It’s theme redesign time.
Soon you’ll be seeing a completely new look for Pushing Social.
I thought now would be a good time to dive into 7 considerations you should examine when picking a new theme. These are the 7 points that I religiously check off before I settle on a theme design.
Take a look:
1. Mobile Responsive:
I’ve been mobile-agnostic for a while on Pushing Social. I’m a desktop and laptop user and never had the expectation that my site needed to look great on a mobile device. My theory was, users will now that my site looks great on a screen larger than 3 inches wide.
Umm…yep…that assumption was way off the mark. 18.5% , nearly 1 out of 5 of my visitors are using iPhone, iPads and Samsung mobile devices.
See how important mobile is to your blog. Go to your Google Analytics account, drill down under Audience, then Mobile, and Devices. What’s your percentage? How long are these folks sticking around. If they are spending more than 10 seconds on your site, I bet they would appreciate viewing a blog that looks great on their device.
Is your theme Mobile Responsive?
2. Creative Template Choices
I am not a graphic designer. I also hate paying for graphic designer help. It can get a little pricey and I usually drive designers nuts within 20 minutes. I like to start with a professional, eye-catching, minimalist designs and add have the ability to add “little something something.” The only way I can pull this off is with a lot of choices to start with. I have a feeling you take a similar approach.
Take a close look at the template choices offered by your theme designer. Select a theme that is super close to your final look-and-feel vision for your website. Pay attention to where navigational menus are placed, color scheme options, the standard font, and photo and video presentation.
I have one rule when it comes to templates – never select a template that is “ok”. You’ll be seeing this theme everyday, don’t try to polish a turd.
3. Page Layout Options
Your theme will have several layout options that you can use to present your content. These choices usually include:
- Blog: Uses the familiar content/sidebar layout
- Landing: This layout removes sidebars and sets your content in a full-width layout. The option works great for product and lead magnet landing pages.
- Portfolio/Gallery: This layout offers an attractive structure for presenting your photos.
I specifically look for the Landing layout option since I rely on minimal-clutter landing pages to promote guides, webinars, and workshops.
4. Home Page Layouts
The standard blog diary layout may not be appropriate as the homepage for your business. You might want to have the ease of WordPress but don’t want your professional outpost to look like a journal.
The best theme designers offer options for you to create a static homepage that presents traditional pages like Services, Contact, FAQ, etc. These pages look like regular websites and tuck your blog away behind a link. Make sure that you select a theme that allows you list your latest blog headlines on the homepage too.
I have mixed feelings about the use of Home Page layouts but I like having the option in my back pocket.
5. Opt-in Friendly Headers
Collecting email is critical for any blog publishers. Your theme should have easy options for embedding an email opt-in form in the header, sidebar, and footer of the design. Some designers even offer widgets specifically for easily showing header and sidebar opt-in forms.
Pay special attention to this “must-have” option. Fancy post headline typography and image sliders aren’t nearly as important as simple, attractive, email optin forms.
6. CSS Graphic Elements
Everything you see on this page is created and configured by CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). That’s a good thing because CSS is fairly simple to learn and modify giving you amazing creative flexibility.
There are a few elements that I use almost daily when creating content for this blog such as buttons and colored boxes. Some theme designers have created custom CSS classes that you can use to quickly create attractive looking boxes, buttons, and more.
For example Studiopress offers these CSS graphic elements:
Don’t get scared away by the “code”. The theme designer usually offer simple tutorials or add buttons to your post/page admin interface.
7. Community Support
You are going to get stuck or have questions about your theme. Although responsive help desks should be the price of entry for the theme design space, it isn’t. That’s why I select theme designers who have an active and moderated community support forum.
I’ve found that many of my questions have already been asked and answered allowing me to keep pushing forward without needing to wait for a help desk response.
Good theme designers have forums with staff-moderated sub-forums dedicated to each of the theme designs they offer. This allows you navigate to your particular theme subforum and search this area for answers. By the way, community forums are also great places for finding developers, designers, and writers for hire too.
Plugins are blog accessories. They give your blog superpowers not envisioned by the WordPress programmers.
You can use plugins to:
- Create classy photo galleries
- Embed and display video
- Make it easy to complete SEO chores
- Set-up a store, create a catalog, and take payment
and about 100,000 (yes, I’m serious) other options. Recently, the theme designers have started offering their own theme-specific plugins. These plugins are guaranteed to work with their theme and are easy to configure.
Notable examples include:
- Premise and Scribe for Studiopress
- Sensei and WooSlider for Woothemes
- Elegant Shortcodes and Elegant Page Builder for Elegant Themes.
These plugins are terrific time savers and even increase ROI.
Everyone deserves to have a great looking blog. You shouldn’t need a computer-science degree to change the font of your headlines or the color of your background. I look for theme designers who clearly love making things stupid-easy for their customers.
Good signs of someone who “gets it” is a frequently updated blog with fantastic tips. Also look for an extensive gallery of customer blogs showing off their work.
Add your own theme-design essential to the comments.
Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my latest guide: “50 Blog Design Tweaks”. Just tell me where to send it below:[blogdesignguide]