Each WordPress website is completely unique. However they all use common building blocks to create, one of the main ones being themes. These are a type of template into which your website will conform. Every website must have a theme, but the great thing about WordPress is that you can change at any time, and even preview what a theme may look like before you make the change.
Themes are created by developers and shared either for free, or for a price. Once you select a theme, it will be populated by pulling “bits” of information that you have already created. Here’s a quick overview of those common building blocks you use within WordPress:
- Content: your images, text, videos and audio, which you have entered/uploaded using the WordPress CMS
- Theme customisation: each theme will have its own options, which may be limited or extensive
- Posts: the core of your blogging and can also be seen as articles
- Pages: the structure of your website, usually more static information and displayed in a menu (including a page where your posts appear)
- Widgets: mini programmes in your sidebar or footer
- Plugins: only available in WP.org sites, or the business plan of WP.com, these offer more functionality to your website and may not work well with all themes.
Once you understand those basics, here’s ten steps to choosing a WordPress theme:
1. Clearly define your business or blogging goals
WordPress has made it really easy to create a website in minutes however taking some time to first define your goals behind WHY you’re creating this website or blog will make it much easier to choose a theme. In fact, WordPress will guide you through this, prompting you with questions along the way. If you are not yet sure, two tools you may like to use are the Business Model Canvas and SMART goals. More on those later in another post.
2. Understand your target market
Who will be visiting your website or reading your blog? What would THEY like? You can create a persona for your ideal reader/customer to help in this process.
3. Consider your own interest and IT Skills
Some people really enjoy the creative possibilities that WordPress offers, some just want to focus on the writing itself. You don’t need a lot of IT or tech skills to learn how to manage your website, but
4. Have an idea of what you would like your website to look like
Find a few other websites you like the look of and sketch out what you would like yours to look like. Use your knowledge of posts, pages, content and widgets to break down the building blocks.
5. Start scrolling and previewing themes
Here’s where you can start scrolling through the hundreds of options. If you already have content in your dashboard this will make it more likely
Filter: select whether you would like to see either free only or certain types of themes
Preview: put your own content into this format
6. Activate your chosen theme
Take the leap and actually select the theme! At first, it could look a little messy as your content was not likely ideally optimised for this theme.
7. Customise and check your theme
Go through all the options and see what is possible. Play with the choices and check how it looks on your site. Here is where each theme is individual – it may allow a lot of customisation or it may be quite limited. If you’ve taken the above steps, you have a higher likelihood of being happy with the theme you chose. If not, you may have to repeat a few of the steps above. In this post I’m assuming basic knowledge in which case you don’t want to customise beyond the basic options, but if you are more advanced and know about CSS coding, you can get even more creative in customisation.
8. Get familiar with your theme
Once you’ve made the commitment to a particular theme, you’ll need to take some time not just to customise it as above, but really get familiar with it. What have others done with this theme for example? Try out different aspects. Tidy up any messy parts of your site by checking where they relate to your theme.
9. Review regularly
Sometimes there are theme updates (which you may need to run or may update automatically). In theory this shouldn’t affect your site much but it may. So regularly just check how the site looks and check any changes.
10. Continue creating content
Don’t forget that choosing and customising your theme is simply the framework, the best part of your website is the content! So keep creating regularly.
I hope that helps take you through making what could be an overwhelming decision to instead taking some simple steps to choosing a WordPress theme. I’d love to hear which theme you are using? Why? Any other steps I’ve missed here? Please get in touch!