The design of the website is the first thing you will notice when you visit them on the internet. It might look good on the desktop but not good on your mobile, it has got a bad navigation, flash animations, pop-ups, and small texts. Probably you will have problems accessing it when you are traveling, and you have no other option except your mobile phone. Ahh! You don’t like it. And then you stop visiting this website on your phone. It can happen vice versa.
You don’t want your visitors to take the decision like above to stop visiting your site on a mobile phone.
Do you? Is it all OK?
If you aren’t serious about blogging, then leave it. Even I can’t help it. But, hey, you are here because you are serious about it and you want to grow your blog.
Now, it’s not that old HTML thing which we knew in 90’s when it used to take a lot of time in coding. Things have changed. And so have platforms.
Since there are many platforms available to start your website with, and the factors which we are going to talk about would be applicable to all the other platforms, but for this post, we will consider WordPress platform.
We all know what a WordPress is, an extraordinary platform, which is super-fast, search engine friendly, plugins and themes compatible, flexible in coding, and reliable in the backend.
WordPress comes with a default theme, Twenty Sixteen, which is pretty decent to start your blog. But if you need more features and functionalities then you will need to choose themes available on various marketplaces.
Themes are available in free and premium packages. Premium themes are always recommended by the professional bloggers because they come with much more features and functionalities with support and ease-of-use as compared with free ones.
As I talked about in my previous post, using free theme was one of my blogging mistakes, therefore, I wouldn’t advise you either to use the free theme.
But, if still, you want to use a free theme, then visit the official website of WordPress.org, a huge online directory for WordPress themes.
When checking out themes on different kinds of marketplaces on the internet, they all look good, visually. But you come to know more about it when you purchase it (usually $20-$100).
When I purchase, I browse through different marketplaces I have bookmarked. Few of my favorites are:
I am sure you can find your best theme from any of these resources, but does that theme has ‘everything’ in it? If you are already using a premium theme, does that has ‘everything’ in it?
As a newbie, you might get confused which one to grab and might get frustrated. So don’t worry, let’s talk about what ‘everything’ refers to here.
First Thing – What’s Your Niche or Subject About?
I would call it a passion.
What’s the whole purpose and goal of your website? There has to be a goal or purpose.
Your theme selection is dependent on this. If your theme is all about eCommerce activities, then you can’t choose a simple blogging theme. It won’t be relevant. That won’t solve your purpose.
If you just need a landing page to collect email addresses to shoot your emails, then you would be using a different theme which fulfills your needs of collecting them. Same goes with other types.
I didn’t want to create any online magazine, so I didn’t choose any magazine or eCommerce theme. I didn’t need the functions the other themes were offering me. I wanted it to be simple and effective, and I started using Genesis.
Now there are many categories under which your website can fall in, but still, you to have to filter out the themes best for your project.
OK! Let’s See What Are Your Needs First
Why do we have to consider this factor for choosing a theme?
It’s simple! Can you choose a dating theme for your business website? Imagine how it would look like with the features and functions in it on your business website.
It’s going to be terrible.
Thousands of themes are available, all customized with particular needs, ranging from business to personal to e-commerce to blogging to dating themes. Now what sort of your website is?
Decided? You should have! It’s very important.
Because if you don’t decide now you will end up in consuming more time and energy later on when you think, which would, of course, be late, that the theme which you selected was completely wrong.
And then you keep adjusting formats according to the new theme. That certainly requires time.
Before the time issue happens, your readers will first ‘boycott’ you for the reason you have chosen a wrong theme.
Don’t make this happen.
So write down your needs for a theme, and requirements of your website. Write them down.
- What type of features you need in a website?
- Can a chosen theme accomplish all those features you desire for?
- Can it display all kinds of images properly in the right format, like the main featured image?
- How are the widgets organized in your selected theme?
- Can it be customized later?
- Do you like its typography?
- Does it allow you to change logos and other things in an easy way?
- How many columns do you need for your website project? Would one column be OK or you need more?
- Do you need bigger fonts to display or small text is fine?
- Who would be your audience? Desktop users or Mobile users?
