Design — Lesson 6 of #theprep
You make a lot of choices on the path to creating a business. We just talked about why WordPress is the best website platform for entrepreneurs.
Now, you face another set of difficult choices–the design of your website and the WordPress theme you choose to build it with. Your theme is where your site design starts, and where it stops too. If you don’t invest in a solid theme, you will have trouble executing on your vision.
Let’s look at ways to choose the right WordPress theme for your business.
Paid vs. Free WordPress Themes
A WordPress theme is essentially a template. It’s a base of code that uses the WordPress software to publish a website.
Different types of customization are built in, and no two themes are created equal. There are two types of WordPress themes from a cost perspective. There are free WordPress themes and paid or premium WordPress themes.
I’ll tell you right now, the biggest difference you’ll notice is support. Premium themes, such as the ones on MOJO Marketplace, offer way more support and features than free themes, bottom line.
Also, free themes tend to limit your options for customization–because it takes a lot more time and effort to build more features into a WordPress theme. Also, many free themes are not ready-made for integrating plugins–an extremely useful tool–such as WooCommerce, which expand the functionality of your site.
Basically, you can’t build a great business with a free WordPress theme without rebuilding that theme yourself. So save yourself the trouble, and put yourself ahead of the competition by choosing a quality theme. Here’s what we look for in a solid premium WordPress theme.
Mobile First – Responsive No Matter What
First things first–and this shouldn’t even be an issue with a premium theme–you need a mobile-ready website. Responsive simply means that your website design will adjust to different screen sizes on different devices.
Most, if not all, premium WordPress themes have this by now. However, some themes do it better than others. Make sure that you check the responsiveness of your theme demo before you buy. Typically, you can check the quality as shown below by clicking the different device icons. If not, you can also scale your browser window down and see how the site responds.
However, not all themes come ready for all plugins. Some of the more advanced plugins, such as the Visual Composer, a drag and drop page building tool, won’t work on themes that aren’t designed with the plugin in mind.
Plugins allow you to add amazing features without creating code from the ground up. Many plugins are free, and a lot of the premium themes on MOJO Marketplace come with paid plugins installed. Here’s an example of what you can do with visual composer–build awesome pages without any code simply by adding and arranging elements.
When you’re shopping themes, think about what plugins you’ll need. For example an eCommerce site will require a storefront plugin or theme. A magazine style blog might require a featured content slider. A hotel or travel agency may require booking software. Google a bit to find plugins, and make sure that the theme you choose can support them.
Customizer or Page Builder?
The way you customize and assemble your WordPress site also largely depends upon your WordPress theme. Some themes utilize page builders, such as the Visual Composer plugin mentioned before.
Most themes also feature custom settings from the front end of your site, using the built-in visual customizer that comes with WordPress. However, those settings usually only apply to general site configuration, not a page by page design.
And other themes house a lot of custom settings on the back end in an admin panel. These can be a little more difficult to work with if you’re a visual thinker. It really depends on how you work.
Also, some themes come with pre-designed demos, which you can import with one click. What that means is you can start off with a complete design and tinker from there. Or, you can build your site (visually) from the ground up. Either way, you don’t need to know any code. But it will be an important choice, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time in there.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization Ready?
A critical piece of creating an online business is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. This is bigger than Yellow Pages. Google and other search engines are where most people are going these days to get their questions answered. This provides you a business opportunity.
If you can answer those questions for your industry, you will drive more traffic to your website. And hopefully more sales.
It boils down to two equally important parts.
First, you have to ensure that your site structure is built properly for search engines like Google to index your site correctly. For example, if you sell headphones, but all Google can find on your site is a title that says your name, you won’t show up in search results for headphones. Second, the content you write on your site needs to be optimized for certain keywords. That’s a story for the next episode of #theprep.
But what this means for your theme is that the core code has to be SEO ready, with the proper tags and markup for search engines to read. Make sure your theme at least lists “SEO Ready” or “SEO Optimized” as a feature. This tells you that the developer had SEO in mind while building the site.
You might think you can always jump into your theme code and change SEO structure, but it’s not that simple. Even if you know what you’re doing, changing the core code can affect other parts of your site you might not expect. So it’s best to get the most SEO-ready theme you can find.
Also, the Yoast SEO plugin is indispensable for managing SEO without touching the code.
Translation Ready or Not?
Another feature that is becoming increasingly valuable is translation-ready software. If you’re marketing to people who speak different languages, you’ll want this. It provides a framework for translation that will make it easier to optimize your site for different countries and users. Every site should have at least some kind of translation-readiness.
Updates, Support, & Documentation
The last point, and the most important, is know who created your theme. Check out their websites and social media, and make sure they’re still engaged.
If you buy a theme that has been left in the dust, you’ll have a hard time maintaining it. Your theme should receive updates frequently, especially as new versions of WordPress are released.
Many of the creators selling themes on MOJO Marketplace keep their themes updated to fix bugs and improve upon the foundation. The updates are typically free once you buy the theme. Follow the section of our blog for news from theme creators on MOJO Marketplace.
In addition, make sure that your theme comes with great support and documentation. Themes come with some basic written documentation, at the very least. Many theme authors create video tutorials and step-by-step guides, as well. Check for support and tutorials or documentation with your theme. This will go a long way toward knowing how your theme works and what you can do with it.
What Are Your Goals
Before I leave you to make the call, one last piece. The theme and the design you choose for your website must reflect your goals.
That’s why we’ve covered so much about your vision, strategy, and identity for your company. Because in moments like this, when you have to make a critical business decision, you need those things covered.
Consider why you’re building the website in the first place, and what you need the website to do. Then, along with these tips, it will be easier to find and set up the right WordPress theme.
Of course, if you need some extra guidance, ask us in the comments or give or WordPress techs a call at 855-464-5345.