Are you new to WordPress or looking to change your design? While custom designs are ideal, they’re also expensive. The good news is that there are tons of fabulous premade Wordpress theme options available. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a premade WordPress theme.
Where to Find Themes
Etsy has lots of themes available for WordPress (and Blogger). It’s important to be more cautious here because anyone can sell through Etsy and you are more likely to find amateur developers and themes that are not well-coded. It is, in my opinion, incredibly fun to peruse. One issue I’ve found is that the option to preview the demo of the site is not a clickable link (I don’t know that Etsy allows this) and therefore in order to view the site, you have to copy and paste the demo url to another tab. It’s a small thing but it does take away from the user experience.
Creative Market is a lot like Etsy, but they include a “demo theme” option on every page. It makes it really easy to review a lot of theme options, quickly.
Studiopress is the maker of the Genesis Framework (more on that below). Their child themes are therefore beautifully made and highly functional. They do offer 3rd party child themes that have been tested extensively and only offer the most beautiful, functional designs. If you want to play it safe, you can completely trust anything from Studiopress.
Themeforest has tons of theme options. Tons. They have over 5,000 options. I find this a bit overwhelming and I don’t know that their “refine your results” options make it easy to find what you are looking for.
This site, as well as my personal blog, are built on the Genesis Framework by Studiopress. Another example of a WordPress framework is Thesis. What frameworks allow you to do is apply child themes (skins) over the framework so that you don’t lose the look of your website when updates are made. Additionally, Genesis adds additionally SEO and security.
Genesis also has a lot of plugins available to make it easy to make changes to your blog. Some of my favorites include: Genesis Simple Edits, Genesis Favicon, and Genesis Simple Hooks.
Can you tell I love Genesis? If you search “Genesis Child Theme” on Etsy or Creative Market, you’ll find that many of the Child Themes come with Genesis (a $60 value).
Research the Developer
I’ll just say it – there are tons of bad, wonky, and poorly coded themes available out there. The best thing you can do is do your research in to the developer. Visit their site and check out the user experience. Look at every child theme they have. I always think it’s a good sign when their website is super functional and when they have a portfolio of custom designs to look through as well.
Check for Obvious Red Flags
Check out the developers premade options – all of them. Even the ones that you would never buy. If you find any obvious issues with any of the themes, be weary. Sure, you might love the way that some of their sites look. But if they aren’t properly coded, they won’t serve you well.
Mobile User Experience
Google recently announced that their next update (coming in April 2015), will include more mobile friendly websites in search results. Basically, they want your website to be responsive. Since around 60% of online traffic is now on mobile devices, this is to your benefit also. Strongly consider a responsive theme and check out how the theme looks on every device that you own.
Check the Developers Terms and Conditions
Some developers do not allow you to make changes to their theme, once purchased. Often they have an option to buy an additional package to change font or color scheme. If you know how to do those things yourself, and intend to, you may want to find a developer who does not mention this in their terms and conditions.
Consider Sidebar and Post Area Width
If you are planning on including advertising on your site, the sidebar width needs to be at least 300px wide. I have no idea why developers would create sidebars more narrow than that. In fact, even with 300px ads, Google Adsense will regularly suggest the larger ad size 336X280. You also will need to know the width of your main post area to make sure that all of your images are exactly that wide, making your blog look much more professional and clean.