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How To Choose The Right Theme For Your Blog’s Growth (Episode #47)

Selecting a Wordpress theme can be a pretty frustrating experience because there are SO many options out there. In this episode of CBB, David gives his take on what to consider – as well as his specific recommendation for the best option which will give a professional design now, and a great foundation to build from later.

Selecting a WordPress theme can be a pretty frustrating experience because there are SO many options out there.

In this episode , I give my take on what to consider – as well as my specific recommendation for the best option which will give you a professional design now and a great foundation to build from, later. 😉

The thing I want to first start off with is the idea that I actually just want to acknowledge the fact that WordPress themes are a huge, huge business. And for that reason, you are going to find a lot of them out there. And as a consumer of WordPress theme, just somebody who is somebody trying to pick a WordPress theme for your site; you are going to be inundated with options. You are going to be wondering which way is the best way to go.

There is just a colossal amount of choices out there. So I want to preface all of these by saying that you are not stuck with the decision, you can change to a different theme later and not only that, I recommend highly that you keep your eye on the ball, here and not get stuck in the decision of what theme to get. I want to recommend my personal recommendation here on this episode, but there are just so many options out there they are going to be very paralyzing and you need to have the discipline not to become paralyzed by the decision. Nothing that we do here is set in stone; you can change your mind later, so pick something and let’s move on to more important endeavors in the development of our business here and not get stuck on the idea of what WordPress theme to get. It is not the most important decision that you have to make here.

A Selection Of Different Themes

So first of all, let’s start off with the idea of free themes versus premium themes.

As I said, WordPress themes are pretty big business. Therefore, there are a lot of paid themes out there and they are going to be the best game in town. Generally, if a developer put a lot of work into a theme and really made it professional and customizable by you, they deserve to get paid for it. And they are also incentivized to create a much better product. So therefore, you are going to get a better product because they are making some money on that.

Now, the free themes; and there are a ton of them… If you go into the WordPress.org site, there are literally thousands of free themes that you can pick. Some of them are good. That being said, I don’t generally recommend you go that route. One thing with a free theme is you that you will definitely be literally, completely and totally on your own when it comes to any customization of that theme. Also a lot of times, they do not have any type of settings built into them to do simple things like, change out your header or do anything like that. Literally you just have to go in there and do it by hand. And that requires some coding skills. So, I generally recommend that you don’t get into the free themes. But you can do what you want. I tend to go into the premium theme area because, again, you get what you pay for.

The first thing you are also going to come across is the idea of theme frameworks. And there is a difference between a framework and a standard WordPress theme. Now, a lot of the paid themes are going to be built on top of a framework of some kind. Here is the thing; a framework is essentially an underlying infrastructure to the way that your site works. And then on top of that is the presentation layer which is essentially what the site is going to look like. So there are two big frameworks out there. One is called Thesis and the other one is called Genesis.

Now, Thesis is pretty well-known and it is a very powerful theme.  A lot of people really like Thesis. I personally prefer the Genesis framework. It is an open source model. It is over at StudioPress.com. Now, that is not open source. That is paid but they have got a lot of support and child themes built on top of it so you get what you pay for yet again. But the Genesis framework is a really good foundation to build your site on, in my personal opinion. And there are a lot of frameworks out there, there’s quite a few of them, in fact, and you can look into them. But the thing I like about Genesis is the fact that it has a huge community of support behind it and you are going to find people that can help you do almost anything you want with the Genesis framework. In fact, if you want to modify a particular element of your site, a lot of times you can just go to Google and be like, “How to change my header + Genesis” and you will find tons of tutorial showing how to do that because there is just a huge layer of community support out there for the Genesis framework.

Things To Consider

Size of the Code

When it comes to some things that you should keep in mind when you are picking a theme; one thing that you need into account is the SIZE OF THE CODE. The more functionality that is built in to a theme, the bigger the theme is going to be. And what that does is it translates over into how long your site is going to take to load up for people in their browser or how much horsepower it is going to take from your server to generate that thing and spit it out there. So you want to have smaller themes, generally.

