So, you’ve been tasked with setting up your first WordPress blog. You’ve chosen a blog name and chosen your voice and topic (and all the other things I mentioned in my “setting up your first blog” post in February) – so now it’s time to choose a theme for your blog.
For those of you that aren’t aware; a theme is basically just a design skin for your blog. It’s a pre-designed template which you just basically download to your WordPress dashboard to change the look and feel of your blog.
Now, when it comes to choosing a template it can be hard to know where to start. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, out there which all have different features, different typography and different imagery settings – which means you’re pretty much guaranteed to be spoilt for choice.
That said, there are a few things you need to consider which should help you to narrow down your theme options.
1. Is It Responsive?
When choosing a theme it’s important to check it’s got a responsive design which will automatically optimise and adjust the format of your blog for mobile devices. Fail to choose a theme which has a responsive design and you risk being stuck with a blog which runs off the frame when accessed from a smartphone or tablet – not a good look if you want people to take your blog seriously!
2. How Many Times Has It Been Downloaded?
If you’re struggling to choose between a couple of themes, have a look at how many times they’ve been downloaded. While a high number suggests it’s quite an effective theme, it also tells you it’s been downloaded a lot which means it’s going to appear on a lot of other sites on the internet. While that’s not necessarily an issue for many, it could be a problem if you were hoping to create a unique blog which is quite distinctive in theme and style.
3. How Easy Is It To Customise?
Following on from that last point, if you’re looking at creating a fairly unique looking blog, you need to consider how easy the blog is to customise. With some themes, it’s easy to customise the theme straight from the ‘Theme Options’ tab, however with some it’s more complicated and involves editing the CSS theme files directly – something which can be pretty tricky if you’ve got no experience of CSS – so choose carefully!
4. How Easy Is It To Read?
Now, this one might sound silly but it’s a valid point. While some blog themes can be really cool and exciting with lots of imagery, in reality, the design actually makes them really difficult to read – and means they’re much more suited to a graphic design or photography blog. When looking at a theme, be sure to check out both the home page template and an individual post template to see how much content you can actually fit in and how easy it is to read and digest.
5. How Functional Is It?
Just like design, functionality is a key thing to consider when choosing a blog theme. Consider how easy it is to navigate, how easy it is to actually find a piece of content you’re looking for and then comment on it – and how easy it is to integrate widgets. If there’s no sidebar built into the theme you could struggle to find a place to fit in additional widgets which can help to improve the user experience of your blog.
6. Does It Have Advertising Slots Built In?
If you’re hoping to monetise your blog in the future, it’s important to check that there’s advertising slots built into the template from the beginning and the theme is compatible with some of the more popular advertising plugins. Fail to do this and you could end up with a big headache later when someone’s willing to pay to advertise on your site but the functionality just isn’t there with your current theme.
7. Is There A Price Attached?
When you’re looking at WordPress themes, you’ll realise pretty quickly that some come with a fee attached and some are free. Now, while there are lots of excellent free ones available, it is sometimes worth considering paying for a theme. Normally with paid themes (which can cost anything from $20-$100) you’ll get more customisation options (normally you can make changes to the design of the template straight from the ‘Theme Options’ tab, rather than editing the CSS), more support and more functionality – which can help to make your blog look more professional. With that in mind, depending on your budget, needs and aims, I’d say it’s definitely worth considering shelling out for a paid theme…
8. How Many Queries Have Been Resolved In The Last Six Months?
Just like plugins, with WordPress themes, you can ask for support from the developer or from other members of the WordPress community. That said; when choosing a theme, I’d definitely urge you to look at what support is available with the theme, how many queries there have been with the theme and how many of these have been resolved in the past six-12 months. Alarm bells should ring if there are lots of queries (because it suggests there are problems with the theme which aren’t easy to fix), however if a lot of these have been resolved it suggests the developer is extremely active in the WordPress community and willing to help users – so it might be a theme that’s still worth considering.
Think I’ve missed anything out? Or have anything to add? Leave me a comment below or tweet me – @amy_edwards88.