pricing
- 11. Child theme ready
- 12. Validate code
So you want to avoid themes that aren’t updated. Take a look at when the theme was last updated. If it has been over a year since the last update, perhaps the theme maker has stopped updating it (and possibly supporting it).
Let’s look at those points.
- You want your theme to look great and convey the image and message you’re shooting at. There’s nothing more to say about this one except … we’ve seen people not know how to express their feelings on that. So if you need design help, or just design interpretation, don’t be embarrassed to ask, while you’re selecting a WordPress theme.
- This is the most confusing issue and a big part of what spurred us to create The WordPress Helpers. People select a theme based on demo content, start playing around, and realize the software they’ve bought doesn’t look anything like what they thought they had. And there’s almost no solution to this, EXCEPT: we’re starting to see themes and plug-ins that are designed to make the process of creating a WordPress site so easy this won’t matter. Look out for our upcoming reviews of Qards, and Layers. The latter, by the way, is free.
- This statement is true. It’s also problematic, because merely having these features “built in”, as opposed to you adding them using plug-ins, doesn’t mean they’re built in ways you like; really dig into these features while selecting a WordPress Theme.
- Plans like these change, and “compatibility with a plug-in” is a moving target. What this really means is that if you follow this advice you reduce your options, and if you don’t you increase the chance you’ll be switching themes again if you become successful. Need help? Contact us here.
- This one is tough to give good advice on. One of the best things about WordPress is that it’s used by so many people and supported by so many developers that there’s a great deal of information available. Problem is, as with many other public, on-line reviews much of it isn’t reliable. Often, reviews are fake.
- Yes, yes, and yes. Except: be real; when you pay fifty dollars or so and find yourself staring down the barrel of what amounts to a programming project with pieces being introduced that weren’t made by the person you’re asking for that help, you’re running on a wish. Besides hiring a great developer to really make your new WordPress site work we have two recommendations: The folks at Elegant Themes provide some of the best support we’ve ever seen, and people like our buddy Tom McFarlin have business models that depend quite literally on selling you support for their WordPress themes.
- This is a great point—to a point. No, you don’t want to buy a theme made in 2012, in 2015. But updates are a tricky business. Selecting a WordPress Theme should include understanding the theme vendor’s update policies, but without support and a clear understanding of quite a few other things it might not matter. In other words: you’re going to change themes again, soon enough. Try to not sweat this one too much.
- Great advice. Take it. And don’t forget that approximately 40% of all web traffic—and climbing—is now mobile.
- This could almost have been merged with the previous point. Almost. “Responsive” means what it means, but probably not what you think; don’t just accept that a theme is Responsive—know what that means to your plans.
- This is … true. When you’re selecting a WordPress Theme, know what you’re buying.
- This one is imperative, unless you never receive updates as in point #7. Without a child theme, updates will destroy many of the changes you make in your theme design. Don’t end up there; it stinks.
- This point, sadly, is of almost no use, even though it should be very important. “Make sure your new theme is standards compliant, but there’s no such thing as standards compliance?”
Which is a great place from which to continue. All of the points are good, but there’s no really great way to make all of them happen together, let alone make sense to anyone who isn’t a developer, a designer, a business wonk, and an expert in WordPress’ many ins and outs. And it’s why The WordPress Helpers is here. Because as cool as WordPress is, when something that seems so simple as selecting a WordPress theme has so many ramifications, most people will be lost unless they have a community to fall back on.