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The way your WordPress website is going to look is determined by the theme that you use. You select a theme, install it, customize and add your content to it to make it a properly functioning website.
Although installing and customizing a theme is a fairly easy task. You can install a theme with just a click of button and customization of a WordPress theme does not require you to have any coding experience. But choosing a theme can prove to be a real pain. For one, there are hundreds of thousands of them – both free and premium. Choosing one of them or going through all of the available options can take more time than you imagine.
One thing to do before selecting a theme is to make a list of all the features and functionalities that you would need on your website. This will help you rule out a few of the possible candidates.
Below is a list of features that a theme should have. This list can help you get the right looking and functional theme for your website.
1 – Go for Simplicity in Design
If you are hunting for a theme, make it a point that the content of the website is not complicated with a complex design. Keep simplicity to let people understand the way around the content easily.
Simple design layouts can help improve the usability of a website. It makes the navigation of the site for the users get from one point to another in minimum steps. The themes should always put content before design.
Themes should not be using flashy animations. They divert the attention of the users from what is important on the website. Themes with complex layouts may look very intriguing but they can prove to be a poor choice in usability.
Unnecessary use of colors can also be avoided. Colors sometimes convey meaning Choose the themes with a color scheme that resonates with your brand. Always use colors for a purpose.
2 – Design that Identifies with your Website
The design of the theme should match what you are trying to convey. There are different kinds of websites that serve specific purposes. There are themes available for a specific niche. For example, certain themes are just built for e-commerce websites, certain others are built specifically for blogs.
Some themes are available that are multi-concept themes and can be used for many different types of websites. But if you are looking for a theme for a blog, you should go for a theme that is specifically built for blogs.
3 – The Theme has to be Responsive
If your website does not conform to the different screen sizes, especially in mobile phones, it will affect the usability of the website on that particular device. This, in turn, will affect how long the users stay on the website and if they want to come back again to the website.
In the world of internet, competition is hard and you can not afford to lose the traffic from mobile devices, as the major share of traffic is now coming from mobile devices and increasing.
Most of the themes now are responsive and they advertise that. But there might be some themes out there, especially free ones, that may not work very well in devices of different screen size. So, it is better just to make sure that what you are getting is a responsive theme.
One way to check the responsiveness of a theme is to load the theme in different devices and see how it works in those devices. Another more simple way to do that is resizing the browser window. If the components and layout of the theme fit perfectly on all your devices, its good to go. Another way to check the responsiveness of the theme is by using the developer tools which will be available in all the major web browsers.
4 – Easy and Good Customization
Since any given theme can be used by more than one person and for different websites, the uniqueness in the way that the website looks is not assured. So to get that unique look for the website, the theme has to offer good customization options. Free themes have limited customization options than premium ones.
The theme should be providing easy customization options to the user so that it enables the user to customize the theme even if the user is not proficient in coding. Many premium themes come integrated with a webpage builder that allows you to edit and customize the web pages on the go and see the changes as you make them.
5 – Your Budget
Before you decide upon a theme, be sure about what you need and your budget. Free themes are good if what you need from a theme is a simple design and you don’t want much customization ability. Also, if you can code your way around to customize the theme even more and are confident that you won’t be needing much of support from the theme provider then you may consider a free theme. Free themes are the perfect choice for WordPress beginners.
But if you require a unique look and more customization options and you can pay a little then you should definitely go for a premium theme. Given the features and functionalities and the services they provide in terms of upgrades and support, the amount paid for a theme will be well worth it. Sometimes the premium themes come bundled with many premium plugins and page builders that can save you hundreds of dollars.
Most of the premium themes come with a money-back guarantee in case the theme does not for you. You can make use of this if you are hesitant to shell out money for a theme without fully testing it out. In some cases, premium themes have free versions that can be tested before committing to a premium one.
6 – Optimized for SEO
Search Engine Optimization is the making your website visible in the search engine. As far as making money from the website goes, one cannot pay any less attention to SEO than to the design and the content. So always look in the description of the theme whether it is search engine optimized.
