7- WordPress Themes
Tips On Choosing A WordPress Theme
The WordPress CMS or Website Frame is so useful for making websites because it is modular. Each module of the WordPress architecture is kept separate from each other, so that with a few simple changes you can create something that looks completely different by simply changing the way it is presented.
Nothing demonstrates this so dramatically as the activation or configuration of a new WordPress Theme.
Imagine that you start out by choosing the default WordPress Theme “2010” that is installed with WordPress. You enter some articles on your website and perhaps install some basic plugins. You are starting to see a website develop and to have links to different content in your sidebar.
You were quite content with this WordPress Theme when you started because you had very little content, but now you have quite a lot of articles. The feed of 10 articles on the home page of your website no longer shows your first articles, but some of those articles are very important. You also have a range of different categories now and you’d like people to be able to navigate to these easily. Perhaps you don’t really like the large size of the header or the plain white page.
In short – You are ready for a Theme change.
So to help you as you go about choosing a new WordPress Theme, I have tried to explain WordPress Themes a little and give some tips on how to go about choosing a Theme that you’ll want to keep.
The Premium Flex WordPress Theme Generator
If you have read other articles on DIY Website, then you will already know that I use and recommend the Flex Theme. My reason for this is that I can make Flex look as I want it to, whether it be a white, gold, pink, blue, green or black colour scheme. Whether I want a full width website layout with 2-3 sidebars or a slim, compact, single sidebar website only 760 px wide, or just a single page website 600px wide.
I don’t mind spending a few hours configuring with this wordpress theme generator to give me a totally original look for a new website. I personally feel that the time I spend doing this is better spent, than searching for a new theme, trying out and modifying free WordPress themes that are available. I did that for at least a year and it’s time consuming, often frustrating and rarely ended up just as I wanted it.
This wordpress theme generator does exactly what I want it to and my websites look original.
Choosing Other WordPress Themes
But there are sometimes advantages to the use of other WordPress themes. YOU may find that the options presented to configure the Flex theme are too complex and time consuming for you. You may feel that you don’t really want to learn how to use it and you would prefer to spend your time looking for a WordPress theme that is well designed and close to what you want your website to look like.
If you are lucky enough to choose a WordPress Theme you really like, you can then just upload it into your theme folder, activate it and you have an instant new look and feel for your website without stressing over hex colour codes, layout widths, sidebar fonts and specific page templates.
The downside of this choice of a WordPress Theme is that you still need to “brand” your site with your own logo or graphic header, and you may have to live with external links in the footer. This link blatently broadcasts that the WordPress Theme is not unique to your site, but is available for anyone to use, either for free or through a purchase. It’s not hard to live with this, if the WordPress theme you have chosen is perfect for you.
Choosing Free WordPress Themes
Free WordPress Themes vary a great deal in their quality and their usage restrictions. It is important that you check the licence for use before you make any changes to any WordPress Theme. Some Theme licences give you the rights to make any change to their WordPress theme. Other theme owners restrict you to small changes or from making any change at all.
Some WordPress Theme licences might restrict usage to non-commercial sites. Some encrypt the footer area so you cannot remove any footer links and these links may lead to an unrelated topic website that you might prefer not to “recommend” to your website visitors, even if such validation is only a link at the bottom of your site.
Much depends on the reason for your website. A personal website may be happy to live with this restriction, while a business website may correctly decide that this unwanted content is not really very professional. So check the theme licence as well as the WordPress Theme before you download and start using it, especially if you know you will want to change it’s template in some way.
Also take care to check that your WordPress Theme is well designed. You may like the graphic look of it, but then discover that the Theme has not got the required number of page and post templates to display your content well. There may not be separate header and footer templates, it may not be widget ready.
Many amateurs design WordPress themes and offer them for free usage, but they have not sufficient knowledge to optimize their theme to display consistently in different browsers and to work well with the majority of plugins. Nor do they support their WordPress Theme if you have a problem with it, and help you to fix any errors you may encounter.
That said, there are hundreds of really excellent free WordPress Themes available whose designers do provide free support and constant updates to keep their theme compliant with any changes WordPress may make when it updates. If you should choose their theme, do make a small donation to them, if you can afford to, for their time.
What makes WordPress so special is that so many people make their work for it, freely available to the community of users and they deserve to be rewarded for this. By all means ask if they will make changes for you if you need them, but do not abuse them for not doing it instantly or even at all, most are struggling to make a living and do this in their spare time.
Choosing Premium WordPress Themes
If a WordPress Theme is called a premium theme, it indicates that it has something more to offer than a different header and background. Generally it will have page templates that display content in a specific way for a specific use, such as a magazine theme, or a portfolio theme.
The majority of premium themes are only available by purchase. Either through a membership option, where you pay to be a member of a collective site and can then download a variety of premium themes, or through an individual site with just a single or small range of premium themes for purchase.
With premium themes, it is still very important to check the WordPress Theme’s licence. Even if you pay for the Theme, there may be restrictions on it’s usage that may influence your decision as to whether this is the right theme for your website. Do not assume you can use the Theme on multiple sites, it may be only a single site licence. Do not assume you can remove the footer link. Check because you can only do these things if the licence says this is ok.
In general premium themes are well supported by their designers, but sometimes you may have to pay for this support. You may be offered a year of free support and then need to renew it yearly. If the Theme is worth using, this support and update option is worth paying for. It’s a business cost like any other business cost. If you like the Theme, it’s worth it, and maintaining a respectful relationship with it’s designer is only good business practice.
WordPress Themes You Can Configure
The Flex theme is highly configurable. If you have a WordPress Theme with configuration options, there will appear a new link under Appearance with your theme configuration options pages, either when the theme is activated or when the licence is activated.
There may be specific colour schemes to choose between, a choice of different widget areas in header, footer and sidebars, and perhaps other choices or areas where you can enter code for analytics, seo or other website tools.
WordPress Themes Documentation & Forums
Many WordPress Theme designers also maintain a forum, especially if their Theme is premium. Before you submit a ticket or email a support request, search the forum (or search Google) to see if you can find a forum thread that has already answered your question. This saves both your time and that of the Theme designer. It can take over 48 hours to get an answer back to an email, when a 5 minute search might turn up the piece of code or tick in a box needed to fix what you want your Theme to do.
Become a forum member and post your question or problem in the Theme forum, if there is one available. You may need to wait a day for a reply, but you also have the benefit of getting an answer quickly from another forum member who has encountered and solved the problem. You are also helping other people find answers to their problems quickly when they are made public in a forum. Just as you gain help from this community, you give it back with such posts.
Take the time to read new forum posts while you are there and if you can help someone with your own expertise, help them out. It will make you feel good and you may make new friends, generate some business and if you make an effort and fill in your profile, you may also get a backlink as a reward!
Level of Competence
You decide what level of competence you want to reach when you make your own website. You can keep it simple and use a WordPress theme just as it is, or you can be full of ideas about what you want on your website and learn how to make it all happen within your theme.
You can stretch your brain and find out how to add code with new functions to your theme, or you can keep it all separate and modular and use a plugin. You can employ a web designer to customize a WordPress Theme or even take a stab at creating one yourself. This applies equally to WordPress Themes, WordPress Plugins and to the development of WordPress itself.
The fantastic part of all this is that we still have a basically free internet, where you can search and find out how to do almost everything you want to do. Treasure it. Be respectful, be thoughtful, make donations, contribute to the knowledgebase and support the WordPress Community.
Who knows how long it will last?