In this post, I’m going to assume that you already know the basics of how to create a website using WordPress blogging software, how to point your domain at your hosting servers, etc. So this is not going to be a WordPress 101 type of post. It’s not going to be super-advanced, but if you’ve never installed a WordPress theme or even created a website before, then you might need to watch a couple YouTube videos first before understanding everything I’m going to talk about below.
So you already know how to create a website, and you’ve tried out some free WordPress themes for your new blog or company website, but you just haven’t been able to find that perfect theme – you know, the one that has all the features you like and not just some of them.
Relax. We’ve all been there. It can be frustrating when you go through theme after theme, loving certain features on one but wishing it could also do this or that. It’s a common frustration that we all have when looking at pre-built themes. So read on! Below, there are some tricks you can use to help you find the perfect theme for your site.
Preview And Test Everything Out
It goes without saying that you’ll need to test things out as you go. Make judicious use of the “Preview” option before activating any new theme. WordPress will also allow you to change views from desktop to tablet to smartphone, so make sure to check out your new theme from all these viewpoints before activating. I can’t tell you how many themes I’ve tried out without thoroughly previewing first, only to find something glitchy days or weeks after going live.
So test everything out before you going live with a new theme.
Filter By Popularity
When browsing around for a new theme to try out, where do you even start? There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes to choose from! It’s tempting to go with one of the newest themes, isn’t it? We all want to be unique and have that new theme that nobody else has, but there’s a problem with that approach – newly released themes are notorious for not having all the bugs worked out before release. That’s why developers update them!
So to save myself from headaches, I prefer to filter the theme selection process by popularity rather than by new releases or even “Featured” themes. I figure, if a theme is really popular, then it must be pretty good, and the developers probably find it worth their while to invest time in releasing timely updates and fixing bugs. I could be wrong, but it seems like common sense.
Don’t let your website be a guinea pig for new, untested themes that lack real reviews from real users. Go with a theme that’s been tried and tested and whose developers are actively keeping the thing updated.
Filter By Essential Features
Even when you narrow it down to popular themes, there are still going to be over a thousand different themes to sift through. So another useful method is to search for themes with certain features that are indispensable to your website. Let’s look at some of those next.
First of all, if you’re selling products or services directly through your website rather than outsourcing to a 3rd party, then you’ll need to set yourself up with a theme that offers ecommerce capabilities like shopping carts, secure credit card processing, etc.
Search for shopping themes, ecommerce themes and for ones that are compatible with Woo Ecommerce plugins and the like. Many themes will tell you right in the description which ecommerce plugins they are compatible with, so try searching for those too. And as mentioned already, test everything out before putting it all out there to the public. Glitchy themes are bad enough already without the added trouble of financial transactions going haywire. Test, test, test!
Layouts, Sidebars & Footers
If you’re mostly into blogging and niche site building, then you might find it odd that certain features you’ve come to think of as mandatory are actually missing from quite a few themes. I’ve actually wasted a lot of time getting excited about a new theme, only to realize after 30 minutes of playing with it that it only offers a right sidebar or left sidebar – or none at all! Why would anyone want a WordPress site without a sidebar? I have no idea, but apparently those sidebarless freaks are out there somewhere.
The theme search page lets click off all kinds of options that you want in your site: sidebars, sliders, footers and everything else. So use those detailed search options to narrow down the field and save yourself a lot of time.
Header Options: Slider, Icon Menus, Call To Action
When it comes to layouts, there are so many great navigation options out there nowadays. Spend some time playing around with sliders and large-image menus for your homepage. Your homepage is probably the most important page of your entire website, so don’t be impatient and hurry into choosing a theme. Take time to drop some photos, icons and descriptive text into your homepage layouts to find the best theme for your site.
Make Sure It’s A Responsive Theme
This is 2016, people! There’s no excuse for creating a website that doesn’t offer responsive browsing capability for mobile devices, yet you will on occasion come across a theme or two that still doesn’t offer it. I don’t know why. Every developer today knows that Google will penalize your site – directly or indirectly – for not having a responsive theme. You can search for that specifically, but the search results might be off because many developers consider it so obvious that they don’t even include the words “responsive theme” in their theme description in the WordPress marketplace.
If you come across a theme that you like but aren’t sure if it’s responsive, just do a preview and select one of the mobile device viewing options. You can try contacting the developers too if you really, REALLY aren’t sure.
Okay, so that pretty much sums it up. When searching for a new theme for your site, first limit your searches by popularity to avoid new theme hiccups and AWOL developers who never update. Then narrow down the list by searching for themes that offer features that are essential for your site. Then take your time playing around with the different homepage layout options and testing everything out with the preview option before committing to a theme.