WordPress may be the most popular content management system (CMS) for small-business websites in the world today. The ease of installation, use, and maintenance is unparalleled and the low costs are naturally attractive to businesses without big website development budgets. But for many small-business owners and managers, this very popularity presents a problem: how can you make your website stand out from the crowd?
The answer lies in selecting the right theme for your WordPress website.
Themes are installable packages created by independent developers to control the look and feel of a WordPress site. The theme controls the colors, fonts, layout, and style of the site. There are more than 10,000 themes currently available for WordPress, some of them free and some of them costing more than $100. Themes are available for almost every purpose imaginable, and in the event that no currently available theme can be found to suit your taste, you can pay to have a custom theme developed precisely to your specification.
To get an idea of what is available, your first stop should be the free repository on the main WordPress.org website. Just click on the “Themes” menu item at the top of the page. You’ll find a searchable library of themes. You can filter the available themes by color scheme or features.
What you want to look for in a theme will depend on your goals for your website. You will know what looks good to you, but it’s also important to check out the features available in a theme to ensure that it can be used the way you envision. Some themes are written for specific website features–for example, an e-commerce site should use a specialized theme that will make it easy to display products for sale and that will work well with the storefront plugin that you plan to use to handle sales.
Other important qualities are accessibility, performance, and support. If you expect to have many website viewers using phones or tablets, you will want a theme that is mobile-friendly. And some themes that come with a lot of bells and whistles can be unbearably slow to use–make sure that your site is agile and responsive with your particular theme before you go live with it.
Support is an important feature that many people overlook when choosing a theme. There are so many free themes available that it’s easy to forget that the designers can’t afford to spend time keeping them all up to date or fixing glitches for nothing. There can be good reasons to pay money for a theme just to make sure there is someone available to pick up the phone on the other end of the support line when you have a problem with it.
Free themes also frequently have limited options for customization–you might be locked into a certain color palette or font style, for example. Paid themes often have more style options available for you to customize without any direct developer support.
Installing a theme is as easy as visiting the WordPress Dashboard on your site and clicking gone Appearance, then selecting “Themes.” When you click the “Add New” button at the top of the page, you can search the same selection of free themes displayed on the WordPress.org site. Hover over any theme thumbnail and you will see options to Preview the theme on your site, or Install it. Either selection will happen automatically and can be finished in seconds.
Some of the free themes that can be installed directly from WordPress.org have paid versions that you can upgrade to easily with another click after installation. Other paid themes will require that you first visit the creator’s website and pay for a download. In those cases, you’ll have to follow the theme provider’s instructions carefully to install the theme.
You can have a nearly unlimited number of themes installed, but only one active at any given time. It is easy, then, to install and switch back and forth between competing themes to decide which will work best for your particular purposes. If your requirements change over time, it will be just as easy to switch out your theme in the future for one better suited to your new needs.
With so many themes available on the market today, it can be challenging to sort through and select the best option for your business. However, you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression on visitors to your website, so it will be well worth your time to make a thoughtful review and selection from all the available themes before you settle on the best one.