One of the things I love best about WordPress as a platform is the ability to change your blog theme. The fact that there are so many, and such good ones out there makes it easy to change at the drop of a hat, especially if you’re inclined, like I am, to try out a different look every once in awhile. But even though it’s easy enough to change things around, should you really do it?
Making the decision to change the theme on your blog is not always as cut and dried as it might seem. You need to take into consideration both your needs and those of your reader. What might seem like a great idea to you at the time, may turn out to be the worst thing you could do for your blog and your business. I know from experience that what you might like, your audience might not, and if you choose a theme that’s hard for them to read and navigate, you’ll do yourself more harm than good.
So with those thoughts in mind, here are five things to consider when choosing a new blog theme:
1. Know WHY you want to change themes.
The reason for changing themes can play a huge role in determining what kind of look your new blog should have. For example, if you are changing because you are adding an online store you will want to focus more on e-commerce themes with easy shopping cart integration. If you are creating a community with your blog, you will want to focus on finding a theme that allows you to show off comments and interactions.
If you really just want something similar to what you’ve already got but with an updated look, consider hiring someone to customize what you’ve got. It’s a lot easier to change a header and colour palette, and add a few plug-ins for added functionality than it is to do a wholesale theme change.
2. Do your research
One of the best ways to decide on a new blog theme is to check out other people’s blogs. You don’t want to copy their sites, but you can certainly make a list of what you like and don’t like about a site. Look at things like layout, navigation, and functionality and consider how the things you like on other blogs would work for your blog.
The other thing you will want to research is the theme builder. Once you have found a theme you like, spend some time checking out the builder’s site as well. Here you are looking for support, add-ons, tutorials, and an active community. It’s much easier to make any customizations you want if you know there’s a community where you can ask questions and get answers from other users.
3. Make sure the theme does what you need
There is really no point in getting a new theme if it doesn’t do what you need it to do. And no … just because it looks nice is not a valid reason for changing. Go back to the first point in this list and remember why you want to change in the first place. You can easily stay on track by creating a list of the features you want your new theme to have. Keep it handy while you are browsing sites, and when you find a theme you really like make sure it ticks all the boxes before you buy.
4. Free, Premium, or Custom?
When choosing a new theme, it’s also important to keep your budget in mind. There are pros and cons to each type of theme – enough to write a whole new article. Many premium themes such as those from places like Studiopress and Elegant Themes have sites that are full of all the bells and whistles you may have on your list. You can also still find some good free themes that have a lot of features, although there are so many free themes out there it’s pretty time-consuming to pick through them all to get what you need.
If you have the budget for it, the best option is to hire a designer who can either create you a theme of your own or modify one to meet your exact needs. In the end, it all comes down to what you want and are comfortable paying for.
5. Test before you go live
Finally, test, test, and test some more before you go live with your site. If you can, install it on a test site and work out all the bugs before you go live. The last thing you want is for your customers to complain they can’t read your site or it is hard to navigate. You can bet I take my own advice on this one, and install any new themes on my test site in order to get the kinks out before I let anyone else see it.
Changing your blog theme doesn’t have to be an exercise in stress. If you keep these your reason for the change at the forefront and make your decisions based on that, your new-look blog should be up and running in no time.