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How to Pick a WordPress Theme – a Detailed Checklist

Are you planning to launch a WordPress site or want to update the look of an existing one? This usually means choosing a WordPress theme, which is not an easy task when you consider the thousands of themes out there!

Sunny HQ, WordPress support experts, created a checklist to help you decide how to choose a WordPress theme that’s right for your business. Read on to find out more.

1. Pick a Theme Designed For Your Type of Website

What kind of website are you setting up? Is it a blog-only site, or a company website to provide information about your products and services? Or is it an e-commerce site?

Most WordPress theme directories create categories for business types or color scheme, which certainly provides a good, basic starting place. The theme directory on WordPress.org is a good place to start. Click on the feature filter tab, and select what items you know (or think) you want on your website. Click on “Apply Filters” to see an assortment of WordPress themes that fit your picks.

As far as colors go, certain colors do seem to resonate well for the image a company is trying to project.

  • Red is popular for brands and products that want to project excitement (Target, Coke, H&M)
  • Blue represents stability and trust and is seen in logos and websites for medical and financial concerns
  • Green is associated with nature and sometimes finance
  • Black is associated with luxury

You’ll find these more or less fall in line with industry-themed website themes as well. Keep in mind, though, that many themes do allow you to choose different colors, sometimes within the same “family” as the theme’s default colors.

1a. Balance Colors with Website Activities and the Information Provided

Be sure your theme and its color scheme support what you want your site to do.

Limit colors like red for actions, like adding to a shopping cart or clicking on a coupon, but keep the actual payment page a nice soothing blue. Use yellow accents if you’re trying to attract younger buyers or direct attention to leisure, events like tickets to an outdoor concert or beachwear.

If your site is a blog or includes one, keep in mind that colors can stress certain qualities:

  • Orange for creativity
  • Gray for neutrality (political blogs could try this!), technology, and sophistication
  • Pink for romance or topics of interest to younger women and girls
  • Purple for healthcare products and cosmetics

2. Identify Website Functions

Another way to address how to choose a WordPress theme is to determine your site’s main function.

If it’s to sell products, take a look at WooCommerce. This is a WordPress plugin that creates a whole new ecosystem within WordPress that focusses on e-commerce. We strongly suggest using WooCommerce themes with this plugin rather than WordPress themes, because they will work seamlessly with WooCommerce’s own widgets and extensions. Extensions serve the same purpose as plugins, but are developed specifically to work with WooCommerce.

If you’re selling services, you can certainly use WooCommerce, but there are WordPress themes that support e-commerce functions as well. Go back to the WordPress.org theme directory and click on the e-commerce listing under “subject.” You’ll be presented with themes that largely support selling services, rather than an array of products and include useful plugins and widgets.

Many WordPress themes provide tools to customize standard widgets like headers, footers, sidebars, tags, and menus. Others let you modify formats for column settings, comments, and contact forms.

Others offer plugins with widgets to easily create video banners, page and post templates, and photo galleries. WordPress.org lists several features you can select as you consider different themes.

One thing to keep in mind is that WordPress is soon going to introduce a new editor tool, called Gutenberg, that creates pages through content blocks. Be sure the WordPress theme you choose will be compatible with it. Check out our article on upcoming Gutenberg-related changes.

3. Be Sure Your WordPress Theme Isn’t Loaded with Features You Don’t Need

Some developers try to cram in as many theme features as possible, in an attempt to be one-size fits all. Unless you find one that offers unique features you aren’t seeing anywhere else, try to avoid these themes.

Overloaded themes, particularly those that automatically activate plugins, can slow down your page load speed. They have just too many things to download and, as you know, slow-loading sites get abandoned before they have a chance to show what the business can do.

If you decide to go with a plug-in heavy theme, don’t auto-activate all the plugins. Pick and choose those that you need. And if you find you aren’t using an activated plugin, deactivate it and if possible, delete the files.

4. Read Theme Reviews

Themes in WordPress directories are often reviewed by users. Once you’ve narrowed down your theme selection to a handful or less, take time to read these reviews, keeping in mind these tips:

  • Have problems cited in earlier versions been fixed?
  • How responsive is the developer to users seeking help?
  • What industries are more successful with the theme?
  • How often is the theme updated?
  • How many reviews are there? No or few reviews can be a bad sign.

While we’re on this topic, don’t use themes that aren’t associated with WordPress itself. Reliable developers will be listed in WordPress’ repository or otherwise identified as WordPress-friendly. WordPress created the Theme Authenticator to check for malicious code and other nefarious items that can become embedded in themes.

5. Check Out What Your Competitors Do on the Web

What are your competitors doing on the web? Are they even using WordPress? If they are using a closed shop like Etsy (meaning users are limited to only Etsy-created tools), their websites probably have limited functionality and customization.

WordPress, with its open-source approach, encourages talented designers to dive in, so chances are you’re ahead of the game by just using its platform. But, also look at how your competitors operate on the web:

  • Do their pages load quickly and work well on mobile devices?
  • Is it easy to pull up a Google map with directions or click to call the business?
  • For e-commerce sites, how fast and simple are the checkout functions?

Looking at competitor sites will give you an idea of what must be included, as well as ways to stand out from the field with superior usability, eye-catching graphics, and above all, fantastic content, whether written, graphical, video, or a combination of all three.

6. Consider Purchasing a Theme

If you’re simply blogging, you can probably get away with a free theme. But if you’re selling products or services on the web, it’s a good idea to consider purchasing your WordPress theme, because:

  • You will get customer support, rarely offered by freebies
  • Your theme will be updated with each WordPress update
  • You will get more features and customization

You can’t know how effective a theme is until it’s been installed. For that reason, go ahead and install a dev site on WordPress to try out the theme before it goes live.

The more themes you try out, the better you will be at understanding how to choose a WordPress theme. Tell us how you approached this task!

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