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I am not a WordPress developer or expert of any kind.
I am just a common user of the WordPress who has built and managed this website on the WordPress platform from the scratch.
Over two and a half years of working with this excellent software, I have acquired the knowledge and experience of using WordPress as a non-technical but a committed learner.
And it is the time to share this learning with you.
“I am not into coding and technical stuff, I am more into the user experience and day-to-day handling of the WordPress installation and website.”
While it has been excellent generally, WordPress can be difficult and relatively awkward at times as well. You just need to know your game, master it and remain on top of it.
And one of the key attributes of using WordPress is the selection of your WordPress theme.
A pre-made skeleton or template around which you build your blog or website. If you are a non-coder like me, it is perhaps the most important tool in your bag after the WordPress script itself.
A decision worth considering with care and diligence.
In this article, I am going to dive deep into the requirements and demands of a common user from his WordPress theme. I am going to use my personal experiences and working with the WordPress theme and how I feel that certain aspects are more important and critical than others.
My aim is to give you a list of 5 key strategies you need to consider in selecting your WordPress theme. It does not matter if you are going to try a free or paid theme, as long as you have kept these points in mind, there is a greater possibility that you will filter down to the right choice.
If you already use a WordPress theme, have a comparison of your existing theme against the points I am explaining below. Then let us know what is your stance in picking up the right WordPress theme for a common user.
So here we go.
1 – It Should Have Robust Features That You Need (and Minimal Bloat)
First thing first.
Don’t get bogged down in the nitty-gritty. Get the basic requirement thoroughly looked at first.
And that requirement is the nature of your website or blog. It will dictate the kind of WordPress theme you are going to choose.
There are tons of options available to you but you should look for those which are designed with a specific topic or style in mind. Such as photography theme, newspaper theme, portfolio theme or blogging theme etc.
“It is important to target a theme which is strong in the area which matches to your niche or style of your website. It will give you an edge straight away.”
If you are a blogger like me, you need a theme which has a strong blogging base.
You will notice that the functions and features it provides will appeal more to those who are looking for a robust and beautiful blogging website. Your key required features for example a solid single page blog layout, email opt-in forms, social sharing buttons and related posts etc. are more likely to be well developed and well presented in this theme.
So focus on the “type of WordPress theme” is important.
However, if you are not absolutely sure about the full scope of your website or how it is going to develop in the future, don’t worry.
There is another type of WordPress theme to address this issue.
Why Do-It-All WordPress Themes are Good and Bad at the Same Time?
There are versatile WordPress themes available in the market which can do a lots of things for you. These themes are developed with a user in mind who wants to do multiple tasks of varied nature from one theme.
And they are popular.
Some of the best selling WordPress themes on Themeforest are all multipurpose type.
While they have their own positives such as flexibility and ease of use, my advice would be to remain cautious.
You get a lots of features but perhaps at a cost of a complex code and possibly a bloated website. Many of the features and functions are such that you are never going to use them in the future. However you are still carrying their burden and baggage with you all the times. The general statement applies here that a jack of all trade is possibly the master of none.
But having said that, there are many all-in-one WordPress themes which are great and appeal to a majority of common users nowadays.
I am using one myself.
My theme Avada is a multi-purpose WordPress theme.
In my case, the main reasons for choosing this theme were not the amount of features it offers or the rankings, it was the customisation options and design flexibility that impressed me. More on that in point no. 4.
Look for the theme which offers features that are close to your requirements. The features should look robust and mature and cater for your needs.
So there are pros and cons of using an all-purpose WordPress theme.
My advice is to choose a minimal bloat WordPress theme if you can and you will thank yourself later. A more streamlined, focused and to-the-point theme is more likely to serve you well. A diverse, too-heavy and too-complex theme is more likely to give you hassle in the long run.
In essence, resist your temptation to go for a complex WordPress theme that is shiny on the outside unless there is a valid reason for choosing it.
2 – It Should be Well Coded and Reliable in Working
No one wants to buy a theme which is half-baked or not-up-to-the-mark. Full of glitches and hiccups.
A quality WordPress theme is built on solid coding practices and WordPress guidelines. I must warn you that if you are not careful, there is every possibility that you end up with a theme which is not well-coded and badly designed. This is only going to give you trouble at the later stages.
Avoid this situation in all cases.
Chris Lema has given us his advice on what to look for in a WordPress theme if you are a non-programmer.
As a non-coder and non-developer, this is where my limitation comes in. I can’t read, test and analyse the code and I am assuming that you are the same. There is no way in the world for me to look at a theme, dissect it on my laptop and label it as a well-coded or poorly-coded theme.
But there are other ways to get this feel.
And make sure that you follow these steps or some of these steps to get a knowledge about the code quality of the WordPress theme in consideration.
1Reviews and user feedback are important. Many premium and free themes have customer reviews and people’s feedback linked to them. It won’t take you too much time to know how people are feeling about a theme in particular. They have used the theme before and their comments will give you a knowledge about real life working of the theme.
2Most of the premium themes come with live demos where you can try them in a testing environment. It does not replicate a fully installed and running theme but it gives you a decent flavour of the theme functionality. Spend some time playing around with the theme and you will get a feel of how well it performs on the front end (how it looks and responds to the end user).
3Don’t be afraid to get in touch with the developer or theme producer. A good theme comes with a decent pre-sale support structure. If you have an ambiguity or question about a specific feature, get in touch with the author of the theme. There is a great chance that you will get a response and your query answered.
Leave Your Options Open
Be aware of a WordPress theme that locks you down.
In other words, theme lock-in effect.
If a particular WordPress theme uses too many shortcodes and custom fields, it makes it extremely difficult for a common user to migrate to a different theme without losing some of the functionality. Always look for a theme which doesn’t lock you down so you are free to choose a different option should you wish to do so in the future.
