It’s ironic that there are so many WordPress themes at large, yet we have such a hard time finding the right one. This article aims to shed some light on questions that plague most web designers, like "what should I look for when choosing a WordPress Theme?"
Well, this is the guide you need for identifying top-grade WordPress themes. We’re going to look into the areas that you need to pay attention to, as well as tips on how to spot the WordPress themes that are worth your money and time.
Recommended Reading: 20 WordPress Themes To Revamp Your Site For 2015
Look for Versatility
Different clients have different demands that you must adapt to. You may have to create portfolios, business websites, or blogs and magazines. It would be counterproductive to use a different theme every time. First, you spend a lot of time searching for it, and then you have to invest energy learning how to make the best of it.
Each new theme means you have to adjust to a new coding style. Wouldn’t you be better off with a single theme that is powerful and versatile enough to deliver on your requirements and needs across various projects?
If you manage to secure a truly flexible theme, then that theme will not only lay the foundation for many types of websites, but it will also help you come up with unique results again and again.
You also need to keep your options open. While some clients are easy to please, others don’t really have a good sense of what they want. Those are the ones that ask you to make all kinds of changes. So you must ask yourself, does your theme help you please your clients? Would it allow you to modify the website layout from boxed to sidebar/content, or full width? Does it give you the option to modify navigation and go from fixed top to fixed right or left?
Great Support is fundamental
Web designers have to stick to a time schedule. The more projects we undertake, the less time we have – and we need to manage whatever is left on the clock to the best of our ability. Therefore, a WordPress theme is not helpful if it demands too much of our most precious resource: time.
We need to make sure that the themes we’re using are backed by a support team with strong communication skills who can and will help us solve all issues that crop up. There are themes with a team that has lousy response times, and themes with what you might call "decent" standard of customer support. But you don’t want decent, you want excellent support, and on your own terms.
A great support team answers calls of distress in less than 2 hours, and always gives you practical advice that you can work with. You shouldn’t settle for a service that makes you wait up to 48 hours, or directs you to their knowledgebase for answers. When in doubt, check the testimonials because that’s where you can spot great support, if it is provided.
"Everything works perfectly and customer support is second to none."
"Hands down, the best theme and support I’ve experienced. The developers respond quickly in the support forum and resolve any issues in a timely manner. Well done!"
If your theme doesn’t score points on customer support, let it go and move on to another one that helps you stay on schedule.
Clean code and good Shortcodes
The whole point of using WordPress themes is to eliminate web designers’ dependence on programmers and developers. A good theme has solid code and provides plenty of shortcuts – it’s not a matter of shying away from the repetitive nature of manual programming, although admittedly not everyone is a big fan. The goal is to optimize our working process, so we can launch wonderful websites faster.
There is also the issue of transitioning from handwritten code to themes that can keep up with the latest developments and core WordPress features.
In short, clean code is a must-have for any respectable WordPress theme. Improperly written or deprecated code will damage your website with broken-up layouts, data-corrupting shenanigans or worse. A fine theme will make these worries disappear.
Also, it will save you from having to test your website for cross-platform responsiveness and compatibility with the latest browsers (don’t get us started on those). Aside from clean-code, good WordPress themes unlock a series of shortcodes that can be used even if you have minimum to zero programming skills.
Read Also: How To Create Your Own WordPress Shortcodes
You Will Need Plugins
We’ve come to expect plugins with every WordPress theme. You will find that extended functionality is an important aspect – it is here that some themes outshine others. Take a closer look at your themes, assess their utility, and try to see whether the theme developers had gone the extra mile to create custom-made extensions.
Variety Of Plugins
The first checkpoint is a rich variety in plugins. Some themes throw in one or two essential ones which are compatible with others, but you have to purchase them separately and install the plugins yourself. Thankfully, there is a flip side to this practice – you can tell which themes are most considerate of your needs, by the number of plugins they volunteer from the start.
Usability Of Plugins
Then again, on closer inspection, some plugins may turn out to be more useful than others. Some plugins could be useful on a visual level for instance; many web designers prefer to build pages with a visual editor or composer. A gallery-type plugin would also be most welcome, because you never know when you’ll have to showcase a few slides for your portfolio or web store.
Then, there are plugins that help you administrate your website. You could benefit from an analytics plugin, and perhaps an easy-to-manage plugin for the comment system.
Custom plugins are optimized for fast website loading time. Useful custom-made plugins both load fast and bring huge UX benefits.
There you have it! Your tips to first-rate themes. As you can see, choosing the right theme is not such a big deal, as long as you stay faithful to four principles: versatility, reliable customer support, clean code and good shortcodes, and lastly plugins, customized or otherwise.
Editor’s note: This post is written by Kate Dagli for Hongkiat.com. Kate enjoys writing roundups for web dev and technology websites. She is currently a staff member of the-webdesigner.co.