10 key steps to take into action when choosing a new theme for your self-hosted WordPress website, from the adaptable design, design options and the most advanced tools.
Are you starting your new website in a WordPress of your own? All right! I will try to help you to choose the right WordPress theme for your website or your blog. Its a very essential key step when starting a website project. Let’s see why.
It’s a delicate moment, if you succeed with the election you will save a lot of time later and you will not have to edit code if you do not want to.
You can configure several additional functions directly from the theme option panel (SEO, favicon, logos, funds, sources, translations to other languages etc), saving time and plugins, convenient thing whenever possible.
Of course, while you will visit your website you will get a better experience and stay longer in it. Design and usability are not only important for the user, but Google also values it greatly in SEO.
10 Keys to choose the Best WordPress theme
Here are 10 keys to find the perfect WordPress theme that makes you start on the right foot and get the most out of WordPress.
1. Adaptable Design or Responsive Design
Regardless of the orientation that you are going to give your new website in WordPress, there is a feature almost essential for all: the adaptable design.
With only one version of our website and through the CSS style sheet, it will allow our site to be re-designed according to the resolution of the screen from where we visualize it. It will create a more accessible menu and eliminate the less relevant information in order to improve navigation, for example the footer or the sidebars.
If we choose a non-responsive design it is likely that the traffic from these devices will stay and navigate less through our site.
A fact: the percentages of use of mobile devices in front of computers grow exponentially. Right now, for the total use of the internet, the proportion is around 40% (mobile) compared to 60% (p.c.), although browsing through web pages remains at a more modest 25% vs 75%.
And how do you know that a theme is adaptable? Well, very easy. As a general rule, the description of the theme usually includes the data (responsive design). But if you really want to do the test and know how it will look in the most common resolutions (you must do it), navigate to the demonstration page of the theme you are looking at.
Once there reduces the size of the browser window, you will see how the elements will be re-positioned, disappearing and changing. I prefer to do it this way, but you can also try Screenfly, a web tool that allows you to visualize any website emulating a lot of devices.
If you have already created a website or you are using a non-responsive theme, there are certain plugins like WPTouch, which create an automatic version adapted to mobile devices.
They are easy to use but have some important disadvantages: they generate another additional URL and the search engines will detect two different pages with the same content, this may entail a penalty for your site in terms of SEO positioning. In addition, they are usually very basic adaptations, with few customization options.
2. Types of WordPress themes
Choosing perfect theme depends on the type of website you want to build. Make a list of what you need, especially your key elements (portfolio, store, etc.), a small navigation tree and an outline with the contents you want to display on each page.
The clearer you have what you need the less it will cost you to find the ideal WordPress theme. Some of the main theme types among which you have to decide are:
If you plan to sell through your website in the future, it is highly recommended that you look for WordPress theme with a store implemented. You will have ready the shopping cart, customer registration forms, payment platform, creation and stock notifications etc. Everything you need to properly manage your online store will be ready within 1 minute.
If you still do not want to sell, you can deactivate the payment processes and shopping carts, and you will still have a very good WordPress theme to assemble your storefront on the web.
Make sure that the visual part predominates over the rest, that the products stand out and the information is presented clearly and well distributed, as always.
The most common sales platforms that are implemented in WordPress theme are WooCommerce, GetShopped and Cart66, which are also available as independent plugins and can be installed in any theme that we want.
The advantages of using a WordPress theme with the store implemented in the code are speed and aesthetic unity. Any of these three options are reliable and will cover the normal needs of an online store.
WooComerce is the most popular, it’s free, easy to use and has extensive support behind. GetShopped (known as WP e-Commerce) also has a large community to answer your questions, in addition to being free. Cart66 has a free Lite version and another Pro for payment.
If you need to communicate in a simple and clear way to show the message and services of your company, this is your option. Order and an image according to the sector you are targeting. Be careful not to saturate the information page so it dose not mislead the user. Try to avoid WordPress theme built on an infinite scroll, although they are really good, and make sure you have a decent blog section and support for video on your pages, it is highly recommended.
Blog / Magazine.
