You’ve put in the hard work and are ready to take the next business step—a website built with a WordPress theme.
WordPress is a content management system which features include various plugins and themes to fit digital needs. As one of the largest web hosting services, WordPress supports thousands of websites across the world for both small and large businesses.
Whether you are a business or blog, considering your website’s overall appearance and functionality is imperative when selecting your WordPress theme. You can have a website that looks fantastic and is user-friendly but lacks the necessary features such as opt-in mailing lists and search engine optimization (SEO) capabilities.
Design and functionality work hand-in-hand, which can make choosing your WordPress theme difficult.
It’s important to remember when researching your theme the old phrase, “you shouldn’t judge the book by its cover”, or in this case, the website by its landing page.
WordPress Themes vs. Plugins vs. Frameworks
A WordPress theme is a collection of files and code that create a graphical interface to control how your content is presented. These template files affect the website display but not the software, therefore themes can be easily modified by CSS style sheets, plugins and necessary code in the future.
Many customizable options exist within website themes:
- Variety of layouts, such as static vs. responsive design
- Content presentation wherever you want to make it more visible
- Individual typography and other design elements in CSS
- Incorporation of images, video and other media
Along with stylizing your website, WordPress themes also improve overall engagement with your website’s content and improve optimization.
Although WordPress website themes and plugins are similar, they have fundamental differences that keep the two features apart. Where themes control the website content display and style, plugins regulate the actual behavior.
WordPress plugins add features such as:
- Yoast SEO: Increases web traffic from search engines with detailed SEO best practices
- Constant Contact: Builds email lists and sends emails to your subscribers
- Sucuri: Protects your website against attacks with a web application firewall
- CSS Hero: Customizes your WordPress Theme without writing code
The theme should not control your website’s overall functionality in case you decide to change it down the line. By keeping features tied to plugins, you can update the design as needed without losing your website’s behavior.
To make things more difficult, you can also install WordPress frameworks on your website. A framework is essentially code installed into WordPress that allows you to make changes to your website without needing a new theme.
Frameworks work off the parent code to update the child code. Many frameworks have drag-and-drop functionality so you don’t need to know much coding language to make advanced modifications to your website. Recommended frameworks include:
Should You Choose a Free or Premium WordPress Theme?
WordPress and various other websites offer a library of free and premium website themes. While both options have their pros and cons, it all depends on what the website’s goals and the monetary value you want to invest while browsing WordPress themes.
Free WordPress Themes
Let’s discuss free WordPress themes. They are no-cost, but often have limited customer support, design capacity, and security updates. Free templates work best for personal blogs but are not recommended for more complex sites that will need better functionality. As with most purchases, always check the ratings and reviews on these themes.
What to expect with a free theme:
- 100% free to install
- Install directly from the WordPress dashboard theme selector
- Simple and straightforward designs
- Limited display options to modify the display
- Little to no customer service after installation
- Support available on WordPress forum communities
- The developer may end theme updates, which decreases website security
- The theme could be replicated on thousands of blogs
- Could be poorly coded or bugged depending on the creator
While free themes are not bad, it’s important to know that you are putting your site at high risk for limited customization and technical support.
Premium WordPress Themes
What to expect with a premium theme:
- Relatively inexpensive depending on the creator and design
- Install from zip file uploaded to the WordPress dashboard
- High-quality designs and complex functionality
- Customizable and organized for professionals and beginners
- Customer support run by businesses and technical experts
- Updated regularly
- Quality code design from professionals
- Less likely to contain bugs or malicious code
If you’re looking for a website that’s more professional and offers greater functionality, premium website themes are the way to go. Especially if you’re building a WordPress business website or plan on generating money through the site. The premium WordPress themes will include design flexibility, customer support, security and theme updates to stay current with recent changes to the template and WordPress software. These designs are much more complex but are organized enough for WordPress developers and website novices alike.
Generally, premium themes cost anywhere from $10-$100+ for a one-time installation, which is a steal with all the functionality you gain!
Finding WordPress Themes
Feeling overwhelmed about where to start? Luckily there are a lot of companies to pick your WordPress website template from. These developers have earned their credibility through quality themes and consistent support that customers depend on.
