You’ve decided to build a WordPress website or blog. First things first. Finding a good theme will make building your site a piece of cake. Picking a theme is important because you want one that won’t leave you spending more time on configuring, fixing and maintaining it then on your content. I say this because I’ve had that happen to me. After working with a few themes that had me pulling out my hair while trying to get them to look like I wanted, I’ve come up with my list of 5 Good WordPress Theme Traits You Need. It’s based on personal experience and frankly the frustration of using a themes that gave me a bit of heartburn. Now, when I look at potential themes I decide quickly whether those themes are going to be heaven or hell to use.
Cost Isn’t Everything But…
A good wordpress theme isn’t necessarily the most expensive cost you’ll face when starting a blog or site. (That expectation is for another article….) A easy to use, flexible and well supported theme is rarely free. While many free themes are good, when you have issues there’s no support. That may never be a problem for you, especially if you have a technical background. Admittedly, I’ve used free themes successfully but when I need to get answers or I’m stuck with an issue I have to turn to user forums and wait to see if anyone responds. That takes time. It’s ok if the issue is minor; not so good if your site is down.
Some free themes are “lite” versions of a paid one. You get the basics, become familiar with the theme but you won’t get all the features you might want. In a few cases, the developers hope you will hire them to customize the theme they’ve created. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, why not just buy a theme that you can modify yourself? Unless you want someone to do it for you. A moderately priced theme will set you back roughly $30 to $60 and you’re going to get support.
Now, I’ve also bought expensive themes. The developer’s license version that lets me build as many sites as I want using the theme and getting premium support. Those run $99 to $299 per year. Yes, every year the theme requires payment to maintain the license. I don’t recommend this unless you’re planning on becoming a web designer. And personally, while these have a lot of bells and whistles, I’ve found moderately priced themes that still do everything I want and look fantastic. So as I said, cost isn’t everything.
So consider this?
Aim for a moderately priced theme. It should cover these 3 to 6 things: look, layout, color, flexibility, menus, support. If you do use a free theme that’s completely your choice. However, if your site traffic rockets you may want the support that a paid theme provides. Changing from one theme to another is not trivial (I’ve done it). Unless you have the time and skill set it might be more then you’re looking to do down the road. So choose your theme wisely and you can thank me later.
Easy Customization No Programming
For me, this is a biggie. Theme’s that advertise customization and then require me to use Google Chrome’s Inspect feature to add customizations to the theme are not truly “user friendly” in my book. I do those types of modification all the time because I can, but that’s not for everyone. Ok, let me explain for anyone not familiar with Inspect, CSS, PHP, or basic HTLM. Some of us (I’m one 🙂 ) customize WordPress themes by “reverse engineering”. That is I load the web page I’m working on into a Chrome browser and then use a feature called “Inspect” to look at the theme’s styles like font, color or margins. That let’s me add in or modify font, color or margins into a custom stylesheet to customized the theme. But if you don’t know CSS, html or java you’re plum out of luck when it comes to customizing if that is the only option provided by the theme. There are options. You hire a developer, purchase what I refer to as a “theme editor” (think visual WYSWYG), or get a different theme that has what you need. Remember Rule 1 indicated that cost isn’t everything. So a theme that’s truly user-friendly for the non-programmer is one that is easy to customize.
Flexibility Flexibility Flexibility, And Oh Did I Mention Its Flexible?
I’m not a programmer. I don’t want to be. I do know how to do enough modification on my sites that I get done what I want to do. That said. Theme’s that have flexible layouts, menu’s, footer’s, call to actions and sidebars make me very very happy. It just means I don’t have to go find plugin’s (ie those little add on pieces of software) to supplement what I was looking for the theme to do. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good plugin, but it takes time to find a good plugin. Plus there can be issues with plugin’s and performance. Some plugins just don’t work well with typical performance optimization like caching or minification (If you don’t know what those two items are then you will eventually when you test the speed of you site). So, believe me now when I say it’s best to get a robust theme that is close to the look you want OR with a little bit of flexibility in how you can configure it to look. Really good flexible themes can look so different after modification that 2 websites or blogs using the same theme don’t look like their using the same theme.
Lightweight, No Fat Please
A good theme is customizable, flexible AND this is very important. Lightweight. I’ve used themes that have the most amazing customizations. I’ve seen themes that look really cool have easy to use drag and drop features. I’ve watched the how to videos and made beautiful websites, only to find it takes ridiculous amounts of time to load a page. Yikes! No one in this day and age is going to wait for a webpage to load if it is slow. In fact, Google set up standards for AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages because the future of the internet is in our hands by way of our smartphones. And while smartphones are pretty smart they haven’t yet the power, space or memory of your pc or mac. So if you want folks to surf your site or blog and stick around more then 2 seconds, your theme better not slow it down.
Help, Where’s Support?
Finally, in my humble opinion, support is not optional; it’s required especially for the non-technical. And I feel pretty good about what I know; I’ve been working in the IT world for a while. However I recognize that the person who wrote the theme knows more about it then I do. So I want to be able to contact them if I ever run into an issue or have a question. I don’t need them to be instantaneously responsive but I do need a response within a timely period. You should expect that if you buy a theme with support. The developer should support it. Period.
So don’t jump into any theme out there. Take the time to look at several. If you use free, understand the pros and cons. If you buy one, then make sure you either get something very close to what you want it to look like or get one you know is within your abilities to customize. Check out the support. Make your life easier and create a site you love.
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