How to Choose a Wordpress Theme for your New Website or Blog

How to Choose a WordPress Theme for your New Website or Blog

How to choose a wordpress themeIn this post I will take a close look at all the things you need to consider when choosing a new WordPress Theme.

Starting a new website or blog is a big deal.

There are so many decisions to make, that you often just cry out in frustration! “Ahhhhhhh, I can’t do this anymore!”

So in this post, my aim is to help you make the right choices when it comes to choosing a WordPress Theme.

I obviously can’t make the decision for you, but I can help you avoid making some costly mistakes. Because once you start a website, it is easy to waste both time and money.

If you need a new website or blog, then let me show you how to choose a WordPress Theme for your blog or Website.

Bonus: Get my 20 page guide to starting a WordPress website and learn all the basics you need to know to start a website.

1. The Purpose of your Website or Blog

I know you want to jump right in and start looking at all those sexy WordPress Themes out there, but let’s start with some basic questions.

What exactly is your website or blog for?

What are you trying to achieve with it?

For example:

If you are a local business, perhaps all you are aiming to do is: provide basic details of what you do, a contact form, a map and address.

If you are an online store, you will need: a full E-commerce site with payment options and perhaps a blog to attract customers with content.

Remember: It is important you know what you want to put on your website and how you want to interact with your customers before you go any further.

2. Decide on your budget (Premium vs Free Themes)

One of the first decisions you need to make before shopping for a WordPress Theme is – Free or Premium.

Free Themes can still be good, but usually the support, documentation, and updates are not as thorough or reliable.

I use a free theme, but I hand code and maintain my theme myself. I am a web designer by trade. So for me it is no big deal (not bragging, it’s just my job). But you might need a fully supported theme?

Obviously, you get more if you pay, and most Premium Themes are not that expensive – many ranging from $40-60.

And considering it is a major investment (that is often only a one-time payment), it is usually worth paying for Premium.

Remember: If you have no support or web developer help, then make sure you theme is a good one. Read on to learn more about what you need to consider.

Need help designing your website or blog?

How can I help YOU?

3. Research and Explore WordPress Themes

We are getting there. I know it is not easy understanding how to choose a WordPress Theme.

But once you know what kind of website or blog you are aiming for, and how much you can afford, it is now time to do some research.

I would recommend considering the following when looking for a new website design:

  • look around at what other niche sites have in terms of pages and functionality
  • find sites you like, and look at why you like them (clean, simple, widgets, colors?)
  • explore some of the main theme sites for themes in your niche to see what they offer

When exploring WordPress Themes, see what kinds of categories theme creators provide and decide if they work for your niche. Once you know the categories, your choice becomes simpler.

For example: if you just want a blog, there is a category for that. But if you want a site for selling shoes, look under Ecommerce.

Here is a list of some sites where I have previously found themes. Some of them offer themes with one-time costs, others require a yearly payment.

** Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I might make a small commission if you buy something.

4. Theme Customization Options And Functionality

Depending on what exactly you are looking for, and what comes with the default theme layout, you will want to check some of the following:

  • What color options do you have (if you don’t like the default, how easy is it to change?)
  • What kind of standard pages does it offer vs what you need (about, contact, home)
  • What variety of blog and page layouts does the theme offer (one column, two column, video or text)
  • Is that special functionality you need available (calendar, image slider, portfolio display)

Also be aware that a lot of themes have what they call Shortcodes built into them. They are usually listed on a specific page.

This means that the developer has provided you with packaged functionality that you can add to your theme – usually this functionality will not be turned on by default.

These pieces of code or functionality can be added to a page or post directly by taking the shortcode and copying it into a page or post.

Other ways to add functionality to a WordPress Theme are with plugins. However, it is better if all of the core functionality you need is built in. It’s cheaper, easier and makes your site easier to maintain.

Remember: Any functionality that does not work as you want, or any design elements that need changing could possibly need to be programmed if the theme does not support changing them.

5. Reviews, Documentation & Support

If the theme or themes you have found seem to be the right ones, now it is time to take it a step further.

*Note: This is especially important if you are using and customizing the theme yourself and have no technical support.

These are the things I would be checking on each theme I am seriously considering:

  1. I would take a look in detail at the reviews of the WordPress Themes you like
  2. Check to see how extensive the documentation is
  3. See what kind of support you have access to (thismay involve visiting the Support Forums)
  4. Also check when the theme was last updated (WordPress is constantly changing, so you want the developer to keep up to date)

Remember: Good reviews are a start, but if you will be needing some help in the future you need to know the documentation and support are there for you.

6. Make Sure it Works Everywhere (Mobile and Browsers)

These days you want your website to work on all sorts of devices. Whether it is the customer on the go using their smartphone, or the relaxed reader at home reading your content on their iPad, you want your site to look great everywhere.

You might be checking out your future theme on your PC and have a big screen, but these days a large portion of your audience and customers will never see your website like that.

So make sure your theme works on most common devices.

Most Responsive WordPress Themes offer this kind of functionality, If you have no idea what I am talking about, read this post I wrote on Responsive Web Design.

Testing Responsive WordPress Themes

One way to do this is to test the demo page of your chosen themes via a responsive website checker. (By the way, when a website changes to fit the device it is called Responsive).

I have been using this website lately to redesign my blog and test it’s responsiveness.

Respondr will also let you test on three main sizes (but only one by one, so it is not as easy as Matt’s site I mentioned above).

If you want even more options, then try this post on 10 sites for testing responsive design.

Testing on various Browsers

To make modern website design even more complex, we even have to contend with the different browsers that people are using.

So to really check that your new WordPress Theme it going to be ok, before you commit to it, you will want to test it on a variety of browsers.

If you have a website running already, the best thing you can do is check your Google Analytics and see what browsers your visitors are using.

google analytics browser usageChances are you will need to check all major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer)  but Google Analytics shows you the ones the majority of your readers are using.

The image on the right shows you where you can find the browser usage on Google Analytics to check your readers’ browser usage.

Once you know what browsers you need to be concerned about, you can test them via this site: Browsershots.

All you need to do is check the browser and version you want to test, and they will generate a test on each of those browsers and show you the results.

Bonus: Get my 20 page guide to starting a WordPress website and learn all the basics you need to know to start a website.

Summary

When you choose a WordPress Theme there are a lot of things to consider.

But your website is your worldwide business card, so take your choices seriously and do the research before you choose.

Make sure the theme is suited to your needs, can be changed according to what you plan to do with it and that you will get support!

 

Need help designing your website or blog?

How can I help YOU?

 

About the Author Ashley Faulkes

I am an Aussie WordPress Web Designer living in Switzerland. My goal is to make your WordPress website awesome, and get you more customers via SEO and amazing content. I am also a huge fan of the outdoors, so I am often in the mountains doing crazy stuff. I discovered blogging and online marketing while recovering from a shattered leg I got while skiing, and I have not stopped learning since! Join me in reaching for the top!

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