No matter what kind of website you are planning to set up, finding the right WordPress Theme is one of the most important decisions. It’s not only a question about beauty, taste and design but also about functionality and capabilities.
The first things users will recognize is the look and feel of your website or blog. But there is another, more unobstrusive thing users will recognize. Neither visually, nor by reading. It’s more subtile but even more important. It’s the speed of your website.
As you can see it’s important to not only have the design in your mind when finding the right WordPress Theme for your website, but other far more important things to consider. Here is a list with the 10 Key Factors that are most important.
10 Key Factors finding the right WordPress Theme
1. Responsive Design
As one of the most obvious key factors that are important for choosing your next WordPress Theme, not depending on the source, is that the design must be responsive. But why is that?
Many sources claim the wrong facts to be true. We’ve read and heard about statements that claim that 50% of the search traffic is mobile traffic. We still see a significant increase on organic desktop traffic without loosing any numbers over the years. It’s just a matter of fact, that mobile traffic increases a lot and comes on top of desktop traffic. No matter how, you should make sure that your new theme follows responsive design principles. Which means, it should look good on desktop and on mobile (cellphones and smartphones) as well as tablets.
2. Load Time of the Theme aka Website Speed
If you find a favorite theme on themeforest.net or any other platform, you should open the preview of the theme first to see it’s design and get a feeling for it’s performance in a browser. Before testing with one of the tools stated below, close the header bar first, which includes the “buy button” from themeforest.net.
You can check a sample report here. The higher the value (100 is the maximum), the better the performance. By the way, it’s good to check your chosen theme from different locations worldwide, because you never now, where the preview server is. And, it’s also good to check different subsites like a blogpost, shop or product page additionally to the start page to make sure that the theme does good on all pages.
3. Does the Theme fit your needs?
No matter how good the speed values are – there is one essential thing you should have a look at before finding the right WordPress Theme for your website.
Make sure that you do know what kind of website you need. Either it will be a portfolio website as a graphic designer or photographer, a tech blog, a food blog, a corporate website, an affiliate website or a company blog or a webshop (with woocommerce). Each of these types of websites, or any other type of websites has special conditions to fulfill.
Before choosing a theme, you should check the description of the theme developers, which plugins it does work with (e.g. woocommerce or other plugins). Extending an existing theme that hasn’t built in woocommerce templates is a lot of work and usually you hardly will get payed for that.
So the tip for you is here: check if the theme supports everything you need, then you can proceed with the list here.
4. Payed or Free Theme
Well, from our perspective there is a clear “go for a payed theme”, so let us explain the reason why:
In some cases it’s necessary to have a well working theme support forum or even ticketing system with the theme developers. Good theme developers do not only care about programming and code but also about client support.
With a free theme you hardly get any of it.
Constant updates to the theme are as necessary as WordPress itself is updated on a regular basis. When someone is getting payed for a theme, he will most likely update the theme on a nearly as regular basis to make sure that the theme is future proof and will work even in a few month or years from now.
A theme you payed for is most likely documented quite well. It either comes with a documentation website or a PDF-file besides the user-forum mentioned above.
Themes that you have to pay for usually offer way more flexibility when it comes to design and layout options as well as use cases. Most of them do offer kind of pre designed templates for specific page types, like an “about us” or a “contact” page for example.
We would not be thememonitor.com if we would not tell you the downside of paying for themes:
- Money, Money, Money
Some themes can be quite expensive, but a regular pricing is something between $39 and $120. So still not really a lot, compared to your hourly rate.
- Bulkyness and the overflow of features => complex setup
Unfortunately many theme developers love to overstuff their themes with features, that hardly anyone needs in one place. This is the reason why some of the themes tend to be bulkier as they should be which may increase the load time or increase the effort regarding the setup.
Working on an international project or a website that might get translated in the future is one reason why you should care about a translation plugin. From an SEO perspective, it would even make sense to include a language folder like we did with thememonitor.com even so you are not yet planning to translate anything. At least it’s not wrong. We have written about possible Translation Plugins in our blog.
6. Code Quality
Code Quality is one of the SEO factors hardly ever takes a closer look at. But why is that?
WordPress – and this is kind of a problem especially with specific themes – is full of code. In many cases, themes do have a code to text ration of about 90 : 10. Which is bad. But in many cases would not work any different. One of the main reasons for that are plugins. It is as it is but we are looking forward what the new WordPress Version will be capable of.
So we are convinced that a clean source code without all the clutter and plugins necessary (because it already includes most of the important functionality) is way better, then extending a WordPress Installations with plugins.
AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – are a technology many did not yet believe in. The technology was introduced by google and news publishers to speed up the load time of a single URL whenever a user comes from an organic search result in Google.
Since Google announced the Mobile First Index quite a few month ago and just recently introduced the Mobile Index to google by the beginning of 2018, it’s more than necessary to care about speed and load times as ever before. AMP is one of the easier technologies to be implemented in a WordPress website.
8. User Experience aka. UX
Emphasize yourself in the user who visits your website. We’d advise you not to use any themes with a strange or uncommon behavior.
- Horizontal page navigation
- Main menus in strange places
- Unchangeable color combinations
- Low contrast in fonts / background
- Usage of burger menu on desktop sites
- No pagination available on overview sites, e.g. blogs
- Visually difficult content structure
- No search or contact option
- No readable content above the fold
As you can imagine, there is much more but these are some of the most experienced Usability mistakes.
A WordPress Theme should be customizable. Having to live with a theme that can’t be customized leaves you with no option for individual design. As a matter of fact, this indicates, that you’d have to customize your Theme with CSS and PHP on your own. Sometimes the usage of plugins does help, but usually this causes an even worse page speed.
The more SEO features a theme already includes, the better it is. This should be your main focus when it comes to finding the right WordPress Theme for your next website or blog. The best thing is if you don’t have to use any additional plugins, or at least only one SEP Themes, like Yoast SEO theme.
One additional tip for you
Choosing the right theme for your next WordPress-Websites can be difficult, and it should be more than just a decision about design or whether you like the theme or not. So there is one more hint for you that we’d like you to keep in mind:
Because there are a a lot of WordPress Themes available, you can happen to choose an older theme for your new website. This is not a problem as long as the developers keep updating the theme during the time. You should make sure that the theme meets the latest standards. We’d recommend taking a closer look at the change documents which do lists the latest updates made by the developers.
In case developers are no longer updating their theme, we would not recommend you buying them. It can be more frustrating for you and the one who maintenances the website. So don’t choose some kind of dated software right in the beginning.
When it comes to deciding on your next WordPress Theme, you should make sure that the new Theme fulfills as many things as possible from this list. We at thememonitor.com introduced a special rating for each theme we are testing to help you make exactly this decision. So please take a look at our Themes category and find your next WordPress Theme here.