How to Choose a WordPress Theme – the Dos & Don’tsLast Updated: December 3, 2017
Choosing a WordPress theme that will work for your business is no easy task, given the thousands of free and premium templates available. Here is a simple dos and don’ts guide to how to choose a WordPress theme that will work best for your business.
There are so many WordPress themes available—more than 10,000, in fact—that it would take days to go through them all and work out which one is the best option for your website. So how do you narrow the process down? From this big pool of options, the big question is how to choose a WordPress theme that is going to work best for you?
In general, you’re looking for something that’s going to give your content a visual ‘pizzazz’, while also staying responsive across all devices and loading swiftly. So many of the available options tick these boxes, however, that it’s tough to give a definitive answer to the question of how to choose a WordPress theme.
It’s more useful to address this burning question of how to choose a WordPress theme through a set of Dos and Don’ts, carefully working out the best solution through a gradual process of elimination. Here are 7 key dos and don’ts to help you solve the dilemma of how to choose a WordPress theme that will suit your business best.
1. DO… list the features you want beforehand
Before making your selection, list which features are essential to you and which you can live without. The WordPress Feature Filter makes it easy to customize your search to show only the themes that have the features you want. It’s important to envisage the overall site—to decide if, for example, you want your site to have single- or multiple-column configuration.
As emphasised at point 1, while WordPress themes can vary from minimalist to feature-rich, your choice should be guided by the ‘less is more’ principle. You’re on the right track with a theme that has features chosen on the basis that they’ll help you reach your business goal. This is building from the bottom up.
2. DON’T… choose a bloated theme
A theme that’s bloated with features could damage you in the long run. Too many features can severely impair the performance of your site. The worst thing you can do is select features and add-ons on the basis that you think they’re ‘cool’.
Avoid anything that’s not necessary, or slows down the performance of the site. Also give a wide berth to seductive add-ons such as video or music players. Many of these are developed using code found on the internet, to perform a specific function. Therefore, you should regard them as potential security weak spots. Treat them with skepticism, and avoid them altogether if they are not essential.
3. DO… choose a Responsive theme
Responsive design makes your site easy to use, whether on desktop, laptop and multiple mobile devices. Regardless of handset, the menus and widgets should be easy to navigate.
You’re looking for features such as a fluid site grid and flexible images that translate across devices. The ideal choice will load on any mobile device as well as it does on a desktop/laptop machine.
If there is a theme you love, but it’s not as responsive as you’d like, customisation is possible. However, you should exhaust the search before considering theme customisation.
4. DON’T… underestimate Colour
The most effective online marketing is visual. Colour is essential here, reinforcing brand unity and enhancing brand recognition. So for your site, it would be apt to have a colour scheme that matches the colour of your logo.
If you’re set on a more muted style, perhaps a dash or hint of colour here and there will be just as effective. WordPress makes it very easy to customise the colour and other visual aspects of a template theme.
It would be useful also, prior to choosing the theme, to consider the research undertaken on colour in online marketing. For example, it’s proven that visitors prefer lighter coloured websites. A dark design signature is not ruled out, but please be aware that dark design decreases readability.
For an introduction to this area, check out this really useful piece by Jason Cohen on how colour vision actually works.
5. DO… consider a Premium theme
Free themes are great if you’re on a budget, but there are issues that you should be aware of. Sometimes the quality of coding on free themes is somewhat lacking, for example; some are not updated regularly; some lack support; and some authors even abandon their own themes entirely.
It is possible to monitor and surmount these issues, but time-consuming. So definitely consider investing in a premium theme. They typically offer more features, and are more dynamic than their free counterparts. Some require only a one-time rather than recurring payment. Well worth checking out, regardless of your budget.
6. DON’T… select a font that’s difficult to read
Always make it as easy as possible for visitors to read and navigate your website so they won’t bounce away never to return. It’s possible to choose fonts that are simple, sophisticated, and readable without opting for Arial & Helvetica. Check out some other fonts that are currently in vogue, including Open Sans, Josefin Slab, Arvo, Lato, and Vollkorn. Some fonts can be customised if you’re familiar with CSS, although bear in mind that some of the free WordPress themes permit only limited customisation.
7. DO… test your theme thoroughly
One of the best ways to verify the efficiency of your theme is to install the WordPress Theme Check plug-in. It’s best to do undertake this review at the very outset, before you announce your website to the world.
Read and re-read all of your content, double-check your site across the spectrum of devices to ensure responsiveness, and make sure that your images are loading properly.
Here is a list of places where quality themes are available.
How to Choose a WordPress theme – the next steps
Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas to help narrow down the selection process and answered the question of how to choose a WordPress theme for your business. One of the great things about WordPress is its flexibility if you decide to change themes after a time.
But one of the key things to remember is thorough and constant testing. When choosing a hosting solution, it’s advisable to choose one such as WP Engine which has Staging, a special development area where you can undertake website tests on updates, etc, without impacting on the user experience of the live website.