- Is it going to be a responsive website?
These are just examples, am sure you would have some more. Dig deep and find more requirements. You will save time later.
Visual Look Of The Theme
This would be the first thing your website visitors will notice.
When you think about Yahoo, Amazon, MSN, what comes to your mind? The themes of these websites distinguish them from others. Their themes are unique and that’s how they are recognized since starting.
So whatever you have to choose now, choose wisely.
And choose simple and sober themes, they attract visitors who will be engaged in the content and visual images. Keeping in mind, a theme should be professional, best designed for your needs. A theme should always reflect your passion for what you are writing about.
Beautiful themes always mesmerize website readers. It changes their mood to get engaged in more. So you should emphasize more on choosing the right color for your website.
Give your readers the best visually appealing content on your website. If they like your website colors, they will stay on.
Jeremy Smith, Digital marketing expert and conversion optimization consultant, concludes in his article to test several colors first and find out which one works best for your audience and your product.
His second important tip is that don’t just leave the color choice up to your designer.
Thirdly, avoid color overload. Don’t use too many colors, as it will only create a sense of confusion for your website readers.
Color is a tricky thing. You have to use it in the right way, at the right time, with the right audience, and for the right purpose.
– Jeremy Smith
Read the complete article here to understand on how to use the psychology of color to increase website conversion.
Now The Cost And It’s Licensing
This is something everyone’s interested in. It involves cost. Licensing, second.
Every time I check out a theme for my website project, of course, I do check all the other factors mentioned here, but this factor of cost cannot be ignored too. Because I have found many websites offering themes that too very basic themes with a higher cost.
That theme might look good, visually appealing, and maybe that’s why it’s overpriced. Until unless I check in the backend what features are present there, I do not buy that theme.
Mostly all themes are in the range of $19 to $100. But this is again way cheaper than hiring a web developer to build up something from scratch for you.
If you are looking for something very unique, customized as per your needs, you can check on the freelancing websites. But who does that initially?
When I design websites for my clients, I generally buy themes at one time cost from Themeforest, my favorite marketplace resource.
Researching for a particular theme in mind and which can be defined to be used with a particular niche does take time. Once I find something, I buy it. And these themes are very customizable.
Now, if we talk more about different pricing models, everyone has got their own labels.
Look at this example of a price difference.
Being a newbie blogger, you would prefer the second choice as it’s less expensive. And I would prefer the first choice, of course, it comes with a heavier cost, but it would have far more functions and features than the second one.
Totally depends on you. If you are a budget constraint in starting then you can pay $49 and get started.
For example, you can get access to 87 themes by purchasing only 1 theme at Elegant Themes. This would be a club membership pricing model, which gives you access to their themes for a complete year, and that starts with $69 only.
On the other hand, you can register with Themeforest and buy a single license theme also.
So now you know where to head to for themes as per your needs and budget.
Is It Easier To Navigate?
You have to make sure that your website has a neat and clean navigational menu, easy to respond with different device resolution making it responsive. It cannot be ignored today, as we have all kinds of mobile devices.
The theme comes with multiple navigational menus, like top menu, header menu, footer menu or social media menu, all designed to perform specific functions.
So, if for example, you need a special social media menu to display your social media icons then you need to check theme’s features list or check out its demo for its availability.
Navigational menu is a very important part in theme. This will allow your readers to have an easy access to different content available on your site, so they can browse easily.
If you like any theme and it doesn’t have that menu option which you are looking for, you can always create a new one. Now, you should have knowledge of basic HTML and PHP to do some coding stuff.
For more help on how to create a new menu, go here.
If that’s something which you don’t like then the other option is to use a WordPress menu plugin. These plugins are so easy to use and handy to implement these functions which you don’t have to code yourself.
If you are looking for premium menu plugins, then the best ones are:
What If You Want To Customize It?
Now if you bought a theme and you cannot customize it easily, it’s hard to figure out how to navigate in the backend, then that’s of no use even.
Either you have to learn it or ask the developer.
There are so many things which you would change once you buy the theme.
