WARNING: Trying to choose a theme for your WordPress Author Website, can be a rabbit hole from which you never return!
If you have ever experienced choosing a theme for a WordPress website you, know exactly what I am talking about. It seems so innocent. But it’s like being given unlimited choices to buy a new jacket, but YOU CAN ONLY PICK ONE!
You try them on one by one, they all have something fancy that the last one didn’t have–a secret pocket, a high tech zipper that you can control with your smart phone, a matching hat for crying out loud!
Suddenly, it’s 3 am and you have been scrolling through endless themes for the gods only know how many hours. And you are still no closer to picking a theme.
Before I tell you how to choose a theme, I want to help you understand how not to choose a theme. Never choose a theme based on how it looks.
When you try it on your blog for the first time (especially if you haven’t even filled in much content yet) the most obvious thing you see is the aesthetics. This one is laid out just how you want it, but its stained with a detestable purple hue that hurts your eyes. The one that is your perfect color is laid out all wrong!
Color is not a reason to pick a theme! Any good theme will have multiple, possibly unlimited color options with the right set up. And a really good theme will have a flexible layout as well.
Here are the only 5 things your need to consider when choosing a theme (don’t worry, I will explain them in a minute):
- Responsive design
- Ease of use
Can you customize it? A flexible WordPress theme is like a reversible jacket, nothing is set in stone. You can alter the color, the layout, and make it uniquely yours.
You don’t have to be married to a color choice, just to get a theme feature. If someone has added a feature to a theme, chances are someone has made a plugin that will add that feature to your more flexible theme anyway.
What does “responsive theme” mean? This is the new buzzword that people toss around, without explaining, so they can seem super savvy. It means that the design of the webpage, including the graphics will “respond” to the browser size and adjust itself to look good on big screens and small screens–like your mobile device.
So, yeah, it’s just the new, fancy way to say: “mobile friendly.”
How do you tell if your theme is responsive? It will usually say in the description of the theme. Also, it will look good on your smart phone.
Ease of use
This one should be easy, just like your theme. If you install it and it makes your life more complicated choose something else.
Also before you install a theme, you can Google “WordPress Theme NAMEOF THEME” to find its wordpress.org/themes page and investigate it a little more. Have a lot of people downloaded it? Are the ratings good? What do they say in their reviews? If people seem to say things like “Nice, but difficult to use” then you might want to pass.
Here is where I give you a solution that makes your choice a LOT easier. Not all WordPress themes are friendly to all WordPress plugins. You are going to want to use a few plugins to add features to your site that the theme doesn’t have. The more obscure your theme is, the more you are likely to run into a compatibility problem. The more common your theme is the less likely, because the plugin was probably tested in that theme.
Which is why I LOVE using the WordPress default themes as my go-to-theme choices. I know it sounds terribly boring. But you can be pretty sure that any decent plugin has been tested on the WordPress default themes. These themes are always somewhat customizable, and they release a new one ever year to keep up with the latest fashion trends (thus they are named by year: Twenty Fourteen, Twenty Fifteen…). So even though millions may be using the same theme you should be able to tweak it to be uniquely you.
That just narrowed your choice down to, like, 6 themes. You’re welcome!
This is always a concern with websites. There are a lot of ways that hackers can attack your page. One of the ways is via the code in your theme or plugin. It may be malicious, or it may be an unintentional bug that a hacker can exploit to crack your page open and have their way with it.
So when choosing a theme and keeping security in mind, you want to choose a theme by a creator you can trust (another argument for the default WordPress themes). Are they a major/trusted developer? Is the theme used by a lot of people? Every theme will show you who the author is, allowing you to investigate them. Are they transparent about who they are? How many themes have they made? How long have they been making themes? Are they based in Nigeria? Use your common sense.
There are no guarantees, but knowing a bit more about the developer may help you avoid themes with malicious code (the same method may help with plugins too). The only way to protect against unintentional bugs is to keep your theme and plugins up to date!
Always be even more cautious about using a theme that you can’t just install from the WordPress theme catalogue. They may not be in that catalogue for a reason!
The only time you should ever download a theme and manually upload it to your site is when you have bought a premium theme. And when you do this, you should be even more sure that the developer is one that can be trusted.
Something to consider: Sidebars and Mobile
The majority of people visiting websites today, do soon a mobile device, which almost always means your sidebars are shunted to the bottom. So how useful are they anymore? Maybe its time to consider mobile design first when creating your layout, and desktop design second?
Add Themes > Feature Filter
When using the WordPress “Add Themes” catalogue to search for themes, look for the “Feature Filter”–choose anything with “Fluid” “Custom” and “Responsive” in the selection.
Should I buy a theme?
In general, no. But it depends on what you need. Before jumping into the choice if buying a theme, consider that within a few years this theme may no longer suit your needs, or may have a design that falls out of fashion and makes your site look dated. Also consider that most of your basic website needs will be easily fulfilled by free themes and plugins, and maybe a little easy copy and paste code here and there.
I want to change the way my website looks, should I change my theme?
Not necessarily! Save your self from the theme rabbit hole and check to see if you can make the changes with the theme you already have first.