WordPress themes can be a great and low cost way to get yourself up and running with a new WordPress site but how easy, or difficult, that task is can be down to how good or appropriate the theme is to your needs.
With thousands of themes available it can be an overwhelming task trying to find the right theme for your website project so we have put together some tips and tricks to help you find your perfect theme.
It's all in the planning
Before you even start looking at themes take some time to consider your site, what features would you like, what content do you need to display and what sort of style are you looking for?
Do some research, look at competitor sites or other sites you like online to understand what your preference is and maybe discover some interesting ways of presenting information or products online.
Put a list together of the things that you want, this will help you slim down the range of themes on offer and also help you see which themes will best fit your needs.
An important distinction
We often get clients coming to us that have found or purchased a theme online but have not realised it is for wordpress.com (the hosted version) and not for wordpress.org (the self hosted version). All of the themes you will find on the wordpress.com theme repository are for the hosted version only and will not work on a self hosted setup. Saying that a lot of those themes may well have a commercial version available so if you find one you really like then have a look for the name online to see if it is available.
Begin the search
Once you have your list of requirements you can start to look through the available themes online. There are a number of resources available to look for themes:
http://www.themeforest.com - probably the largest WordPress theme repository online
http://www.templatemonster - has a large number of WordPress themes available although the quality is sometimes not as good as ThemeForest
There are also a number of theme developers that have a range of themes on offer within their sites. These themes are often based on the developer's framework and offer subscription models to get multiple themes for a monthly or one off price.
http://www.studiopress.com - built on the ever popular Genesis framework
http://www.woothemes.com - themes made by the developers of the best WordPress eCommerce plugin
When searching on ThemeForest you can restrict and filter your search to include the things you need. For example if you are within the WordPress section you can search for styles of themes (E.g. "clean", "simple", "corporate") and also search for features (E.g. "woocommerce").
This link will show you all WordPress themes that support WooCommerce and display them in grid format sorted by best rated:
We find it is easier to view the results in grid format as you can see more per page, hover your mouse over the little logo to see a preview of the theme design. Click through to see the theme description and features and you can also view a working version by clicking the "Live Preview" button.
Things to consider when shortlisting themes
When reviewing a theme here are some things to consider:
Does it have all the features you need? - Check to see that it has the layouts and features that you need. Take a look at the demo and see what options it has in terms of layouts, shortcodes (that generate content and layouts), colour settings etc. Finding a theme that is really close to how you want your final site to look and work is vital to having a cost effective website. Once you start wanting to make changes and customise outside of the theme features it can start getting expensive.
What does the theme support? - You should make sure your theme is responsive so it will work fine on mobile devices (most are know but not all) but also check what other plugins it supports. This way if you want to add features to your site in the future you know your theme will support them out of the box without additional coding or design required.
Does it have every feature under the sun? - including six different sliders and 16 different home page layouts? - Think about whether this is going to be the best option for you as it may contain lots of things you do not need resulting in a slower site.
What is the support like? - Have a look at the support forum to see how many requests there are and how many have been answered quickly.
What are the reviews like? - Check user reviews to see what they really thought of the theme once they tried using it.
How does the demo look? - Bear in mind the demo is made to look as good as possible, this is what sells it to you. How well does the demo work, is the navigation easy, does the site load and run fast. Have a good play with the site and make sure you are happy with everything. Also bear in mind that most themes do not come with the images used in the demo so you need to make sure you have or can access images that will work with the theme structure.
Taking the final leap
Once you have made your decision you can take the final leap and purchase your theme. Most themes are fairly cheap so you can possibly buy a couple if you cannot make up your mind.
If you think you might want help installing and customising your theme then contact a good WordPress developer BEFORE buying your theme. Send them the link and ask their opinion on the theme and it's suitability for your needs. This way you can be sure you are going to get off on the right foot.
Using your new theme
Once you have purchased your theme you will get a link to download the theme files. Most themes will also come with the following:
- Documentation - how to install and setup the theme
- Design files - that you can use to customise the theme (not all themes have these)
- Demo data - that you can import to setup the site like the demonstration
Download the full download file to somewhere safe on your computer. You will need to unzip the file using WinZip or Windows Explorer to access all the files.
Make sure you read through the documentation first and follow the steps to get your theme installed and setup correctly. If you do not know the theme we would recommend you import the demo data as this will show you how the theme is setup and include all of the features as in the demo which you can then edit to suit.
Summing it up
There are many great themes out there that if selected wisely can get you a great looking site up and running in no time for a relatively low cost. If you put the time and effort in up front you can have a great WordPress website that will work with you moving forward. Get it wrong and you can find yourself in a world of pain trying to get your theme setup or trying to get it looking how you want if it does not provide the features and flexibility you need.
In the too hard basket?
If you find the whole process of searching for, installing and setting up a theme falls into the too hard basket or you have hit a brick wall with your chosen theme then why not give us a call. We help clients to select and setup themes every week and have lots of experience that can save you time and get you up and running before you know it. You can contact us for a free chat on (02) 8097 7957 or our low call number 1300 77 3569. Alternatively contact us online.