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How to Choose a WordPress Theme

One of the most popular Content Managed Systems (CMS) on the internet today is WordPress. The reason why wordpress has grown so much is that it is free as well as having a ton of functionality. In the first instance WordPress was seen as purely a blogging tool - but now you can pretty much create any kind of site you want with it - as long as you have the right wordpress Theme.

When we develop sites for clients we use wordpress - because it allows the client to take over and let them maintain for themselves rather than having to pay monthly update fees.

Although WordPress is free - professional designers and developers have created loads of tools that work hand in hand with wordpress such as Themes (the way your site looks) and Plugins (extra functionality - such as better contact forms, opinion polls, navigation and so on...the list of plugins is endless).

We are going to focus on choosing the right WordPress theme for YOU...if you know nothing about WordPress then it can be a complete minefield..so hopefully this article will give you a helping hand.

Before you start looking at themes on the internet you need to decide on a few things:

  • Are you going to sell things from it? E-commerce?
  • The complexity of the website required - is it a simple blog or something more?
  • Who is going to update the website
  • What is your subject content of the website
  • Do you need support for other Languages?
  • Plugin Support?
  • Is there any customer support with the theme?
  • Are there any extras?
  • How much to pay?

Top 10 list of Wordpress themes for 2013

E-commerce Themes

If you are going to want to sell items on the internet then obviosuly this is your biggst priority in getting a theme that will work with a particular e-commerce platform...these are usually plugins which you can buy or you can download and install for free.

  • WP e-Commerce
  • Jigoshop
  • WooCommerce
  • Cart66
  • Shopp
  • eShop
  • YAK for WordPress
  • Ecwid
  • Easy Digital Downloads
  • WPdeposit
  • Tribulant

We haven't used them all so we cannot comment - we have used eShop which was great free plugin that did the job well and we've also used WooCommerce which we would say does a bit more than eShop with better support - the basic plugin is free - but you'll probably require extra plugins for decent functionality which is basically how they make their money and can therefore give you the support you need...support can be quite slow at times though...we've waited over a day for a response in the past.

So you need to know if you are selling phyical goods and or digital products from your website. What kind of credit cards are you going to take for your orders or are you going to use Paypal which uses credit cards and effectively a pre-paid account. Usually there is a monthly fee for accepting credit cards with a lot of companies...if you use Paypal though it is free and it a good solution to use to begin with. Also avoid themes which give away your actual e-mail address as you will be spammed for sure.

Website Complexity

Is the theme suitable to add menus - if you need lots of menus and sub menus then you need to make sure they are easy to add whilst making sure the site doesn't lose it's integrity. Does the theme come with it's own contact forms that ask all the questions you want them to ask - as well as built in spam protection devices.

Updates

Who is going to update the website and with what kind of content - you need to make sure that it's easy to do for somebody who might not have very good IT skills, if they cannot maintain the website then there isn't much point in having a CMS system...usually sitting down with the person for half a day - and they should be easily capable of maintaining and updating the website using any theme with WordPress - so this shouldn't be an issue.

How are you going to display the content - the theme should provide different layouts for different pages such as normal page, full width page, product pages, post pages, home pages, portfolio pages...etc.

Can you personalize the look of the site - is it easy to change the color, font family, size, menus, links, hover colors etc.

Also as bugs are found in the theme - how often are updates supplied with the theme - and is it easy to update the theme without having to completely do it again from scratch. Will the theme update with the WordPress updates or do you need to upload the site using less friendly FTP (file transfer protocol).

Does the theme come with child themes - a way where you can make updates without changing the original source code - this makes updating a breeze as you aren't worried about over-writing custom code you have created in getting the site the way you want it to look.

Subject Content

Usually when you are looking at a website theme they usually contain sample text in latin such as...

Fusce nec accumsan eros. Aenean ac orci a magna vestibulum posuere quis nec nisi. Maecenas rutrum vehicula condimentum. Suspendisse potenti. Proin sit amet odio ligula, non aliquam dolor. Sed consectetur fermentum convallis. Morbi ipsum sem, malesuada id suscipit vitae, auctor at orci. Fusce elit leo, consequat non ultricies sit amet, hendrerit et nunc.

This just helps fill the page up to make it look more pleasing on the eye.

Do not bother too much about any images on the site - for instance if it's a beauty website you want and the theme you are looking at contains pictures of commercial skyscrapers and stuff..rather than painted nails etc. then don't worry about it - the likelihood is you'll be using your own images for the site anyway - you need to think about the site as if all the pictures were stripped from it and replaced with images of your own. For most people that is one of the hardest concepts to get round.

To speed the process up of creating your website - see if the theme comes with sample data that you can import straight away - by doing this you can save yourself a lot of time - by replacing the content and deleting it as you go along. So think how well does the template display your products and services or articles - is everything easy to find. Can the template scale up so that your content can easily be found if you have a 1000 items for example?

Language Support

Although most people reading this will want a WordPress theme in English (we are guessing), if the theme provides support for multiple languages - this shows that the theme is popular and is more likely to be supported and maintained to a higher standard than if it was just created for one language.

Plugin Support

Does your theme support most or all of the plugins you need / want - or does the site slow down to a crawl when all the plugins have been activated - if your site is too slow - then it doesn't matter how good it looks people will leave in their droves.

Customer Support

If the theme you like cannot provide decent support then quite clearly it's something to avoid - if support is slow then every time you have to stop for 2 days for an answer - you could be waiting a hell of a long time in finishing your website - and if it's live and you need help - then you are really in trouble.

Extras

Does the theme come with any extras such as sliders / zoom / wishlist / compare features. These are plugins which come "free" with the theme as they are very suitable to go with the theme. Remember content is king and these sliders generally look good for a couple of minutes to potential clients...then they are only interested in the meat and drink of your website...i.e. the content.

What Price to Pay?

Obviously if you can do something for nothing then great - but how much is nothing? If you spend hours and hours changing a website to get it how you want, when you could of just bought a theme and done the whole thing in a couple of hours for say $50. Remember time is money. You have to weigh all the pros and cons up.

So finally the question is where do I go to get the right WordPress theme for me or my business?

There are lots of place you can go to get a WordPress theme such as:

  • WordPress
  • Elegant Themes
  • Theme Forest
  • WooCommerce
  • Graph Paper Press

There are many more besides these - depending on if you are just after one theme or multiple themes (web designer), they have different solutions for each individual / business.

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