10 Things To Look For When Choosing a New WordPress Theme

With thousands upon thousands of WordPress themes available online, searching for the right design can be both tiring and time-consuming. It is in your best interests to be patient to ensure you get the correct design.

So what is the correct design? Well, it depends on what you like, what you need, and what you want. Everyone is looking for something different, however many people aren’t sure what to actually look for. Therefore, today I would like to share with you 10 things that you should look for when searching for a suitable WordPress design.

I hope this will aid you in your search for the perfect WordPress theme :)

1. Great Design

People with very little experience with WordPress usually choose a design based solely on the way it looks. There is much more to a WordPress theme than visuals, however it is still one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a new WordPress theme. After all, visitors cannot see what is happening on the back end of your website, therefore your website will be judged by the way the quality of the design.

great design

Your design should project the image you want, be it professional, fun, or something wacky. You should also strongly consider designs that are responsive, as they will ensure your website looks great on any device.

2. Functionality

A WordPress design is functional if it does what you want it to do. In that respect, functionality means different things to different people. For example, a beautiful photo WordPress theme is worthless if you are planning on launching a news website. Therefore, when you are choosing a WordPress design, you need to first consider what you need the theme to do.

Do you need a gallery, do you need the main content area to be large for publishing articles, do you need the design to be quick loading? These types of answers will need to be addressed. You will come across many great looking designs in your search for a WordPress theme, however the vast majority of these designs will not be suitable for you.

So when you are looking for a new WordPress theme, remember what you actually need the theme to do for you.

3. Check the Theme Works on All Browsers

Unfortunately, some designers are quite lazy when it comes to ensuring their theme works on all browsers. If the designer works primarily through a particular browser, such as Firefox, then the theme will look great on that browser. However, the design could be completely messed up on Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer. I’ve made the mistake of not checking a theme on all browsers before purchasing, and post-sale, many theme designers are not willing to make sure everything looks right on all browsers.

browsershots

Therefore, I recommend checking any theme you like on a service such as Browsershots. All you have to do is enter the URL of the demo page to get screenshots of the design on dozens of browsers. It is the quickest way of spotting any errors before buying. If you do find any problems with the design before buying, contact the designer and let them know about it. A good designer will ensure that any design problem is fixed.

4. Theme Options

The vast majority of WordPress themes have a built-in options area that helps you configure common settings. The number of settings that can be configured varies considerably between themes.

Themes with extensive options areas allow beginners to customize the look and feel of their theme without ever looking at a piece of code. If you do not have much experience with HTML, CSS, and PHP; you will therefore benefit from using a theme with an extensive options area.

theme options

If you are comfortable doing basic edits of templates, it may be in your best interests to buy a WordPress theme that has a basic options area. The problem is, for a WordPress theme to make it easier for beginners to customize their theme, the designers need to replace simple WordPress code with more complicated functions. This makes editing a WordPress theme with a large options area more difficult. Therefore, if you are keen on making changes to your theme templates manually, it is better to choose a WordPress theme with a basic options area.

5. Custom Page Templates

Most WordPress themes come with custom page templates. At the very least, a theme should include an archives template, contact template, and 404 template.

page template

Modern themes include a wide range of custom page templates. For example, there are themes on ThemeForest that come with over 20 page templates. They include several portfolio templates, several blog templates, home templates, and much more. It is not too difficult to create your own custom page templates if you know a little coding, however you will save yourself a lot of time if you find a good theme which comes with many custom page templates included.

6. Post Format Support

Post formats allow content to be displayed in a number of interesting and creative ways. Rather than using the traditional blog post to publish content, you can publish asides, quotes, images, audio, video, and much more. Each post format is styled for the content that is using it. For example, the quote post format usually removes all meta information so that only the quote is displayed.

Post formats are not usually considered essential, however using a theme that has post format support will give you much more control over the way content is displayed on your website.

post formats

7. WordPress Menu Support

WordPress Menus are one of the most versatile features of WordPress. They allow you to easily create custom menus and place them anywhere on your website. Unfortunately, there are a few themes out there that have native WordPress menu support, so make sure you check that any theme you buy does have support for it.

wordpress menu

8. Regular Updates

You should try and choose a WordPress theme that is updated regularly by its developer. WordPress has two major updates every year, therefore it is important that designers update their themes regularly to ensure they work with the latest edition of WordPress. Failure to do so may mean the theme will not work correctly in the future.

Most theme developers give details of a theme’s last major update. Pay particular attention to what has been updated and when. If the last few updates added major new features to the theme, it is a good indication that the theme will get more features in the future.

If the theme has not been updated within the last year, it is unlikely that the designer is actively updating the theme. Perhaps they are busy on another project and cannot devote the time necessary to update it. Whatever the reason, I do not recommend buying a WordPress theme that has not had any updates within the last year.

9. Documentation

Documentation is essential if a WordPress theme has a large options area or works in a unique way. Some designers provide documentation directly within the theme using tool tips, though it is more common for documentation to be provided on the developers website. Some designers explain everything in a Word document and package it with the theme zip file.

The documentation should explain exactly how the theme can be used and point out common problems that arise for the theme. Many themes do not change the way WordPress works, so using the theme is self-explanatory. If you are interested in a theme that comes with a lot of features, make sure you check beforehand that the developer provides good documentation to support the theme.

documentation

10. Support

Support is arguably the most important thing to consider when choosing a new WordPress theme. You will need support whenever you run into problems with the theme. Unfortunately, good support is not guaranteed.

Within a theme marketplace such as ThemeForest or Mojo Themes, it is very easy to see which developers provide good support. All you need to do is check the comment area for the theme and see how well customers are supported. A developer who replies quickly with detailed responses cares about his customers. A developer who brashly disregards customers queries and complaints is not.

support

If you are purchasing directly from the designer or from a WordPress theme store such as WooThemes or Elegant Themes, check out their support forums to see how well they respond to customers. You can also search the web for reviews, though be aware that many bloggers are happy to give products and services a positive review if it helps them earn a commission.

Another great way to gauge the level of support you receive is to send an email with three or four pre-sale questions. A polite and professional response is not always a guarantee that you will receive great support post-sale, though it does help highlight those who do provide poor customer service.

What do you place most importance on when you are looking for a new WordPress design?

This article was authored by:

Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity, Internet Marketing and Social Media on his personal blog and and provides technical support at Rise Forums. He can also be found on Twitter: @KevinMuldoon and Google+.

Kevin Muldoon has authored 830 posts.Visit Website

Showing 7 Comments

  • Very helpful reference! Thanks for sharing :)

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  • Aj

    Nice tips! That admin panel looks familiar also ;)

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  • Kevin Muldoon (Admin)

    Glad you all enjoyed the article :)

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  • Nice one! All you have mentioned in this article are very important. Choosing new WordPress theme is wonderful idea thank you for sharing this.

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  • Nice article, even when I feel I know what I really need after all these years it is great to refresh with points like this. The support feature is a huge one for me, sometimes theme questions pop up and its nice to have help at times.

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  • Dear Kevin,

    Although you have given very useful info, could you please help us to understand that w/o installing a theme, how do we test all these features, for example point number 4, 5 , 6 7, 8

    Thanks,
    Kanika

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  • Kevin Muldoon (Admin)

    You cannot test them, however you can see if a theme has post format support or a theme options panel. By looking at the last update date, you can also get an idea of how often it is updated.

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