August 22, 2016

How to pick the right WordPress theme for your project

If you are new to WordPress, you probably feel overwhelmed when you see how many templates options are out there.  It's easy to get lost in the massive amount of arbitrary and confusing features.  Regardless of whether they're free or paid templates, be very careful about choosing the right WordPress theme or else you may lose time, money, and even potential customers.

Finding the right WordPress theme for your project can be very tricky, but here are a few tips from my experience.

1. The popular ones are NOT necessarily the best ones for you

ThemeForestIf you've done any searching for a WordPress theme you're definitely familiar with the top sales category of WordPress themes on ThemeForest, but are they the best choice?  

To be honest, many of them we have worked with are not that great and don't live up to expectations.  Yes, they have a lot of really cool features and premade templates, but if you're not using them then you're just making your website bloated, causing it to load very slowly.  

You should not neglect your website speed as it's a very important part of the user experience and influences your website ranking.  A slow loading website harms your SEO and increases the likelihood your visitors will leave your site.  That said, you should always avoid unnecessary features and plugins on your WordPress install and test your website speed.

A smart way to go about this is begin by listing the features you want and need in a WordPress theme.  Then you can make an informed decision to pick the most suitable theme for your project instead of getting distracted by the bells and whistles.  Also while you're looking for a WordPress theme, pay attention to the demo features of the theme, and think about how you're going to use these elements.  Choosing a WordPress theme is not about spending the same amount of money but getting more.  Remember, if you don't need those features or plugins, they're no use to you.  Don't get tricked by marketing tactics unless you're capable of removing them by code.

Often times we spend more time removing features and optimizing bloated themes than adding new features in.  Sometimes less is more.

2. Check the responsiveness

Mobile websitesA responsive website is vital to your business, so always remember to check the responsiveness of the WordPress theme you're considering purchasing.  You might have some CSS knowledge and know how to write media queries, but why not save yourself some time and a headache if you can?

Most premium WordPress themes claim to be responsive now, but some of them are not nearly as responsive as they say.

Try Mobile-Friendly Test; It's a very useful tool from Google that will let you test a WordPress theme before deciding to purchase.

3. Page builder ​

Visual Composer​If you don't have experience with code, we recommend you purchase one with a page builder, such as Visual Composer, which is the most popular on the market now.  Page builders are perfect for people who may not be as computer savvy, allowing you to use drag and drop functionality.

You should be aware though, many page builders add a lot of bloat and weight to your site through external scripts and styles.  Echo 5 Atlanta Web Design used a shortcode generator in our WordPress themes for the longest time to prevent this extra overhead (because it really does slow down your site a lot).  But we eventually wrote a script and framework to completely remove this weight from the front-end of the site while still allowing the drag and drop builder in the back-end.

4. Reviews are very helpful

Always read reviews.  If the rating is low, don't even consider purchasing.  But also understand that WordPress themes get one star reviews from disgruntled customers who purchase and don't know how to install a WordPress theme.  I'm not sure why not being able to follow instructions is the theme developer's fault, but it happens a lot.  You should only get concerned if you see a lot of one star reviews.

5. SEO ready

SEO readyBeing SEO friendly is probably one of the most important things when you're choosing a WordPress theme.  You don't want to build a good looking website that no one can find.  You can look for "SEO ready" or "SEO Optimized" WordPress themes, but if you're not a coder it's hard to know if these claims are true.  The on-page factors aren't nearly as important as content, but if a WordPress theme is riddled with poor tags and formatting, your rankings may suffer. 

Another option is to use online SEO tools or Chrome extensions to help you determine code validity.   However, these are also known to give a lot of false positive SEO warnings even when the factors are unimportant or even irrelevant. 

Conclusion

Picking a WordPress theme isn't easy and picking a bad one can ruin your project before it starts.  A better approach is to start with a design-centric approach and plan your site content and the style direction before looking for a WordPress theme.  Then you can go look for a theme that fits your needs instead of buying a flashy WordPress theme with good marketing tactics.  Once you have a design concept and a few potential themes, evaluate them separately and make a informed decision. 

Hopefully this helps a bit to avoid buying bad WordPress themes!  Have a question about WordPress theme purchasing or need help looking for a good one?  Drop us a line or leave us a comment below, we are always happy to help.