Everything You Need to Know About WordPress Themes
Part 2:Tips for Picking WordPress Themes
7. Design Elements
We’re talking boxes, gradients, rounded corners, title styling, metadata layout and more. Do you like how the blockquotes are displayed? How about the comments? Is it clearly showing replies the way you want? Do you like the horizontal rules or the way spacing is used? Some of these details—like blockquotes—are relatively simple to change with some basic tweaks to the stylesheet. Others can be more complicated, requiring a complete overhaul. Knowing what kind of code tweaks you can handle, make sure these elements either work for you or you’re willing and able to change them.
8. Mobile Friendly
Mobile browsing is exploding. More people are expected to use the Internet on mobile devices than desktops by 2015. Your site needs to work on mobile. But you can’t just focus on mobile devices—there’s an entire range of devices your site needs to work on: 4-inch smartphones, 8-inch tablets, 12-inch laptops, 24inch desktops and everything in between.
Responsive design is probably the way to go. It allows your site to shrink or expand to fill the available space on any device, dropping or moving pieces as necessary.Responsive design allows your site to respond to whatever device the user is on and just work. Responsive is becoming a default standard for WordPress themes, but it’s not there yet. Not every theme is responsive and not every responsive theme works just the way you want. You’ll want to try a theme out and see how it stretches and shrinks. Take a look at what kind of control (if any) you get over how it works.
9. Case Specific Themes
There’s a theme out there for every situation: Photographers, realtors, churches, bands, sports teams, restaurants and more. While these case-specific themes can offer some nice features, don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed by your industry. These themes can be a good place to start. They’re geared for specific situations, so they have just the features you need. They can be good solutions for beginners. There’s nothing wrong with a case-specific theme.
But case-specific themes are also a way to unnecessarily limit yourself. If you’re a realtor and you only look at themes designed specifically for realtors, you’re missing out on a wealth of themes that could serve you as well or better. Yes, take a look at those themes designed for your industry. They might be perfect. But don’t discount other themes. A more generic theme may not have restaurant imagery (which you’d replace anyway) or a built-in calendar, but it may give you more flexibility and power to do what you want. You can always add extras tailored for your situation with plugins.
10. Free Themes
WordPress has more than 1,500 free themes in their official WordPress Themes Directory. It’s a great place to start your search for a theme. But you get what you pay for. Not all themes are created equal and with free themes you’re more likely to find places where developers took shortcuts.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use a free theme. Some of the best themes out there are the free, default themes that come with WordPress, like Twenty Thirteen and Twenty Fourteen. Just be aware of what you’re getting. And be appreciative: Someone put a lot of work into that theme and they’re kindly giving it away for free. You can find loads more free WordPress themes if you just turn to your favorite search engine. But don’t. There’s a lot of junk out there that best-case scenario is sloppy code, worst case is malicious. Some free sites even include links back to the developer that you’re not allowed to remove. That’s a WordPress no-no. Stick to the official WordPress Theme Directory to avoid that kind of garbage.
11. Premium Themes
Premium themes don’t have to be expensive. Most themes are under $100, sometimes more if you’re getting a license for multiple sites or access to loads of child themes. Compared to the cost of hiring a developer and building a custom site, that’s a bargain. It’s also a great value considering the support and all the extra features developers will pack into a premium theme as opposed to a free theme. Customization tools are much more common in premium themes as well as extra features that go above and beyond.
A few things to look for when dealing with premium themes:
- Support- One of the biggest advantages of going with premium themes is the support they often offer. This is a major bonus. If you have questions about how to change something, premium theme support will often walk you through it. Be sure to look closely at what kind of support they’re offering: What does it cover? When is it available? How is it accessed? How quickly do they respond?
- Documentation- Premium themes are often more complicated, which means you need a little more help figuring them out. Look to see what kind of documentation they offer, whether it’s tutorials, videos or instructions.
- Pricing- When you’re shopping for premium themes it’s tempting to do some price comparisons. A $40 theme might seem like a steal compared to that fancy $200 theme. But in the end, this is all peanuts in the world of web development. Don’t worry about the price. You’ll likely be able to use a theme for several years and in that time even a few hundred dollars doesn’t amount to much.