How to choose your WordPress Theme

by Heather Cowper on September 28, 2010

If you’re confused about how to choose a WordPress Theme, you may like to read about the approach I took when setting up my travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com.

A theme is simply some software that you download that determines the visual look of your blog, and it’s important to give it some thought, because it’s not so easy to change later, as I’m finding out. Because WordPress is an Open Source software (that means any developer can create related software), there’s a whole industry out there in creating WordPress themes.

Wordpress logo

Wordpress logo

Finding a theme
Some themes can be used if you’re hosting your blog on WordPress – you can find these at WordPress.com. Others are only available if you’re self-hosting your blog, and in this case you should start at WordPress.org where you can find all the free ones. They’re categorised in various ways, for instance by the number of columns or colours used. After a while you notice that most WordPress Theme developers also have their own websites where they offer other themes that you have to pay for, and it’s worth exploring these too.

I also started looking a lot more closely at the themes used by other travel bloggers and at the bottom of the page, there’s usually a link to tell you what theme they’re using. If not, you an always e-mail them to ask.

Cut through the confusion

Cut through the confusion

Cut through the confusion

This is where it started to become confusing, as there are thousands of themes out there, so I decided to fall back on some Project Management techniques to help me make sense of it all. In the early stages of any project you always define your requirements. This means making a list of all the things you require from your blog, and also thinking about what other users of your blog will require.

For instance an advertiser, reader and blog writer may all have different requirements and you should try to address them all. Ideally you should ask your readers and advertisers what they think, but if that’s impractical, you can put yourself in their shoes. Once you have your list of requirements, you can use it to narrow down your list of themes to those that will best meet your requirements.

My requirements as a blog writer

– Good support and a user community who can help me get the best out of my theme
– Built by a reputable developer who will respond to questions
– A header with a picture at the top that I can change from time to time
– Potential to expand into a magazine style website over time
– Clean and simple look to showcase colourful photographs and content
– I like to see blue in the theme as it reminds me of exotic destinations with blue sea and sky
– Layout to support adding advertising and commercial activity to my site, probably a 3 column theme
– I don’t mind paying for the right theme

My requirements as a blog reader

– Easy to find the latest post
– Easy navigation through tabs at the top
– I prefer to see the full post immediately, rather than just the first few lines
– Light rather than dark backgrounds
– Easy to find destination information
– Easy to search the blog for topics

Requirements of an advertiser

– Blog looks professional and is easy to use
– Blog will attract and retain readership
– Information on how to advertise and rates
– Adverts are displayed prominantly and look attractive
– Adverts are relevant to content to encourage readers to click on them

Listing my requirements helped me narrow down the potential themes to a shortlist.

Here’s my shortlist

Clockwork Mint by Łukasz Sobek
Zigzag3 by Sadish Balasubramanian
Palnila by Sadish Balasubramanian
Seashore by Sadish Balasubramanian
Studiopress Lifestyle by Brian Gardner

So can you guess which one’s my favourite? Which would you choose if you were me?

PS I eventually settled for Studiopress Lifestyle and have been very happy with it, although I’m using the Thesis Theme for this My Blogging Journey website, because I wanted something that I could easily tailor as I develop the blog.

Useful links

Here’s a useful video at BecomeaBlogger.com on choosing your WordPress theme

If you’re interested in the performance of different WordPress Themes, you may be interested in the analysis over at 123milliseconds.com about WordPress Themes load times

This article was originally published at Heatheronhertravels – here’s the original article about Choosing my WordPress Theme

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