One overwhelming decision new business owners have to make is deciding on what their website will look like. I’m a firm believer that when you’re just getting started you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and headaches by choosing a premade theme to get your WordPress website off the ground.
However, there are so many themes online to choose from – almost 4,000 on Creative Market alone. Regardless of whether you’re a new business owner or you’ve been around for a while, the vast amount of choices makes deciding which theme is right for you difficult.
So today I wanted to cover five of the most important questions you’ll want to ask yourself before you hit “purchase” on your next WordPress theme.
If you’re looking for a new theme, be sure you grab my Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Theme!
1 | Is the design strategic to what you need for your business?
One of the first and most important questions you can ask yourself is whether or not the design of the theme will actually work for your business. This is the first thing you want to think about during your theme search because it’s all too easy to get caught up in the overall aesthetics of the theme and then purchase it only to realize that you can’t make it work for your business.
I highly recommend referring back to any goals you’ve set for your business both this year and long term. This will help you objectively look at the design of the theme and see if it’s going to be strategic in all the right places and help you actually hit those goals.
A great example is if you’re trying to grow your email list, you want to see a variety of available placements for your opt-in forms – like on the homepage and footer, not just in the sidebar.
I do want to make one caveat to this point, though, and it’s that you shouldn’t be looking for a theme for your website that can do everything and then some. I like to call these types of themes “everything but the kitchen sink,” and I don’t recommend them because typically what happens is that the theme creator has packed in so many features that it’s not only harder for you to figure out how to use, but often times it can slow down your website as a whole.
When you really take a look at your goals, you’ll realize that you don’t need those 4 extra widget areas that have been built into the theme. I could do a whole separate post about this, but at the end of the day make sure you’re referring back to your goals when looking at the design of the theme.
2 | Is it easy to customize?
Another incredible important (and hopefully obvious) question to ask when looking at a new theme is how easy is it going to be for you to customize? Can you change the colors all around the site? Will you be able to add in your brand fonts? What if you want different content on the homepage or different widget areas in the footer?
Like I said, this is hopefully something you already know to be looking for. However, it’s important because you don’t want to find yourself having paid for a theme only to have to pay someone else to customize it for your brand (unless you want to).
This can be difficult to tell from the front end of the site, so you’ll want to make sure you check out the features or abilities listed for the theme you’re looking for. What does it say you can change? If it’s not clear, don’t be afraid to reach out to the theme creator before purchasing.
Another thing to check for when you’re curious about customization is the Help Desk or customer support for the theme shop. Sometimes you can find detailed instructions on how to set the theme up there, which will give you a clear idea on how much you’ll be able to tweak once you’ve uploaded the theme on your site.
I like to take customization just one step further with the Coded Creative themes by offering a CSS Bank for theme customers. If I notice I’m getting a lot of similar questions about things on a theme, I’ll take the CSS and add it to the “bank” so you can easily copy and paste it onto your site and customize the look even further for your brand.
3 | Is it mobile responsive?
Have you ever gone to someone’s website from Instagram and had trouble seeing certain things on their site? Maybe their menu flowed out past the size of your screen, their blog post text was too big, or you couldn’t click certain buttons? When that happens to me, I generally close out the site and most of the time forget to go back (#mombrain).
Everyone with an audience on Instagram is using the link in their bio to promote their content, which means people are coming to your site on their phone to see what you have to share. This is why it’s so important for your audience to be able to easily navigate your site and read your content from all of their devices.
The question of mobile responsiveness used to be a bigger one, but since we’ve gotten more glued to our phones it means that most themes you’ll find available for purchase are going to work on mobile. However, it’s still important to open the demo up on your phone and double check that everything looks like it should.
4 | Is it compatible with popular plugins?
One of my favorite things about WordPress is that there are so many possibilities on what you can do with your website. It can be a super simple blog, a full blown membership, or something in between. Plugins make all of that possible, and right now there’s at least 54,000 of them available to download.
While it’s not possible for theme creators to make sure the WordPress theme you buy is compatible with every single plugin online, you do want to know that the popular plugins you’re already using on your site or may need in the future will work seamlessly with your new design.
Obviously you can look on your site and see what you’re already using, but at the very least I made all of my themes compatible with WooCommerce and Genesis eNews Extended. This means that if you’re using a Coded Creative theme and install one of these plugins, they’ll already be designed to match the rest of your site.
Quick tip: If you’re not sure if the theme will style the plugins you’re already using, check out the documentation! Most theme shops list the recommended plugins along with the installation instructions, so you’ll quickly be able to see what plugins the theme is styling.
5 | Are support and updates available?
Things are constantly changing online – take the latest launch from WordPress of the Gutenberg editor. This was a major change to the way people with WordPress websites create content for their sites. Now, it’s unlikely that something else that major will be released anytime soon; however, when you’re getting ready to purchase a new theme you want to know that you’ll receive support and updates should something come up.
Aside from major shifts on the internet that require updates, you also want to know that the theme creator will work with you if something breaks or isn’t working correctly on your site. As a customer of another theme shop in the past, I can tell you that nothing is more frustrating when your site is broken and the person you purchased the design from isn’t willing to help.
Both support and updates can be tricky to check, but there are a few ways you can go about doing this. For updates, check to see if there is a version history or changelog of the themes available somewhere on the site. This will immediately let you know how much support the theme creator is offering if things break since usually there will be a list of things changed with each new version. You may also get an idea on if those updates are available for free on the sales page of the theme.
You can also get a good idea on the support that’s offered by reading testimonials from customers of the theme shop. Not to toot my own horn here, but I’ve had many Coded Creative customers mention my willingness to help them if something was right on their site. That kind of thing tells people who are looking for a new design (like you!) that the theme creator is happy to provide support.
Picking a new WordPress theme is really exciting, but at the end of the day you want to make sure you’re choosing the right one for your business and your goals.
Before you hit the “buy now” button on the latest theme you found online, make sure you’re asking the questions I outlined above (especially #1) to help get the most out of your new theme.