The first step to building a website with the WordPress content management system (CMS) is choosing the right theme. By default, new installations of WordPress use the Twenty-Nineteen theme, which features a basic layout using the CMS’s newly implemented Gutenberg editor. But there are tens of thousands of other themes available, some of which could prove effective for your website.
How to Choose a WordPress Theme?
What type of customization options does the theme offer? If you can’t easily customize your theme, your website will look the same as other websites using it. As a result, you won’t be able to create a unique brand that’s distinguishable from your competitors.
At a minimum, a theme should feature built-in customization options for the header, navigation layout (e.g., one column or two columns) and background. Using these features, you can create a custom design for your website without messing with the theme’s CSS or PHP code.
A theme is only as good as the developers who support it. Choosing a theme with little or no support is a serious mistake. Even it works fine when you initially activate it on your website, the theme could eventually break or require updates. To avoid this headache, choose a theme with the two following types of developer support.
- Updates: Themes should be updated with new versions on a regular basis to fix bugs, improve performance, add features and remain compatible with WordPress’s core files as well as popular third-party plugins.
- Customer Service: In addition to regular updates, developers should offer timely and helpful customer service for their themes. When you need help customizing your website, or if you encounter a technical problem, you should be able to reach the theme’s developer for assistance.
Security is a major concern for webmasters who use WordPress, and rightfully so. According to a study conducted by cybersecurity expert Sandro Gauci, over 70 percent of the top-ranked WordPress websites contain at least one security vulnerability. If you happen to use one of these themes, your website could be hacked.
To lower your website’s risk of being hacked, choose a theme that’s secure and regularly updated with patches to fix vulnerabilities. You can also download the WPScan plugin to analyze your website’s theme, as well as its plugins and core files, for vulnerabilities.
4) Gutenberg Compatibility
With Gutenberg now integrated into WordPress’s core files, you’ll need to choose a theme that’s compatible with the CMS’s new editor. If a theme isn’t compatible with Gutenberg, you may encounter missing buttons or broken elements when editing posts and pages on your website.
A Gutenberg-compatible theme will allow you to take full advantage of WordPress’s new content-editing interface. Because Gutenberg was just recently added to WordPress in December 2018, though, not all themes are compatible with it. Read the theme’s description to ensure it works properly with the new editor.
Responsive design is an essential feature to look for when choosing a WordPress theme. In the past, internet users viewed websites almost exclusively on traditional computer monitors, which featured similar display sizes. But the times have changed, with internet users now viewing websites on a wide variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Responsive themes are developed using proportional elements that change or respond to the user’s device. With a responsive theme, a visitor who’s browsing your website on a 5-inch smartphone will have the same experience as a visitor using a 34-inch computer monitor.
Using a responsive theme provides peace of mind knowing that your website will display and function as intended for all visitors. If you choose a non-responsive theme, some visitors may struggle to view or use your website.
If you’re hoping to attract search engine traffic to your website, you should choose a theme with search engine optimization (SEO) features. WordPress itself has several native SEO features, including permalinks, pingbacks, visitor comments, RSS feed and more. Some themes, however, offer additional SEO features to help you attain higher search rankings with your website.
Many themes, for example, support custom title tags and meta descriptions for posts and pages. By default, WordPress doesn’t allow you to customize this metadata. You can also use a plugin like Yoast SEO to customize your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, but an easier solution is to use an SEO-friendly theme with customization options for this metadata.
Some themes feature built-in support for Google Analytics. While logged in to your website, you can add the Google Analytics code to the theme, allowing you to track the behaviors and activities of your site’s visitors.
These are just a few common SEO features found in high-quality themes. Others include schema markup, sitemap creation, social media buttons, breadcrumb navigation, duplicate content protection, and fast page load times.
7) The Price
Consider the price of a theme and whether it’s aligned with your budget. There are thousands of free themes available, but they typically lack the performance and support of paid, premium themes. If a theme is free, the developer isn’t generating sales revenue from it, so he or she probably won’t invest any significant amount of time or resources into supporting it. Premium themes, on the other hand, offer a monetary incentive for developers to support and improve them.
With that said, you shouldn’t overpay for a premium theme. Some developers sell monthly or annual licenses to use their themes. Furthermore, some developers restrict usage of their themes to a single domain, meaning you’ll have to purchase multiple licenses to use the theme on multiple websites. So, don’t just consider the initial price of a theme; consider how much it will cost you over the expected life of your website or websites.
Many theme developers offer live demo versions of their themes, which you can use to see how a theme looks when installed and activated on a website. Along with considering the seven things listed here, taking a test drive with a live demo can help you choose the right theme for your website.