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Selecting The Perfect WordPress Theme

Posted by Mr WordPress on 21 09 2015. in Web Design & Photography, WordPress

Selecting The Perfect WordPress Theme

This probably the most important step, as the WordPress theme you pick now affects how easy things will be to customise and often defines the core function of the website – be that a regular business website, a magazine or blog site, or a specialist theme with functionality aimed at specific industries such as real estate, hotels, or restaurants. Read our overview of industry specific WordPress themes suited for different businesses.

I will guide you through the process and give you my tips and tricks to find the perfect theme, and tell you what to look out for depending on your needs. Keep an open mind when looking at themes, think how you can adapt your vision to the functionality and layout on offer, visualise your website in that theme and what content you can load where – this can be the most difficult aspect.

Your website may not even have any separate pages – try it as a flat one-page.


Lower Cost for Advanced Functionality – It’s not custom made but it’s unlikely you need that.

For many WordPress themes it is amazing to get advanced functionality like the tour search, car rental, hotel booking, and training courses in a theme and it mirrors a custom development spend of five figures or more to create something of a similar level, which often won’t be as polished as it is almost always done on the cheap – but not cheap enough!. There comes a price threshold in website development under which it is not cost effective to custom design and develop a website – from both the client and agency perspective. As a client you can get a better product if you utilise themes and plugins, and the agency can provide better products to clients by focusing on their real needs – a cool website that is made quickly and works. Keep it simple rather than trying to cut down a $20,000 custom development super-project into a basic budget a quarter of the size, because it still always stays a $20,000 super-project worth of work both in time spent and time scale. If you’re not willing or able to spend a lot of money and time for custom development then you will get a better end product following this guide and spending under $1,000 than you would from employing an agency to try and provide a custom product for a few thousand dollars.


You Get What You Pay For – Premium Themes Are Better

While you can build a nice enough basic WordPress website using a free theme, your site will not really shine unless you benefit from the polish and extras offered by a premium theme – which needn’t cost much, typically $45-55 on ThemeForest, my preferred marketplace.

There are a few “Free Premium” or “Freemium” themes out there, either cut down versions of premium themes (which have the bonus that any customisations you make can usually easily be transferred if you later decide to purchase it) or themes on promotions or that are older or simple alternatives to premium versions and are given away free by the developer in order to market their other premium themes. These themes are pretty decent, and for a simple project like a corporate website they do the job just fine. You can find some of our recommendations later in this guide.


Think Like a User – Try out the User Interface

The UI is key when selecting a theme.

Some WordPress themes require more technical skills to put together than others, unfortunately it can be hard to tell before you buy.

Sometrimes you will be disappointed with a theme after purchase, but usually if you persevere with it then you’ll find that it does work – just likely in a slightly different way.


Themes Have Fantastic Contact Pages

A bonus you get with themes that is usually not given much acknowledgement is the contact pages and integration with Google Maps and contact form plugins. Typically contact us pages can be a little sparse and devoid of content, particularly for online-only businesses that don’t have a physical presence.

Most themes embrace this challenge and come with a whole section dedicated to an interactive Google Map with a plugin bundled in to display it, this is usually controlled in the Theme Options and is a simple way to pinpoint your address. Alongside Google Maps you’ll usually find a contact form, almost all themes use Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms, or Gravity Forms, which are all great plugins. Lastly, and most insignificantly, the text content listing your contact details, this is often large and easily readable, so finish off a very modern contact page.


Read the Theme Documentation – Check it Before You Buy (if possible)

Before buying a theme check out it’s documentation, the best WordPress themes offer comprehensive installation instructions and full details of any shortcodes that are used, and which pages use what template, and so on. On the other hand you can get a theme that has hardly any or no documentation at all, and is so new or has little uptake so little can be found online. Also keep an eye out for any required premium plugins that the theme needs to provide the advertised functionality, these can greatly increase the cost of the theme.


Demo Content is a Great Starting Point

I love demo content, sometimes you get lucky with a theme and you get real words that you can edit and modify into your own copy instead of lorem ipsum.

Loading and then working with and modifying the demo content when building your site is often the difference between a fantastic looking website and a slightly awkward looking one. Make sure you edit everything though, in many themes you have to locate several options pages (typically Theme Options, Customize, and Widgets) to edit all the different content blocks available.


Lastly, don’t be afraid to give up on a bad WordPress theme than try to make it work.

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