How to Choose the right WordPress Theme

So how do you choose the right WordPress theme?

1) Always select a WordPress Theme that has the layout and navigation structure you need.

Why: WordPress themes layout structures and navigation can not be moved or changed around easily. Moving non-widgetized areas or changing the size or width of the site can create a domino effect of problems.  It would be more cost efficient to just choose a more suitable theme.

Keep in mind you can still change the following in premium WordPress themes :

  • Your header image or graphic.
  • Your color scheme by virtue of the theme’s CSS file and switching the images.
  • The content within the widgets or the sidebar through the widgets.

More details on your layout and navigation here:

2) Know your page layout needs.

Think mostly about your home page as it will have the most constraints.  How many images will you need and where do you want them to be, especially if they can not be readily changed or made to fit?  For example, will you have a slideshow gallery? What size? How much information do you want to have fit in widgetized text boxes or spaces?

3) Know your Navigation needs

First, create a list of pages and a category and subcategory listing of the topics It helps to simplify and combine categories as much as  possible as it makes it easier to find things.

IF you will have a blog with lots of “categories,” which applies to most WordPress users, you’ll want both Primary and Secondary Navigation. Otherwise a theme with just a single Navigation bar will suffice.

Why:  You don’t want an endless cascade of drop downs. This can be overwhelming to visitors and even cause your navigation to drop “below the fold” making it unusable.

4) Know your side bar content needs 

Will you need a shorter sidebar, longer, or endlessly scrolling? If using widgets, how much space will you need, as this space is limited. A sidebar that scrolls endlessly without content is not desirable past the end of your center content leaving wide-open white space.

If you have more information to include than a single sidebar column can provide, you may want to entertain themes that offer two sidebar layouts to contain all your widgets.

5) Consider smaller screens of mobile devices.   After all, more and more web use is now on mobile devices.  For your market, it could be a majority of your audience.  Some themes such as “Responsive” themes are designed to scale down nicely.  Though other themes may not advertised as such, may also do an adequate job of scaling. The trick is to test the demo theme on a small screen.

6) Know your budget and ability for making modifications.   How much do you want to spend? There are free themes at wordpress.org, but they may require more customizing according to your needs.   Themeforest.net is a great repository of free and premium WordPress and other CMS themes which may cost between $20 to $100.  You can make minor modifications with all WordPress themes playing around with the template and style.css files of a theme. You can preview the changes with an add-on for Firefox called firebug.   For a more thorough job, you can hire someone at oDesk.com, guru.com, freelancer.com or craigslist.org, to do the modifications.

7) Select a number of themes that might work, then go through each theme’s demo site. Check all of the above mentioned requirements, including how the plugins and widgets that  determine how pages and posts will be displayed.  Look at the areas you have to display your key messages and images and make sure the theme can accommodate them in the right size.

 8) Reviews & Support. Often, a clue to how well the theme is supported is provided in the “review” section of the theme store.  See if there support forums. You can e-mail the developer if you still have questions after reviewing the demo.  See if you get a response.   A great theme without support could be trouble, even if you have a solid technical person to make modifications.

9) Take the plunge.  If you’re new to WordPress, you might try adding all your desired content with your existing free or low cost theme and understanding it’s functions and limitations.  This will give you more understanding when selecting and customizing your ideal theme.

Take some time to understand  your own needs, the candidate themes and their demos. It’s time well spent.  It means less time and money on making customizations or starting over with a new theme.