You have come up with a great idea and want to share it online. You go and buy your domain name and signed up for some hosting. You heard through friends or some online research that WordPress would be a great fit for your website and now are faced with selecting your theme. No problem, any one will do for now …right?
Before diving into the main part of the article we will look at a few foundations and then take a look at the 8 things to consider when selecting a WordPress Theme;
- What is a WordPress Theme?
- Why do I need a WordPress Theme
- Browser Compatibility
- Loading Speed
- Ease of Use
- Theme Support
- SEO Functionality
- Multilingual Ready
- Popular Plugins Ready
- Our Themes of Choice
What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a bunch of files that changes the design of your website, often times this will include the layout of your website. Changing your theme will change how your website will look when your user visits your website.
At it’s most basic a theme can with just two files;
- index.php – The main template file
- style.css – The main style file
However most themes will be comprised of many files linked together to produce the website that users see when they visit your site. These files are not required but help improve the theme;
- PHP files – the templates files
- CSS files – the styling files
- Graphics – images used to show on the site
Why do I need a WordPress theme?
Without a WordPress theme, your website would be presented as a bunch of unorganized text. To insure this can be prevented to some extent, WordPress makes the use of a theme mandatory.
Whenever you build a website using WordPress, a theme has to be used.
Now that we have all of that settled, let’s look at what to look out for when selecting your WordPress theme.
Do note that these points are not in any priority.
Back in the old, old days, there were only two main browsers being used namely Internet Explorer – which was provided by Microsoft and Netscape Navigator. As it was so limited, you could be sure how you built your site was how it would be presented to your users.
These days there are a number of web browsers such as Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Edge and more being added every day. This makes it very important that your theme is compatible with each of them so that what you build is what your users will see.
While this list is not in any order of priority, loading speed is a big factor in the success of a website. Studies show that an average user expects a loading time of no more than 3 seconds. If your site takes longer than that, they will move on to a competitor’s website.
So it is best that when selecting your WordPress theme, you ensure that the site is well-coded and designed for speed.
Ease of Use
No matter how great a theme is, it can only function as well as you are able to set it up. A good rule of thumb is to spend a good amount of time going through the different demo versions of the site. Chances are there will be a design that you like. If that is the case, then the setup could be as simple as importing one of their layouts.
Some themes, like generatepress as an example, are perfect for bloggers out of the box but with some coding customization can suit a business site perfectly well. Trouble is if you do not know how to code, this would be an issue.
Many modern themes, like Divi or the X theme, come with inbuilt page builders. They allow you to build the website with great customization without ever having to write a line of code.
Then you have themes that integrate with page builders. A theme like Astra comes with integration with page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy and even the native WordPress Gutenberg which allows you to build most websites that you want.
Having a great theme that is easy to use is a great start but having a great team to go back to whenever you have a problem is even better! Having the peace of mind that should something go wrong you have a team of experts to help you out at any time is priceless.
Support comes in a number of ways; some theme developers offer email, others offer ticket support. There are the rare few that still offer live chat or telephonic support. When selecting your theme, ensure that you go with a company that offers the type of support through a medium you are used to using.
Since your WordPress theme is the primary structure of your website, it is important that it does your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) according to best practices.
Just because a WordPress theme looks good does not mean it will be optimized well for SEO. Be sure to look through some of the functionality and see if they have placed any emphasis on SEO.
It should be mentioned that there are a number of plugins that can help with SEO, but it is good to have a theme that can set a solid foundation for the plugin to work from.
A large amount of websites are not in English. If you are building a website in a language other than English you would need a theme that is multilingual. Also make sure that your theme is translation ready and supports multilingual WordPress plugins.
Popular Plugins Ready
WordPress websites are usually a melting pot of different products coming together to produce a masterpiece. As an example, If you are considering building out a membership site, make sure your WordPress theme is compatible with Paid Memberships Pro. At the very least ensure that your theme of choice is compatible with a security plugin, a caching plugin and likely an seo plugin.
Responsive in this context does not mean in performance but rather is a web design term mean it will respond to the size of the screen it is being displayed on. Ever viewed a website on your desktop screen and then looked at it on your mobile screen? If the way it was presented is different, your website is likely using responsive design.
This has been around for a number of years now so most themes should be practicing this but it does not hurt to check.
WordPress is being updates all the time, with the majority of the updates being security updates. A good theme developer will ensure that the theme is compatible with all the WordPress updates. A good way to check that is to view the themes changelog against that of WordPress. If their update interval is similar you can see that they are actively developing the theme.
Our Themes of Choice
In the paragraphs above we mentioned a few of the themes we prefer but can always mention them again.
Looking for a lightweight theme for your next blog
Looking for a starter them to use a page builder on
Looking for an all in one theme