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WordPress Themes: Make your Site Look Great!

WordPress Themes: Make your Site Look Great!

WordPress themes can help you build a really professional looking website without the need for top-class design skills. You simply choose to use the WordPress content management (CMS) platform, install the theme and get started. But how do you choose from the dizzying multitude of options out there? Hopefully this article will help!

Before we start, perhaps you need somewhere to host your WordPress website? If so, why not take a look at WP Engine, a leading host specialising in WordPress sites?

WordPress themes come in all shapes and sizes; You’ll find blog and magazine style themes for content heavy sites, austere and minimalist themes for professional businesses, shop themes, edgy themes for more creative pursuits, and all-purpose themes that are so customizable they’re almost akin to self-contained site building tools.

WordPress themes

The most difficult part is actually making a choice! Anyone who says it’s impossible to have too much choice has obviously never tried to choose the right WordPress theme…

So, with that in mind, let’s start off with some tips for choosing the right WordPress Themes.

WordPress Themes: Selection Tips

1. Think about functionality

WordPress themes, especially commercial ones that come with a price-tag, usually come with an extensive list of features.

Some of these features are real “musts.” You’ll certainly want to always choose responsive WordPress themes in this day and age so that they display properly on mobile devices and so that your site avoids penalties from Google for not being mobile friendly.

However, features lists often run to thirty or more bullet points and you may not actually need eCommerce integration, 500 fonts, multiple sidebars and Instagram integration!

WordPress features

My point here is that less is sometimes more; If you’re new to WordPress, choosing a theme with too much functionality could result in you drowning in features you’ll never need. You may find that all the options available are more of a hindrance than a help.

As such, try to choose a theme that looks right and does what you need, but don’t buy (or indeed use) extra functionality just for the sake of it.

2. Consider support and documentation

Some WordPress themes are so involved that they come with loads of online documentation. Some of this is really in-depth and well-written, whereas some is woefully inadequate.

It’s worth taking a look at the documentation for themes you are tempted by, and also at the support threads from people already using the theme. If you make the mistake of choosing a theme with poor documentation and support, you can sometimes find it really hard to create a WordPress site that looks anything like the attractive demo page that pulled you in in the first place!

3. Look at what your competitors are doing

The extreme popularity of WordPress means that your competitors are probably looking through premium WordPress themes for their own websites too! This can result in a situation where despite changing colours and fonts, websites can end up looking uncomfortably similar to each other.

The best selling WordPress theme on ThemeForest at the time of writing is Avada, which has sold over 200,000 copies. That means there’s an awful lot of websites out there using it.

Avada theme

Now, Avada is actually a very customizable theme, so I’m not suggesting all of those sites look identical. The point is that if you don’t look at your competitors’ sites, you could end up with something awkwardly similar.

4. Think about what you need from your theme

It’s essential that the theme you choose fits around the vision for your website, and that you don’t instead fit your website around the design of a theme that’s caught your eye.

With thousands upon thousands of themes out there, you don’t need to try to force square pegs into round holes. If a theme doesn’t feel right, don’t try to force your site to fit around it – move on and choose something better.

5. Ensure you have the customization options you need

While I did say above that “less is sometimes more” you do still need to make sure you can bend WordPress themes to your will in terms of incorporating your chosen colours and fonts.

Theme styles

While some themes will leave you not knowing where to start, others will quickly show up their own limitations. This is often the case with free WordPress themes. To do what you need to do it’s often worth the investment in a “premium” theme. These rarely cost more than $50 for a single site.

Where to Source WordPress Themes

Now you know what to look for, here are some places to begin your search. It’s really worth setting aside a decent chunk of time to choose a theme – after all, you’ll probably be living with your chosen website design for quite a while.

1. ThemeForest

ThemeForest is a huge source of themes for WordPress and also for other content management systems.

At the time of writing, ThemeForest has over 6,000 premium WordPress themes available. Each one has a full demo site available, a features list, and a support section.

ThemeForest

You can also see how many people have purchased each theme, so you can tell if you’re buying something new and unique, or something that might be at risk of resembling other sites already out there.

2. The WordPress Theme Directory

The WordPress theme directory offers both free WordPress themes and premium WordPress themes, and is maintained by WordPress itself.

As mentioned above, some of the themes here are reasonably basic, but for a simple blog or brochure style site they can prove ideal and reduce clutter and superfluous features.

WordPress Theme Directory

There are over 2000 themes in WordPress’ own directory, and it’s also a highly useful repository for free plugins.

3. ThriveThemes

ThriveThemes does things a little differently, but should perhaps be your number one destination for WordPress themes if you’re trying to make money online.

ThriveThemes‘ ethos is to design “conversion focused themes.” As well as looking good, these are designed to effectively convince people to spend money or sign up to your site.

Thrive Themes

ThriveThemes works on a different model to ThemeForest. You subscribe on a monthly basis for access to an entire range of themes, rather than buying one outright. This is great for people who like to experiment with different designs – something you really need to do if you’re trying to find the most effective way to make your site make money.

Types of WordPress Themes

You will find so many different WordPress themes in the places listed above that it may help to narrow your search down a little. Premium WordPress themes are often categorised to make it easy to find what you want – so here’s a description of these categories.

WordPress Blog Themes: WordPress started out as a blog platform, so it’s no surprise that there are a great many blog themes out there. All-purpose themes almost always have a blog section too, and it’s worth considering magazine style themes if you run a blog too, because these allow you to present similar content in a modern, visual way.

WordPress Photography Themes: Photography themes are very popular as a way for photographers to show off their content. There is some crossover here with WordPress portfolio themes, which are equally well suited to designers and other creative types.

All-purpose Themes: Many themes nowadays set out to be “all things to all people,” almost like a site building tool within themselves. These themes often include both a blog and portfolio section along with loads of other features. They’re a great choice for flexibility, but beware the potential for complexity!

WordPress Shop Themes: Usually designed around an eCommerce platform such as Shopify, these themes are exactly what you want if you are setting up to trade online.

WordPress Themes: Conclusion

If you’ve chosen WordPress as the platform for your website, looking through some WordPress themes and choosing the best one for your site is one of the most important parts of establishing your web presence.

The best part is that you can continually revamp your site by switching to a new theme as time goes on.

Why not head over to ThemeForest or ThriveThemes now and see just how much choice there is out there? Or, if you need somewhere to set up your WordPress site, check out our best hosting providers for WordPress round-up.


Published on: March 24,2016.
Ben was a geek long before "geek chic," learning the ropes on BBC Micros, before moving on to Atari STs and IBM compatibles. He was "online" using a 1200bps modem before the Internet was even a thing. Now, after two decades in the industry, he writes about technology for various publications, operates a few websites of his own, and runs a bespoke IT consultancy based in London.

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