Hackernoon logoHow to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Website by@maryna-bizhikian

How to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Website

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@maryna-bizhikianMaryna Bizhikian

Fintech specialist, digital marketer, COO at Digital Clever Solutions

WordPress is the most in-demand CMS in the world that accommodates a huge number of information and business blogs. It allows for launching and managing full-value websites with minimal coding, exempts bloggers and entrepreneurs from the need to hire a webmaster or learn complex programming technologies.
Ready-made design themes make the process for starting a blog even easier, providing you with off-the-rack layout and design. You can find a wide range of templates in the public domain or acquire premium products in specialty stores. This article provides helpful tips for selecting a template to effectively serve your current and future needs.

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WP theme is a code file that dictates how your website will look in terms of  design and functional settings, as well as how it interacts with users and performs on the backend.
You can use parent and child themes. A parent theme is a template with all the features and components necessary for the full-value work of your website. It can be customized to your preference, but any updates to the theme will reset your customized elements.
In most cases it is better to create a child theme that inherits all the properties of the parent theme, apart from those you change. Updates to the basic layer of design settings do not affect the child layer. You can also use plugins and widgets to add new features to your blog.
If you want to make a lot of changes to the basic theme, it makes more sense to use a WP framework to develop a unique design from scratch. This option is more expensive, laborious, and time-consuming than using an off-the-shelf template, but it will make your website stand out from the competition with an unusual appearance, and it will eliminate excessive features that can slow loading time.
Choosing between an off-the-rack or tailor-made template is up to you. Consider your unique requirements and budget. If you decide to use a template, try to find a suitable option in the Appearance section of the WP dashboard, or upload a file with code to your host using the FTP function.

Free vs Paid Themes

WordPress makes web development more accessible, providing free themes for all tastes. They can be installed via the WP dashboard or downloaded from WordPress.org and other websites.  Pay close attention to the developers’ rating and the authority of the platforms on which their products are distributed, to reduce the likelihood of installing a low-quality or rarely updated theme, or one containing malicious code.
It can be challenging to create a unique design using a free template, since it may be used by thousands of other websites. As an alternative, you can use premium products developed and supported by professional web designers. Their prices range from $10 - $100. Stores support their products for a certain period following the template’s purchase, usually 6 months. To preserve a competitive edge, they thoroughly check the code quality and provide the latest features and advanced customization options.
While a free theme is a good starting point for bloggers with a limited budget, don’t completely discard the idea of purchasing a premium design template, since they are generally more reliable and easier to manage.
Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing a WP design template.

1.    The Purpose of Your Blog

Your website should not only be beautiful, but you want it to drive a certain type of user behavior. For example, it should encourage visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, share their contact data, post comments, follow your commercial links and other actions that help grow your business. Search for themes that offer the functionality, forms and buttons that meet your needs
Also think about what type of content you plan to post, and if it will be text only, or include images, video and audio.
Your niche also matters. The design of a legal company’s blog will differ dramatically from that of a beauty blog.

2.    Customization

Even if a certain theme suits your needs for now, the purpose and content of your blog can change over time. You may need to either customize your existing template or acquire a new one. The first option is easier and less expensive. Just be sure you can add new items to the header and footer, create landing pages, and accommodate user registration, comment posting, subscriptions and other elements.
Of course, these and many other features can be implemented with plugins, but it’s always better to have them encoded in your theme.

3. Mobile-Friendliness

The majority of your target audience will access your website from their phones and tablets, so it’s important that your theme is optimized for mobile. Test it using a special tool by Google. Also, check out its appearance and function on your own phone.
Mobile-friendliness will improve your position in a search dropdown, since Google prioritizes mobile-optimized websites when ranking.

4.    Fast Loading Times

Today’s web users expect flawless and fast performance, and having to wait for your pages to load will alienate potential customers. Slow response is often caused by excessive code and non-optimized images that are characteristic of poorly-made themes. Use tools like Google’s page speed test to see how quickly the theme’s demo version uploads content to a browser. 

5.    Reviews, Ratings and Updates

Do some research before implementing new technologies on your website, and  make sure the theme has been updated within the past six months. If not, it may lack the security features to withstand constantly evolving hacker attacks. Free themes from unverified sources may contain malicious code. Use Theme Authenticity Checker to detect threats.

6.    Competitors’ Designs

Don’t copy your competitors’ websites, but you should analyze their designs and the elements that make them successful, to spare yourself from learning via trial and error. Use them for inspiration to create a unique design.

7.    Users’ Opinion

Ask friends and relatives with limited experience  to evaluate your theme from a user’s standpoint. Ask for feedback on appearance, performance of all features, loading speed, display on different devices, and other important elements. Getting honest feedback about the overall user experience will help you avoid a high bounce rate and maximize the number of repeat visitors.
Following these simple selection criteria will help you avoid trial and error in selecting a theme for your website, so you  can find the best WordPress theme to bring you closer to your goals.


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