You might not like the width of the right bar, and want to change it. Or you might not want any header image on top of your home page.
What if you want to change the color style and you don’t know how to?
Everyone’s got their own taste of colors and layout structure of the theme. Some themes provide these options in various formats and some do up to the limit only. If you are a coder yourself, then it should be easy for you to customize it with custom stylesheets or codes.
Many themes come with backend controls to manage the whole aspects of the theme. While there are some themes where you have to use coding only.
Cannot Ignore SEO
If you want to stay in the competition, then SEO, simply, can’t be ignored.
SEO is referred to as search engine optimization.
Nowadays, everyone knows about it, how important SEO has become to website owners. And if you still didn’t know about it, then it’s time to learn.
SEO themes are preferred by the search engines, and they love them. Google, has so many algorithms, to define the subject of SEO. Your theme should be using SEO friendly markup language.
If your theme isn’t SEO friendly, then search engine bots wouldn’t be able to crawl into your content easily and your website will not be shown to your readers. You don’t want that.
When you are putting in a lot of efforts, time and money into your website project for any cause, then it should be SEO friendly for others to find you.
Although WordPress is the preferred CMS for Google because of its SEO friendly structure. But if you have already bought a theme, and unfortunately that isn’t SEO friendly, then you can use plugins like Yoast SEO, or All in One SEO Pack to optimize your WordPress websites for search engines.
Read or ask the developer about the theme you are going to use for SEO use. You can check out the theme’s demo to see if all looks clean, like URL structuring, permalink, H1, H2 tags, title tags, Meta data, etc.
Your website should load fast, and this is very important factor in SEO. If your theme is well optimized your theme will load up faster, else you will lose all the traffic to your site.
Similar with images and media, find out if they are well optimized too. When your website loads slowly then heavy images could be one of the reasons. If your theme is SEO friendly theme then your theme should be converting all the heavy images to light ones to load up faster.
Along with this, you should also use image compression plugins or upload images which are already optimized to have an optimized experience.
If the code is cleaned, and the bots can easily crawl into your content then that theme has W3C Valid code. Usually, codes are compressed in themes to make crawling easier for bots. Otherwise, search engines would be spending the time to read white space.
Don’t Ignore Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and much more. Billions of people are using these social media sites.
People are sharing content with each other in some or other way through these social media websites. Definitely, you don’t want to miss out anything here.
SMO stands for social media optimization, the next thing after SEO. It simply optimizes the visual content of a website so the visitor can easily link to it.
Rohit Bhargava lists 5 rules of social media optimization (SMO) in his original post as:
1. Increase your linkability
2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy
3. Reward inbound links
4. Help your content travel
5. Encourage the mashup
For SMO friendly theme, check out the social media menu or icon location. Can it easily be seen by your visitor to share your content on the social media websites? Does the icon also show share counts to give our visitors a proof that your content is worthy and read?
Your theme should allow the user engagement in all process where they can openly share your content.
Images and videos play an important role in SMO because content with relevant images gets more views. So make sure SMO is a definite part of your theme.
How About A Mobile Responsive Design
Mobile devices have taken over the desktop devices and its growing with huge numbers day by day. Websites which are mobile optimized are shown up first in search engines, and they are preferred by your visitors.
Kayla Knight, on Smashing Magazine, wrote about responsive design as:
…the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.
Mostly, all the themes are mobile responsive nowadays, be it free or premium, but still, you should always run a mobile-friendly test tool provided by Google. It gives you a real-time glimpse of your website theme how it would show up on a mobile screen.
Don’t worry if your website theme isn’t responsive. But make it a top priority as Google’s best interest is in to provide their customers the best web experience.
Google recommends responsive web design and it ranks websites which are highly optimized for mobile resolution in mobile searches.
So before you buy any theme, check if it is designed to fit on all mobile and tablet devices. Make sure you check their demo to see how the images and the content adapt to screen size by resizing your browser.
You may also check these online tools to see how your theme looks on different devices with different resolutions.
