So, you’ve decided to create a website or a blog. You have completed all the steps of installing WordPress, choosing a web host, etc. Now, you’re stuck at choosing a WordPress theme. I understand choosing can be hard. Barry Schwartz explains the paradox of choice. According to him, as the number of choices increases, so does the level of effort required to analyze all the choices. We often don’t feel we have made the right decision, purely because there is so much choice available. As they say, grass is greener on the other side. According to Schwartz, “Choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.”
A good research will always help you avoid problems down the road. Even better is learning from people who’ve ‘been there and done that’. I’ve decided to create a guide on how to choose a WordPress theme for your website/blog. Read on…
Point 1. Would you like a free or a paid theme?
The first thing to do is to figure out if you will like to pay for a theme or use a free theme for your website. When you visit the WordPress Themes Directory, you’ll find an overwhelming number of options to choose from. There are literally thousands of options for you to choose from. It won’t make any sense for you to go through them all, right?
Step 1 for choosing a WordPress theme: Decide whether you would like to pay for your theme or use a free one.
If you do decide to go in for a paid theme, then you have to make a choice between a subscription payment (either monthly or yearly) or a one-time payment. Some themes like Themeforest have a one-time fee and others like Elegant Themes are on a subscription payment.
In a free theme, you won’t be able to do a lot of customizations and you’ll have limited functionality. On the contrary, paid themes are more customizable. The more you pay for a theme, the more features you usually get. Paid themes aren’t prohibitively expensive. If your website is your source of daily bread, then you can consider going in for paid themes.
Point 2. What is my website going to be about?
I guess you’re thinking, “Isn’t this obvious?” Well, it is obvious. It is also one of the most important factors to consider when making your website. Let us assume that you are a doctor and your website is about your practice. Would it make sense that your theme has mountains and rivers and some guy in mountaineering gear? You guessed it right! Nope, it wouldn’t. A medical theme would fit well for a website about your medical practice. In short, your theme should convey whatever your website is about.
Step 2 for selecting a WordPress theme: Decide what your business/website/blog is about.
Point 3. Is it easy to customize?
Customizability is you changing the look and feel according to your likes and dislikes. The level of customizability for any theme depends on how much freedom the theme developers have given their users. Some themes will allow you to customize the font size, style, colors, layout. Other themes will let their users use CSS codes to change the look and feel as the user wishes.
In other words, the more customizable a theme is, the more you can let your creative juices flow and change the look and feel to match your needs. If you aren’t comfortable with a lot of customization options, then find a theme that is easier to work with. However, if you want to have the freedom to make your site do what you want it to and look how you want it to, then go ahead and choose a theme that is fully customizable. Such themes will have in-depth user manuals. You can also approach their support center for help or go to their forums if your problems are still not solved.
Step 3 for selecting a well suited theme: Decide how much freedom you want for changing the different aspects of your theme. Decide on how customizable do you want the theme to be.
Point 4. Does it have eCommerce capability?
I’m sure most of you are familiar with what eCommerce is. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, it means selling products or services on the internet through mobile apps, websites etc. Amazon.com, ebay.com, etc., are all eCommerce platforms.
If your business roadmap involves an eCommerce platform at any point, you can consider a theme that will support an eCommerce plugin. Even if you don’t have any immediate plans of setting up an eCommerce portal, it is better to make sure you have the right theme if eCommerce is in your roadmap. You can search for a theme that integrates with wooCommerce.
Step 4 for choosing the right theme: Decide if an eCommerce platform is a part of your business roadmap. If it is, then choose a theme that is compatible with an eCommerce plugin.
Point 5. How is the UI and UX?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what UI and UX are: UI is user-interface. This is the how the user interacts with your website. User-interface is the response time of the website (or the theme), relevant data presented to the user at the appropriate time etc. UX stand for user-experience. UX is how the user feels while using your website. Is it easy to navigate? Does the user like to visit your website? Does your website look appealing to the user? User experience is a part of user-interface.
Your main question when it comes to UI and UX will be, “Can I attract customers, if my website looks the way it does?” When you see the demo video, see how good the demo website looks. You can try using the theme for a few days to judge this parameter more effectively. If that doesn’t seem viable, your best bet is to rely on the ratings and reviews.
Step 5 for choosing the right WordPress theme: Make sure the theme will have a good UI and UX.
Point 6. How is the performance?
You can measure a theme’s performance in terms of how fast the theme loads or how fast different links open on the website. This can also be a measure of the user experience and the user interface. For your website you should use a theme that is fast and doesn’t hog too much of the user’s internet bandwidth.
Step 6 for selecting a WordPress theme: Make sure the theme is fast and responsive.
Point 7. Is it SEO optimized?
