How To Choose The Best WordPress Theme

A pick of a great theme for one’s website can be challenging. Variety of WordPress themes is getting bigger with each day. Ironically when I was preparing my next blog article for Web-Dorado.com, I was on a mission to find the best WordPress theme for one website I was working on. So let’s launch a mission called “what are the main criteria to consider when searching the best theme”.

Before launching this research it is recommended to consider the goals of the page you want to have. Is it going to be a big website or rather a blog reminding “brochure” or an ID page? Will it be an online store with an e-commerce functionality or a page with a big audience? What is your target audience and what devices do they use when viewing your website?

Responsive

Consider to focus on 100% responsive theme only. There is no other way in our days to have unresponsive theme if you want to build a successful website. What does it mean? It is pretty simple, the theme you choose must look great on desktop, tablets and other mobile devices. Sometimes responsive means to hide some non important content when viewing on mobile, via theme options.

High quality of code

A great theme shall have a few bugs and bring no conflicts with other plugins. Even in our days, some themes could have CSS issues with plugins and widgets. So you at least want to make yourself sure that selected theme was tested with major plugins in the market and has no conflicts.

Progressive development

You want to make sure that the theme wasn’t made by an intern or a student who is going to forget about his first WordPress creation in the near future. You shall be interested in a theme that is being constantly updated and progressively built on a daily basis, in order to meet latest standards WordPress core is being updated regularly, a new version comes every few months, so be sure that theme developers are walking on the same level with all modern updates and customizations. It shall be 100% compatible with the latest WordPress version, also PHP version and etc, Although there is no software without some bugs, you need to be sure that all discovered bugs are regularly being fixed, that developers bring regular improvements in functionality. In WordPress.org users can check how oftern themes are being updated. Same is true for premium themes, developers shall provide information in theme description about the last updates, customizations and fixes.

A Cross Browser Compatibility

Make sure that the theme is tested on majority of browsers. That requires not only Chrome, Mozilla or Safari, but also IE and Edge. If your main audience is from Asia you want the theme to work on Baidu, QQ Browser, UC and Sogou.Don’t forget about less popular browsers as well, including Yandex and Opera. mobile browsers also.

Free or Paid

Most of the premium themes that are worth their salt run in the range of $20 to $80 or even more.

Free themes normally come with standard basic options, without allowance to make a lot of style changes and without extra functionality. For this case you have to know at least some basics of CSS and HTML in order to meet the standards you want to achieve. I have seen a bunch of free themes with extremely poor and lacking back-end options, that make absolutely no sense to use.

Majority of free themes give some basic options to change logo, header information including phone and address number, taking on or off default search bar and other minor parts of a website. At the same time you don’t want to be overloaded with hundreds of options you are never going to touch.

So for these cases, make sure that selected free theme gives you options and ability to change what you want. Of course, if development team values its customers, they shall probably help you to adjust a little php’s and CSS styles when you contact them, even with the Free subscription.

It is also fair to mention about the fact that Pro themes shall have 24/7 support teams members, allowing clients to contact whenever they need a help. This could be a bold reason especially for newbies who are far from coding. For this cases it is fair to state that you pay not only for a Pro theme , but for support as well.

Easy Customization Options

Although a lot of themes already have standard backend there still are some varieties with really silly and messed up menus and others with amazing and smart elements with grouped CSS style options and live editors, allowing to view changes before saving. For this case it is still important to consider whether you go Free or Pro.

In addition, you want to avoid themes with a lot of JavaScript animations, big and heavy slides and a massive list of pre installed plugins. Yes, it is a bit subjective, yet for a beginner and intermediate user you want to avoid large coding or file formats. The more simple the site – the simpler the theme.

Demo content

There are some tools we spoke about in our last blog article, helping to find correct tools to test the speed of a website. For this case, before purchasing a theme and installing over your site, give a try and test a WordPress theme demo . Theme demo page shall give you 80% of correct experience on how fast your theme is going to work on your site and how properly the code is written.

Users shall also suggest to look for sample data content in theme demo sites. These are tools allowing users to import demo site’s content or sample data and help to gain clearer picture on a website with content all over it. This is helpful for example, for web developers, who wanted to present a website to clients and did not agree to fill the page with exclusive content or for users to see how a theme would fully look. Pay attention that sample data normally comes in Pro version of WordPress themes only and also being included in premium themes. If you stick with a Free version, take into consideration that there are some third party websites allowing to download sample data and import it to WordPress.

Clean Layout

Clean and sharp layout is something you would like to find when in a search of a great theme for your website. There are couple of reasons why we want to have a clean and sleek layout. First of all remember about eye-tracking facts. This policy is considered both in journalism, SEO and in website marketing. Studies define that majority of websites have a lot of so called “no fees” areas, meaning that some major space of a web page or a post is used for nothings, yet hogging a lot of attention with no purpose. You, of course, don’t want to be engaged in time wasting areas of a website, that do nothing but fill a space. All the features of the theme appearing on front-end shall have high levels of CTA (call-to action) factors.

There are some other rules and advices to attract visitor’s eyeballs, but I will speak about these in upcoming blogs in more details.

Have also in mind the fact that you don’t want to have a lot of distractions on your page, moving visitors away from material you want to present at it’s best. Clean layout is really about simplicity and minimalism as well. The world is moving toward it and that’s something I personally admire. Minimalistic design always wins in terms of CTA and that’s something we want to achieve when making our final decisions regarding themes. There are a lot of examples of crisp and sharp websites with simple and minimalistic design, starting from tech companies like Apple and Asus, major publishing houses with their online magazines including Times Magazine, online stores like Mr-Porter.com, other popular restaurants and businesses websites.

Speed

Google’s algorithm takes pagespeed into account when ranking websites. For this case even a 100-millisecond can affect the rankings of your website. Major factors of low speed are connected with bad code writing, heavy images without allowance to cut the size when uploading, heavy and long written, sometimes unnecessary JavaScript and CSS codes and files, frequent database queries. Some studies proved that overloaded ‘versalite’ codes can slow down the speed of a website from 180 to 700 milliseconds.

Shortcodes

Some design features and especially ability to copy and paste shortcodes make life way easier, and do not require to build lists, forms, galleries, tabs, video and audio data without writing HTML code. Consider that there are no shortcodes allowed in WordPress theme directory, so in order to use this function you need to upgrade to Pro version.

Social Media Integration

Although having social network button options integrated to one’s theme is no more a subject to be discussed in our days, yet there are some aspects I’d like to mention about. First of all social media integration shall not only include some icons allowing you to add URLs and lead to them through your page, yet have some additional options. Some premium theme do include separate social network widgets, simple, yet easy customizations allowing to add these in different modes, including pop-up windows.

Unique Design

Who wants to stand apart from competitors? Of course everyone would love to have it’s website to be the cherry on the top of the cake, but this requires some time. As I mentioned earlier, it would not be wise to jump on a randomly popular theme on WordPress directory and install over your or customer’s domain, yet we want to consider all the aspects I mentioned above, sit and discuss pros and cons and only after that be able to have the most stunning theme you were looking for.

Gregor is an experienced technology blogger, focused on covering WordPress related topics. He is a regular contribur at Web-Dorado blog, mainly writing on the latest premium WordPress plugins and themes.

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