How To Choose A WordPress Blog Theme:
When I started blogging I was completely clueless. I threw stuff together and hoped for the best. Four years later and I’m finally taking my blog seriously. As a result, I am making a lot of changes to my blogs.
One of the few things I lucked out on was my theme company.
By accident, I managed to choose a great theme company that I’ve used for the last four years with great success.
If you do your research starting a blog is relatively inexpensive. You can often find cheap or inexpensive products that give great results. If you manage your blog effectively you won’t need to spend much money until you start expanding your blog.
One of the few things I recommend for new bloggers to spend money on is a good theme.
Although there are free themes available, they quickly become very limiting and you’ll end up regretting the time wasted on a theme that doesn’t match your expectations.
For the new, newbies, your theme is the groundwork of your blog. The theme you choose will determine the basic look, feel, and flow of your blog. I’ve spent many wasted hours trying to jury rig themes to do stuff they just weren’t designed to do. There are many themes available in the $20-50 range that will easily work for a beginning blogger.
It is easier to choose the right product from the beginning rather than try and make a square peg fit into a round hole.
Prior to picking a WordPress blogging theme, I recommend doing the following:
1. Visually lay out the look of your blog.
I know this sounds basic, but take a piece of paper and draw out the menus, structure and look. Decide where you want to place your posts, your pages, widgets and advertising.
I highly recommend looking at 10-15 blogs you like to get ideas.
For example, I really like lots of white space and clean lines. I like menus that are on the top of the page and easy to find. I’ve always preferred my widgets and ads to be on the left of the page with a nice logo/tagline on the top.
So the exact look and feel of this site.
On a side note, keep in mind I’m not a designer. I’d love to pretty up this blog, but since it is a side project it isn’t in the budget yet.
2. Review your blog flow
The flow of your blog is related to how the pages and menus’ actually interact with each other.
If you are a newbie then you may not realize that most blogs are set up with a category system. The pages you see aren’t truly pages, they are a composite of all of the posts written for a specific category.
So for example, when I publish this blog, this post will automatically be placed at the top of my front page. Then if I categorize the post as “Blogging” it will automatically become the first entry on the page that is labeled Blogging.
This category system allows you to easily organize your blog based on the segmented interest of your overall blog.
You can easily see how this works by looking at my current menu.
My blog is titled Digital Media Education and is a resource for bloggers. My categories are – Blogging, Business, Marketing, SEO, Social Media & Income Reports.
You’ll want your blog to have a similar structure, one that is easily understandable to your readers.
On a side note, if you already have your blog set up, I recommend checking out Peek User testing. Their users will do a quick free 5-minute review of your site while videotaping their reaction. It is a great free resource.
With my first blog, I just threw everything together and then four years later had to spend hours cleaning up my mess and recategorizing everything. I recommend 5-6 main headings, as you grow your blog you can add additional subheadings.
I’m not the best example of this, but highly recommend trying to keep your blog focused on one specific area.
This blog started because I couldn’t keep my focus laser-tight on my primary blog Daily Successful Living.
3. Determine your logo and site colors.
This is the area, I really struggle in. I started this blog 3 years ago and still don’t have a logo for this site. I’m just too cheap to spend the money right now. However, if you are going to be successful I do recommend getting a logo and determining your site colors.
For additional information on logos check out How to Create a Great Logo.
One of the best resources I’ve found to choose colors is through Canva. I highly recommend their post 100 Brilliant Color Combinations and How to Apply them to your Design.
I’ve changed my colors multiple times and the main thing I recommend is to find colors that speak to you. Don’t follow the popular colors (they will change), but find colors that make you happy when you see them.
You’ll want contrasting colors that stand out when viewed from a distance.
Remember that any graphic you create may be viewed on a cell phone, so you need colors that will pop out. Most designers recommend having a mix of light and dark colors.
I personally use four colors for my blog. I like the flexibility multiple colors give me when creating graphics.
4. Pick your WordPress Theme
It sounds so simple – Pick your theme. Honestly, this is the hardest part and will take you more time than you expect.
These are some of the questions you should be asking prior to purchasing a theme.
- When choosing a theme, review a variety of companies. Read their disclaimers and read reviews on their products. If possible do a small test drive of the theme. Most copies offer some type of satisfaction guarantee.
- The major theme companies provide multiple examples of each of their themes in use by real customers. Depending on your goals it may even be worth contacting some of their existing customers to get reviews.
- At a minimum, you need to make sure that your theme is responsive. 40-50% of my traffic is from mobile devices and I assume most bloggers have similar numbers. Having a responsive theme is critical for the look and feel of your site.
- Does the Theme company have good customer service?
- At some point, you’ll have issues with your theme. It is just a matter of time. Make sure there is a living, breathing person you can contact for when the inevitable happens.
- What is included with the purchase of the theme? Can you use the theme infinitely? Do you get updates? Can you use multiple themes from the same company?
- How user-friendly is their product? Will you need to do any coding? Can you make basic changes yourself? For example, with my Themify themes, I can easily adjust the text, color, and size of my heading. This means that all of my headings will automatically change on all of my posts based on my master template.
I’ve used themes from the following companies over the last 4 years. Some of these have been through work and some on my personal blogs.
On a very general level, the Studio Press Genesis theme seems to work better if you have basic programming skills. You can literally make Genesis do anything as long as you know coding.
I know a very, very limited amount of code and most of my coding is based on copy/paste. I look at code for something that works and then can figure out how to adjust it. It is time-consuming and never works quite right.
This is the main reason, I started to use Themify for my themes.
Themify themes are designed to avoid the end user having to code. I’ve literally used code 3-4 times on my Themify themes and it is always for minor tweaks rather than major fixes.
The best part of the Themify system is their Builder Tool. This feature allows you to customize virtually any page. You can create any type of layout with live preview on the front end.
This means you can create multiple page columns with subcolumns on any page. The builder system allows you to create a text box, then a video box, then a graphic box and then place them anywhere on the page. The functionality is amazing.
I am not a technical person and yet have managed to create three blogs that although not top of the line, look pretty decent for a first time blogger with no coding skills.
If you have already started your blog and are contemplating a switch I recommend having your hosting company add a .dev/testing site to your account. This allows you to test out the theme without accidentally breaking anything on your site.
I’ve switched themes a couple of times, it typically takes 3-4 hours of work to make sure that all of the pages look correct. It isn’t hard to do, but you’ll always run into little tweaking issues that need to be resolved. Keep in mind, I don’t have crazy elaborate websites. The more complicated your site the more difficult a theme change will be.
Having a testing environment makes this significantly easier since you aren’t making changes to a live site that may have viewers.
Your Theme is the Foundation of Your Blog
People are more likely to read your content if they like the way your blog looks. They will continue to read your posts if they can easily find related content that interests them.
Don’t underestimate the power a well-designed theme will have on the look and feel of your blog.
What Themes to you guys like? Any recommendations for new companies to try?