You spy a great-looking WordPress site and want yours to be similar. Or a Google search for WordPress themes yields one that seems perfect.
Before opening your wallet, answer these questions:
Is the Theme Responsive?
Sure, it’s late 2015 and a majority of theme developers have made their offerings mobile-ready. But you can’t be sure unless you see “responsive” stated somewhere amongst the theme’s features. Even then, see whether there’s a demo you can preview. If so, try resizing your browser window. Test the design on your phone and / or tablet.
Does the content flex to fit the screen size or device you’re using? Is it easy to read and navigate, even on a phone screen? If so, then it’s responsive – an absolute must for any current Web site design.
Is the Purchase Price a One-Time Fee or a Subscription?
$50 for a theme is not necessarily economical if you have to pay another $50 each year for updates and support. Renewal costs add up, especially for themes in the $100 range. You may need those updates (and support) later as the Web evolves and the theme makers incorporate essential code changes.
Keep in mind that theme prices, like plane fares, vary wildly. Some free or very inexpensive themes are among the best. Many themes require only a one-time fee, for which you’re entitled to unlimited updates (and even support).
For my current theme recommendations, click here.
How Popular is the Theme?
A wide user base can mean plenty of support not only from the theme developer(s) but also the user community. It may also mean that the theme and its developer(s) will be around for a while. Many a great theme has gone abandoned, leaving users no further updates or support.
GoDaddy has a great resource that provides the weekly popularity of both themes and plugins. Click here to check it out.
A related consideration is whether there are experts available for that theme. The most popular themes are those most likely to have specialists you can consult – be that now or in the future – for custom styling and features.
How Do Users Rate It?
Meanwhile, keep an eye on user reviews, not only on the theme’s home page but also third-party Web sites. There may be fake positives among them. But negative reviews can be fake, too, written to benefit competitors.
What problems are reviewers mentioning? Are they specific or just general ranting? Is there a pattern (e.g., a persistent issue)? Do any negative reviews pertain to things that could concern you?
Does the Theme Require Advanced Skills?
Some popular themes, such as Divi, Make, or LayersWP, are intended to be easy to use – even for novices. Other very popular ones, such as Genesis (or even one of its child themes) may require coding prowess to get things precisely the way you want. If you prefer a visual, drag-and-drop approach, find out whether the theme provides that, as well as whether the theme is easy to use overall.
Will This Theme Meet My Needs?
You can lump WordPress themes into three broad categories:
Blogging themes focus on readability, with specialized page sections for article lists, archives, subscription forms, and third-party ads. Many news sites are, in effect, blogs.
If your Web site will be focused on your writing, you’ll likely need a blog-centric theme.
As the name suggests, multipurpose themes can be adapted to a variety of needs. You’ll likely need plugins and tech savvy, however, to meet any specialized needs you may have. That said, some multipurpose themes, such as Weaver Xtreme, provide a dazzling array of options and extensive support that allow even a newbie to create almost anything.
3) Niche Themes
A niche or specialty theme focuses on a particular type of Web site. Among niche themes, you’ll find ones tailored to :
- coupon portals
- restaurants / cafes
- law firms
- social networks
- technical support
A niche theme for churches, for example, may include a parish calendar, contact info, and directions, along with sermon and bulletin links, registration forms, events sections, and mass schedules – in other words, options specific to the needs of churches.
A fundraising or nonprofit theme will have donation buttons, revenue reports, and sharing icons. A restaurant theme, on the other hand, may have a slideshow depicting food and interior images, a menu section, an online reservation form, an interactive map with directions – options most needed by restaurant owners.
Meanwhile, if you’re planning to sell products, another question to ask is
Is This Theme WooCommerce Compatible?
WooCommerce is an extremely popular e-commerce add-on (plugin), designed to integrate with WordPress. In fact, the company that makes WooCommerce (WooThemes) is owned by Automattic, which is the company headed by Matt Mullenwug – the person responsible for WordPress in the first place.
Even if you’re not using WooCommerce to sell products, find out whether the theme you like is compatible with whatever other online selling platform you plan to integrate into your Web site.
When choosing a WordPress theme, shop around. Learn about the most popular themes. Contact people whose Web sites look like the kind you’d like to have and find out what theme they’re using or designer(s) they worked with.
Buying the first theme that excites you may limit you later – or simply waste your money when you find something better the following week. As long as you have satisfactory answers to the questions I’ve outlined above, you’ll make a wise decision.