When it comes to launching a website there are few decisions that will have a greater impact on the success or failure of your site than the design.
I know I always say content is king and it is. The problem is no one will stay on your site long enough to read your great content if the user experience is terrible.
The design you choose will dictate how the information you’re presenting to your audience will look and feel. It will decide how people interact with your site on a desktop, a smartphone and a tablet.
The bottom line is start with a good design first and foremost. Worry about everything else later.
One of the things I love about WordPress is how many design options there are. Because of WordPress themes the design possibilities for your website are nearly limitless.
My favorite place to buy premium WordPress themes is ThemeForest. They have an incredible selection of cutting edge themes for any kind of website.
With so many options available, I am often asked how to to go about choosing a theme? What should you look for when deciding on a theme?
So let me share with you the 5 most important things to look for when choosing a WordPress theme. This list is not ranked in any particular order.
You want your WordPress theme to be cost-effective. This is important if you’re buying a theme for your own site and especially important if you’re buying to build for a client.
You should not need to spend more than a $100 max on a premium theme. Even the most high-end themes on ThemeForest are no more than $85-$90 usually, and in my experience you can count on getting a fantastic product at that price point.
You don’t have to pay that much either. There are plenty of great themes for $35-$50 as well. Just make sure they have the rest of the features on this list and you’ll be good to go.
2. Mobile-Friendly (Responsive)
If I were ranking this list in order of importance this would be #1. You need to make sure the WordPress theme you choose is a responsive design meaning mobile-friendly.
It means the WordPress theme automatically expands or contracts to fit whatever device it’s being viewed on. It keeps the user experience uniform across all platforms from desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones.
Mobile used to be an afterthought, but not anymore. You will discover the majority of your visitors are arriving at your site via a mobile device.
For example, the traffic to this site is about 60% mobile (phone or tablet) and 40% desktop computer.
Fortunately, nearly all WordPress themes are responsive these days even if you decide to go with a free one, but don’t assume. Make sure you check to be certain it’s responsive.
Before I buy a theme I always play around with the live demo. Even if it says it’s responsive I pull the demo up on my iPhone, iPad and desktop to see how it functions everywhere.
Making sure you know ahead of time how it will look on all devices will save you a lot of pain and money down the road.
3. Search Engine Friendly
When I say you should make sure your theme is SEO friendly that doesn’t mean your site will be optimized for Google when you’re finished building it.
You will still need to optimize your pages and posts with an SEO plugin like Yoast unless the theme comes with a built in alternative (I still recommend Yoast even if it does).
What i mean by search engine friendly is how the theme is coded. It should have proper structure and be coded using industry best practices to make it easy for search engines to crawl.
If you go with a premium theme from an established author on ThemeForest, or from a major company like Elegant Themes or StudioPress you won’t have to worry about bad coding. There are many other great theme companies as well, those are just the ones that came to mind.
4. Fast Loading
This goes along with the proper coding discussed above. A well coded theme will use proper scripts, image optimization and other things to ensure it’s fast loading.
You have precious few seconds to make an impression on a first time visitor to your site and your load speed is critical.
I discussed this topic in detail last week in my post on the 7 reasons people are leaving your website quickly. You might also find my post about how to lower your bounce rate useful as it pertains to this.
There is plenty you can do to further speed up your WordPress site later, but you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t make sure your theme is fast loading from the start.
5. Easy Customization
While there are plenty of great WordPress themes for free out there, you can only expect so much from something that costs you nothing.
One of the best things about a premium WordPress theme is how easy it is to customize and make it your own. Theme authors usually go to great lengths to make the back end very user friendly so you can change all of the theme elements to your liking.
When considering a WordPress theme, be sure to look for screenshots of the backend so you can see how it works and if it’s easy to use. Some themes have videos demonstrating the backend and some even have live demos of the front and back.
If you’re building a more than just a basic blog you’re probably going to want to use a page builder. So to make your theme as easy to customize as possible make sure it comes with a page builder like WPBakery. If you buy a theme from Elegant Themes I highly recommend the Divi Builder.
I really can’t stress enough how important it is to choose the right WordPress theme for your site. Using a terrible theme is like building your house on quicksand.
The good news is even if you started with a bad theme all is not lost. The great thing about WordPress is you can always move to a new theme.
Be sure to follow my checklist before you switch themes so you don’t lose anything valuable!