3 tips for picking the right WordPress theme for your business

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Stand out web design builds your brand and keeps visitors on your website

Design is the great differentiator. One of the powerful aspects of WordPress is being able to add or create a customised theme (design) for your website. This provides the front end styling of your website, the visual look and feel.

The default WordPress theme (currently the Twenty Seventeen theme). You can customise this a little via the 'customiser area' but most businesses need a design that is unique to their brand and their business style.

The rate of change of both the web and WordPress gets faster each year. When I started out it the web design space over 15 years ago businesses would refresh their website presence perhaps once every 3-5 years. Browsers weren't changing that quickly, and the internet space was still quite young. Move back to today, and things are very different. The rate of change is fast, very fast. Browser and operating system updates seem to be almost daily. WordPress core gets updated much more often, and visitors to your website expect to see the latest user experiences, features and modern designs and content.

Keeping that in mind you should expect to have to update your website design and user experience at least once a year if not certainly every two years. This is where theme selection is a key factor.

There are a few routes to go down when creating a theme for your business website:
1. Code your own theme
2. Commission your own customised theme from a theme developer
3. Buy an off-the-shelf pre designed theme
4. Download a free theme
Each of these routes has pros and cons. You need to weigh up factors such as your time-scale, budget, stage of your business, level of customisation required. Let's look at each of these in detail and decide what best fits your business goals.

1. Code your own

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If your expertise is design, code and user experience then this is ideal for you. Learning the WordPress framework and code style is made easier by the brilliant WordPress documentation and community.

A WordPress Starter theme is a blank theme with minimum design, and a basic or sometimes no layout. These themes usually come with the most commonly used templates for a WordPress theme. They have code to display posts, archive pages, single posts, comments, but with minimum or no styling at all. Here are a few starter themes that are on offer:
• _Underscores http://underscores.me
• Bones http://themble.com/bones/
• Sage https://roots.io/sage/
• Foundation Press https://foundationpress.olefredrik.com
• Quark https://github.com/maddisondesigns/Quark
• HTML5 Blank http://html5blank.com
Or you can create your own completely from scratch.

2. Commission a theme

This route typically requires the highest budget and a good time-scale. However it will provide you with a completely unique design for your business, like no other. Plus it will only contain the features and tools that you need for your business website. Because the theme contains only what you need they are generally fast to load which is an important factor for both mobile and places with slow internet connections.

You will need to find a reputable, trusted and proven designer and developer to create the theme for you. It can be tricky to find people in this space, so look at the amount of experience the designer and developer has and if they are likely to be around for the long term. You theme will need up dating from time to time, so your developer needs to be on hand to keep you site performing to its best at all times.

If you want more information about commissioning a bespoke theme, email us hello@wordpressnortheast.co.uk

3. Buying a theme

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This is probably one of the most popular routes the businesses go down. There are thousands of Premium Themes for WordPress created by designers and developers all over the world. You should do a process of due diligence to make sure you're making the right investment. Here are a few pointers:
• How long has the theme company been in business
• How active is their support team, do they respond to issues in a reasonable time
• How often are their themes updated
• How may people have purchased their themes
• Do they provide detailed documentation
• Is their blog active and useful
All of the above factors indicate how reputable the theme will be and should you come up against any issues how helpful is their support.

Here are a few theme platforms that are worth a look:
• *Studio Press (on the Genesis Framework) StudioPress Themes for WordPress
• *Beaver Builder www.wpbeaverbuilder.com
• *Generate Press (free theme with a Pro add-on) generatepress.com
• *Elegant Themes (I recommend the Divi Theme) www.elegantthemes.com

There is also a good range of premium themes featured on WordPress.org take a look here Theme Directory-Commercial Themes

4. Free theme

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There are thousands of free themes for WordPress. You can check out the WordPress approved designs here: the WordPress theme directory Plus there are thousands of free themes all over the internet. These can be great to get you started, however be cautious with where you download them from. The WordPress theme directory themes have all been approved by the WordPress team and meet their rigorous standards.

Other free themes across the web may not meet such detailed coding standards. Another aspect to keep in mind is that free themes typically don't provide you with support which can be invaluable when creating your web design. The free theme may not be updated regularly which is important to ensure it always works with the regular WordPress core updates and plugin updates.
Free themes worth at look at:
*GeneratePress (5 star rating on WordPress.org with over half a million downloads)
WordPress Theme Library

The Takeaway

The main takeaway is no matter which of the 4 route you choose to go down when designing the look of your website you will need to make an investment. Either in time or budget or typically both. Putting together a web design and theme will take time.

There can be overwhelm when trying to select a theme. With WordPress being so popular there are thousands of themes available. To solve this conundrum focus on your business goals, your brand and your story. Then write down the pages, functions and user journey you need for your site. That should give you the insight you need to match a theme to your needs.

If your serious about creating the very best online business presence then talk to us about your website project and we can guide you to the best solution for your goals and work with you to provide the best design and user experience for your business.

Let us help you create a powerful and profitable online presence

We can create a web design and theme that is easy to use and delivers you a profitable online presence. Let's talk about your project.

*Some product links in this article are affiliate links.

Belinda White | WP North East

Belinda White, WordPress Training Consultant. WordPress Training, WordPress SEO Training - Creative Director at Arttia Creative Limited. Creative designer with over 20 years experience in the UK web and design profession.

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