Now, the way that you can tell the difference is that if the theme comes from all kinds of features built into it that you go on there and you check them off kind of a deal and you had to disable a bunch of things; well, just the fact that those things are there tells you there is a lot of code underlying that theme. The other tell-tale sign is when you have themes that have a lot of drag and drop functionality. That is designed in such a way where you can modify things without knowing any code at all.

That is a good thing from the end user perspective. But from the code perspective, that means there is a lot of stuff underneath the surface to make it so that you can drag and drop and things like that. That means that the overall theme is going to be bigger, it is probably increase the amount of time it takes for your site to load up which could decrease your site in the SEO ranking and things like that. So definitely pay attention to that size of your code. The simpler the theme, the better.

Simplicity

That is kind of the flip-side of what I just said. The simpler your theme is, the less that there is on the screen, generally the better. The other thing is that from a marketing standpoint, when it comes to putting things out there in focusing user attention down the road, the fewer things you have on the screen, the better. So you don’t want to have a really loud, flashy design. It is not really going to work in your favor. So, don’t spend a lot of time trying to find a theme that does that. You want to find the one which is the closest to what you have in mind. But keep in mind, simplicity is usually better.

You can go out there and find sites that you like the look and feel of or accomplishing the things that you want to accomplish and find out what they look like. Many others are going to be using custom themes. In fact, I get asked many times what theme that Blog Marketing Academy is using and the answer is it is a custom theme. It started out at what is called the “Education Theme” which operates under the Genesis framework. If you go over to StudioPress.com right now, you will see that one of their available themes is called the Education Theme. Well, believe or not, that is what the Blog Marketing Academy started with. It’s just that over the last couple of years I customized the ever-loving hell out of it that it just doesn’t look like that anymore. But it pretty much is a customized fully custom theme. And you could do the same thing. You can stake a theme which is in the ball park of what you have in mind and you can customize it.

Where to Find Your Themes?

Well, WordPress.org definitely has a lot of them. These are the freebies. Many good ones there. But as I said earlier, I generally do not recommend that you go that route. But if you go to WordPress and you go to the theme section right inside your Admin Panel and you go searching around, it is going to be tapping in to the free directory of themes. I just definitely don’t recommend that you go that route.

Another really popular place to go is called Theme Forest. Very well known, they have got a lot of themes there and you can just check out the library and see. Another one that I recommend highly is the Elegant Themes Company. These guys generate really nice themes. There’s a basic framework underlying them but there is one flat rate and you can access to all their themes simultaneously. And it is just a really, really great deal over at Elegant Themes. And then lastly is StudioPress.

StudioPress; this is basically the guys behind CopyBlogger and they took the Genesis framework which is open source and they built a commercial layer on top of it with lots of support and lots of great child themes and things like that. That is the option that I personally recommend to you, is to go to StudioPress.com and to pick one of their child themes that are in the ball park of what you have in mind and go that route because what is going to happen is if you are going to get that child theme from them, you are going to be basing it on top of the Genesis framework. And I think the Genesis framework is a really good foundation for your design. You can modify it later. There are a lot of community developers out there that can help you with that. And basically you are just tapping in to a really developed community when you have the Genesis framework underlying your design.

And if you like one of the child themes at StudioPress right out of the box, great! There are a lot of flexibility into those themes without you knowing any code. But the good thing is if you want to modify anything later or hire a developer to do it for you they are going to automatically know how to work with the Genesis framework. That is going to save you time, that is going to save you money. It is going to mean that whenever they update the Genesis framework you are going to get really good capabilities built into the system. So I do recommend you jump over to StudioPress, pick a child theme which is in the ball park of what you have in mind and go that route. And you will open up a lot of flexibility for you in the future.

That is where I recommend you go with your theme. There are tons of other places where you could find themes. But again, I don’t recommend that you get stuck on this. There are a lot of more important things coming up here, the theme is not your most important decision. You can change these things down the road. I have altered the design of my sites more times than I can count; you will probably end up doing the same thing so don’t sweat it. Just get as close as you can.

Let’s move on to the next step. Okay?

I’ll see you on the next episode of Coffee Break Blogging! 😉

 

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