If you are going to focus on creating a blog or a magazine, easy to read, where the content takes precedence over the form, you already have a starting point. The fact that it is accessible from phones and tablets is even more important. Take care of the width of the main text, if it is narrow it will incite less to reading and it will tire more.
Make sure you have left sidebars or right sidebars, where you can place widgets as “related items” or share buttons on social networks, which are easily visible and prompt you to use them.
Portfolio / Photography / Creative
If what you are interested in is showing your graphic work as a designer, illustrator or any other profession with visual weight, orient yourself towards the portfolio. It is advisable to have a good blog design where you can offer other content that complements your work. Be careful with the weight of your homepage.
If you need the image to stand out above all else, use portfolio-style WordPress theme that are photo-oriented. Again, be careful with the total weight of the page and try to host the largest files on external sites such as YouTube or Flickr, improve the load and position better in searches.
There are really eye-catching WordPress theme but little functional and confusing, try to find a balance between the aesthetic and the practical.
3. Possibilities of Customization and Edition of the theme
If you do not want to stain your hands by editing the code of your WordPress theme, find one that offers all the features you need:
- Easily change typography and color schemes. Sometimes the types are quite limited although certain WordPress theme allows you to choose from hundreds of font families from Google Fonts sources. It is a good feature.
- Have sidebars, both left and right, depending on how much extra content you want to display through widgets. This point is more important than it seems, especially if you want a dynamic page, with calls to action that encourage the user to continue browsing more page. Latter I will touch a little more on this point.
- To easily customize the header of your website. That allows you to locate your logo and the title of your page well without too many size restrictions.
- The blog section has a good design. If the home page is great but the blog is chaotic, forget about that WordPress theme.
- Contact forms and customizable comments. It will allow you to receive opinions and connect with your readers in a more personal and close way.
- Good video support and integration with YouTube or Vimeo. It is important that when embedding a video it is adaptable, that the player window fits the size, like the rest of your responsive WordPress theme.
- Shortcodes: Small code phrases that allow us to present the contents in different visual and in a very simple way.
- Integrated options for social networks: make it easy for the user to share the content or find yourself in different social networks.
- Predefined page layouts: when you create a new page for your site, each WordPress theme has designs that you can choose to quickly organize the functions, such as contact page, home page, portfolio, full-width page etc.
4. Content Vs Design
It is important not to get lost among the infinite WordPress theme and their options. When you see that you are shipwrecked, ask yourself what is most important: what content will I show? There you have the key.
Complex and colorful feature sometimes do not add value to our website and are not a good idea. The design has to be a reflection of what you are trying to communicate but without neglecting the usability, loading times and the ease when modifying subject.
The best WordPress theme of all will be in which you better imagine your contents and more facilities to expose them. Forget about the most technical issues if you do not like and hope to present them.
5. Built-in WordPress widgets
Almost all the WordPress theme will allow you to add some additional content in your sidebars and it is very useful. You can connect easily with social networks and encourage participation, place advertising if necessary, offer a subscription or show any relevant information. It is also useful to have the possibility of adding widgets at the bottom of the page.
Make sure you have these features in your WordPress theme since you will be interested in using them very soon.
Most Premium WordPress theme has built-in Widgets. Although we could also install all the Plugins and Widgets that WordPress has in its large plugin directory.
In many of the WordPress theme you will see phrases such as “SEO friendly” or “SEO ready”, which make reference to the fact that they have implemented in their option panel some functions to add metadata in an easy way to our entries or pages: Title tags, meta tags, meta descriptions etc.
Although they are useful and simple to complete, it is much more advisable to install a dedicated SEO plugin such as Yoast WordPress SEO or the All in One SEO Pack. However, they are good features that we can use in the first steps of our website, until you start installing plugins.
Speed is another important issue for search engine positioning and SEO. It is important that you check that the loading time of your WordPress theme is as short as possible.
Google values the fastest websites positively, and most of the blame is on the theme. You can do it by visiting this website: GTmetrix.
7. Support continued in time and updates
Whether you are new to WordPress or have several website developed, it is likely that certain doubts arise during the process. No one better than the person or team that created the theme to solve them.
For this reason, before deciding on one or the other, you should take a look at the reviews and opinions that may be on the page where the theme is offered, read what those who have already tried to work with it comment, see if errors are repeated or incompatibilities with some plugins, see if the queries are resolved quickly and satisfactorily.
