Selecting a WordPress Theme

Selecting a WordPress Theme

By The WordPress Helpers 9 Comments

Decision Points: Selecting a new WordPress Themes

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:

When selecting a theme, you want one that’s pleasing to the eye. The design should be modern. Nothing scares a visitor away faster than a site that looks like it was designed in the 90s. But you will also want to keep in mind your brand. You’ll want colors and design that match with your site’s brand.
No theme is perfect right out of the box. It’ll require some set-up and customization. Different themes give you different levels of customization. Some themes limit customization to just select a color palette, while other themes let you change everything from fonts to layouts and more.
You will most likely need certain functionality built in to your theme. If you are building a portfolio site, for instance, you’ll want your theme to have a built-in portfolio. If you are building an online magazine, you’ll want your theme to have a magazine style homepage.
If you plan on using a plugin like WooCommerce, WPML, or bbPress, you’ll want to be sure your theme integrates with these plugins. Most of themes that are compatible will specify as such. If the theme does not, however, you should contact the theme’s creator and see if their theme is compatible with the plugin you plan to use.
You should research what previous purchasers say about it. If you are purchasing your theme from a theme marketplace like ThemeForest, reviews are built in to the site. If not, you could do a simple Google search for the theme name along with keywords like “reviews” or “feedback.” Be sure to include negative keywords like “known issues” or “problems,” so you can see what people complain about.
If something goes wrong with the theme, or if you have questions, you want to be sure there is someone you can reach out to for help. Before purchasing your theme, be sure the theme company or theme author has a way to contact them. Either a help desk or even just an email address. You can even try reaching out to them before purchasing to see what level of support they provide.
Theme updates are good. They include brand new features and bug fixes. Plus, when new versions of WordPress are released, theme updates keep everything working smoothly.

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).

Nothing is worse than purchasing a theme and finding out it looks horrible in certain browsers. So, you should check how the theme looks in various browsers before purchasing it. I recommend using Browsershots. Input the theme’s demo URL and Browsershots will give you screenshots of the theme in various browsers.
You definitely want your theme to be responsive. A responsive theme looks great on any screen size and any device (such as phones or tablets). A simple way to test it is to open the theme’s demo on your phone or tablet and see how it looks.
Theme companies use a variety of different pricing structures. You should be aware of exactly what you are paying for. Some theme companies use a simple pricing structure, where you pay one rate and get the theme, updates, and support for life. Other theme companies use a subscription model, where you pay annually for continued support and updates. And some theme companies use a membership model, where you still pay a yearly membership rate, but get access to all the themes they make.
If you are a developer or looking to make customizations to the theme’s code, you’ll want to be sure you can easily make a child theme. Many themes are even built upon a framework which makes customization even easier.
This is a more advanced step, but you should run the theme demo through the Markup Validation Service. This will scan the code, and make sure it’s compliant. While you won’t find a website that is 100% compliant, if you see too many errors, it may be a sign that the theme is poorly coded.

Let’s look at those points.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Great advice. Take it. And don’t forget that approximately 40% of all web traffic—and climbing—is now mobile.
  9. 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.
  10. This is … true. When you’re selecting a WordPress Theme, know what you’re buying.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

The WordPress Helpers Community. Click this friendly little guy  to register. And join us!

Source: WordPress Theme Decision Points 
WordPress Theme Decision Points
The WordPress Helpers: Making WordPress Work
Selecting a WordPress Theme
Article Title:
Selecting a WordPress Theme
Subject:
What Decision Points are there in Selecting a WordPress Theme? Quite a few. So, let's get down to selecting a WordPress Theme!
Author:
Free Stuff!
No charge. No SPAM. Unsubscribe any time.

We'll send a weekly email with the latest information, recommendations, quick WordPress tips and more. We're serious about privacy and won't spam you or sell your information.

Or if you prefer, subscribe to our RSS feed. Stay up to date, live!