The trick to keeping your costs low is choosing a professionally designed theme – aka website template. You need to ensure you choose the right one and do your research to ensure you don’t get a dud. I’ve been a website designer for 7 years and started off designing completely custom websites and despite this now I always recommend new businesses save their money and purchase a theme.
But! There is a trick to it, there are a lot of dud themes out there that have even made me want to throw my computer out the window!
All the theme websites make it sound so easy to do right? But, the truth is, there is a secret sauce involved. And, if you know the secret sauce then yes, it’s easy. If you don’t know the secret sauce, it can become your worst nightmare so I am going to share some of my secret sauce tips with you.
I buy all my themes from Theme Forest as I have found they have the best quality and I use Bluehost for my hosting.
When searching for a theme I always narrow it by the following:
When searching for a theme I always narrow the options in the search box by the following:
- Minimum 4 stars
Bonus: One click sample data import
Then use the following tips to suss out your chosen themes:
Speed: Lightweight Vs. Feature-Heavy Themes
I recommended avoiding sluggish themes like the plague.
Understanding a problem is the first step to avoiding it. So, what causes a theme to drag a website’s page speed into the gutter?
In general, it comes down to three things:
Overuse of large file formats:
The keyword here is “overuse,” which admittedly is a bit subjective. Try to steer clear of themes that use a lot of full-width images, background videos, etc. Less is more.
From wildly scaled images to inline CSS injection, poor coding has a significant impact on website performance. As mentioned, poor code usually means that a theme hasn’t been updated in a long time, so always check a theme’s update history.
Here’s a litmus test you can use to figure out how bloated a theme is. Go to the Pingdom Website Speed Test, enter the URL of a theme’s demo and see how long the page takes to load and how many HTTP requests are made.
Design And User Experience
Of course, the purpose of a theme is to make your website look great and show off your brand in the best possible light. While design can be quite subjective, you will boost your odds of finding a well-designed theme by following a few steps.
First, search on websites where the best designers sell their themes. This might sound obvious but is still worth mentioning. ThemeForest is my personal favorite, but plenty of other good ones are out there, including StudioPress and Elegant Themes.
Secondly, spend some time browsing the demo. Does the website feel easy to use? Is there enough white space? Do you get a headache looking at it? Does it excite you? This is where your gut feeling plays an important role.
Finally, be sure to choose a theme that is cross-browser compatible and has been built with accessibility in mind.
While mobile traffic varies between industries, most reports seem to agree that, on average, about 30% of all website visits now come from mobile and tablet devices.
Regardless of the exact ratios, there’s no excuse to use anything but a responsive theme.
Thankfully, virtually all reputable themes are mobile-friendly out of the box, so the lack of responsiveness in a theme is really a red flag. Most theme vendors allow you to filter out themes that are not responsive.
One of the best ways to determine whether a responsive theme is good or not is to run the demo through Google’s new mobile-friendliness tool.
When enabled with one of the many good SEO plugins, WordPress is one of the most SEO-friendly CMS’ around.
However, plenty of themes render all manner of on-site SEO mistakes, such as the omission of header and alt tags, full-blown duplicated content and dynamic URL errors.
When choosing a theme, look for “SEO optimized” or “SEO ready” in the theme description, but don’t trust it blindly. A lot of developers include this to check a box and sell their theme. That being said, knowing that a designer has at least considered SEO when developing their theme does offer some assurance.
A good practice is to install an extension for the Chrome browser, such as MozBar or SEO Site Tools, to run some quick SEO checks on a theme’s demo.
Ease Of Customization
A customization dashboard has become standard in a lot of themes. This saves you the hassle of having to make direct changes to style sheets.
In addition, plugins such as Visual Page Editor make it easy to build complex page structures without having to touch code. While some of these WYSIWYG editors are somewhat limiting, I find that overall they’re very beneficial to getting a website looking very nice with little effort. If a developer has a demo of their administration panel, I’d recommend playing around with it to make sure you can customize everything you need to.
A lot affects the security of a website, including hosting, plugins and password strength. This should not be an afterthought; rather, consider it when selecting your theme.
As when you’re buying a home, one of the best things you can do to gauge a theme’s security is to read what customers say about it. Unless a theme was created by a trustworthy developer, I avoid any theme that doesn’t have many downloads or reviews.
My advice is to evaluate themes on community websites like ThemeForest, where all customer reviews are displayed by default. This level of transparency tends to reveal the truth about themes, which you wouldn’t get directly from a developer’s website.
While buying a theme directly from its developer’s website is fine, do so only after evaluating it on a community website with transparent reviews.
If a theme has a security loophole, then customers have probably picked up on it and flagged it in their reviews for future customers. While the developer might have fixed such issues, the overall ratings from customers should give you an idea of a theme’s overall quality. I also like to read the comments and see how long it takes for the developer to reply.