Form & Function
Choosing a WordPress theme is an important decision. With literally thousands of options, narrowing it down can be a challenge and a bit complicated. Before you embark on a search, consider these tips.
Start with Stability
This one edged out responsiveness by a thin margin. Why? You want a stable foundation for your website or your visitors can have an awful experience. A poor user experience (UX) affects so many things like lost business, bounce rate, damaged reputation needless to say that it detracts from building White Hat SEO (Google judges your website on how you treat visitors). When choosing a WordPress theme be mindful of:
- Updates: How frequently does the developer update the theme to keep pace with WordPress changes (which can be frequent)? I shy away from themes and plugins that haven’t been updated in 6 months or since the last system update.. WordPress is a dynamic system; this is a critical element for me when choosing a WordPress theme.
- Service: Is the developer quick to fix bugs and issues reported by customers? Additionally, look at the documentation and/or screenshots provided.
- Downloads: How many times has the theme been downloaded? I’ve found that if a developer has tens of thousands of customers versus a handful, it positively affects updates and service turnaround.
- Ratings: Do Webmasters love it or hate it? Check out how the theme is rated. I recommend looking at the overall rating as well as any reviews to gather intel on the theme.
- Speed: How long does it take for a user to access a page? Sadly some themes are code hogs, slowing down the time it takes to render on a visitor’s screen. If a site takes too long to load, you’ll see unnecessary jumps in your bounce rate.
Responsiveness Is a Must Have
It’s 2015. If you’re choosing a new WordPress theme now, my advice is to not bother with non-responsive options. Responsiveness alludes to its ability to render across all types of devices and screen sizes.
According to HubSpot, 46% of mobile users report having trouble interacting with a web pages and 44% complain that navigation was difficult. Don’t add to the frustration on the Web.
Lastly, if you have a choice of responsive and HTML5, go with that. HTML5 is the new standard for structuring and presenting content on the Web.
Functionality over Fonts
Don’t get distracted on the color scheme while choosing a WordPress theme. Altering color schemes and fonts is relatively easy (depending upon the theme’s coding, of course). It’s more important to focus on functionality and considerations like:
- Do you want a slider? My advice is to stay away from image sliders as they are a dated trend.
- Do you need a special function like a calendar or portfolio display?
- What format do you want for pages (e.g., columns, sidebars)?
I suggest that you make a list of what you need before shopping for a theme. That way you can quickly discern if a theme will work for your needs. Beware of trends like infinite scrolling. Remember that many web design fads arrive and quickly flop. Think about the user experience first, especially how your website render across all browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari).
Free Doesn’t Equate to Cheap
There are many free WordPress themes to choose from. However, if you have to force fit the theme into what you need (e.g., functionality), you’ll be spending money on coding or other development tweaks. WordPress releases a new free theme each year. For simple websites, they are an excellent option. I prefer themes from StudioPress. I like their clean and stable code. That’s why I have a developers license.
Choosing a WordPress theme is more complicated than you might think? What other tips would you add to my list?
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