by Abigail Carter
There are so many WordPress themes out there, it can be overwhelming when it comes to choosing one. There are several things I look for in a WordPress theme when I am choosing one. More than once, I have plunked down good money on a theme, only to discover it was missing a key element, like top navigation which caused me to ultimately abandon it. Here are a few things that I think are essential in a theme:
1. Top navigation/pages
You need a place where people can find all your pages (about, contact, events, books, etc). Some themes will put these at the top (where to be honest, is where most people will look for them) and some put them on the left side (where less people will find them) and some themes are one-page themes and don’t have any way of adding pages to the site, or have top navigation that links to places lower on the same page. I avoid the one page sites because they are difficult to deal with if you want to grow your site, and are difficult for people to find what they are looking for.
2. Social media links
Again, I like these to show up somewhere near the top of the page where people will see them. You want people to be able to share your blog. Be sure when you are viewing a demo to look at the individual post pages as well, to see that they show up in a place that makes sense, either at the top of the post or the bottom or the side. Make sure they are visible. Also look for the ability to show your latest Tweets if you’re a Twitter user. This is a great feature, but can be added later with a plugin, so not crucial.
3. Clean design
I’m a traditionalist and prefer black text on a white background. It is easiest to read and is calming. If your site looks too cluttered, it will make people uneasy and they will click away more quickly than if the site is more restful and minimal. If in doubt always go more minimal than more complex.
Some sites are more customizable than others. A lot of the demos will allow you to see the site in a variety of color combinations. Try them all out. Play around with the demo as much as possible and try to figure out what you will be able to change about the design and what you won’t. The more you can customize, the better.
5. Contact page
Many themes now come with a Contact page which is set up like a form. These are great because it means you don’t have to post your email address, meaning spiders won’t be able to find you and send you spam email.
6. Theme Options
Look for the ability to be able to add your own logo, change theme colors, add favicons (those little images that show up in the tab of your browser to giving a visual clue about your site), infinite scrolling, footer text, etc.
7. Responsive Theme
This means that the page will shrink or grow depending on what device it is being viewed on. It will be bigger on a laptop and small on a tablet or phone. Given that people are viewing your blog on all sorts of devices, this is a great feature.
A note of viewing theme demos: Be sure to click on all the links in the demo, especially the “Features” link. They will show you what each of the different types of pages will look like, will show you the typography and what all the titles, bullets, lists and comments will look like. Some themes give you a whole range of fun add-ons, like the ability to create pull quotes (those quotes that show up in boxes or in bigger text within the main body of the blog post).
Here are some of my theme choices:
This one has small navigation at the top, and is very clean and simple. It’s one of the latest “scroll-type” designs, where you scroll down to see everything. It has three preset color schemes that you can see if you click the little tools icon on the left side of the page. The cost is $35
Again, this one is very clean and simple. The social sharing is very subtle at the bottom of the page. There are lots of options to customize. Cost: $35
A nice theme with many options for changing colors, preset templates for selling books, and several different blog templates. cost: $40
Very clean and FREE but less keen about the social with this one.
Also a nice clean FREE theme. They have a pro version that offers a lot more customization which may be worth the $31.50 which makes the FREE one a good starter theme with the ability to go Pro as you grow your site.
Another FREE theme. Very clean and simple.
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