Friends often ask for tips on how to choose a premium WordPress theme, so I decided to write this article. Some WordPress themes are offered for free. There is no cost to try one on your site – if you don’t like it you can just try another. Paid for, or ‘premium themes,’ on the other hand require a non-refundable investment of somewhere between $40 – $100, so most people want to look a bit more carefully before pressing the “Buy Now” button. Choosing a theme is personal; without having a conversation, I can’t say what theme will work for you. I have, however, developed a process for choosing a top-quality theme that will work for a particular client. Here’s my process and what I look for.
1) Theme Ratings & Number of Ratings
I buy a lot of themes from Themeforest, but I not all the themes there are of excellent quality. The first thing I look at is the rating. I want to find an average rating of 4.4 or better. Just as importantly I look for the number of ratings. A five star rating means nothing if it is based on five ratings. I like to see over 500 ratings but will sometimes settle for 100. I also look at the number of sales. Lots of sales means that this is a valuable business and the developer has incentive to maintain the theme and answer support questions.
2) Theme Demo
Before you buy a theme make sure that you carefully study the theme demo. Here’s what to look for:
- There should be an immediate attraction – “Yes! I like the style of this. I could see my wordpress website looking like this!”
- Next imagine your content replacing all the content in the demo.
- Most demos use flashy photography to make them pop. Do have have images to replace each of the demo images?
- If you like a particular layout, think what text an images you have to replace the demo content?
- Look through all the features of the demo to make sure it has what you need
- Do the galleries work the way you need them to?
- Does this premium theme have the layout options you need? Columns, porfolio, etc.?
- If you want to have a e-commerce site, does the theme support the popular Woocommerce plugin?
Does the theme allow you to change fonts, background colors, accent colors? Are there different layout options for the home page? If you love the theme exactly the way it is then this might not matter, but if you want to make small customizations then make sure that these are within your ability.
Some theme allow you to create custom sidebars so that each page does not have to have the same items in the side bar. Some themes have page building features that let you create a page with some intro text them maybe a sampling of portfolio items or your latest blog posts. This kind of flexibility allows you to to put together creative displays of your content.
4) Ask a pre-sales question
If anything is still unclear after looking at the demo and the theme description, then contact the theme developer. Not only will this clear up your questions about the theme, but it will also give you a sense of how quickly and comprehensively your support questions will be answered after you purchase the WordPress theme.
5) Individual developers with great reputations
Themeforest is a marketplace where thousand of developers sell their designs. Here are some single developers who have developed a positive reputation for longevity and quality themes:
Pages & Posts
Posts show up on you blog page usually with the latest at the top. Pages are like posts except they don’t show up on your blog. pages have their set place on your website. Your Homepage will be a page and your artist statement will be a page. The galleries that show your artwork will also be pages.
- Posts – click “Posts” or “All Posts” they will both lead you to the same place
- Hover over “Hello World” and click the red “Trash.” This is just a sample post and it is good to get rid of it.
- We won’t add a post yet but when you are ready click “Add New”
- Pages – click “Pages” or “All Pages” they will both lead you to the same place
- Hover over “Sample Page” and click the red “Trash.” Might as well get rid of this too
- We will need a few pages to work with so click “Add New.” Here are some sample pages that would work for an artist website.
- Home – Instead of calling the home page home name it with something that will have meaning to the search engines, like “Oil Paintings by Jane Doe”
- Type that title in the title bar, then in the editor box below type “Here is where the content goes” or something like that just to see where it shows up.
- Click “Publish”
- Artist Statement – Hover over “Pages” and Click “Add New”
- Again title the page with a search engine friendly name like “Jane Doe – Artist Statement.” It the content box, type “My artist statement goes here” or something – you will change it later.
- Gallery Page – Again, Click “Add New” and follow the steps above to to create a page for your artwork. we will add the art gallery later.
- Blog – if you want a blog add that page. You can title it “Blog” or “News.” Don’t add any content to this pages. It will be blank until you start creating posts. Then your posts will automatically show up on this page.
- Add the rest of the pages now or you can always add them later.
- General – start by scrolling down to “Settings.” Click or hover over “Settings” and choose “General”
- Make Sure the “Title” is correct and add a “Tagline.” If you don’t have a tagline make sure to erase “Just Another WordPress Blog”
- Make sure the email address is right
- Adjust the timezone
- Click “Save Changes” at the bottom, and you’re all set
- Reading – for “Front page displays” Check “A Static page.” Choose the name of your home page for “Frontpage” and the title of your blog page (if you have one) for “Blog.” If you don’t have a blog, leave this as “Select”
- Click “Save Changes”
- Permalinks – Click or hover over “Settings” and choose “Permalinks”
- Check the circle for “Post Name.” This gives your pages and posts nice, search-engine friendly url’s
- Click “Save Changes”
- In your WordPress Dashboard, choose “Menus” under “Appearance” in the left column.
- Type in a name and click, “Save Menu.” I usually name it “Main Menu” but anything is okay.
- Under “Pages” in the left select the “View all” tab.
- Check the boxes to the left of each page that you want to add to the menu, then click “Add to menu”
- Drag and drop the menu itemes (pages) to re-arrange. You can also click the triangle to expand a menu item and change the “Navigation Label.” This will not change the page title, but it will change the link that appears in the menu
- Click “Save Menu”
- Near the top of the page select the “Manage Locations” tab
- For the Main Menu select the menu that you just created
- Click “Save Changes”
- Every time you add a new page that you want on the menu, you have to come back here to add it with the steps above.
The core WordPress software and any additional plugins and themes that your site may include continually get updated. These updates add new features, increase computability and patch security issues or vulnerabilities. One such vulnerability was discovered this week (click here for details), so now is a good time to make sure all your software is up to date.
Most updates can be accomplished with the click of a button, but it is a very good idea to back up your site first. Once in a while an update can cause a plugin to work differently or to interfere with another plugin. If this happens you can restore your backup; the site will continue to work until you have time to solve whatever problem the update caused. It is important to go back and solve the issue soon, so that your site will be secure and up to date.
I use the free plugin, UpdraftPlus for backups. Sometimes I make two backups just to be sure. The database is the most important part of the backup. You can download the backups to your computer for extra safe keeping. Under “Settings” go the “UpdraftPlus Backups” click “Restore” then click each of the elements that you want to download (database, plugins, themes, etc.). When each element loads, click “Download to your computer” for each.
Even if you are not updating software it is a good idea to backup your site whenever you add a lot of new content. It’s rare, but sites do get hacked; if this happens to you, you will have to restore a backup from before the hack occurred. If you added a lot of new material since that backup was made, you will need to add it again after the old backup is restored. In other words, you will lose all the work you did on your site since the last backup.
Theme updates are most likely to cause changes to the look of your website and should be handled with extra care. I use premium themes for most of my sites, and these need to be manually updated. This is more complicated and I usually take care of it for my clients. I recommend that the theme be updated twice a year. I can do a complete backup and completely update your site in 1.5 hours.