A WordPress website theme is one of those words that, along with “plugin”, can evoke an involuntary shudder from many a website owner. It may not come as a surprise but for those who are uninitiated, a website theme is not exactly ‘plug and play’, despite what the developer says. To a certain extent, they need tweaking to fit a brand, to add a function, or to perform a certain way. On top of that, there are thousands of themes to choose from with different features and designs. With such a wide scope, what are the things that one must know about using themes? Here is 5 quick pointers from our tech team:
1. Don’t Use Themes Out of the Box
Usually when you first install a website theme, it will most probably look like the sample- albeit, with some of your content spread across the page. You would NOT want this. Using a theme as it is means that some elements of the theme like images could be the same as EVERY other website using the theme. To avoid that, it’s best to customise it further to suit your needs. You wouldn’t want your site to look like a sample page. Find some new images from your photo library (or stock sites like pixabay.com)
2. Choose Themes that are Relevant to Your Business
It’s all there in the title. If you own a restaurant, there are multiple customisable themes that you can use with the right plugins and features that you need. Although in principle any theme can be used to fit any business this is usually beyond most website owners. Don’t download a website theme meant for mortgage advice when all you really want to do is sell your delicious spaghetti bolognaise.
3. Pretty Themes are Cool but Functionality is Better
We’ve all come across websites with lots of nice things going on- a dynamic page that changes images every few seconds to showcase different products, video and music that stream automatically. It’s all great until they slow down your website – especially on mobile. Always choose a theme that’s simple and straight to the point. Your users will appreciate faster loading times more than that fancy splash page.
4. Keep Things Updated With Your Website Theme
Just because you’ve used a complete theme does not mean that you don’t have to maintain it. Chances are, your theme came with widgets or plug-ins that allow your website to work. Updating them ensures that your website runs smoothly and efficiently. Keeping them up to date also lessens compatibility and security issues.
5. Be Cautious When Modifying Your Theme’s Shortcodes
Essentially, themes are just blocks of code that work very well together. Known as shortcodes, these prebuilt sections can be dropped in to any page. Edit them at your own risk as you can easily break your site. Be very careful. If you need help, ask from someone who knows how to.
One of the most powerful features of WordPress (alongside plugins) is the ability to install a pre-built WordPress theme to change the look and operation of your website. This has been one of the big factors in why WordPress runs on millions of websites and is the most popular choice for self-hosted websites.
Using customisable themes isn’t a new thing but with cleaner, simpler designs for mobile they make a compelling argument over a custom website. Of course, they are not for every business There might still be a need for custom website (a design built entirely from scratch) but for those who want a fast and cost-effective solution, using themed templates are the way to go.
As a small business owner, opting to use a template might be more beneficial. What are the benefits though and what might you get for your money?
We are making the assumption here that the installing, modifying and launching of a new small business website is an area requiring outside assistance. If you have these skills already, good news as you won’t need as much outside help. If you do get stuck, our support team are ready to help
1. WordPress themes can be considerably less expensive than custom websites
Using themed templates to create a website is a more cost effective option for many sites. It takes less time to set-up and you don’t need to hire designers to create the overall look for desktop and mobile.. Themes also often come with their own ready-made features that you can use to fit your business. This means you might not need to purchase anything else unless you want to add another feature to your website.
But not always. Choosing the wrong theme or extensively modifying a theme will increase the time and costs to build. Additional code will introduce additional bugs and require additional testing. Sometimes this can end up being more expensive than a custom site from the start. Write down your objectives for the site and ensure your developer or partner is offering the right advice based on time = money. There is a sweet spot that avoids “wheel reinvention” and still provides the flexibility to shape the site to fit your needs.
2. Quicker to get going
Building a website, for the most part, is a long process. Design needs to be discussed. Features need to be coded and added in. Basically, you create something from nothing and it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take many weeks / months to complete an entire website. In it’s simplest form, with a prebuilt theme, you can just download the theme you want, install it, and change certain elements like images and some colours.
3. Lots of choice
There are thousands upon thousands of themes that you can choose from. And while you might run the risk of seeing a website that uses a similar template to yours, it doesn’t really matter. This is because you can customise it. You can change colours or the order of items in your navigation bar. You can add your own images or add more pages. The point is, you can personalise your website to suit your needs and your branding. Choosing a theme relevant to your business makes things easier but some of the most creative sites will be using a theme originally designed for another purpose.
Again – it all depends on how much time you want to spend (or pay someone else) to replace the stock images, colours, typography and layouts and make the site personal to your business.
4. SEO and mobile is generally built into the design
Modern designs often have features built into them that optimise your website for search engines. This means that you don’t need to worry about the design elements that search engines use to help your site appear in web searches. Themes can help your site to meet SEO standards.
5. Additional features are often included
WordPress themes can come with many built-in features to to help you promote your services, highlight content, get in touch or maybe even a few administrator options that make changing some elements of the site easier. Built in features remove the need for adding plug-ins, both removing additional complexity and optimising performance.
6. Updates Keep Your Site Functional
If you’ve purchased a WordPress theme from a reputable source, chances are, you’ll have free updates to keep you site secure and up to date. Note that whenever WordPress updates and decides to make changes, it might cause some problems to your theme. Updates from your theme developers are often fixes to resolve compatibility issues with WordPress or to further improve the performance of the theme. So be safe be sure to only use themes that are being actively developed, have a large install base and are marked as compatible with your version of WordPress.
So what are the cons?
Its NEVER as easy as the theme developer makes out to recreate the sample site. Even our developers struggle at times to get features working and fix issues – with mobile especially
You need to be both experienced in managing WordPress and have patience. Expect that some things will be a compromise and you will spend many hours googling if you are not a web developer
You spend too much time “tweaking” to make it look your own
….or not enough and your business site looks just like your competition
WordPress themes can be a great choice and are worth exploring if you are looking to refresh your site of get something new built quickly. Tomorrow we’ll tell you why custom design may not be the best option for you.
Want to talk more? Don’t hesitate to send us a message or click on the chat icon if you have any enquiries.