I wrote this blog after a conversation I had with a client who asked me for help with finding a new WordPress theme for their website.

Now obviously I can search for themes, but finding the right theme – well, that can take a lot of effort.

I know because I’ve been there myself – sitting up all night trawling through sites like Themeforest, Elegant Themes and StudioPress, telling myself I’ll check one more theme before I go to bed! And no – I don’t have much of a social life!

It’s hard work finding the right WordPress theme for your website that will promote your business professionally and effectively.

It’s not that I can’t help clients find the best theme for them – I can. But there’s only one way to cut down on the time and stress when searching for a WordPress theme and that’s to ask yourself a fundamental question.

What theme do I need that will help me grow my business?

Digital MarketingThink of it in the same way as buying a new pair of shoes when you were a kid (and who doesn’t love shoes!). Your mum would take you to the shoe shop and your feet would be measured. But instead of buying a pair of shoes that were your exact size, she always bought them a half a size bigger so you could grow into them.

Well it’s the same for your website. It’s so easy to pick a theme because it looks cool and trendy or it’s got a pretty design. But it’s no good if in 6 months’ time you realise that the theme doesn’t have half the features that you need to promote your business effectively. And yes, I know you can add plugins to bring additional functionality to your website but plugins can aren’t always the solution. If they aren’t updated regularly, they can cause security issues and can also slow down your site.

So it’s important that you choose a theme that you can grow into and which will still fit your business further down the line.

Now I’ve had some good experiences with themes and some really bad ones as well, both when updating my own site and working with clients. So I’ve learnt the hard way that not choosing the right theme at the start can cause a lot of heartache and stress when you’re building your site.

So ask yourself: where do you want to take your business in the next 12 -18 months? It’s fine to start with a basic layout but also take into account what other features you’ll need such as displaying products, images and videos, sharing latest news, running affiliate ads on your blog etc.

So how do you choose a theme that will grow with your business?

Here are the 15 key things that you need to look for when choosing your WordPress theme.

Pick the right theme for your business
First of all, are you looking for a blog or a fully functioning website? If you want a blog then a simple blog theme will suffice; however if you’re looking for a business website, then you will want a theme that has the features you need to showcase your services effectively.

Your budget
How much are you willing to spend? If you want a fully functioning website then I would always go with a paid theme as they usually offer more extensive support and features than free ones. However, if you ‘re just looking for a simple blog then there are a wide range of free themes to choose from, including the WordPress default theme.

Responsive design
With more and more people using mobile devices to browse the web, don’t lose visitors because you haven’t got a responsive theme. Ensure the theme displays correctly on phones and tablets.

Check for browser compatibility
Ensure that your theme is compatible with all the major browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari. You don’t want to spend time setting up a theme only to find out that it looks lovely on Chrome but an absolute mess on Internet Explorer!

Keep it simple
You want a theme that will grow with your business but not one that has every bell and whistle that you can think of. I know from my own experience that too many features slow down your site. It sounds great that you’ve got 10 home page layouts, 5 header designs, and 3 slider options but it severely affects the performance of your website.

Regular updates
Buy a theme that is kept up to date by the developer. This helps to protect against any security loopholes and also ensures that your theme is compatible with any major updates to the WordPress platform.

Support and documentation
It doesn’t matter how simple the theme looks, you’ll always hit an issue when you’re setting it up, whether that’s how to add content to the slider or how to tweak the colour scheme. So ensure the developer offers support in the form of documentation and/or a forum where you can post questions.

Header area
Many themes now have just a small space for a logo in the header, which isn’t any good if you want a big banner going across the top. So think about what you want to put in the header area before choosing a theme.

Footer area
Do you want to include content in your footer area such as your contact information or recent blog posts? Some themes don’t have a footer area, so if you want display content in the footer of your website then pick a theme that gives you this option.

Page templates
Many themes now give you the option to choose a variety of page templates such as full width, left or right sidebar, portfolio and contact page. Think about what kind of content you want to display now and in the future. A default page with a right hand sidebar may be sufficient but further down the line, you might want to set up gallery or portfolio pages.

These are a great way to create a flexible layout for your web pages. Themes that come with their own shortcodes enable you to easily create design features on your pages and posts, such as a slider, image gallery, contact form, columns, buttons etc, just by using some simple coding.

Would you like to add a slider to your home page so you can showcase different services or products? There are plugins that will enable you to add sliders to your pages and posts but it’s easier to set up one within the theme itself.

Featured images
Featured images make your content look visually appealing to your readers by adding an image across the top of your blog posts or web pages. They also appear as thumbnail images on the main blog page and other areas around the site.

If you’re planning to sell products on your site, then select a theme that enables you to set up a store that looks professional. Let’s face it, if your site looks cheap and cheerful, then people may suspect that you’re not a legitimate business and won’t have enough trust to buy from you.

Affiliate ads
Depending on your business, you may want to earn affiliate income by featuring ads on your site. Some themes come with a widget for adding advertising space to headers, sidebars and footers, making it quick and simple to upload banner images and start earning a residual income from your blog or website.

So these are 15 key things that you need to look for when choosing a WordPress theme.

©Photo: FA RenLis via Wikimedia Commons

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About Valerie

Valerie helps solo entrepreneurs create a clear online marketing strategy so they can get in front of their ideal clients and attract them to their business.

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