Get an advice from technical experts if you can.
This is not as easy as it sounds but not impossible at all. Perhaps on a discussion forum or social media communities. Even if you have to pay to someone to comment on a particular theme you are considering, I believe that it is worth it.
A well-coded and well-engineered WordPress theme is a critical decision and requires your every effort and due diligence at the selection stage.
3 – It Should Have the Basics Covered (SEO, Responsiveness, Speed and Updates)
It goes without saying that a quality WordPress theme needs to have a few tick boxes already checked as default.
Missing any of these tricks and I would suggest that you should consider looking elsewhere.
Let me explain them one by one quickly.
1Your ideal WordPress theme should be aligned with the good practices of on-page and on-site SEO guidelines. Something as simple as using the right title and headline tags, appropriate alt tags for pictures and meta tags etc. If all of this sounds too scary, don’t worry, you will get the hang of these slowly. For now, just make sure that your intended WordPress theme is an SEO-friendly one (in a true sense, not just promises)
2Mobile responsiveness is a must nowadays. People are using internet more from their portable devices such as smartphones and tablets etc. A responsive and mobile friendly theme allows the user to use and enjoy your website on any device with minimal impact on their user experience.
Don’t let your site visitor hit the “back button” just because your blog/site does not display properly on a smartphone screen. Any good WordPress theme should have this feature built into it. It is a no-brainer in today’s day and age.
3Speed and loading times are important. You don’t want your perfect WordPress theme to be slow in loading and responding. An efficient and well-coded WordPress theme will be quick to load and hence will help to improve your site rankings and visitor’s user-experience.
Have a look at this article if you want to know how to choose a WordPress theme which is fast and positively impacts your site loading times.
4Your WordPress theme should be regularly updated by the developer. This is due to ongoing developments in the WordPress ecosystem and changing demands of the modern internet world.
It is due to this particular point that I highly recommend going for a premium (paid) WordPress theme. A free WordPress theme is more likely to stop receiving updates than a paid one in the future. It is always recommended to check the background and reputation of the theme developer. You will get a feel if you research enough.
4 – It Should Look Great But Still Highly Customisable
This is my personal favourite.
I chose Avada due to the fact that I wanted something that looked simple, elegant and minimalist. It offered me what I wanted in terms of achieving the design and look of this website.
Make sure that the theme you are choosing looks attractive for a common user visiting your website.
Don’t forget that the design “does” play a big part in the mind of your visitor. People will judge you on your appearance especially in the early career and until you are mega famous.
“For me, a quality WordPress theme should be well designed, engineered with care and built with attention to detail.”
It is a great plus for you if your blog stands out due to the theme appearance and overall look. In the long run, it has a positive impact on your image and brand identity. In fact, I would go as far as saying that go for a theme which looks different and unique – that stands out.
There is a second dimension to elegant and beautiful design as well.
And that is the ability to customise.
How much your planned WordPress theme offers you in terms of options and settings to tweak the design, colour, format, layout and styling?
I am assuming that you have a vision for your brand, have a specific colour pallet and a consistent style. You need to make sure that there are enough options available to you in your theme settings to adjust and tweak these parameters.
I am highly sensitive about this issue.
I want everything on my website to be consistent and portraying a constant image of my brand.
I feel that the theme I use (Avada) has been excellent on this front.
So look out for customisation options in your future WordPress theme. Remember, you are not a programmer, it is mainly these customisation settings that will help you to refine the design of your website.
Although there are other ways to introduce design changes using custom coding (CSS additions). I am not going into the detail of those in this article.
5 – It Should Have a Decent Support by the Theme Developer
No matter how good your WordPress theme is, you will bump into issues, clashes and malfunctions from time to time.
Sometimes, it is the theme’s fault, other times, it might be your host or the plugins etc. that you are using.
As a common user who is not into technicalities, your options are to either try yourself, speak to your hosting provider or speak to your theme developer.
While many of the issues can be resolved without going back to your theme developer (using theme documentation etc.), there can be instances when you need to get in touch with the people behind your WordPress theme. They have written the code for your theme and they know the inside out of the theme in question.
“You need a theme which has a good support structure in place. Perhaps, more importantly, a commitment from the developer (or company) that customers are important and every effort will be made to keep them happy and satisfied.”
I appreciate that it can be a difficult task but in this day and age, you should expect this from your WordPress theme provider. I use Avada which has a user base of over 280,000 people at the time of writing this article. I have found their support to be generally very good with one odd exception here and there.
I urge you to carry out your research.
Make sure that you check the support system in place for a particular theme you are interested in.
Is it a ticket based system?
A community owned forum?
Or perhaps a simple email based mechanism to answer your queries?
Also don’t forget to check how long is the support valid from the day you purchase your theme. This is an important one because many premium themes offer support only for first 6 or 12 months from the day of purchase.
With Avada, I am enjoying their lifetime support as I purchased the theme before the time when they started a standard 6-month support with the purchase. I am not sure if it is a real lifetime or something that needs to be kept an eye on.
Bottom line, watch out that your ideal WordPress theme has a decent support available to you if required. And trust me, you will need at sooner or later.
A Quality WordPress Theme is Not Hard to Find
Don’t feel that it is an impossible task to find a good quality WordPress theme.
You need to spend time on it.
Do your research and do the right checks.
Use the list above as a guide in helping you to choose a WordPress theme that is most efficient for you.
If you believe that there is any other important point that I have missed, I encourage you to identify and share your views with us. REASONTOUSE is a platform to help a common user through experiences and feedback provided by common users.
So tell us about your experience with your current theme or if you have not tried one yet, are you searching for one?
What are your concerns?
What worries you?