What Makes a Good WordPress Theme?

There are many different WordPress themes available, and each have their advantages.  The beauty of WordPress is that your content doesn’t ever disappear just because you change the look of your site.  All your blog posts, static pages, and forms remain even when you overhaul the look of your site.

Picking the best theme for your WordPress website is just as important as the content itself.

I’ve fielded questions from friends and clients requesting to put this announcement on the main page, move the navigation menu, or change the logo. It’s shocking to them that because the theme they picked wasn’t designed to support WordPress standards that they cannot make the changes they request without switching themes.

Good themes would allow such swaps to be simple work, but poorly coded themes can be a nightmare to maintain.  Worse yet, when unknowing web developers unfamiliar with WordPress hack the site apart to make it look good and interfere with ongoing updates needed for the site.

If you have little technical skill but a few questions in mind, you can find the best theme for your site and partner with a developer and graphic designer to get your website set up and relatively future-proofed.

How does your theme work?

  1. Can you rearrange the layout of the main page, including the sizes of header, sidebar, widgets, footer, and placement of the navigation menu? Can you move things around where you want them now, and in the future if you change your mind?
  2. Does the theme allow you to change the color scheme completely? Can you upload your own graphics to every area you desire?
  3. Does your theme support newer WordPress features? (when selecting a theme, look for “custom post types”, “post formats”, and “mobile responsive” as benchmarks. If the theme creator knows their stuff, the theme should include support for these areas. You may not make use of these newer WordPress features, but your theme should be current with WordPress current standards. If the theme doesn’t support these things, then likely the theme designer is outdated in their knowledge of other WordPress standards.
  4. Does your theme include search engine optimization features?
  5. How does that theme look on your or any demo site from a mobile device? (See Mobile Responsive)
  6. Is there support for your theme? If you use a theme created by Automattic/WordPress, such as Twenty Twelve, they provide the support.  If you purchase a theme elsewhere, look for their support forums, webinars, email newsletters, and any other way they train their clients. Personally I like Headway. Their support forums are fantastic and they stay current with WordPress standards.
  7. Does the theme interact with an assortment of plugins? I’ve run into a few themes that break plugins, such as the social sharing buttons like Digg Digg, because the theme wasn’t coded properly. As a result, the social sharing buttons land in the middle of the page and can’t be places in the proper sidebar area.

Know what you want your theme to do, and do a little research before settling on the theme. Remember in the future you may want to tweak how things appear and your theme should flex with you as you progress.

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Courtney Engle Robertson

From high school business education to the WordPress Training team, Courtney helps people of all skill levels get their message out. She lives in south-central Pennsylvania, loves coffee, plays the mandolin, and has a very large vegetable garden.

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