The first thing most WordPress users will do after they’ve installed the content management system is install and configure a theme. One of WordPress’s great strengths is the huge number of themes that are available. WordPress has generated a massive ecosystem — there are many millions of WordPress sites — and there are thousands of developers competing for a slice of the WordPress pie. But, as you can imagine, not all themes are made equal and new WordPress users often make assumptions about themes that can lead to a frustrating experience.
There is an almost limitless choice of WordPress themes, and WordPress theme developers have done amazing things, but there are a few factors that people new to WordPress should keep in mind before buying a theme.
Don’t Take The Theme Demo At Face Value
When I first started using WordPress, I was naïve. I saw a theme that interested me and checked out the theme demo page — it looked incredible. I bought the theme and excitedly installed it on my new site, thinking that would be that and I’d be ready to start adding content. Unfortunately, it looked terrible — nothing like the demo page.
Naturally, developers want their demo pages to look as good as possible, and some — not all — will create a slightly misleading impression on users. Developers will load up the site with media and plugins that don’t come with the theme. The more unscrupulous developers will make custom modifications to the demo page that won’t be part of the theme you can you download.
In almost all cases, you’ll have some work to do after you’ve installed a theme.
The rest of this article will detail how you can avoid buyer’s remorse where WordPress themes are concerned.
What Support Does The Theme Developer Offer?
Theme developers differ considerably in the level of support they are willing to offer. Some provide no support at all (which is unacceptable for a premium product), and some will go so far as to make small custom modifications on your live site to make you happy. Most developers are somewhere in-between. The only way to be sure is to look carefully at the developer’s support forums, website, and comments in the theme marketplace. If you don’t like what you see, walk away.
A related matter is the developer’s refund policy. Make sure they’re willing to give you your money back if the theme doesn’t suit your requirements. The best way to find out is to ask.
What Do Other Users Of The Theme Say?
Past users are often a great guide to whether a theme is likely to fulfill its promise. Most theme marketplaces allow users to comment on and rate their experiences with a theme.
Some Themes Are Excessively Heavy
In an effort to make the appeal of a theme as broad as possible, some developers load themes up with as many features and customization options as they can. The result can often be a slow site. Look carefully at the features a theme includes to ensure that you don’t end up with a monster that will bog your site down. Much of the time, however, it’s impossible to tell how well coded and efficient a theme is. I’ve included a few links at the bottom of this article to theme developers who reliably create feature-rich but lightweight themes.
Make Sure That You Can Modify The Theme To Suit Your Needs
The customizability of themes runs the gamut from almost endlessly flexible to very rigid. I’ve often heard stories of people buying a theme in the expectation that they can make a few tweaks so that it fulfills their requirements, only to be told by the developer that the changes they need to make are impossible or require delving deep into PHP and rewriting huge chunks of the code.
Sometimes it’s just a badly coded and designed script, but it isn’t always the developer’s fault. They have to account for a range of abilities: some people want themes that work “out-of-the-box” as designed and some want to be able to change everything. Accounting for all users is impossible, which is why you should make sure you know the developer’s refund policy.
Theme Developers Worth Considering
There are thousands of theme developers of vastly variable quality. Many of them are wonderful, and it would be impossible to put together a comprehensive list of the best, so here are just a handful of developers that I have had good experiences with.
- StudioPress, creators of the excellent Genesis Framework offer highly flexible, lightweight, and beautiful themes.
- Mike McAlister is one of the best independent WordPress theme devs around.
- The Theme Foundry.
About Matthew Davis — Matthew works as an inbound marketer and blogger for Future Hosting, a leading provider of VPS hosting. Follow Future Hosting on Twitter at @fhsales and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://www.futurehosting.com/