Find the profile of the developer of the theme and assess whether it gives you some confidence and if it has been positively assessed by other users.
It is very convenient that the theme includes a PSD file by layers, in case you need to consult or modify something of any element included in the wordpress theme, it is also an excellent guide when determining the size of your photos.
It should also include a help file, where the customization process of the theme is documented step by step. If these two files are well prepared, you should have everything you need to get your page up without much trouble.
This support should be continuous over time and include updates to the theme since WordPress is updated with certain frequency and it is necessary that our theme does not become obsolete with the new versions of WordPress.
8. No HTML and CSS Errors
One of the last steps you can take is to validate your HTML and CSS language. This process will tell us that the code in which it is written meets certain standards and will be interpreted in the same way in all browsers and search engines.
Just visit these site (validate HTML and validate CSS) in introducing the URL of the live demo version of our theme. Remember that it is imperative that you close the top frame that appears on the demo page before copying its URL.
You can compare the results of this process between several wordpress theme to find out which one has fewer “factory errors”. It is completely normal for everyone to have a certain number of errors, but the less is the better, obviously.
9. Free or paid theme?
I recommend that you choose a paid WordPress theme unless you want the fascinating process of editing WordPress code, which can be very satisfying (and slow).
Reason to recommend paid WordPress theme is the prices are very reasonable. A premium WordPress theme will cost maximum between $30 and $50. In addition to the time you are going to save, it is likely that the result will be better with less effort.
And the free WordPress theme generally comes with some basic functions implemented. Though it is enough for many bloggers who are just starting. However, for more advanced functions which we will need, we will have to do it through code or plugins. It is much more convenient to have a theme option panel.
There are many website out there that offer WordPress themes and I am going to recommend just 3, because I have used them and they have never given me problems and the support has been good:
- Themeforest: For me it is the first option to look for, it is very well organized. It is not a brand or a theme development study as such, it is a platform where hundreds of developers offer their designs. Thats why it has a variety and excellent support.
- Elegant Themes: It has very cool designs, with less variety, but generally very good. It’s usually my second option.
- WooThemes: My third option is a bit random, I usually look at website like this, which is very good.
10. Some conclusions.
- Take it easy: this selection process can take you from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks (I hope not). Nothing happens.
- Bored of seeing themes: well, if you have reviewed the theme repository several times and do not decide, you may not be clear about what you are looking for. Ask for advice or technical questions. WordPress has a great community behind it.
- Do you like some adventure? If you dare, choose a free WordPress theme, it will take you more time but you will learn more. Virtually all the functions included in a good theme can be implemented by some plugins, you will have to search, install some, dive into the code from time to time and try to see which one best suits what you need. Trial and error, you know. If you are in a hurry or want to focus on producing content quickly, forget this advice.
- Premium theme? Think about what your time is worth and decide if it is worth spending a little and saving much more. Nowadays, it is not expensive to design a blog and if you really value it, it is a very good investment. Sure you find good deals from WordPress developer who do it very well and if you want to make great blogs to our customers. For $100 today you have an amazing Blog that will be your best tool, your best visitor generator, your best letter of introduction and your best investment. Is it much $100?
- Try, wrong. There is nothing better than launching, testing, erring and starting the process again with the experience gained. I personally have learned a lot with each WordPress theme that I have installed and each website that I have built. And even though I already built more than 300 websites, tomorrow I will continue learning with another new theme. The best thing about doing it yourself is that even if it costs you, you will learn a lot.
- Strategy. Remember that the blog or web is, in most cases, the key piece of your Online Marketing. However, you should not neglect the other pillars of your social media strategy as well.
Well, you’ve reached the end, congratulations!
I hope that from now on it’s a little easier for you to decide where to start. Remember that you can change the WordPress thee, later and that the most important thing is the content. Put your WordPress theme, but Bet on the beast also for the Content of Value. The theme can always be changed, but the Content can not.
If you have any questions, make a comment and I will respond happily. Even if you are hesitating between several WordPress theme, you can put the links and ask everyone in the comments. Have we forgotten any key when choosing WordPress themes? Do you have a personal trick?