Choosing a new WordPress Theme is a crucial step on your way to a stunning new website.
It is worth it to invest a reasonable amount of time to chose wisely and to make sure, that your new WordPress Theme covers everything you need.
This leads to the questions of how do I evaluate a WordPress Theme? What are the criteria to identify a good Theme? And what is a Website in general supposed to have in order to provide a persuasive online experience?
No worries, we will guide you through the process of choosing a new WordPress Theme, step by step, and narrow it down to the essential components you need to consider.
The following guide will provide you with the necessary skills to navigate through the wild Theme-Jungle by yourself so that you are able to assess a Theme in a minimum of time.
Let’s get started.
1. What is your Website about?
The first and foremost step is to bring to mind what your Website should be all about and what kind of content you want to provide. The result of this consideration puts things on the right track and sets the right direction in which we can pursue further. More precisely, it defines a specific category of themes. This category will be the next connecting factor. Today’s variety of professional WordPress Themes is extraordinary and can be overwhelming. No matter what type of website you want to create, there will be a theme for your aspirations.
Ask yourself: What will be the main content I am going to provide on my new Website?
I want to:
– create a company website for my firm. (Category: Agency)
– share my creative Work. (Category: Portfolio)
– create a short online CV about myself. (Category: Resume)
– share my thoughts and focus on writing. (Category: Blog)
– share my photography. (Category: Photography)
– sell stuff online. (Category: eCommerce)
– create a Website for a single product. (Category: Landing Page)
– start a vibrant online magazine. (Category: Magazine)
– set up a website for my new restaurant. (Category: Restaurant)
– establish an online marketplace. (Category: Directory Listings)
These are only a few examples. If you are not sure what category fits best to your content, go to themeforest.com and search for your content-focus to find out which category fits best.
By identifying your main focus, you will be able to narrow it down to a specific Theme-Category. In that way, you can exclude tons of themes that wouldn’t match from your search and focus on the ones that are most promising.
2. What is also important to you?
If you identify, for example, that you want to focus primarily on sharing your creative work, then this awareness will lead you to the Category of Portfolio Themes. But, you might also find, that besides your ambition to share your work you find it also important to share your thoughts and focus on writing. Well, that is equally important to consider, because it sets another criterion besides the main focus. In this example, we would search in the Category of Portfolio Themes. But at the same time, every theme you open should be checked for the ability to provide a good reading experience.
Following that idea, you should write down what criteria is equally important for you besides the main category. First, ask yourself what kind of additional content do I want to publish? For example, next to the portfolio I want to have a blog for writing or an e-Commerce Shop for selling.
Second, ask yourself: Are there any pre-existing preferences for the design, that are highly relevant to me?
(For example, the portfolio should provide large-scale images or a bold typography.)
I would recommend not to narrow it down too much. Identifying the main category and 1 to 3 important factors can sharpen your perspective for what you are really searching for in a beneficial way. More will probably block your view and limit your focus.
But generally speaking, to be aware of what is important to you will provide the foundation to find what you want without being lost in the Jungle of WordPress Themes. These indications of your preferences will result in a selective attention while browsing through tons of themes. Knowing what you are looking for allows you to weed out what doesn’t fit with your vision in a relatively fast instant. That is an important tool for handling a large number of Theme-Demos while staying the course for finding and choosing your new WordPress Theme.
3. What makes a good Website?
In order to be able to identify what makes a good WordPress Theme, we should rather ask “What makes a good Website?” in the first place.
First Atmosphere. For a visitor, the atmosphere of a website shapes and expands within the first seconds. The feeling, whether the atmosphere appeals to him or not, forms itself somehow intuitively in a very short instance. The Atmosphere of a Website is a component of Design and Typography, as well as the use of images and photos. The combination and the interaction of all elements should create a compelling appearance.
Second Design. The famous Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels, once said, that “good design is careful, bad design is careless”. I couldn’t agree more because in every piece of work you can see, whether someone put in the extra effort and went all the way, or not. Often times that reveals by simply looking into the details. Great design requires a significant amount of care. That applies to architectural design or web design and every piece of design in general. The design of a website is supposed to follow a specific idea of composition and structure and in that regard, should be consistent throughout every detail.
Third Space. I love the quote of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who said that “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Often times it is not about what can be added but rather what can be taken away. The elegance of a piece of art in a museum doesn’t come from a cluttered surrounding. But rather from freeing everything up to create a surrounding of elegance and calm. The same idea applies to a website. Less is more.
Fourth Typography. Typography, the hidden superpower. Many Themes lack the effort to really care about typography and readability. They might be beautifully designed, but often times they aren’t concerned with whether you can easily read the text on a screen or not.
On the Side: Steve Jobs once took a class in college about typography. That experience shaped his approach to the user experience of any digital device, especially for the creation of the iPhone. Later, at Apple, he fired a bunch of people during a meeting because they didn’t care about typography at all. The reason for that: They have been in charge to create the design of the user interface of a digital device, but didn’t care at all about the typography style. That might seem a bit excessive in hindsight, but for him, it was simply reasonable. The design, he was convinced, couldn’t work without typography since it is equally important for the user experience. Firing them was obvious to him. Because they didn’t care, they seemed to lack a deeper understanding of design and the bigger picture.
Typography is a hidden superpower for every design because it has so much power to complement a scene as a subtle element or a bold statement. The right text with the right font can complement every composition and is equally important to communicate your content and ideas.
