You’ve been exploring the world of WordPress, haven’t you? Thinking about the advantages of your own hands-on website, complete with blog, photo gallery, and videos about your products and services? The WordPress platform makes doing your own website possible and even fun.
Maybe you’ve jumped in by installing WordPress, but your new website looks pretty dull with the generic “Twenty Eleven” theme! That won’t do the job, now, will it? Let’s go find something better!
What will it take to find a WordPress theme that works for you? Here’s a short checklist you should consider BEFORE you go on the hunt.
- Know what you need for navigation (what pages) and logo placement and logo shape. (Use the Design part of my 4-part “Website Improvement Plan” and Website Eval to help you with this.)
- Find colors from your logo and printed materials, then complementary backgrounds that will work with them. If you don’t have the colors from those items, try Kuler (kuler.adobe.com). You’ll have to register, then upload your logo (image upload) and select the “mood” of the colors you want – muted is usually good – and up pop the colors from the logo. Lots of ideas for color schemes at Kuler, too.
- Learn the kind of layout you need, i.e. blog layout, portfolio, brick & mortar business, online retail, services, online learning, etc. This is one of the most important choices in theme selection. (A blog layout will not work for retail or services unless you want the blog to be your front page.)
Between an established design look, colors, navigation needs, and what you want to say on your front pagewe’re ready to select a theme.
Where should you look?
When I started using WordPress I began my search for WordPress themes, not surprisingly, at WordPress.org. But I had many, many problems with the free themes. I learned that I need to use a theme that has a guaranteed source for answers if I have any problems. That means I buy premium themes and I’m a happy camper. So we start at the premium themes companies.
All of the premium theme companies have many blogging themes. You can recognize these because they have excerpts of post articles in top prime location on the front page of the design. If that’s not what you’re looking for, find a different theme. Don’t try to make a blog theme work for selling widgets.
Here are a few of my favorite premium theme companies.
- Elegant Themes: the name is right; they are really snazzy themes. The themes have their own Options panels in the WordPress dashboard that is used to change options, like colors, animations, and whether items appear or not. Each theme has its own documentation and videos of some of the common features used. Complicated, but worth the effort.
- WooThemes: Lots of themes (one a month) and several plans to buy them. Many have color options or animation options, also in their own theme Options panel in the dashboard. These also come with documentation and very efficient support (tutorials, videos, FAQs, forum). Either simple or complicated, depending on how much you want to change them.
- StudioPress/Genesis Framework: This one is a plain Jane theme with fancy Child themes to add the pizazz. I love how this works because you don’t have to worry about the theme being updated and any changes being lost. (I change a lot of things.) The child theme doesn’t change with the update. The child themes have a gazillion options that are mostly handled with Widgets – an easy modules of info to place in the sidebar, header or footer of the theme. (All WordPress themes have widgets.)
- Others I’ve used or looked over: PageLines, Theme Fuse, Themify.me, Pixel Theme Studio, RocketTheme, Solostream, Theme Trust, Simple Themes, Headway Themes, Themedy. See Theme Forest or ThemeSorter.com for collections of theme companies and themes that can be filtered for what you want. Another collection is at Top CMS Themes where there is a very fun and sophisticated search system.
But how do you choose (our burning question)?
- Search for a business theme (or a portfolio, blog, photography, magazine, portfolio) – whatever type of business you have.
- Narrow down the selection to those that have a style that matches your product/business/logo. For instance, portrait photography needs a clean black or grey or white neutral background and clean lines. A sign shop might be a little more “today” in design with casual layout and lettering.
- Try to imagine your company logo in the space the theme provides. (Many WordPress themes have only a short horizontal space, so if your logo is tall or square, you may have a longer search for a theme.)
- Check out the color options if the color is not what you want. Sometimes there are lots of color variations provided in the theme panel after installation of the theme.
- Check the price and plans or memberships. This is something you have to find value with or you won’t be happy with your purchase. If $50 for 1 theme sounds OK, but you found another one you like for less, check out the companies and their support and tutorials, even ratings or testimonials to help you decide.
- My personal criterion – Child Theme or separate CSS styles for custom changes to the theme. Since I do many custom changes in the styles, I want this to be separate, so that when the theme is updated, my website remains stable. If your own customization is probable, and you can’t determine if the theme has its own custom style file or child theme, email me and I’ll find out for you.
Take the steps, get what you want.
I’ve found this process, while time consuming, needs to be done carefully. This is your look, your first impression. It should be both something you like and that your customers will recognize as your business and you. Don’t stray too far from what the previous website looked like; just improve the navigation, the organization, and especially, the ease of use.
If you’re unsure about how to install your new theme, the theme company usually provides directions, either online as a forum, pdf, or a video. Look for it. Another option is WordPress 101 video tutorials (www.wp101.com) [not an affiliate or paid ad].
I hope my tips help you with this time consuming step in web improvement.
If you’ve had problems selecting your theme, what is the step giving you problems?