It’s important to choose a theme that has a high rating, as well as good reviews and sales to understand the theme’s capabilities before installation. As a general practice, select a theme with over a four-star rating and at least 1,000 sales. This shows overall customer confidence and satisfaction with the theme.
Ready to start your search? You can browse themes through the following reputable companies:
- ThemeForest: Arguably the largest WordPress Theme generator, the company offers a large array of templates to fit any website need. They also sell assets for videos, audio, graphics, photos, 3D files and more, as well as various tutorials and an active online community.
- Mojo Themes: With some of the best WordPress templates on the market, Mojo Themes also include free lifetime support and upgrades. The company also sells Magento themes, Tumblr themes, HTML/CSS code, Photoshop templates, email templates and more.
- StudioPress: Famous for their Genesis Framework which provides child themes for increased customization, StudioPress is highly regarded for WordPress themes for blogs. Their themes have proven to be secure, SEO optimized and have an impeccable design.
- Elegant Themes: The name says it all, these WordPress themes are visually striking and will grab viewers’ attention. They offer drag-and-drop themes which are perfect for beginners, as well as powerful WordPress plugins like Bloom.
- MeridianThemes: Although a bit smaller with only nine themes available, this company has great designs for lifestyle websites and the service to match.
Credible template companies will review and test templates on design, code, and documentation before they are listed on the marketplace. However, you should always do your research to align the template with your website goals
When browsing WordPress themes and testing demos, it’s important to consider three elements before making your final choice. A successful WordPress theme needs to have a responsive design for all screens, adhere to SEO standards and offer technical support.
Responsive themes alter your website to fit all different-sized screens, making it accessible on a computer, smartphone, tablet and more. While most modern themes are responsive, it’s essential to read the theme’s description before installation. Responsive themes aid in user-navigation and content digestion.
SEO Best Practices
It shouldn’t be a surprise that SEO practices will play into your WordPress theme. In a digital world, all websites must be SEO optimized and compatible with all web browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. You can check compatibility by testing the demo in all browsers.
When installing a new theme, you will run into some troubleshooting and other technical issues. Choosing a theme that offers technical support from theme developers will help immensely for anything that comes your way.
Along with the three core features each WordPress theme must have, you also need to consider your own website goals are.
What Type of Website is it?
This is the most important question you need to ask yourself when choosing your WordPress theme. You need to have an idea of what goals and functions you want your site to achieve. For example, are you going to be a food blogger with mostly text-based content or a podcast with the need for video and audio?
You will also need to consider if and how you plan on making money on your website. If you plan on setting up an affiliate marketing program or selling a product or service through e-Commerce, the website will need different functions.
Check out your competition to see how their website is making money and look for ways you want to improve on it for your site. You want to set yourself apart from the competition but still be visible in your niche.
The great thing about WordPress is its versatility, so if your goals change-over-time, your website theme can change as well.
What Features Will Your Website Need?
You might not have the answer to this question right away, but you should have some sort of idea of the basic features you would want to add in the future. I would write down a list of features you liked and disliked as a great starting point for your theme selection.
At a basic level, you need to consider mobile responsiveness, customized navigation bars, email opt-in forms, featured posts, comment sections, media compatibility and landing page layouts.
Some of the above features are not available in the actual WordPress theme and you will need to install the proper plugins that are compatible with your theme.
What Will Your Website Look Like?
Your theme’s appearance will make an impression, good or bad, on every person who enters your site. It needs to display your brand identity and immediately capture attention if you want them to explore your site’s services more.
Because of WordPress’s flexibility, you can add a framework or change your theme as often as you want. However, this will confuse frequent visitors so it’s best to stay as consistent as you can.
Consider colors, typography, banners, images, buttons, and placement when determining how your theme will display your content.
Ready, Set, Go!
While choosing the right WordPress theme for businesses or blogs can seem daunting, it boils down to the display and performance. Expect trial and error, because solidifying your online presence is one of the most important steps in growing your business.
Do your research and start planning.
How did you find your WordPress theme? Do you have any tips for first-time WordPress users?
Share with us in the comments below!