Want to develop a new website or a Blog but not sure whether WordPress is the right tool or that there is a suitable WordPress theme for your needs so that you don’t have to start from scratch?
That’s exactly the position I found myself in when, a few months back, I decided it was time to update the Wealth Traders website and Blog.
There are now so many WordPress themes available in almost every category you can think of … and sifting through them to find that one special theme for your needs is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Just as you find one theme which you like, another suddenly comes to your attention and you are back to square one. The only way to keep yourself on track is to clearly define what you want BEFORE you start.
Here are the selection criteria I used for finding a suitable WordPress theme for our needs:
My thinking when I started investigating options was that the perfect WordPress theme would be one which was also available in standard HTML format. This would allow me to maintain pages separate to our Blog as we did beforehand within a consistent theme. As my investigation progressed, I realized that today’s themes are perfectly suitable for handling all requirements – i.e. pages and blog – which is what we have done with this Blog and the main part of this website. Nonetheless, I still maintained this as one of my selection criteria as having a fall-back position never hurts.
The WordPress theme industry is a very competitive sector and so, not surprisingly, most theme authors endeavor to present the “flashy” aspects of their theme in order to get a viewers attention. Does your site need them? Our site certainly doesn’t so I immediately put aside that functionality and instead focused on capabilities such as responsiveness, shortcode options, visual editor, plugin support, etc.
Ease of Modification:
As I already had in mind what I wanted, I expected that I wouldn’t be able to find any theme which would address exactly what I needed, Sure, design is flexible with most but I knew that code and css changes would be needed. You can gauge how simple or hard this is for a specific theme through Comments accompanying the theme (one of the features of themes listed on the Theme Forest marketplace).
When you invest in a website, you have to view that investment as one which will have a lifespan of 2-4 years maximum. During that time, it will require maintenance, most likely the addition of extra features, and even updates / improvements to existing functionality. Now there’s a balance in all this. The very last thing you want is a theme which is being updated every few weeks – I call that a “work in progress” – or a theme which is never updated.
This was very important for me … and the theme I selected (see below) was the only one I could find where the author clearly stated their position that they wanted to keep the theme “lightweight” and so only occasional updates would be forthcoming. This gave me confidence.
This is crucial as you should never assume everything will run as expected. Once again, you need to look at Comments assigned to a specific theme. Unfortunately, not all theme providers provide this capability.
Support is a really tricky area. With themes costing less than $60 in most cases, you have to understand and respect that there is only so much support which can be provided. To gauge this area properly, look at the authors overall sales volume across all their themes rather than sales volume on the specific theme you are considering. If they are generating decent volume, then you can probably expect continuity and good support.
It’s always good to see what others have done with a theme as this often gives you a better feel for what is possible. Unfortunately, very few theme authors provide showcases and so, once again, you have to go looking in Comments (on marketplaces like Theme Forest) to dig them out.
So where do you start?
- If there is a site you like, then WP Theme Detector will help you identify the theme being used. It also provides a list of the Top 25 Themes and Plugins which are worth going through to get a feel for what has been popular.
- From there, go to marketplaces like Theme Forest and Woothemes and start working through the maze to get a feel.
- When you find a theme you like, look at the Authors other themes. In some cases, some of their other offerings may be even better.
- Once you have a basic feel for all the possibilities, create a checklist of your own BEFORE you go any further.
As for my decision, this Blog and website have been created with the Presscore theme from Dream Theme as it met all bar the Showcase criteria listed above … and, as stated above, was the only theme I could find where the authors “openly stated” that they wanted to keep the theme lightweight.
Without stating my preference, I passed a shortlist of themes past several colleagues and they all chose Presscore as well, even ahead of the very popular “The 7” theme from the same author.
The decision to run with this theme has been justified by the simplicity it offers – both at install and ongoing use points – and support from the authors on the one issue I confronted (caused by myself) was outstanding. It is also easy to modify as highlighted by this website which bears very little resemblance to the sales page listed above.
[Presscore is used for our main website and our Blog. However, our many Member Areas sit separately on a proprietary html-based system we developed some time ago and will remain there for the time being rather than being integrated into WordPress.]
Finally, let me stress that the real investment in your Blog or Website is not the theme but your content. Therefore, selection of the right theme is really important as you don’t want to get bogged down on technical matters – your time and energy should be focused on content.
Update: June 2016
The Presscore theme has been withdrawn from sale along with several other themes from the developer. I did not expect this when I chose the theme. Fortunately, the theme is not broken – at the moment anyway – and the developer will provide updates upon request. I am not concerned by this as the theme can easily be changed to “The 7″ which is based on the Presscore engine. “The 7″ is the theme I have been recommending to others ahead of Presscore because of its broader capabilities.
To ensure you don’t get caught out, use a hugely popular theme so that continuity is assured.