If you’re the owner of a small business or a startup that is designing your first WordPress site, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. One of the first steps you’ll want to take is finding a good WordPress theme that will complement your content.
WordPress sites themselves are great for beginners because they can easily be set up in a matter of minutes. WordPress themes further enhance your site by allowing you to customize the appearance of your site, even if you do not know how to code.
While there are plenty of great lists out there that go over the best WordPress themes for small businesses, you might not know how to begin narrowing down your options. The good news is, there are certain features you can take into consideration that will help you find the best theme for your site.
Choose a user-friendly design
You might be tempted to choose a theme that has a lot of flashy features, such as lots of colors and animations. However, overly complicated themes aren’t always user-friendly. Sometimes a theme that has too many features will make your theme hard to navigate.
The best themes are simple ones that allow users to easily find the information they’re looking for. Whenever you’re looking at demo sites, see if you’re able to easily navigate the site. If you find yourself clicking around a lot or unable to navigate links, the design isn’t user-friendly.
Test for responsiveness and browser compatibility
You’ll want to make sure that whatever theme you choose is compatible with all devices and is compatible with most major web browsers. Most developers will say that their theme is mobile-friendly and works with all browsers, but you’ll want to check for yourself.
A responsive theme will adjust itself to fit all sorts of different screen sizes. Whenever you’re looking at different demo themes, try adjusting the size of your browser and seeing if the theme resizes automatically. You’ll also want to pull on the theme on your phone and on your tablet. Since the majority of web users now access websites from their phones, you want a theme that looks good on all devices. During this test, you’ll also want to try a few different browsers.
Make sure it is compatible with plugins
Plug-ins are needed to extend the functionality of your site. They are a great way to customize your site in ways that go beyond appearance. For example, some plug-ins can optimize your SEO.
Most themes will already have a few plug-ins installed. If there are other popular plug-ins you want on your site, you’ll need to verify that they can be used within the theme. Most highly-rated themes will be compatible with all popular plug-ins, but it never hurts to double-check. If you’re having trouble figuring out if you can use a specific plug-in, reach out to the developer.
See if it has multilingual functionality
By default, WordPress is not multilingual. Your pages will appear in whatever language you write them in. However, most businesses that are trying to reach a large audience will want a theme that can easily be translated into other languages. It is easier to look for a theme that already supports some sort of multilingual functionality instead of trying to tweak the theme later.
Some themes will already have a built-in multilingual feature. If it doesn’t have a built-in feature, you’ll want to choose a site that can support a multilingual WordPress plug-in. If the theme doesn’t have a built-in feature or support a plug-in, consider eliminating it from your list of potential themes.
Check that it is SEO-friendly
WordPress themes that are optimized for SEO can help you rank higher in search engines, which can increase the traffic on your website. Themes that are full of poorly-coded HTML will not rank high on search engines. Most developers will let you know if their theme is SEO-friendly.
SEO-friendly themes will load quickly, have a responsive design, have an easy navigation system, and have a clean code. If you’re struggling to tell if the theme is SEO-friendly, run a sample page of the theme through the W3C Markup Validation Service. This service will alert you to potential errors within the code.
Look to see what support options you have
WordPress themes that aren’t regularly updated are at risk of being hacked. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a theme by a developer that continues to release security updates and bug fixes. Some developers will even continue to release new features for themes. You’ll be able to see when a theme was last updated. Avoid themes that haven’t been updated for over a year.
Some WordPress themes will even provide email-based support. This is particularly useful if you need help installing your theme. Without a good support team, you may end up needing to pay a third-party developer to help you maintain your website.
Research and read reviews
Before you commit to any theme, see what other users are saying about it. Most themes have a section where users can leave a star rating and a review. You can click through reviews to see what others are saying and if they have any complaints. While there are always going to be a few negative reviews, you should look for themes that have a high amount of 4 or 5-star ratings.
Alternatively, you can also search the web for more detailed reviews. For example, CollectiveRay did a detailed review of the GeneratePress theme, where they moved beyond simply looking at ratings and gave detailed information about various aspects of the theme. A detailed review will examine both the pros and cons of a theme.
If you’re new to WordPress, finding the right theme can be overwhelming. Start by looking at recommended popular themes and start narrowing down your options. Most themes will have demo sites available so that you don’t have to install each theme that you want to look at. If you end up installing a theme that you dislike, remember that you have the flexibility to change it to a different theme.