4 Tips for your Perfect WordPress Theme - Mad Lemmings

4 Tips for your Perfect WordPress Theme

Are you new to the WordPress world, or just want to improve the look of your WordPress website? One easy change is simply adding a new theme.

Of course the choice is simple right? Well kind of, but let me give you a few tips that might help.

Free vs. Premium

Money or PeanutsThe most fundamental choice you have to make is choosing a free theme or a premium one.

At first it would seem obvious – free of course! And I use a free theme at the moment, but there are pros and cons. Most free themes have limited or no support, so if it doesn’t do what you want, then you are on your own. If you know what you are doing, or plan to spend the time learning, that is fine.  Otherwise perhaps you should consider Premium.

With Premium themes can range from the $10 to $100 or more.  Of course the more you pay, the more professional the themes often are, the more features and support you might get. The question is – can you afford it or do you need it?  This is something you need to decide based on where your site is at right now (earning money or not? professional or hobby).

Layout

Another important factor in choosing a theme is the layout. Some theme websites make this easy by providing categories which often align with your business or site type. This is important because if you, for example, choose a blog theme but are a photographer you might be very disappointed with the limited display of your photos in favour of text. So when you are checking out the different themes, be sure to use the “live demo” buttons to see how the themes look and whether the elements they suggest work for you. You might also want to compare this to peers in your area to see the kind of features you need (if you don’t already know).Web Design

Things worth considering are:-

Header

  •  is there a logo or just a title available (obviously if you have a logo, you want it up there)
  • is the menu in/just below the header, or in the sidebar (do you have a choice? do you need one?)
  • is there an image dominating the top of the page (great for visual themes, creative content and so forth, but might hide the text for users with small screens)

Content

  • for blogs you should consider how the posts appear (text, accompanying image, date) how much space each element takes in the summary and actual post
  • for other website types you might want to use a grid for composing the layout (text or images),a slider for image/product galeries and so on

Menus

  • If you have a lot of content that needs a hierarchy, look at your menu options and how they appear (how many levels do you need, where is it placed)
  • for a blog often a simple menu (contact, about, posts, archive etc) either under the header or in the side-bar will suffice

Footer

  • the footer can be simple (copyright, contact link etc) or contain information secondary to the main menu (delivery info, support details, company info are common choices).  Take a look at the bottom of the amazon home page to see what I mean.

Color, Style, Pizazz

model on a catwalk

In the modern world of web design it is no longer cool to have flashing banners, over-full web pages, boring colors and many more no-nos.  So when you take a look at some of the themes, keep in mind how you want to present yourself and/or your business.  Colors are one thing that can have a huge impact. For example red is very evocative, blue implies trust and is used by many large companies (AT&T, HP, GE and IBM started out with blue) and green now has connotations of “environmental”. Check out my other post on the infleunce, meaning and use of color for some more detailed information.

There are also a number of things that can be done to add “pizazz” to your site, but you should be careful. Many such animations, shadows, rounded corners do not work in all, or older browsers. So try out the themes in a few different browsers if you are going to use such things (Internet Explorer is notorious for ruining many of these effects, but many people still use it especially at work.  Also check Firefox, Chrome and Opera, not to mention a few mobiles if you are thinking about Responsive Design – read below).

Responsive Design

responsive design example

Have you ever seen a nice website appear on your mobile almost as if it was an app?  Then you have seen the benefits of Responsive Design. As a web developer I see this term everywhere.  And for good reason.  Responsive web pages react to the screen size, ensuring your web site looks good on all devices (mobile, tablet and PC).  So if you are serious about your web site and want to make sure you readers/customers have a good experience on any device, choose a responsive design.  You will see this listed as one of the features and I recommend you also try it out in the live demo mode for the theme you have chosen.  If there is no specific view for each device type, simply shrink your browser horizontally and see how the page reacts. As you move towards tablet size you will see the elements align vertically, often in the header and menu.  Then as you approach mobile size, the menu will change to some form of drop down and images will often resize or disappear.  If you really want to ensure this behaviour is good (ie you are buying a premium theme) try out their demo on a few devices (if you don’t own theme, try them in a store or at a friend’s place). Better to know in advance what your site will look like (or not as you expected?) because once you have the theme, you customers will find out for you. If you want to learn more about Responsive Design, take a look at a more detailed post I have written.

Just as a quick aside, here is a nice Infographic on mobile data growth (it will help convince you to take responsive websites seriously!)

Some Theme Sites to get you started

In shopping for WordPress Themes I have come across a number of well reviewed sites with stylish themes you might like to check out.

Elagent Themes offers just that.  An elegant selection of themes (but not so many you don’t know where to start).  Great Browser coverage.  Responsive design is high on their list. Updates and suuport are also included. For a set price you can gain access to a library of themes if you wish to try out a whole bunch.

MyThemeShop has a similar offering, with all the features you would expect (responsive, stylish, varied layouts, latest web standards HTML5 & CSS3, SEO, premium support etc). They also offer a library of themes for a set price, or a per theme purchase. They also have some Free themes if you go searching, like this theme Ribbon which I am using.

StudioPress Themes is a popular place to pick up a theme for the professional blogger.  They use a framework/child theme system (Genesis) that is quite impressive, offering stability, extendibility, variety etc, but if you are just starting out I would try a simpler theme option like one from MyThemeShop.

Of course this is not a definitive list of Themes and I have not tried them all out.  Hopefully this list along with the points above are enough to get you started on the road to a happy and successful website.

Let me know what Theme you end up chosing any why. It’s always worth sharing knowledge.

About the Author Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).

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