Did you pick a theme, but found out it doesn’t work well? or worse, it breaks the site after conflicts with plugins?
This is a topic with which we have a lot of experience. When we started out using WordPress as a CMS for building websites, it was and still is advertised as plug & play. In this case meaning: you buy or download a theme from the repository, install it with the click of a button and presto! a new website is born.
A basic start
An evolution we went through starting to work with WordPress is perhaps one that many people used when starting out. Which is:
- Find & buy a theme on one of the online marketplaces
- Install wordpress
- Install theme
- start customising the theme to your needs
This is a very basic way to start simple wordpress websites. and based on this way of working you can simply find a theme that matches your clients needs and/or wishes, though there are things to consider.
Online Platforms selling “ready-made themes”
There are quite a few large online marketplaces who sell themes built by 3rd parties aka theme creators or vendors. I mention www.themeforest.net, www.templatemonster.com or www.mojomarketplace.com as popular ones for WordPress, Woocommerce and many other systems as well.
Do a search within these sites for a financial advisor, plumber or online magazine and you will have loads of options to chose from. And all of those themes will be presented to you in the nicest way possible, because… they wish to sell you something. Yes! I know! ain’t that something?? But wait! Before you actually purchase something for around $50 that could cause you and your client losing many hours and many dollars let’s dive deeper into what to look for if you chose this way of working on your new site.
How to pick a theme from an online marketplace or vendor?
In the past, we have purchased many different themes. We just looked for a theme that matched the client’s business or wants as best possible, bought the theme without checking some important things and went with it.
This cost us and our clients a lot of time, money and headache in the long run, because of the wrong choices that can easily be made.
Things to check for when buying a theme
Now, if anyone asks me what theme to buy or what to look for, I tell them to look out for the following things:
- how many sales did the theme make? and since when?
- what can you find out about the creator of the theme?
- what are the comments from other users?
- how is the theme rated? and based on how many reviewers?
- what is included?
- how does the change log look like?
- how often is the theme being updated and when was the last time they did?
Why are these questions important?
Bear with me I will explain.
As mentioned before, both the marketplace and the creator or vendor of the theme have a profit goal in mind. They wish to sell you the theme. They earn money on it once, so they need to sell more, consistently*. In the meantime, the users who buy the theme will stumble upon questions about the theme and need help from the developers to get answers and support. Support cost time and time cost money.
So, if the theme doesn’t get sold enough or if the vendor is not set up properly to provide support and updates, the theme will not be profitable for them and will be abandoned. Same goes for plugins.
What this means is that you built a WordPress website or Woocommerce webshop for a client that needs constant work and updates and if there is no support, it will cost you what you tried to save by buying a ready-made theme. Which could be a lot.
So that brings me to answer the next question: what can you find out about the theme creator? is it an established one ? or someone just starting out? answers to these questions should give you an idea of with whom and what you are buying into.
What comments do people make about the theme? are they being answered? how fast (or slow)? and what is the substance of these comments or questions? is it constantly the same bug or many different ones. both are not very good signals.
This will reflect in the reviews, but how many reviews are there? does it have a 5-star rating based on 10 reviews or is it 4,2 based on 10.000 reviews? the latter is obviously more representative.
Of course, nowadays there are quite a few basic necessities a WordPress website or Woocommerce webshop should have or should not have. Things like responsiveness or fluid adaptability to all of the different screen sizes. how does the actual customizing go? often a page builder is included, which is especially nice if you are not very familiar with coding. The downside is that these can come with lots of additional code and shortcodes which have an effect on site speed. Same goes for certain sliders. How is it’s compatibility with Woocommerce for when you wish to build a webshop, now or in the future? and how does it work with a multi-language site? does it come with the dummy data so you can make a flying start? How does it do in terms of code and site speed? That’s a bit of a hard one to check if you’re not very technical underlined, but still, you could find some comments or forum posts about that besides it being mentioned by the vendor. Same thing for SEO; will it play nicely with your favorite SEO plugin? And what about the actual license? does it go for 1 site or can it be used for unlimited sites?
The changelog is basically a developers log of all things that have been done in each update round. Some may look very techy but most of the time they are quite readable and if not, you can at least see how often it gets updated.
* support license: sites like theme forest offer a support license at an additional cost after the first 6 months. which is great, if the theme still exists and properly supported by the vendor.
So, to conclude, do your due diligence before you purchase a theme and start the work on it by checking the questions I always ask myself before I dive in. Over time you will find that themes that are best sellers are so because of good reasons. On ThemeForest you can actually see the top lists for any category. That’s how I found out about themes like Enfold for WordPress or Flatsome for Woocommerce.
Besides the online market places there is the wordpress repository that offers a good collection of free themes. Woocommerce has always had its own collection of themes and after the take-over by Automattic (the company responsible for WordPress) they came with Storefront which is called the offical woocommerce theme backed by the makers of woocommerce. Elegantthemes builds and supports the very well known Divi theme.
This concludes my first post about picking a theme and what comes with it, as well as what to look for before purchasing anything and costing you and your client countless hours of extra work and the cost that comes with it.
Hello! My name is Feisal. I’m your personal online marketing manager. I would love to share some I ideas… Interested in a informal conversation?