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A guide to choosing the perfect WordPress theme

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A guide to choosing the perfect WordPress theme

Parvez Akther

Today's guest post comes from ThemeXpert founder and CEO Parvez Akther. ThemeXpert is a bootstrapped startup that has grown to provide WordPress and Joomla templates and extensions for more than 55,000 clients around the world.

The first time I selected a WordPress theme for a client, things didn’t work out too well.

As a novice developer, I thought choosing a theme was as simple as “this one looks nice — let’s go with it.” But my client had very specific needs: he wanted a website look and feel that not only matched the brand of his small business, but was also optimized for loading speed and SEO. And as it turned out, the theme I picked was poorly coded, didn’t support custom typography, and lacked a clean and functional mobile view.

Needless to say, that project didn’t have a very happy ending. I wasted a lot of time and money, and disappointed a new client, at a time when I was trying to build my reputation as a web developer.

Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot about theme selection since then. Whether you’re choosing a WordPress theme for your own business, or helping a friend or client set up a new WordPress site, here are the key things to consider to make sure you install the right theme for your needs.

What’s the purpose of your website?

Most WordPress theme sellers help you narrow down your options by categorizing their themes based on website purpose or business category. For example, if you’re selling products directly through your website, you’ll likely want an ecommerce theme. If your website promotes your consulting services, on the other hand, you may prefer an agency theme, or a simple multi-purpose theme.

Here’s a mapping of business and website categories to common theme categories:

Business or website category

Theme category

Online store

ecommerce

Blog or company news

news, magazine, blog

Agency or consulting services

agency, business, multi-purpose

Personal or business portfolio

portfolio

Special event

event

Hospitality, travel, or tourism services

travel, tourism

Medical services

medical

Education

education

Do you want to purchase a theme, or install a free theme?

This really depends on how important your website is to you. If you don’t want to take any chances, you should go ahead and purchase a premium theme. Premium themes tend to be higher quality and more customizable, and their developers will provide you with better support. Most premium themes are not particularly expensive, so even if you’re on a budget, you can probably afford a moderately-priced premium theme.

However, a free theme might be right for you if you are:

• On a very limited budget
 Building a very simple, single-page site
 Not concerned about customizing your site’s layout, styles, or tools
 Building a temporary site, so that updates and ongoing support aren’t a concern

What requirements does your theme need to meet?

There are a huge number of WordPress themes available, each with different features and functionality. If you need something very specific — for example, multilingual support — you should check for that first when choosing a theme.

I recommend making a complete list of your requirements before looking at any themes. At a minimum, your list should include:

Responsiveness — with more and more people using smartphones and tablets to access the internet, responsiveness is a must. Make sure the theme you choose displays well on screens of all sizes; you can check by pasting the theme demo link into  Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Page.

Balance of design and speed — you want your theme to look good; but lots of fancy design work can make for slow page loading times. Look for a theme that has strong visual appeal and loads quickly over an average home internet connection.  You can test speed using the theme demo and a tool like Pingdom, Google Page Insights, or GTMetrix.

Search engine optimization (SEO) — all the work you put into your site is wasted if no one can find it in a search engine! Make sure the theme you choose uses an SEO framework and supports an SEO plugin (Yoast SEO is one of the most popular).

Updates and support — if a theme isn’t updated regularly, don’t install it! Even if it’s perfect now, it will become outdated soon. Likewise, make sure the theme developer is responsive to support inquiries. Reach out with a question or two before installing the theme to verify their responsiveness.

Good user reviews — reading reviews and ratings can save you a lot of time and will almost always ensure that you end up with a good theme. Stick to themes with positive reviews from most users, and around at least a 4-star rating.

What plugins do you need?

WordPress plugins significantly extend the functionality of your WordPress site. First and foremost, check to be sure that any theme you’re considering supports the most common plugins, including contact form 7, Yoast SEO, and Slider Revolution.

Then, do some research on plugins for your specific business category or use case. Make a  list of plugins you’d like to try, or that you know you’ll want to use, and keep it handy to check for compatibility as you’re browsing theme options.

What are your payment and refund options?

Most theme sellers offer themes under one of two payment models — single purchase, or club subscription. A single purchase gives you access to the theme you choose, including all updates and revisions, forever. A club subscription gives you access to a larger selection of themes, but for a limited time.

I recommend looking for a theme that’s offered as a single purchase. That way, you never need to worry about paying again or renewing your membership to install updates.

Finally, be sure to check the seller’s refund policies. You want to be sure you’ll be able to receive a refund if the theme you purchased doesn’t work as advertised.

Example: Choosing a WordPress theme for an ecommerce site

Let’s apply some of the guidelines above to one familiar decision — selecting the right theme for a new ecommerce site.

Here are some of the specific requirements you’ll want to consider:

 Can you import products from external sources?
 Does the theme support product ratings and reviews?
 Is there a highlight section to showcase popular and special products?
 Does the theme support ecommerce plugins, such as Shopify and WooCommerce?
 If you’re selling internationally — does the theme support localization in multiple languages?

And, as a reminder, here are some factors to take into account with any theme:

 Is the theme responsive?
 Is the design visually appealing?
 Are page load times reasonable?
 Does the theme use a strong SEO framework?
 Does the theme support basic plugins, including Yoast SEO?
 Is the theme updated regularly, and is the support fast and helpful?
 Has the theme received consistently high user ratings and positive reviews?

Recommended theme sellers

You’ll find a number of great WordPress theme developers and sellers online. These are some of my favorites.

Themesgrove offers themes for every niche purpose and business type. Each of their themes is artfully designed and performs beautifully. Their prices are very reasonable, and they also offer a selection of free themes. Their customer service is excellent, as well.

Themeforest offers themes from a global community of creative developers. You’ll find a huge variety of themes here, along with theme elements like photo animation.

TemplateMonster is a trusted source for great themes. Their prices are a little higher than the other sources mentioned here, but their quality is top-notch.

Mojo Marketplace offers themes, plugins, and professional services at reasonable prices. 

I hope these suggestions help you select the perfect WordPress theme for your website!

 

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Parvez Akther

Parvez Akther

Parvez Akther is an enthusiastic web developer with more than 8 years of experience building websites, templates, and themes. He is also the founder and CEO of ThemeXpert, a bootstrapped startup that has grown to provide WordPress and Joomla templates and extensions for more than 55,000 clients around the world.