I’m sure everyone has, at the very least, heard of the term SEO or Search Engine Optimization – you know, the stuff that gets your website to the top of the search results in Google. SEO optimization is non-negotiable. There are several plugins that help with SEO optimization of your content and pages, like Yoast SEO.
Keep an eye out for SEO mentions in the theme description. Find out if it supports SEO plugins like the one I mentioned above. If you want to make money off your website, then this is essential.
Step 7 for choosing a WordPress theme: Make sure it supports SEO plugins or the theme itself is SEO optimized.
Point 8. Is it mobile responsive?
In this day, mobile phones are extremely popular. How popular you ask? According to an article in Forbes, 5.4 billion people will own mobile phones by 2020.
Once again, having a mobile responsive theme is non-negotiable. If your theme doesn’t work well on mobile phones, you will lose out on a lot of business. Mobile responsive websites also rank higher in search results.
Step 8 for selecting a WordPress theme: Make sure it is mobile responsive.
Point 9. Is it compatible with different browsers?
Just like people use different computers (some use a Mac, some use Samsung or Lenovo or several other brands that are there), people use different internet browsers too. Browser compatibility is essential to ensure very good UI and UX. Make sure your theme is compatible with all the major internet browsers like Mozilla FireFox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Opera.
If your theme looks different on different browsers it will affect your UI and UX. This directly impacts website visitor count. The one thing you certainly don’t want is a declining website visitor count.
Step 9 for choosing the right WordPress theme: Ensure that the theme is compatible with all the major browsers.
Point 10. Is it compatible with different plugins?
For different functionalities on your website, you’ll be using different plugins, for example, Yoast SEO plugin for SEO optimization, a backup plugin like UpdraftPlus, a security plugin like Wordfence etc. If your theme has compatibility issues with such plugins, it’ll become very difficult for you to achieve different functions on your website.
It is always better to make sure that the theme of your choice supports your required plugins.
Step 10 for selecting a theme: Ensure that your theme is compatible with different plugins.
Point 11. Does it seem difficult to set up?
You are looking at the description and watching videos of the theme (if any). Does the setup process look complicated? Does it seem outside your comfort zone? Do you feel you can set up the theme just by reading their documentation? Ask yourself: “Can I make my website look as good as how the demo website?” “Do I need any measure of coding skills to make the website look good or to make it do what I want it to do?”
Now, analyze your answers. Do you think you can set it up easily? If you can answer with a “Yes”, then the theme seems right for you. But hold on! Read the other points to be sure this is the Mr. Right for your website.
Step 11 for choosing a WordPress theme: Make sure you can set it up easily.
Point 12. Does the theme have advertising slots
Do you not intend on selling services on your website? So, it is just going to be a blog, right? In that case, check if the theme has advertising slots and if it is compatible with popular advertising plugins.
It’s better to check this before using the theme in case you plan on monetizing your blog in future. You really don’t want to lose out on advertising money, just because your theme doesn’t support it. Trust me, you don’t want to do that.
Step 12 for using the right theme for your website: If you plan on monetizing your blog in the future, make sure that it has advertising slots built into the theme and it is compatible with popular advertising plugins.
Point 13. Is this theme well supported?
Even though, I’ve mentioned this point towards the end, but believe me, this isn’t less important. This is probably as important as plugin compatibility or browser compatibility. It is still possible to find workarounds for less functionalities, but it will be hard to compensate for a barely existent or non-existent support team.
Observe how the support team has responded to previous queries. Ensure there is good support system in place before choosing a theme.
Step 13 for choosing a WordPress theme: Be sure their support system is very good.
Point 14. How have users rated and reviewed the theme?
Often, this is a fairly good indicator of the quality of the theme. To make sense of the numbers, what I usually do is calculate the percentage of people giving 2 and 1 star ratings for the total number of ratings. This gives me a good idea of how popular the theme is. For example, if the total ratings are 4500 and 2 star and 1 star ratings are 450 combined, this means that 10% of the people found this to be below average in some aspect. Whatever aspect of it is below average, you can find out by reading the 2 and 1 star ratings.
I pay close attention to the recent negative ratings and reviews. That usually gives me an insight into what problems users face. I then take a call after analyzing various options this way.
Step 14 for using the right WordPress theme: Make sure that majority of the other users are satisfied with the theme.
My Final Thoughts on Choosing a WordPress Theme
I hope this guide has helped you to drop options and keep just the best ones. There are thousands of WordPress themes available and choosing a WordPress theme seems like a hectic task. If you follow this guide, it should help in streamlining the process. As a bonus, I’ve included a checklist that I used for selecting the theme for this website (scroll down to download it). It certainly helped me and I hope it helps you too!
If you feel there are more points that one needs to consider while choosing a theme, let me know and I’ll update this article to include them as well. If you have any questions about selecting a WordPress theme for your website or blog, feel free to get in touch with us through our website live chat or through our Contact Us page. Cheers!
Download the Free Checklist here!