how to choose a wordpress theme

If you're in charge of marketing at a small or a medium sized company, you have enough on your plate to work on, and troubleshooting your website shouldn't be one of them. That's why you need to build your website on a platform that allows you to easily design according to your organizations brand standards, manage your content, and make modifications without diving into code. WordPress is the world's leading content management and blogging platform and helps you accomplish all of that, plus its themes allow you to customize and build a site suited to your needs.

Picking the right WordPress theme is crucial to your websites success; there's a lot to think about and consider. After all, most people come to your website to learn about what you offer, get contact information, or to make a purchase. The right theme makes a great first impression, delivers a good experience, and helps your visitors do what they need to do. Most importantly, it helps you achieve your business goals.

Before deciding on the right theme for your website here are a few things you need to consider.

Website Goals

The right WordPress theme closely aligns with your websites goals.

What is the main purpose of your website? Is it to provide information about your product? Generate leads? Generate sales?

Clearly defined goals help you narrow down the type of theme most appropriate for your website. If your only goal is to build authority and provide information, your theme selection criteria differ from using your site as an online store.

Current and Future Needs

A good way to think about your next theme is to consider if it will serve your needs today, next month, and next year.

Review the theme's update history, and make note if it has been able to keep pace with web design, digital marketing trends and technological innovations.

When Google explicitly stated that they would promote mobile friendly sites in mobile search, was your theme already mobile friendly? Or did you have to wait for the developer to release a mobile friendly version?

Look for themes developed by those who submerse themselves in latest technologies, who keep innovating and are able to gauge and understand how users interact with the web.

Your Web Development Skills

Developers are constantly improving their themes, and not just to make your site look and work better but to make it easier to customize without knowing code.

If you have web development skills you already know how to push the limits of your website theme and make custom modifications. But if you lack these skills, fear not. Many of the most popular themes come with enough options to make your site look truly unique.

Seek out themes that will allow you to do what you need without digging into code, so you can be in control of customization.

Access to Developers

web developer working

If your website needs go beyond the theme's customization options, make sure you have access to the skills of a web developer or at least a budget to outsource any work. Otherwise you need to make compromises with the theme limitations and revise your website needs.

SEO

SEO is a beast. With over 200 known ranking factors, you need to select a theme that is SEO friendly. With so many ranking factors, it's unrealistic to go through every one and test each theme against every item on the SEO list.

Instead, stick to the top themes that have been tried and tested by other users. Read the theme descriptions and look for details mentioning how exactly the theme is SEO friendly. Look for things like: fast page load speeds, mobile friendliness, quality code, security, and if it is built with up to date technology. These details reveal and gauge the theme developer's commitment to SEO.

Customizability

Most popular themes are loaded with all kinds of bells and whistles. It's nice to have options and settings at your disposal, but you also need to consider their ease of use.

When choosing a theme, ask a developer to grant you access to an admin panel to test drive the theme. Have your needs list ready in hand and go through the admin panel to see if you're able to customize the theme according to your website specs without having to dig into code.

Speed

Speed was mentioned earlier, but it deserves its own section. It's impossible to stress enough how important website speed is. It allows search engines to crawl and index your pages faster, and it provides a good user experience.

If the page loads too slow users bounce and move onto your competitor's site.

If you can't remember the last time you waited more than five seconds for a page to load, neither can your potential customers.

Mobile friendliness

browsing the web on a phone

Your website needs to be mobile friendly.

As the smartphone market continues to grow so does the amount of mobile web browsing. Many of us use our phones and other mobile devices to access the internet not just while waiting in line, but as a primary device to browse and communicate with others.

On top of that, Google recently made mobile friendliness a ranking signal. This means that during a web search done on a mobile device, Google favors mobile friendly results.

Design

pencils-design

Ever hear the old adage you don't get a second chance to make a first impression? When you attract new visitors to your website you need to make them stay there.

One way to accomplish this is with a good design and layout. I'm not saying you need to hire an award winning art director to dazzle visitors with glossy graphics and HD videos, but you need to create a pleasant user experience. Some themes are too basic and uber-modern, others are just too cluttered. Find a happy medium that meets your website wishlist, compliments your brand and can help you fulfill your website goals.

Integration with other software

A WordPress theme can't do everything alone. Most websites running a WordPress theme have third party plugins and integrations powering many of their functionalities. Everything from social share counters to lead capture forms are powered by third party plugins.

When testing and evaluating a theme investigate whether your current integrations work with it or what needs to be changed.

Support

Technical support is one of the most important considerations you need to make when purchasing a new theme. It may not be a critical factor if you have a dedicated developer on your team, but if you're a solo marketer in your organization technical support is a must have.

Look for developers that provide a dedicated support channel, be it forums or a direct email address. Depending on the complexity of your theme and your web development skills, it's worth upgrading to premium support if available.

Reviews

Reviews are critical deciding factor. Don't just look at the star ratings; actually read the reviews, both negative and positive. Learn what others like about the theme, dislike, challenges to its use, and where improvements can be made.

Pay attention to developers responses. How do they respond to the reviews? How quickly? Based on their responses would you want to do business with them? Do you feel confident they're able to provide you with the support you need?

You can even take it a step further and reach out to other users to get their feedback directly.

Theme updates

WordPress developers are constantly innovating and updating the platform to include the latest features, bug fixes, and security updates. Is the theme you consider to purchase just as consistent? Will the theme be updated in time for the next WordPress release? Sometimes small releases don't affect theme functionalities, but as technology gets more advanced you can assume that your theme may lose some functionality.

During your evaluation process review the update history of your shortlisted themes. Learn how often the theme was updated, what goes into the updates, if it was updated before or after a major WordPress update, and what impact the update has on your theme setup.

Next Steps

Where to Buy

A good place is ThemeForest, where you can browse through 5400+ themes. You can search by keywords, browse theme categories, and filter by ratings and number of sales to help you narrow down options. But ThemeForest isn't the only place to find good themes. There are many other theme shops that are often run by the developers themselves such as StudioPress and Woothemes.

Try Before You Buy

WordPress themes are relatively inexpensive, but your time and resources could run high if you pick a theme without testing it first. All themes have demos of their capabilities and most of the time the demo is what the site would look like to a visitor; rarely you'll get access to the admin panel. Although many developers will go into great detail about administrator and customization options in their theme description and provide screenshots, its important to inquire about admin panel access. Sometimes developers already have a demo admin account for you to login to but they do not advertise it. If they do not have the option, inquire about previous versions of the theme for you to test drive on your own development server. Having a hands-on trial with the admin panel gives you a sense of how much effort you need to put into making the theme fit your website needs list.

Picking the right WordPress theme is crucial to your websites success. Consider all of the points discussed before committing to a theme. There isn't a theme that's strong in every area. Sometimes you have to give up on excessive customizability for lightning fast speed, or choose a prettier theme but give up some speed. It doesn't matter what you favour or give up as long as your site performs better tomorrow than it did yesterday.

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