There are millions of WordPress themes to choose from. Some free, some require a license, although they are generally inexpensive. Your project may also benefit from a custom built theme. So how do you choose the right theme and avoid the common pitfalls? Hopefully this article will help.
1. What is a theme anyway?
A theme provides the templates for your WordPress website, and populates them with your content. It determines what your website will look like. But themes also come with built in functionality allowing you to create different types of content, and manage your content in different ways, and also providing front end functionality that your users will benefit from.
2. What functionality should I be looking for?
Less is more. It is common for premium WordPress themes to be packaged with all sorts of functionality in the attempt to appeal to a wide market. It is likely that you will only utilise a tiny amount of the functionality included in a theme like this. The result is a slow and bloated theme with reliability issues. Before choosing a theme, ask yourself what functionality your website might need? Try and find a theme that you like that doesn’t include more than you need. It doesn’t have to match your requirements exactly because you can always add functionality but it is a lot harder to take it away. The only truly valuable theme functionality to look for is the backend options and settings and built in page builders like the Divi Builder by Elegant themes for example.
3. Choosing a reliable theme
Reliability is very important. WordPress is constantly evolving with frequent updates. It is important your theme evolves with it. Find out if your theme is well supported. Make sure there is a support channel to contact the theme developers. Ideally there will be a community of users who can support each other via a forum too. Check when the theme was last updated. If it hasn’t been updated in the last 12 months, it probably means it is not actively being developed any more. Read reviews on the theme. Don’t be seduced by a WordPress theme that looks pretty on the surface but it going to cause you problems the minute you install it.
4. Do I need a page builder?
Almost all new themes come with either a built in page builder, or are compatible with a third party page builder. In short, a page builder allows you to edit content in a drag and drop interface with built in elements (like images, sliders etc). Most page builders now offer front end editing allowing meaning what you see is what you get. They generally make life easier and make WordPress content editing more accessible to website users. You don’t necessarily need one, and if you choose to not use one then you will undoubtably have a website that performs faster. But, the benefits they bring out weight the negatives and you will more than likely find yourself using one. There are lots available and most I would highly recommend steering clear of. My number one goto page builder is Divi builder by Elegant themes, followed closely by Elementor. I find that my clients find both of these options great to work with and they perform well.
5. I’ve found a good one, what next?
You may be happy to install your theme and get started. But most people want their WordPress website to be unique and interesting rather than looking mass produced. So it is likely you will want to customise your theme in some way. To an extent this can often be achieved with little or no coding but if you want to achieve something really special then you’ll want to hire a freelance WordPress developer like me! Get in touch to see how I can help with your WordPress project.