And not just the screen resolution, your website should open in different browsers also. Earlier we used to complain about incompatibility issues with Firefox. But now, we have Microsoft Edge, IE10, Chrome, and Safari in desktop and Safari, Android browser, Dolphin, Opera, and Firefox in Mobile.
The whole web industry has already shifted towards mobile technology, in this case, if you are not, you will be left behind.
Feedbacks And Ratings Of A Theme
Thousands of webmasters are using different themes for their projects. There are fresh designers and experienced ones too.
Being a newbie you would want to rely on the words of an experienced designer.
And professional designers and developers not only rely on just the visual look or the features but also the feedback and rating that theme has collected over a period of time.
You can use those ratings and feedbacks to your advantage. This will give you a view on how the theme responds to various technical problems it might bring if you buy it.
Look at the theme below on Themeforest. Both are categorized under eCommerce themes and both of them have different ratings and feedbacks.
This will definitely help you in choosing a right theme for your WordPress project.
The Styling Of Text, Images & Videos
To attract the visitors and get them engaged you will need three elements, text, images, and videos.
And how you display them on your website, is another factor of keeping them tied to your website. That is embedded into your theme. So when choosing any WordPress theme, make sure it displays them nicely.
The text makes up the content, and it should be easily readable. Check out the font size and style the theme is using. Does it allow to change the style and font size? How would it look if you change the styling of your theme’s font?
The text should easily be readable on both the devices, desktop, and mobile. If it doesn’t look good on the mobile, then consider modifying the style and size. It shouldn’t be too big or too small.
I have seen many websites with smaller font styles that’s hard to read on mobile devices.
Look out for typography styles the theme offers. It should be using appropriate font styles and sizes for headlines tag, bullets, and quote, to stand out your website from the crowd.
If your visitor likes the style, they will stay on there.
Nowadays, all themes are using Google web fonts, and most of the premium themes allow you to choose the desired font.
When you add images and videos on your website along with the text content, it gives an interesting look to your content. That makes the reader read your content with graphical stuff.
It is even said that a picture is worth 1000 words, so better use them. Now, how you use them in your content is dependent on you. But how does a theme embeds the images and videos, is what makes the theme interesting.
Sometimes, adding images and videos slow down your website. So it’s best to keep a clean page with minimal images. Though, media attracts visitors, but I have seen many sites with a few images and videos, and only the content and the site is receiving tremendous traffic.
Call It Upgrades Or Updates
To stay up to date we need to update ourselves with knowledge. Similarly with the technical things, to stay compatible with other plugins, devices, and technical things, we should always use an updated theme.
Never use an outdated WordPress themes.
Before you buy any theme, check out it’s last updated version and when was it launched. Check with the developer if it is supported by the latest WordPress version. If it doesn’t, then you will have no choice, and find the other one.
But I have seen most of the famous themes nowadays are all compatible with the latest WordPress version. I cannot say about the free ones.
If you check free themes on WordPress themes directory you will find numerous free themes to choose for your website.
You will see something like this on the theme download page if it’s not been updated since a long time.
When you use an updated theme, you ensure that your theme is much more compatible and it is secured from any hackers. The premium themes also offer new features in their theme’s new versions.
So if you have already bought a theme, and never updated it, maybe you are missing on some new features which your theme developer might have implemented.
Contact The Developer
Consider this an important part as well.
Since your developer might be updating themes or implementing new features, there’s a possibility of getting your theme crash if you use it with your own defined plugins.
Or if you upgraded your theme, and its layout has changed, then you will need support.
If you are considering a free theme to use or are already using a free theme, chances are that you might not get free support. Be a code yourself, and find out the bug and fix it.
But if you are paying for a premium theme and you face some problems, your theme developer should provide you support.
Always ensure you get the support, better ask the theme developer before buying their theme.
Some developers also provide support portal and documentation for more help.
I remember I bought one theme and I was stuck in a coding loophole for which I approached the developer and they gave me the fix.
So money spent was spent wisely.
Missing In ‘Everything’?
To date, these are the factors which I know when looking out for themes. However, there might be few more features which I might have missed on.
You can share your comments about those missing features and also I would love to know about your feedback on when you had to choose your theme.