When you sit down to construct your first WordPress website or blog you have a very big decision to make immediately, and that’s choosing a theme. This is probably the first thing you will do after you install the software, and its major because your theme, or layout, is the first thing your readers will see. Your theme represents you, and your goal is to make it as appealing as possible.
People will make an instant judgment as to the quality and value of your website as soon as they land on your home page. Your header image should relay the message and purpose of your website. Your navigation bar should be user intuitive, and the color scheme should be soft and warm so you don’t scare people off.
All of this is made easy if you have chosen the best possible theme for “your” product or service. Let’s learn a little about themes and then take a look at some tips on choosing your best possible WordPress theme.
Look And Feel
Keep in mind that themes are simply the “look”, and to some degree, “feel” of your website. Your theme is like the outside of your house; what people see first. It can have nice window dressing, pretty colors, fancy decorative brick and an overall pleasant appeal. If people like what they see they will enter, or (click) around and stay for a visit. This is what you want-to keep your visitors in the house. And, it all starts by having the right theme.
So start with an appealing theme and combine it with appropriate templates so you can give your readers the best possible experience when they visit your website. People often interchange the terms themes and templates; falsely associating them as one, but this is not so.
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Remember, themes are the outward look or (skin), of your website, whereas templates are the file system behind the scenes which add certain functionality to your site. All themes come with a default template but you can add, or define, additional templates to any theme; they’re just files. An example of such a template (file) might be a single page template which does not display headers, footers or sidebars. So start by picking the right theme and then extend its look with various templates.
History of WordPress Themes
WordPress is a free and open source content management system and because of this, it carries what’s known as a GNU General Public License (GPL). This opened the door for web developers to create applications and themes for the software. In the earlier days of WordPress developers would attach sponsored links within their themes which would be passed on to the end users who downloaded them.
The official WordPress theme directory would host these themes for download, but this practice was later halted because some considered these “sponsored” themes spam. You can still download themes from the official WordPress free themes directory but only after the theme has been properly vetted by WordPress, and approved for end users.
The Default Option
There are over fifteen hundred free themes available today from the official WordPress directory, so finding a theme shouldn’t be that hard. Deciding which theme to use, however, can sometimes be a daunting task. WordPress provides you with a perfectly functional theme right out of the box once you install the file system. And, depending on your installation method you will be presented with the Twenty Ten or Twenty Eleven theme.
If you use the Fantastico install method through Hostgator you will have the Twenty Ten theme. Now you have to decide if you want to keep it or switch to another.
Regardless of whether you decide to keep and use the default theme, or download and use some other theme-never, ever, delete your default theme install. Your default theme contains important base files which are extremely important. If you make changes to your base theme those changes will be lost as soon as you “upgrade” the theme. so, do not delete your initial theme. Rather, make a copy of it or simply create and child theme instead.
Research your theme
Before you go off half cocked, loading up a bunch of themes, do your homework first. If you are brand new and this is your first time working with WordPress I suggest you stick with the default theme until you learn how things work. The default theme is really all you need to start.
But if you decide you want a different “look” then by all means go for it, but spend a little time narrowing down your choice. If you want to emulate the look of some other website then take note of “that” websites look and feel. Is the layout user friendly? Is it a one column or two column layout? Is the header animated or static? What about the colors?
Once you find something you like, go to the official theme directory and try to find it. Better yet, simply right click on the page and view the page “source” so you can get the name of the theme. Obviously not all websites use WordPress, but if you visit “WordPress related” websites you’ll happily discover that nearly all of them are using a WordPress theme. You will also discover themes that you can’t find in the official theme directory-premium themes.
Premium and paid themes are not officially sanctioned by WordPress, they’re typically created and promoted by individuals and groups. Premium WordPress themes are promoted on the allure of providing you with the “perfect” all around theme. Those who promote them suggest your web building efforts will be made easier if you use their theme. This is definitely not always the case.
Many paid themes are loaded down with so many options it will make your head spin. There is a learning curve with any theme-this is why it’s imperative you first “understand” how to use WordPress before jumping in and purchasing a premium theme.
Yes, premium themes do offer your greater flexibility and functionality because many of the popular options are built into the theme. But again, if you’re new, you will have your hands full from the start and adding another confusing element to the mix will only get you frustrated.
I have used premium themes and there are some good ones out there, but there are also some lousy ones too. A great paid theme will cost you around ~$80.00 and usually has a great following and support system. A bad one can usually be found for under thirty bucks. Bottom line-avoid paid themes if you’re a beginner and only venture out once you’ve gotten some experience building your first five or ten WordPress websites.
These are some general guidelines you should ponder when considering your WordPress theme of choice. It’s not something to stress over either because even if you do everything right, chances are you will switch themes in mid stride because you’re not happy with the look of your website as you’re developing it.
This is very common because what you see is not always what you get. When you find a theme that has the “look” you want you must keep in mind that this “appearance” is a completed project; it’s the end result. Your theme will start out with bare bones look and only be complete once all of your template options are set. Just keep all of this in mind as you examine the thousands of themes out there.