Choosing the Best WordPress Theme
Why are Some WordPress Themes Better Than Others?
Why are Some WordPress Themes Better Than Others?
One awesome benefit of using content management systems like WordPress is the use of website themes which allow you to quickly change the visual elements of your site like fonts, colors, layouts, and even slick functionality with plugins like e-commerce giant WooCommerce. And another powerful benefit of a theme is that the good ones come bundled with all sorts of cool stuff on board like:
- Responsive code so your website will automatically resize itself for different devices like phones, tablets, or computer monitors. You can maintain a single website that can be shared across any device, and there are thousands. Try to wrap your head around how many different screen sizes Apple has released in the past ten years. Responsive technology makes sure that whether your visitors are using an iPhone 6, a Samsung Galaxy, or a Microsoft Surface tablet, your website will look and function well.
- Accessible design to make the site easier to use for people with disabilities. Through good accessible design practices, you improve the experience for everyone who visits your site by organizing your content, marking up images which in turn helps your SEO, providing alternative navigation methods like keyboard shortcuts, and providing clear indicators about what content is available and where it lives. Accessibility needs to be evaluated sitewide to be comprehensive, so starting with a great base from a well-built theme gives a developer a head start.
- They’re lightweight meaning they’re free of unnecessary overhead which makes sites faster. More on this below when we discuss some of the problems of poorly built themes, but extra code means slower load times. As Google continues to use page load speeds as a factor in determining page rank, improving your page speed is vital.
- They’ve got industry standard SEO best-practices built in which will help any SEO agency deploy tactics to improve your search visibility. The importance of this one isn’t lost on anyone, because having great website content means nothing if people can’t find it. Seamless integration with plugins like Yoast, clean code, good markup (like H1 tags and a proper page hierarchy), and visual sitemaps are just a few of the features your theme should support.
Poorly Built WordPress Themes
If you were paying attention above, we qualified that “the good ones come bundled with all sorts of cool stuff on board”. We’ve been working with WordPress from our offices in Morristown, NJ long enough to know that all WordPress themes aren’t created equal.
Because WordPress is open source, almost anyone can develop for the platform and sell their code to the community. That makes it important to trust the advice of professionals who can evaluate the performance and underlying architecture of a given theme. The theme may look fantastic when you view the online demo, but those demos have been produced specifically to entice you to purchase them. It’s often nearly impossible to get your site functioning as well as the demo once you start to peel back the layers of code.
Since theme authors try to sell to the widest audience possible, a great strategy for maximizing their own profit, they often pile on modules that are totally useless to most businesses. For example, you might think a certain theme looks beautiful and would be perfect for your executive recruiting service, but a deeper dive reveals that it’s tightly integrated with both a restaurant menu and a reservations plugin, neither of which have any relevance for you. Untangling code, even something as simple as deactivating a plugin, can often have cascading effects that detract from performance and even design.
Another example are themes that come bundled with things like WPBakery Page Builder. These page builders can be great for some users because they enable your developer to do things like create page templates that make it really easy for you to manage your own content, but they often add code below the surface that bogs down page performance and makes migrating difficult. We’re not trying to discourage you from using WPBakery Page Builder, we’re merely pointing out that in the WordPress world everything has a cost, and in some cases the easy of page editing comes at the expense of speed and portability.
It’s a far better option to begin with a lightweight WordPress theme and add features to it rather than trying to work backwards, especially when the code wasn’t written by the end developer.
WordPress Theme Pricing
WordPress themes can cost as little as $13 or as much as $259 through the big theme resellers. Compared to a custom website design project that’s peanuts, but for all the reasons we mentioned above, price isn’t necessarily an indicator of a great theme. A small investment up front could lead to loads of additional time wasted in managing your content. Or a theme may not do a good job of SEO meaning your small purchase price is costing you big dollars in terms of lost revenue.
And those small up-front costs can multiply, because to receive theme updates as WordPress continues to evolve, many theme authors will require you to repurchase your license every year. And if the theme is bundled with plugins that also have an annual license, all of a sudden, you’re paying a rather hefty annual fee for very little. These fees are in-addition-to the cost of monthly WordPress maintenance, which can become expensive for poorly built WordPress themes.
How is ReachFarther Different?
ReachFarther has access to nearly 4 dozen themes that are free to our customers (if their website is eventually hosted through ReachFarther). Yup, free. And they’re awesome. So we can customize a website that’s unique to you by starting with a fantastic foundation of great technology, cool functionality, and baseline design elements that reflect your business and your brand without breaking the bank.