Fifth User Experience. The user experience of a website is a highly important factor for a good website. You want your visitors to feel comfortable. They should be able to browse through your website smoothly, without evoking the feeling of being lost or uncertain how to proceed. A visitor who doesn’t like the experience of your website will most probably shut down your site. A good user experience can keep them away from doing that and rather create raving fans of your work by providing interesting content paired with an enjoyable experience.
Sixth Functionality. Functionality interacts somehow with the user experience. Furthermore, there should be no blind alleys, errors, or obviously wrong connections. The speed and loading time should work smoothly and nothing should impose a feeling of poor quality by not functioning well.
The Sum – What makes a great website?
A great Website, at least for me, is a combination of great typography, harmonic proportions & compositions, use of empowering images & photos, a smooth user experience, 100% functionality and most important: CARE!
4. What makes a good Theme?
By answering the question “What makes a good Website”, we somehow answered the question “What makes a good theme” in terms of the fundamental criteria.
What is left is: What kind of features should a professional theme provide in order to be considered a “good Theme”.
At first, the theme should fulfill what we defined previously as a good Website (Design, Typography, Space, Composition …) If that is the case for you, the following criteria should be met as well. Check the Theme descriptions for the following features:
Means that the Website adapts its design automatically to any screen size from 29″ iMac to a small iPhone. Nowadays, that should be the standard for any website and every Theme should provide that fundamental feature. Besides, whether your website is responsive or not is a highly relevant criterion for Googles search results. If it is not responsive, Google will depreciate your website.
Today’s screen resolutions get higher and higher. Every Theme should support retina images to provide sharp graphics at small and at large screen resolutions.
The Theme should provide the basic control over Fonts with Google Fonts or Adobe Typekit Fonts. That allows you to change the Font-Style of various Text-Elements. If you place importance on more powerful typography options, you should check the Theme descriptions for Details. Some Themes provide a larger amount of control but by far not all.
The Theme should provide control over Colors, from Background to Text and Navigation.
This criterion is highly dependent on your individual preferences. There are Themes that are highly customizable. That means you can create totally different websites with one theme. These Themes are usually called, Multipurpose Themes, since they are highly flexible in terms of customization. In that regard they can serve many purposes. That can be a benefit if you appreciate the flexibility. But it can also be a disadvantage since it leaves you with many options and imposes a lot of decisions that need to be made.
Lower flexibility, hence less customization can be satisfying if you like the Theme and you don’t feel like there is much to change. (Like I felt with the Theme of archiitect.io)
Higher flexibility, hence a high level of customization can also be great if you can’t find what you are looking for. Or you love the specific design and you enjoy the process of creating your theme with different pre-made layouts and options.
A good theme should provide a certain level of customization. At least the Fonts, Colors, and Logos should be customizable by default. You will see in the Theme Description whether the level of options is too high (too many options) or too low (too few options) and then decide for yourself if that is in line with your requirements.
Nothing is more annoying than waiting seconds for a new page to load or an image to show up. The speed depends, of course, on other factors as well, but if the theme isn’t optimized for speed in the first place, everything else is neglectable.
– Customer Support
There should be a customer support that answers your individual questions. If you aren’t sure whether the support is good, browse the comments for the Theme and check other Themes of their portfolio to see whether people complained or celebrated their customer support.
The price-point for a professional WordPress Theme, that includes the mentioned features should be around 69$.
5. Where do I find high-quality WordPress Themes?
There are thousands of professional themes out there. One of the largest marketplaces online is themeforest.com. You can either browse through the main categories by yourself or you can take the shortcut and browse through pre-filtered compilations of themes regarding specific categories like we provide on architect.io.
The probability of finding your new WordPress Theme is much higher if you browse through the compilations of someone you trust in terms of his or her ability to pre-filter many Themes in your best interest.
6. The Process of Evaluation
After what you’ve learned, browse through many themes as possible in your chosen category. Open the demo, feel the atmosphere and decide within a few seconds whether to proceed further into the theme and details or to move on to the next. Save the ones you like to your favorites and go on for a second round of evaluation. It might be beneficial to let a few days pass. You don’t need to do all the work on one day. The second round of evaluation would be perfect on a later day to get some distance and a refreshed view.
Pick the best three of all of your favorites. Bring to mind what was important to you and then choose your new theme.
Choosing a new WordPress Theme feels like falling in love, you will know when you find your perfect Theme.
What WordPress Theme is that?
If you are browsing online and you want to know what kind of WordPress Theme a specific website is using (if they are using one at all) you can use the tool WP Theme Detector.
If you stumble upon on a website and you want to know whether this website is powered by WordPress, you can use the tool Built With to find out what kind of content management system a website is using.
7. Summing up: The Basic Steps
The steps for choosing a new WordPress Theme.
1. Identify your main content to find your Focus-Category.
2. Identify 1 to 3 factors that are also important to you.
3. Go to a large marketplace or to some carefully pre-filtered theme compilations to start your search.
4. Open as many Themes as possible, check their demos and observe what you feel. Are you hooked? Excited? Amazed? Bored?
5. When drifting away, bring to mind what was important to you.
6. Save every theme you like to a certain folder or favorites.
7. Let some time pass, and go through the second round of evaluation of your favorites.
8. Pick the best three.
9. Choose your new Theme.
Hopefully, this guide can be helpful to you for choosing a new WordPress Theme that makes you smile. I wish you a successful journey. If you want to share what you’ve created, I’d be happy to hear from you.