When they say that the theme is optimized for the search engines it means that they follow the right coding, the theme is optimized for speed, has social media integration, good website structure with well-structured navigation, internal links, and content, and has a schema markup.
Like every other added functionality to WordPress, there are certain plugins that facilitate the SEO of the website. The theme should be compatible with the plugin that you are using so that it does not generate any conflicts later on.
7 – Cross-Browser Compatibility
Users can access your website from any web browsers. You can not pick a theme that is compatible with only a popular web browser and assume that all your users will be using the same browser. If the theme that you are using is not cross-browser compatible, your website will generate different experiences with different browsers.
When going for a theme you should be getting a theme that generates similar performance on all the major browsers. To lose traffic from other web browsers because your theme is not compatible with them is a very bad idea.
One very simple way to test whether a theme is cross-browser compatible is to open the demo of the theme using different web browsers. They may appear fine on first look but be sure to test all the page layouts and components of the theme and not only just on desktops but also on mobile devices.
8 – Supported Plugins
The true power of WordPress can be unleashed by using different plugins. A serious website using WordPress cannot be created without having to depend on multiple plugins. There are certain must-have plugins that a WordPress website should have and there are certain other plugins that add specific functionalities to the website. So before getting your hands on a theme, you should be sure that the theme you are using will not create any incompatibility issues with the plugins that you need.
With a free theme, you can just test out whether the theme is compatible with the plugins or not. But that is not the case with premium themes. Many themes claim to be compatible with all plugins. But before getting a theme of your choice, do not hesitate to ask the theme providers about the compatibility of the theme with the specific plugins. Also, make sure that their support is great in the case when you run into any such issues, you have a backup.
9 – Integration with Page Builders
Page builders are WordPress plugins that allow you to create and edit page layout with a drag-and-drop editor. Many premium templates come bundled with page builders that allow you to easily create page layouts. Many sophisticated page builders allow you to make changes dynamically on the website. You can just edit the pages layouts and the contents of the website and see the changes as you make them.
The page builders have this obvious advantage that you can build almost anything that you want with just drag and drop functionality. You can build anything that you seem fit to your website without having to know even a little bit about coding. But there is a downside to it. Page Builders add a lot of unnecessary code to the website that can potentially affect the performance of the website.
10 – Regular Updates
Themes should give regular updates. WordPress rolls out updates on a regular basis, so the theme should be up to date with the latest version of WordPress. If the theme is not up to date with the latest version of WordPress, it can cause compatibility issues or maybe even create security issues.
Updated themes are important because they have increased security by patching vulnerabilities. So always go for the themes that are updated regularly. You would not want to put the security of your website at stake just because of these updates. Also, they have fixed the bugs that were discovered in the last version and have added features and functionalities.
11 – Support
Go for a theme that offers good support for their product. This is one downside of free themes. You can not always rely on the support if come any issues. But even if you don’t directly get support from the theme provider, you will be able to find solutions in discussions and forums. So if you can see your way out on any issues using a free theme, then there should be no problem.
Almost all of the premium themes come with 24-hour support available all week. But some themes do not provide support whenever you want them to. So, be sure that the theme promises excellent support.
12 – Ratings and Reviews
Like any other product sold online, one of the best ways to know about the product is to check out its ratings and reviews that are provided by its users. The marketplace where the themes are sold will display the ratings and reviews of the theme. Going through the theme can help understand what the real users of the theme have to say about the theme and even the support and other services offered by the theme provided.
There will be positive and negative reviews from the users for a given product. The comment section of the theme will also have different opinions and user experiences of the theme. Go through them both. It will help you in making a decision about the theme.
Apart from all the requirements in your checklist make sure that the theme of your choice meets all or at least most of the above criteria. It is important to get a theme that can create the least possible issues for you while development. Even if they do, they should be solved with expert help. It is better to invest a little time to ensure that a theme is the right one or not early on than realizing later halfway across development.