It can easily be a time consuming and frustrating task to find the right WordPress theme for a blog, site, web shop etc. There are thousands of quality themes available for WordPress both free and premium. This is one of the main reasons for its dominating market share. The many options is what makes it difficult.
A good place to start is to consider if you are willing to pay for the theme. In many cases this pays off long term when you need support. E.g. when WordPress needs to be upgraded. A good and very popular fashion is to take an existing theme (free or premium) and alter it to fit your needs.
The tips below was created as a checklist to ensure a theme decision process is as successful as possible:
1. Will you be making money from the blog or website? If you are making commercial it is my advice that you look for a premium theme. First of all to get a supported set up and a professionally designed and coded site. If not, a free theme should do but consider a free theme form a premium vendor. If you choose the wrong theme now you can always fix it later. WordPress will help you here but some work may be needed.
2. How important is the appearance for your site to grow and become well known? Most personal websites or blogs created using WordPress start up using free themes. You should consider the same if your site will be used for personal purposes only. For a businesses attempting to pass on a professional image, spending the money for a professional theme design is justified. Remember that the design of your website is critical for building your online brand.
3. Is the wordpress theme you consider used by many other websites? Many of the good free WordPress themes are used in many many places. In this case it is not as simple as you may think to build a website that has it’s own design. However the model can show to have advantages. Popular themes are popular for a reason and in particular individuals go for a strong community, good support, regular updates and flexibility.
4. Is the theme SEO-friendly? Free themes does not always take SEO into consideration. Assessing the SEO capabilities of a WordPress theme isn’t effortless unless you already the have files and know SEO, PHP and HTML reasonably well! If this is the case you should pick a premium theme from one of the leading theme vendors or if you want a free theme pick one of the large and popular ones
5. Is the theme easy to manage and change? Flexibility is key when you start up a new site but also when needs change over time. Normally it is important that the theme comes with a genuine “Options page”. Having a theme with a powerful options page will keep you from digging into the code for just doing simple changes everyone have to do. Also check if the theme does come with multiple color schemes, shortcodes systems, page templates, etc.? This will further increase the flexibility and your options for making a site that stand out!
6. How does the theme match your company style, logo and your customers? With free themes it is not always working well when a logo is added to the header, even though everything else about it is perfect. Keep this in mind and select the theme to fit the logo you have making sure that style, colors etc. match each other.
7. Will the theme support widgets? If you want flexibility to add and change content in sidebar, footers etc. from the WordPress admin area it is certainly important that the theme is widgetized.
8. Is the theme supported and does it look like it will be in the future? Support is critical if you are not a technical genius yourself. Any upgrade of WordPress may require updates in the theme and trust me – keeping WordPress updated is so important for security reasons. Further if you want to do something smart and can’t figure it out support can be very useful. If you can afford it buying a premium theme typically entitles you to get good support. Some free theme designers will provide limited support and others (vast majority) will provide none. If you think you might need support somewhere down the road, take this into consideration. If you are familiar with themes and feel comfortable solving your own problems, don’t worry about support.
9. Will the theme fit your monetization plans? There are themes that intentionally was designed to help you make money from your site or blog. Why not use one that match your monetization plans? If you are planning to add text link ads, AdSense ads, or banner ads on your website or blog, the theme should make the management for this simple and have a design where the ads was part of the design Trying to stuff them into a theme that isn’t intended to allow room for ads will create a very cluttered look that will distract and annoy readers.
10. Will the theme code validate or is it filled with errors? It is not for fun when skilled designers proudly announce that their code validate. While most don’t know about this or don’t care few know that it is rather important. Valid code e.g that follow the HTML specification, will give you the best chance of giving your visitors a problem-free visit. While users may not notice validation errors I can assure you that search engines will.
Recently Google updated their ranking logic and now it actually take a lot more factors into consideration and adding some keywords is far from enough any more.
11. Is the theme developer a generous and skilled developer or…? Question is if the theme is free (sounds good right) but only released to the public because someone have added hidden links to build backlinks to some porn or poker site… You might be surprised how many free themes include some form of hidden links to build backlinks to sneaky marketers sites. Choosing a theme from a reputable source or a premium theme this will usually help you to avoid the problem of hidden links and what may be a lot worse.