A lot of businesses dive into selecting themes for their WordPress sites based on just the appearance of a theme, taking decisions based on the first impressions of a theme. They usually purchase a theme and build their content around the theme they choose.
A perfect analogy would be of a person buying a Ferrari to compete in an off road rally. This is how most businesses end up using a wrong theme, or more often than not, find the selected theme unsuitable for their website goals and switch their theme within a short period of time.
Designing a website is a process which involves some crucial steps, and skipping any of these, or putting one before another, could make things difficult for you or even ruin your web project altogether.
So to get it right the very first time, follow these simple steps and save yourself time, frustration and money. Besides, you can build a thriving and successful website for your business if you follow these simple steps in the very beginning.
Hey, here’s an infographic too. Download it, print it and pin to your board.
Step 1 – Discover and Analyse
Thoroughly understand your business goals and the visitors/audience/users goals. I can’t stress on this more. You need to be clear about what you want your site to do for you and what your audience would want to do within your website. This is the problem that we need to solve first. And it should be taken care of even before you begin planning or developing your content.
A lot of businesses jump into selecting themes for their WordPress sites before thoroughly analyzing their business and audience needs. The result is a website where the site owner and the users gain nothing out of it.
Ask two important questions: Who is the owner and what’s important to him or her, and who the audience is and what’s important to them.
So brainstorm and list all the important points. This would also be a good starting point to have your content strategy in place and start building your website content.
Step 2 – Wireframe
After having a list of important stuff you want to cover in your website, you’ll begin to have few ideas of how you want your website to shape up.
So, once you have the content in place, it’s time to wireframe or sketch out a layout for your website. This is in fact the first step into designing your web pages.
This process involves taking all the important content ideas and arranging them in a logical way to be useful to the user and the website owner. All your CTA’s or call to actions are put into place and major decisions involving layout and content flow are taken at this stage.
I’d advise you to sketch your wireframes on paper rather than using a graphic application.
It’s completely alright to deviate from your wireframe at a later stage if you come up with a smarter and better layout solution.
Step 3 – Shop for your theme
After you’re done with your wireframe, you are somewhat sure of how you want your site layout to appear and the functionality it would carry. It’s the right time to begin the search for a good theme that fits your business needs.
Now is also the time to be extra careful, as it’s easy to get confused while surfing through tons of themes with heaps of features to offer. Don’t get carried away by the enticing graphics on these theme demos
It’s important to constantly remind yourself to visualize your content in the theme and not the stuff they have in their demos. Since we have already brainstormed about our content and wireframed it before hand, all we need to do is stick to the plan.
WordPress themes can be a complex thing and there are several aspects that need to be viewed critically before choosing one. I’ve outlined 7 important factors that you should focus on, and use these as a guide to help you narrow down on the best suitable theme for your purpose.
Begin choosing a theme by first looking at the functionality the theme offers. Compare it with the wireframes and check it thoroughly to see if it matches your website requirements. For instance, a job portal would support employer and job seeker registrations, have job listings for applicants to see, and job applications for employers to view.
Some themes might not have all the functionality that you require and there might be plugins which may fill this gap. In this case, be sure if these plugins are compatible with your theme. In most cases, supported and tested plugins are listed on the theme’s site, and if they aren’t, it’s best to get in touch with the seller to clarify your doubts.
The appearance of your site dictates how the users would perceive your business. It reflects the image of your business.
You need to align the website’s appearance with your user’s expectations and also make sure the appearance is not out of trend. The look and feel of your WordPress theme emphasizes the purpose and intent of your website.
Multipurpose commercial themes offer a variety of layout options with which you can probably achieve almost every possible layout configuration. This could also be disadvantageous, as you could be spoilt by choice unless you stick to the wireframe you created earlier.
Most themes, commercial and free ones, offer customization options to make adjustments at a micro level. You could choose the colors, fonts, image sizes and styles, navigation, icon sets and other elements, and change the entire user interface to your liking and purpose. I would advise you to not go overboard with these settings unless you’re designer.
The quality of the code is another aspect that seems to be overlooked when choosing a theme. Carelessly coded themes can do more damage than good to your website’s performance.
If you’re not able to get your site to work or look in a certain way as it says on the tin, it’s probably because of poor development. If you’re unable to incorporate useful plugins without breaking your site, it’s again because of poor code.
There are tons of free themes out there with just a handful of them coded well. So it’s better to test them thoroughly or go with the commercial ones.
This aspect covers a bit of functionality, aesthetics and how well it’s coded. Your business needs may change over a period of time and you may want to change the direction the site was going in, or even cater to a whole new user base. For instance you may want to start selling if you previously weren’t, you may begin delivering video content or begin to add podcasts.
As mentioned earlier, getting useful plugins to extend the functionality of your website shouldn’t be a nightmare.
Things could get frustrating if you’re not able to build your blog in the direction you want to. So your WordPress theme should be able to accommodate all these changes and customizations you may most probably intend to have in the future.
Your website is gonna be accessed via multiple devices: wide screen desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones having different screen resolutions. It shouldn’t be difficult for the user to do that, period. This is what we call responsive websites.
Not all themes have the ability to adapt to various screen sizes and it’s common for free themes to be unresponsive. Steer clear of those outdated themes too.
The number of people accessing websites on their mobile devices is growing, and it’s become even more important to have a theme that’s responsive theme to support it. You wouldn’t your hard earned traffic to bounce off because your theme’s unresponsiveness.
This again is related to how well and responsibly the theme was developed. If you’re a business which takes SEO seriously – I think every business should – you need to buy a theme that acts as a good foundation for your Search Engine Optimization efforts.
Inappropriate or wrong use of HTML5 tags, bulky files and too many HTTP requests in your theme can be detrimental to your sites performance and weaken your chances of ranking in the SERPs. SEO plugins can do so little if you’re theme is not coded well for search engines.
It’s best to look into the SEO aspect of the theme and check what previous buyers say about performance of the theme before purchasing it.
Updates and Support
Updates usually carry additional functionality, speed and search engine optimization enhancements, and security updates which may be crucial to your site.
This is why most would choose a commercial theme over a free one. Free themes are rarely updated and support is seldom provided. Commercial themes on the other hand offer you this much needed help.
Tons of themes are being developed each day by theme development companies and independent developers. Many of these themes don’t sell successfully and updates and support for these themes may not be as good compared to the popular ones.
It would be wise to go with a theme which has a proven track record for providing updates. For newly launched themes, you can judge them by the support and updates provided on their earlier themes. It’s best to check the theme’s changelog to get a preview of its development history and go through comments on their theme’s forums to put your doubts to rest.
Check if there are enough support resources out there in case you need help. Depending on the price and popularity of the theme, various kinds of support are offered. Video tutorials, help through email, ticketing systems, forums, FAQ, and chat are a few ways through which a theme may be supported.
If you’re buying a premium WordPress theme, you would also have access to the theme’s documentation which holds a ton of information to help you get the most out of it.
To sum up, discover and analyse your needs as a website owner and the needs of your users. Wireframe your layouts and then begin to shop for your themes. Remember to look into all aspects of a theme before you purchase – Functionality, Aesthetics, Code Quality, Flexibility, Responsiveness, SEO and Updates and Support.
Here’s a cool infographic with all the steps to help you choose the right WordPress theme for your website. Of course it’s absolutely free.
Download it and stick it up in your workspace, so you don’t forget any steps or points.
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