Your blog’s design plays a big part in its effectiveness. You can have the design created by professional graphic designer or modify a theme. A custom design is the preferred option, but the cost may be outside your budget. For many, selecting a 3rd party theme is most economical (and quickest) way to get started.
Now the challenge is picking the right theme. First, purchase a professionally designed theme. Do not install a free theme. With themes, you get exactly what you pay for. Since most themes can be purchased for less than $100, the investment won’t break your budget.
Selling Premium WordPress themes is a huge business. On Themeforest, the largest WordPress theme directory, there are over 5,600 themes and the number grows daily. You could easily spend weeks weighing the pros and cons of each theme option.
While the choice will still be tough, you can narrow your choices by answering these 7 questions.
How to Select the Perfect Theme
1. Do you need a complete website or just a blog?
WordPress is a website development platform that is best known for its blogging capabilities. Themes fall into three categories: 1) Blog specific, 2) Website specific, and 3) a hybrid blog plus website combination.
Blog specific themes are designed around presenting the traditional blogging format. They often use a list of blog headlines as the home page. This is a natural choice for writers, hobby bloggers, and most non-commercial applications. Select “blog” while searching to narrow options to this theme type.
Website specific themes look and function like a website. These themes are often referred to as “business” or “corporate” themes. They have ‘static’ pages, like About, Contact, Services, etc, along with a functional blog often behind a “blog” link. Businesses often use these themes because they are an economical and fast way to launch a site.
Hybrid themes use website layouts with blog post elements integrated into the design. Magazine based websites often use this style. Use the “magazine” description while searching to filter your search.
2. Will you use a traditional blog list or magazine format?
A traditional blog lists the most recent blog posts in chronological order on a single page (often the homepage). Clicking on a title open a page with the full text of a single blog post. This is the preferred format for blogs that plan on publishing less frequently in a 1-3 categories.
Magazine style blog formats organize multiple blog posts and categories on a single page. This approach encourages the user to browse multiple pages. It also helps surface topic categories that may get buried in a traditional blog list format.
Use a magazine style format if you will be publishing frequently in several topics. This format also works well for blogs publishing podcasts, photos, and text posts.
3. What type of posts will you publish?
What type of content will you publish most frequently. Your choices: text, video, audio (podcasts), photos, or a mix? Your answer will focus your search on themes that offer the best stage for your content.
For example: Here is a podcast-centric theme created by
Here’s a photo-based theme created by StudioPress
Michael Hyatt’s “Get Noticed” theme combines these elements into an attractive blog style format.
4. Do you have any must-have features?
While planning your blog, you may decide to include features that will enhance its effectiveness and versatility. For example, I routinely use the Visual Composer plugin to create unique page layouts. This is my must-have and will only use themes that work seamlessly with the plugin.
eCommerce sites will need a theme that works well with WooCommerce.
A site built around a bustling forum will look for themes that work with the popular BuddyPress or bbPress platforms.
Most directories like Themeforest allows you to filter search results by compatibility or you can include the plugin/feature in your search query on Google.
5. Will you be installing the theme yourself or outsourcing to a professional?
It’s getting easier to install and configure themes but you might decide to use a WordPress graphic designer to install the theme. If so, ask them to review your shortlist of themes, better yet, have them compile your shortlist based on your criteria.
If you will configure the theme, look for evidence that the theme is well documented. Many theme designers will allow you to review the theme’s documentation before purchase.
6. How important is fast and reliable technical support?
This is critical. Don’t purchase a theme that has ranked poorly or have generated a lot of critical comments. It’s easy to get seduced by a great looking design that only works for experienced technology geeks! Look for:
1. The number of support requests or comments: A large number of questions about theme installation or configuration points to poor design or spotty documentation.
- Number of sales: Some directories such as ThemeForest will show you the number of sales/downloads. Popular themes are downloaded for a reason – they work.
- Support Forum: Check to see if there is an active support forum maintained by the theme’s designer. Find your theme’s sub-forum and review the topics. Look for prompt follow-up by the theme designer.
- Support Responses: While reviewing the support forum, pay attention to the detail included in the developer’s responses. You are looking for clear, step-by-step directions. You also want a support team that is patient and willing to follow-up multiple times to resolve a problem.
Excellent technical support is a non-negotiable. Don’t purchase a theme from a developer that can’t prove that they are fast and helpful.
7. Will you need customized graphics or will the theme’s standard color schemes work?
Many themes are extremely customizable. This means that you (or a graphic designer) can change just about any part of theme. However, if you will be configuring the theme yourself, check the theme’s built-in graphic customization options. In this case, the more options the better, insuring you can configure a unique theme.
Take Your Time
Selecting a theme is as important as creating high quality content. Take your time, work through these 7 questions and find a theme that you love. A little patience here will save you the hassle of expensive redos in the future.