If you are even slightly familiar with the WordPress theme and template system, you will know how bone-achingly frustrating it all is. Trying to find a perfect match for your business is almost impossible. Many of the free, paid and freemium ones seem suitable, but you always find a niggling issue that simply cannot be resolved without massive investment. Sometimes you find a great website that loads too slowly, others are missing widgets, others don’t allow the quick addition of CSS, and some will not work with your desired plugins. This article doesn’t have any magic answers, but hopefully it will help you pick the theme that fits your business style.
As a Side Note
The first half of this article covers things that may seem a little alien to people who are not familiar with the WordPress theme marketplace and WordPress themes in general. In short, the first half of this article deals with the headaches and frustrations that come with picking a good WordPress theme. The second half of this article dives a little deeper into specific advice that will power your decision and theme choices.
Get Advice From Web Developers
Different businesses and different needs require different solutions. This article isn’t nearly long enough to cover even the most common scenarios, so you need the help of professionals. Start by taking the previous advice and experimenting a little. Do not let the development company push you into buying their services. Simply define your goals and your requirements and seek their advice.
In most cases, you will find a number of themes that are okay but not great. That is when you bring in a company like WP Masters and have them tinker with the theme to make it perfect. In most cases, they will have to add certain facets to the theme that the original developers couldn’t add because it didn’t offer enough mainstream appeal. If the developer cannot fix your problem using the readability available CSS editing tools, then it is time to start building a similar theme or editing the code of the theme (if possible and legal).
Start As Simple As Possible
The best way to build a website is to start as simple as possible and then build on your successes. Build on the things that work and eliminate the things that don’t. Time and natural evolution will teach you what your website needs. If you start with a bunch of tools and functions, you may end up using very few of them and then making it difficult to alter and fix up your website in the future.
Oddly enough, simple websites often do the best. Look at websites like Wikipedia or Amazon. Compare their interfaces to the flashy and over designed themes you see on the WordPress theme marketplace.
Take a look at the image above. That is what Yahoo used to look like. Where are they now? The design is cluttered, congested, and we cannot rule out the fact that purple was a bad design choice. Look back at all the old eCommerce websites that failed. Look at how hard the developers were trying. If they had kept it simple, they wouldn’t have designed themselves into a corner.
Don’t Worry About Old Fashioned Problems
You may curse this advice about responsive design in a few months when Google sends you a message through their search console saying that you have mobile compatibility issues.
They will say things like “Text too small to read” or “Content Wider than Screen.” In most cases, this is not your theme’s fault. Many times, it is due to the types of affiliate advertising you are running on your website. Sometimes it is your uploaded images, and sometimes it is your plugins causing the problem. Unless Google is saying it for most of your pages, then it is probably not your theme’s fault. Again, these days, even the cheap and free WordPress themes are responsive because it isn’t nearly as difficult to create responsive themes as it used to be.
How Many Plugins Do You Need?
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. How many themes will your website need in order to function as you wish? The higher the number, then the less suitable the theme is for you. If you have found the perfect theme, but you need plugins for checkouts, image catalogs, optimization, shopping carts, etc., then strongly consider having a website theme built from scratch.
Plugins are not the friend of long-term high-traffic websites. Each one takes its toll on the overall user experience. They slow your loading and render times, they make demands on the servers, and they offer the potential for problems. Some may be easily hackable, others may conflict with other plugins. Some of your plugins may become outdated and stop working, and others may receive an update that causes bugs or stops your website from functioning correctly.
How Easy is The Theme to Alter?
There is no right answer to this one. A theme that is easy to alter isn’t necessarily a good one if it doesn’t fit your needs. If you had wallpaper in your store that was easy to peel off and stick elsewhere, it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.
The themes that are more difficult to alter are the ones that are more difficult to mess up. A common mistake that small businesses and small brands make is to over design and over tinker with their websites. Once they have made the changes, they can never get the website back to how it looked when a professional designed it. Also, as a side note, if the theme developer wants a subscription fee and isn’t offering something like a file transfer service, Cloud, or server service, then you should probably give it a miss. It would be cheaper (and better) to hire a developer and pay a single fee for your own website theme rather than paying a repeat subscription fee.
Ignore Reviews on the WordPress Theme Marketplace
There are almost as many bots on the WordPress theme marketplace as there are on Twitter. The figure fiddling is blatantly obvious when a theme has 10,002 positive reviews and only 2 active users.
If you are going to focus on reviews, then look for the bad ones. Specifically, look for bad reviews that repeat the same problems. If people are reviewing saying that the theme developers sneak adverts into your primary hub, then that is probably true. On the other hand, if a single review claims that the developers made their website start talking to them through the screen, then perhaps the developer isn’t to blame.
How Open is the Code and How Responsive Are The Developers?
If you are not planning on using developers on a semi-frequent basis, then it is good to know that makers of the theme are still on hand to take your questions. You have no idea what is coming next. There may be a new type of mobile device that requires a change in the theme, or WordPress may create a new update that flips where your theme widgets used to live. Knowing you can still contact the developers is always handy.
If not, find out how open the code is. How much you are able to take the code and make it your own without running into legal troubles. If the developers are not too responsive, it is good to know that you can make alterations to the code yourself (or with a developer) without there being any problems going forward.
Keep Branding to a Minimum
Leave the branding part of your business to your advertising and to the after-sales process. Keep things simple with your website. This means picking a brand based on how it functions and not on how easily you can add logos, fonts, images, and so forth. There are very few businesses where you need to slap your viewers in the face with your brand. Keep your services, your message or your products in the center stage, which means finding a theme that allows you to do so. As time progresses, if you feel the need to add further branding, then find ways to work within the confines of the website theme. Again, keeping things simple, especially in the beginning, is always the best idea.