Choosing the correct WordPress theme may seem like an easy task. You browse a few popular themes on marketplaces, see some live demos, where everything seems perfect, and just choose the one that, instinctively, seems the best option.
But choosing the correct theme without specific WordPress experience is far from easy. In reality, it’s easy to choose the wrong theme, and as a consequence slow down your website and stumble across all sorts of problems.
The risk of losing time, money and revenue (in the long run) is quite high. And when your website heavily depends on a theme, switching it means rebuilding most of your website’s templates.
This article will help you choose the right theme for your website. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when choosing a theme.
Mistake #1: searching themes by features, and not by UI and design
If there’s only one thing that you’ll get from this article, it should be this: the job of a WordPress theme is to provide you with some templates and template parts that will change the design of your website, that’s all.
A good WordPress theme should never bloat your site with unnecessary features or complex functionality that goes beyond simple aesthetics. All the complex functionality of your WordPress site should be handled by plugins, never by the theme.
Here’s an example. Let’s imagine you need to build a website for a hotel.
And for this website, you just need two features:
- Handling reservations for hotel rooms – a booking engine feature.
- Handling payments or reservations for guest activities.
These are custom features that shouldn’t be developed as part of a WordPress theme. The theme should only customize the look of your website. Adding a calendar where users can make reservations isn’t a design customization, it’s a complex feature that should be part of a third-party service or plugin.
In fact, that’s why booking engine services exist, and usually these will offer you code snippets (completely independent from the theme) to add to your WordPress website.
However, often the first thing that comes to mind to someone who’s new to WordPress is looking for a theme with the two features integrated: an attempt to find an all-in-one solution.
If a developer made the (bad) choice of adding a booking engine feature directly in the theme, then it’s likely that this same theme will have several other functions that users don’t need or plan to use. And there you go, the website will end up with a bloated theme that will likely cause performance problems.
A theme that offers you a lot of functions that aren’t purely for design should end up on your blacklist immediately. Skip these themes, and find one that doesn’t add any functionality beyond UI customization.
Mistake #2: searching a theme by its business vertical
This mistake is associated with mistake #1. Niching down on a market is a great strategy for whoever wants to sell any service or product, online or offline.
From a marketing perspective, selling a “multi-purpose” theme to the general public it’s difficult. It’s way easier (and cheaper) to sell a theme built for a specific niche.
A theme that has “everyone” as a target market is complex to promote and sell. I would need to reach out to more people, create different marketing campaigns for different users, probably on different platforms and contexts. I’ll need to put in a lot of effort to convince customers that my generic WordPress theme is the right choice for them.
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have a theme built for a niche. For example, a theme that targets only car dealerships. A theme built for a niche is easier to promote. Maybe I can even create 1 single ad campaign on 1 specific platform where I know that car dealership owners hang around. When one of these business owners will read my ad, it will be easier to convert them to customers.
Why am I mentioning this? Because in your search for the right theme, you will stumble upon all sorts of niche themes, since they’re easier to sell. And these are also the themes that tend to have a bunch of functionality badly integrated.
But in reality, all themes are actually “multi-purpose”. If I want to use a hotel theme for my car dealership I can do it. I can simply change text and images, and there you go. The visitors of my website will not complain about the fact that my WP theme was built for hotels, they will not even realize it.
This can trick some users that aren’t familiar with WordPress to choose a theme by only considering the business vertical that a marketing team has decided to target.
And of course, as you can imagine it’s easy to fall first in this mistake, and then getting sucked in by Mistake #1, when you see that the theme also offers those features that you really wanted!
Just like for mistake #1, keep in mind that WordPress themes should affect only the design of a website, not its functionality. If this is true, then any theme is actually “multi-purpose”, despite what their marketing team says.
The solution is to simply ignore the vertical, try out the demos of a particular theme, and see if you like the design or not. Try to do this without considering images or text, but rather their position on the layout and more in general, the templates structure.
Mistake #3: choosing a theme not actively maintained
At this stage you have already dodged a lot of bad themes out there. You should be immune to bloated themes that would slow down your website.
Also, you’re not limited by your business vertical anymore, so you’re more open to different options that you can customize.
Another common mistake is to choose a theme that isn’t frequently updated. It’s easy to just focus on the design and customization options while ignoring this. Most theme marketplaces out there include this information on the theme listing, so make sure to check how often the theme’s dev team is keeping it updated.
I can guarantee you that a theme that isn’t actively updated will give you all sorts of headache in the long term: security issues, performance issues, bugs that will never be fixed, etc.
Choose a theme that is updated frequently. With frequently, I mean every other month, or worse case scenario, at least 4 to 5 times per year.
Mistake #4 not testing the theme
If you’re just starting your business and building your website alone, you’re doing a developer’s job. You might have some good reasons for doing this, but you must keep in mind that you will probably ignore issues that you don’t even know exist.
This also means that you will need to do some ugly tasks that normally a developer would do for you. One of these ugly tasks is testing your site. Testing your site means testing theme and plugins.
If you don’t test your theme, you may have problems down the road that could have been easily avoided. For example you might discover that your mobile menu doesn’t work on iPhones, maybe after you lost revenue and opportunities for several months.
You can use a tool like LambdaTest to test a theme across different devices and browsers.
You should test your theme before buying it (via their demos), and while you’re in the process of creating your website. Of course, to ensure that everything works, you shouldn’t test only the homepage, but all the templates of your website.
We explored some of the most common mistakes WordPress admins make whenever they need to choose a new theme:
- Searching by complex functionality, instead of considering only design.
- Searching by business vertical, instead of keeping an open mind and focusing on the actual design.
- Choosing a theme that isn’t maintained.
- Not testing the theme.
I’m sure that there are more mistakes and pain points than these four, however these are the ones I see happening most frequently.
Got any suggestions in mind coming from your experience? Or do you have any questions? Leave a comment below 🙂