Using a prebuilt theme for your WordPress projects can speed up design and development time no end. But with over 10,000 WordPress themes out there – picking the right one as a base for your website projects can be a bit of a daunting task!
To make it a bit easier, I’ve put together this list of 6 things to look for when choosing a theme:
1. Make sure its responsive
You’d be hard pressed to find a modern WordPress template that is not responsive. But even so, its well worth checking out the theme demos on smaller screens to get a good idea of how the content reorganises itself in mobile devices. Pay special attention to forms, sliders and big hero images – especially if they have a text overlay.
2. Consider what the website needs to do
Its important to consider what type of website you are designing and what functionality your client will be needing. Create a list of the pages your client requires and the types of content on each of those pages – this will help you identify the features you will need your theme to provide. Of course, your theme doesn’t need to do everything – WordPress is very flexible and has a great eco system of plugins to add functionality to any site. But if your base theme comes bundled with the majority of features your client needs it can speed up development time significantly.
3. Consider the design and layout
When your working with a prebuilt theme for a design project, you need to look for something that will support your client’s content. If you are lucky enough to have the content at the beginning of your project, it can make choosing a theme that much easier! Also consider how the theme handles branding (eg the logo in the main navigation) and how the main navigation works.
4. Is the theme well supported?
Make sure you choose a theme from a reputable developer that is well supported so your client won’t be left in the lurch if anything stops working.
- Has the theme been around for a while?
- Is it popular? Does it have good ratings?
- Has it been updated recently?
- Are support questions answered quickly?
- How is it priced? Do you pay a subscription for support and updates? Or is it a one-off fee?
5. Take a look under the hood
This is not always so easy to do, but its well worth checking out!
- The theme’s functionality should be added as plugins instead of being baked into the theme itself. This will mean that your client won’t lose content if they ever move to a new theme.
- How is the theme layout customised? By templates or using a pagebuilder?
Templates mean that layouts are coded and fairly fixed. A pagebuilder can speed up development time and allow your client to create new layouts themselves.
- How is the CSS written?
If the CSS files use a lot of !important the theme default styles are going to be difficult to override.
- Check that it supports any plugins that you know your client will be using
6. Consider SEO, Site Speed & Useability
Usability and Site Speed are increasingly tied up with SEO.
- Make sure the theme design adheres to best practices for usability. Google considers how visitors interact with a website to help determine the search engine ranking.
- Use a tool like Pingdom’s Website Speed Test to check how fast the theme loads.