WordPress (WP) is now the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), powering everything from global multimedia sites likes TechCrunch and Bloomberg Professional down to small blog sites produced and run by home enthusiasts. Indeed, recent research found that WP is the CMS of choice for approximately 455 million websites globally, accounting for around 35% of the total web market.
While there are many reasons for WP’s exponential growth, perhaps none is more important than the platform’s vast array of available themes. The number of templates is consistently growing but, at last count, it was estimated there are now around 31,000 unique WordPress template designs covering everything from streaming media sites to e-commerce and magazine layouts.
However, while having options for so many different designs is a great thing and is proof of WP’s versatility as a CMS, it can often be difficult trying to decide which theme is best suited to your particular project. Read on for a few hints and tips on how to choose the perfect theme for your next web production.
Have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve from your site
Preparedness and planning are key in any project so before even starting to look at designs, make sure you have a clear idea in your head what you want to achieve from your site. Whether you decide to employ the skills of a professional design firm like ALT Agency, https://www.altagency.co.uk/services/design/web-design-coventry/, or opt just to go it alone, having a list of key features will make everyone’s job far easier when it comes to picking the right template.
Primary considerations might include things like is the theme translation-ready or does it natively support a collapsible hamburger menu system. The design and layout of a theme will often be the driving force in terms of which template you choose but also don’t forget to consider the main functions you want your site to perform.
Make sure the theme has been built in a responsive format
Also – and linked to a theme’s design - be sure to check how a template performs on different screen sizes. These days, almost all templates are built in a fully responsive format – but how they look on different devices can often vary wildly from how you might have expected.
Mobile device access now accounts for over 50% of all web use so it’s essential your site adapts to the different screens of your users. Moreover, Google has recently started punishing old-style, fixed table sites and will move you lower down the search engine rankings if your site isn’t produced in a responsive format. Always check how the demo of your proposed site looks across desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile (many template suppliers have demo layouts showing how the site will look across all devices).
Avoid feature-heavy themes filled with functions you don’t need
Developers are sometimes keen to demonstrate how their template can be used for a variety of different web projects and will frequently include functions you may not even need in your final site. This extra code is often built into all pages, site-wide and will only serve to lengthen the loading time of your website. For example, it’s not uncommon to see the code for AJAX pre-loaders included on pages that you possibly won’t use but that will be sent to the user regardless and can dramatically increase loading time.
Also, as developers often rely on third-party code downloaded off the internet, these extra features can sometimes present security risks when installed with your site. As a rule, always check for bloated code in a theme and be wary of sites that have unnecessary functions.
The choice between free or premium themes
Depending on the complexity of your requirements, it can often be tempting just to opt for a free theme as compared to buying a professional template. While free themes might sometimes seem ample for smaller projects, you still run the risk of potentially encountering sub-standard code or a lack of design features. Perhaps more importantly, free themes frequently don’t offer any support options and sometimes suffer from a lack of updates (e.g. to new versions of WordPress).
Premium themes cost money for a reason – typically that they’ve been lovingly crafted from the ground up, over many months to provide the very best performance and security. Given the choice, you will almost always be better off choosing a paid theme.
Think hard about colors
If you already have a logo or corporate colors, you should carefully consider whether a theme’s base colors will complement your existing designs. Most templates these days are built in a variety of color schemes – and some have in-built functions for changing tints and shades – but you should always check what options are available. While it is possible to change colors in WP by making changes to the CSS files unless you have previous programming experience you will likely find it difficult to make significant changes.
Consider fonts carefully
The legibility of a site is one of its most important features – after all, there’s little point in writing great web content if people can’t read it. Just like the example of color above, most templates feature the ability to choose between several different fonts – but you should check first. In the worst-case scenario, a site’s fonts can be adapted by making changes to the CSS files – but, again, you will need a level of coding experience to do so.
Test the theme thoroughly and check your content
Before putting your site live, you should thoroughly test it for compatibility with WP standards. There are many easily-installed plug-ins that can be used directly in the WP back-end interface that will scan your site for inconsistencies or any other associated problems.
Also, be sure to check your text for typos and comprehensively test your navigation to make sure you don’t experience any dreaded “404 page not found” errors. There is nothing more off-putting from a user perspective than visiting a site only to find broken navigation links or missing pages (Google will also punish you for page errors). Another frequent annoyance for users is missing image links, so be sure to go through all your pages to check for problems and fix them before going live.