When you’re new to creating WordPress sites on your own, shopping for a premium theme for your businesses website can be time consuming and frustrating.
You can easily spend days going through the live demos of premium themes on sites like Elegant Themes, StudioPress, Woo Themes, or Theme Forest, just to name a few of the top WordPress theme providers, and still not know which theme would work best for you. Yee gads!
While you’re trying to gather a collection of themes you like, and that could work well for the look and feel you’d like to have for your website, it can be confusing to understand what’s possible with the theme in terms of the colors, or the layout of content blocks on the homepage, or what you can put in sidebars.
Since I often hear from folks about the frustration of finding the perfect WordPress theme, I’d like to share a few things that should help you with the process, if you are, or will be, in a situation where you need to find a theme for your businesses site.
De-Confusifying WordPress Theme Shopping
Now, looking at live demos of WordPress themes can be confusing for another reason too: the theme providers will most often have all of the available content blocks enabled on the home page, with nice looking images, icons, videos, and usually some placeholder text. This can make for some pretty busy looking home pages.
If you’re looking for a clean and simple site, but you find a theme that would work if it weren’t for the many things present on the homepage, know that you most often don’t have to use all of the available content blocks on the home page. And by “content blocks,” I mean things like image sliders, image slideshows, blog posts, squeeze page section layouts with sign up forms, or any number of small boxes with content in them.
Most premium WordPress themes these days come with some kind of custom homepage layout with a number of different options for different sections of content blocks…and they will usually all be turned on and have content in them within a live demo. The theme provider has to show you what the theme can do, so those things are turned on, like this:
But you don’t always have to put content in those content block sections. If you don’t, your homepage layout can be greatly simplified with a given theme.
Advice for WordPress Theme Hunting
Recently, one of the members of my Tech Genius program asked me the following question about finding the right theme for her business site. She said:
“I’m a bit unclear about how to choose a theme. On the one hand, it seems like color plays a role, since some themes provide multiple color options….but then I think you can change colors pretty easily.
On the other hand, it seems like it’s more about layout of the little boxes, bars, location of the menus, etc. But at this level of our technological development, I would think it should be pretty easy to move a little box around and put it anywhere you’d like on a webpage. If you can help me understand the following, I would appreciate it:
1) What are common elements on service-oriented home pages/websites that we should consider having on our own websites? How do these items influence how we choose our theme?
2) Are the little content boxes on a theme pre-set, so if I chose the Memoir theme from Elegant Themes, the little boxes in the right sidebar would have to have a calendar, recent posts, categories, etc.? Or can the content of those boxes be changed? Can the boxes get bigger/smaller if I don’t use the box below it? Can I add a box?”
Here’s my response:
You can change some colors of themes easily, depending on the theme and what kind of control panel they have.
Themes from some theme companies don’t provide an easy way to change colors like Elegant Themes does, which means that to change colors you’d need to edit some CSS code of your theme.
Many themes also come with preset color palette options where you select an option with a couple clicks in the control panel, or settings for the theme, and many aspects of the theme will change colors based on the preset color settings for that particular option you chose.
If the theme you choose doesn’t have preset color palette options, and it doesn’t have an easy way to change some of the colors of the theme without editing CSS files, it’s going to take some work to change the colors…more than you might imagine.
There are most often parts of themes that have colors that are created in software like Photoshop or Adobe Fireworks. Little tiny image slices are created in those programs with things like custom gradients, and then those image slices are used to create colors of certain objects in the theme…and there can often be dozens of those little image slices being used.
That means that it can take a good bit of work, software, and skill to change the colors of a theme, depending on which colors and what parts of the theme you want to change.
Next, with most themes, you won’t be able to easily move a box around and put it wherever you want, unless you use a special plugin, like Elegant Theme’s drag and drop builder plugin, or a different platform for Wordrpess that allows you to design your own theme with drag and drop type functionality, like the Headway theme builder…but with both of those options, you’ll likely end up doing more work than you would if you were to just use a nice theme out of the box as it is, because you’re introducing a level of customization into your work, which opens the door for bugs and things that need to be fixed or adjusted…and that will take more time.
The common elements of a small business site that sells services or online programs tends to be a home page with either blog posts on it and widgets in a sidebar (the things that you called “little content boxes” are called widgets in WordPress language), or, a home page with a few content boxes in the middle of the page that explain briefly what different kinds of things you offer.
That’s why most WordPress themes these days have some kind of custom home page layout with different types of small content areas around the page.
Many people have some kind of free offer sign up form on their homepage, often in a widget area of a sidebar, and some have a short welcome video or image slideshow that rotates by itself on the homepage as well.
Then there’s a series of internal pages that are pretty common, such as the about page, services page, blog page, and contact page.
Those sometimes have sidebars on them, and other times not.
It’s easy to create your own widget content for the sidebars and have the content in those widgets show up on the page you want them to show up on.
You’re not stuck with having the calendar, recent posts, and categories widgets showing on every page. Those are just the default widgets of WordPress. You can put many other types of content in that sidebar position of the theme, and you can control what widgets go on what page using a plugin like Custom Sidebars.
The size of the widget content areas in the sidebar will change depending on what kind of content you decide to put in them. They automatically adjust themselves based on the content in the widget.
And yes, you can add more widgets than what you see in the default widget set of most live theme demos.
Don’t Get Stuck in the Theme Shopping Bog
In general, I would recommend that you not get too bogged down in choosing a theme. I know that it can get frustrating and I’ve seen many people spend days and sometimes weeks trying to find the perfect theme.
In the end, if you choose one with a simple design that you like, and one that at least has the option to have some simple, custom content boxes on the home page, you’ll be able to get going with your business quickly.
As long as your site looks clean and professional, people won’t be paying much attention to it’s design. They are much more interested in what you have to offer and if it can help them with some problem or pain they have in their lives.
Most often, the way a site looks and feels is much more important to the site owner than it is to the people who visit the site.
Yes, it’s important to get a nice looking site, but beyond a certain level of “nice”, most people won’t be paying attention to your site’s design.
So, if you chose a theme that has a preset color palette you like, or that has an easy way to change some colors of the theme, you’d have a good amount of flexibility.
And remember, even if a theme’s live demo shows a custom home page design, you don’t have to use all that stuff. You can just have a simple welcome article and some photos on the homepage in a sidebar if you want to.
But at least the option to use those content blocks on the home page would be there if you wanted to use them down the road.
My biggest recommendation here is to not get stuck for too long choosing a theme, because your site’s design matters less than you’d expect it would to the people visiting your site (I’m basing this on many usability studies I’ve read over the years on this topic.)
Hope this helps, and happy theme hunting!