Part 2 in the WordPress Basics Series: Picking a Theme
In the first newsletter in this WordPress Basics series, we explored what a CMS is and why choose WordPress. Now, let's talk about themes.
A lot of people think that picking a WordPress theme is pretty simple. But the reality is, there are a lot of things you need to consider when deciding on a theme. This is especially true when purchasing a premium theme.
One of the biggest problems I run into with clients is premium themes that are not supported. Unsupported themes means unsecure themes.
Before we even get into what to look for when purchasing a premium theme, you first need to become familiar with the very basics of a WordPress theme. The easiest way to do this is to activate WordPress' Twenty Sixteen theme and just play.
That's right: play. Poke. Prod. Push buttons, especially the "Customize" button with the paint brush in the black toolbar. Play with settings. Think of it as a sandbox and you can't do anything wrong. Play with all the different settings. Once you've familiarized yourself with the basics, search the free theme repository for a magazine style theme (found in your WordPress dashboard - Appearance - Themes). Install it. Activate it. Play again. Keep doing that with different types of themes and layouts until you are confident that you understand the basics.
During this process, you may stumble across a free theme that is perfect for your needs. That would be great! Especially because you can be assured that your theme will be updated regularly as the WordPress base is updated, keeping your site secure.
So you're done playing. You've activated a lot of free themes. You've realized that you need something more than a basic theme. Do you purchase one from a place like ThemeForest or do you hire someone to develop a theme for you?
Before we continue, take a moment to read this post: Premium WordPress Theme or Custom Design: Which To Choose? It contains the very basic information needed to help you make your decision.
Now, let's continue. You've decided to go the premium WordPress route instead of custom theme. Great! Now, comes the more tricky part of figuring out if you are going to be wasting your money on an unsupported theme.
What to Look for When Buying a Theme From ThemeForest:
The first thing you need to look at is found in the right sidebar: Created and Last Updated.
If the theme has not been updated in more than a month or two, move on. That means the theme is not supported. Also, if the theme is less than six months old, it has no real history, so you're taking a chance because there is no real data to help you decide how well-supported the theme is.
The second thing you need to look in the right sidebar is: Compatible With and Software Version.
Does it work with the most recent version of WordPress? Does it work with the most recent version of popular add-ons such as WooCommerce and BuddyPress? Does it work with the most recent version of [insert thing here]? If it doesn't work with the most recent version, again, move on. Another indication it is not supported.
The third thing you need to look at is found in a big wall of information on the left: Included ThemeForest/Code Canyon plugins. Then, you need to find those individual plugins, look at their "Last Updated" dates, look once again at when the theme was last updated to see if those dates match or if a theme update was released within a day or two of a plugin update. You're also looking for information about what version of WordPress the plugin works with and the plugin's update history. Otherwise, you run into the security issue described in the post linked at the beginning of this section. And that is really not good.
The fourth thing you want to look for is the theme's changelog or update history. Both mean the same thing. Good theme developers include those. They are normally found at the very bottom of the wall of text found on the left. You don't need to understand what all of it means, but you want to look for key things like, "Updated documentation file and slider plugin" and "wordpress 4.5 compatibility fix."
Finally, you look at everything else, like is the theme well documented? Is it responsive? With what browser is it compatible? Click on the Comments section found in the right sidebar to see how support is handled!
If you are thinking about purchasing a theme from ThemeForest, there are three themes we recommend. We've been following the progress of these themes for years and the developers have proven that they not only develop very versatile themes, but they are also well supported. A well-supported theme is a secure theme.
The themes we recommend are:
X - The Theme
Next in the WordPress basics series: Architecture - What to Think About When Setting Up Your Theme.