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7 things to consider before getting a WordPress theme for your website

Ah, here is a bone of contention. WordPress Theme Sites.

As some of you know, I run a design agency, and we design and build bespoke high quality websites – and prefer to use WordPress as our CMS of choice. Our sites are completely designed and built from scratch, and we don’t use themes for the most part.

So, you would expect me to say “No! Step away from that template!” But I am realistic and I understand that there are advantages to using WordPress theme sites.

  1. You can look  through thousands of options for designs and pick and choose the ones you like – rather than briefing a designer and then not really knowing what will come back
  2. They are practically free – even the premium themes are usally less than $100.
  3. The HTML code is already done, so you don’t need to pay for someone to do that.
  4. Overall – it’s a lot less expensive.  To put a site like this together is usually 1-3 days of work. You can consider getting a WordPress coder to help you out.

But – this doesn’t mean that they don’t take any work!

What you see in the demo is not really what you get when you buy the theme. It comes a bit like flat pack furniture, you need to sit down at your PC for several hours up to a couple of days – to build up the theme back to the way you saw it in the demo.

If you want to do this, here are some tips:

1. Look for “responsive themes” – these are built to work on mobile phones and tablets and display differently on those

2. Test how each of the pages in the demo look on all the different devices and drivers – by visiting that demo and browsing through all the different pages. The homepage may look great, but it may have poor formatting on the inner or blog pages, or it may display funny on your phone.

3. Think carefully how YOUR content will look in the different page templates. How will the team page look? How will your services be displayed? Plan this out ahead of time, and try and choose a page from the template pages which you can use for that type of page.

4. Understand that because it’s a theme site, it’s not going to have the design exactly how you want. You just need to get something you are more or less happy with.

5. Choose to buy a theme only when you have read the associated description and any reviews from users. Not because they are expensive – but because it takes time to put them together, and you don’t want to be wasting time unnecessarily.

6. Sometimes, you might install a theme and find it’s full of errors and bugs. We can tell this pretty quickly as our coders are WordPress experts, but you can test it out and see if there is anything glaringly obvious. Be ok with letting go of this theme – sometimes it’s just not worth the hassle. There are hundreds of thousands of theme developers out there, and only a small minority have really achieved the level of quality and attention to detail I would approve of!

7. Using well written text (including headlines) and well chosen images will be what makes the site unique to your company and your audience. Do your research, and think of your messages so you can achieve the best possible result.

I would say that doing your own WordPress theme site is a good option if you have a minimal budget – and if you want to do it all yourself, you need to have the time and patience (eg – 2 days of time) to learn this and work it out. There are lots of online resources which can take you through the process

What we do at TLD is an assisted theme selection service, a way of helping out clients (at a lower cost compared to bespoke designed sites, obviously) to help plan the structure, shortlist possible themes, and work on the coding and customisation – it’s a great halfway mark for clients who for whatever reason don’t want to go the full bespoke route.

Hopefully this has helped clarify things – to ensure you have the best outcome from your WordPress theme website. Let me know how it works out for you!

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

About Keren Lerner

Keren has been running Top Left Design since January 2002 and is an experienced designer and an expert on usability and accessibility and using design to communicate clear marketing messages. She also regularly trains fellow business people and budding entrepreneurs in social media, blogging, the principles of good website design, creating effective email newsletters and improving their online reputation. Her mission is to 'clean up the internet' and empower clients to represent and promote themselves in a way they can be proud of.

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