Today we’re going to talk about wordpress themes, in particular finding the best wp theme for your new site. While many people find this piece the most frustrating, it’s one of my favorite pieces of putting together a new site. I like it because there’s no right or wrong, and I get to express who I am and what I want my site to be through this theme.
Before your theme hunting it’s wise to have a few things decided ahead of time ~ just to cut down on the length of time you spend doing this, because believe me, it can be an easy task to get lost in, there are so many choices and so many gorgeous themes out there!
1. What do you want the theme to say?
Your theme speaks for your site, what do you want it to say?
Clean, neat, tidy?
Show images related to your topic?
Bright and colorful?
Neutral and tame?
You know what they say about first impressions, and this couldn’t be MORE true than when a reader comes to your blog. You have about, Oh I don’t know, 2 seconds, maybe, if you’re lucky to make a good impression. The color, look and feel of your blog will be a lot of your first impression.
I suggest you keep your site as clean as possible. You don’t want a bunch of clutter, buttons, widgets etc in your sidebar.
You also want your sidebars clean so your content is what becomes the focus. It’s the point of your site. You want people to be able to focus on the content without being distracted not only by your sidebars, but the theme itself.
How many sidebars do you want? You can get themes with a wide range of sidebar configuration, you can get 1 sidebar, 2 on the same side, one on each side of your content, and now there are even themes with 3 sidebars ~ a large one at the top of the page with two narrower ones below (like this site).
There’s no right or wrong, but here’s some of my thoughts on sidebars.
1. I’d say keep your sidebars on the same side. It gets a little smushed and hard to focus on your content with stuff going on on both sides of it.
2. I love the 3 column themes simply because you can easily put a larger opt in box at the top and it is prominent and clear that you want people to sign up. (which is super important).
So before you go theme hunting make a decision on the number and configuration of sidebars you want. You can easily search through theme directories by number of sidebars which will lessen the time and number of themes you need to look through.
How do people get around your site? Are you going to have categories in the sidebar? Are your categories going to be at the top of the page? Are your pages going to show up at the top of the page.
When I first put this site up I had a cute theme on here ~ I really liked the theme, however, the pages showed up in this random area in the header area and it just was not a good configuration for the pages. I used this theme for quite a while, but at some point I decided this site needed to look more professional ~ which is when I switched to another theme, and then a bit later found the theme it has now, which is Vigilance. (if you click the free trial link you can still get this one for free)
It was navigation that really got me hung up for my new site. I wanted to have my categories at the top, in the nav bar. But I also wanted them to be nested. So I would have a main topic, then any smaller topic in that category would show up in a drop down menu people could click on. It looks really clean and neat. It helps people find exactly what they’re looking for without searching through tons of semi related posts. It also lets me talk about a bunch of different things, and only show 3 or 4 main categories. Which I really liked.
Well I’ll tell you. I had a hell of a time finding a theme that would do that. I found a bunch of themes that SAID they would do that. I installed a bunch of themes that said they would do that and none of them did. I knew there were themes out there that did it, but I couldn’t find them.
It was then that I remembered that Rosiland Gardner’s sites were like that in the Super Affiliate Handbook. So I went back to her sites and looked to see which theme she was using. Unfortunately it was a paid theme. I went back to the drawing board looking for free themes. Finally, in such disgust and frustration I just went and bought the Lifestyle theme. It was everything I wanted in a theme. It also provides tech support in the forums, so I could get some help customizing it I needed it.They have many themes other than the lifestyle, but it was what I was looking for.
This is the first time I’ve ever paid for a theme. But I have to say it was well worth the money. I am now going through and adding this theme to some of my uglier niche sites. Once you have the theme you can use it on as many sites as you want. I was also amazed looking through the Studiopress gallery just how different the same theme could look. I didn’t change much on the theme, a little bit of the color and the header and that’s it. It was pretty simple and well explained in the forum tutorials.
If you decide you want what the StudioPress themes offer I will do a $10 theme install (over half off the regular theme install price as a bonus for buying through my link) and some basic customization for you, if you need it.
There’s been a change in the way the lifestyle theme works. They have now made it a “child” theme for their “Genesis” theme framework. While it sounds really complicated it’s not, you just have to upload both themes to your site for them to work. Now if you want the lifestyle theme you will have to buy the child theme as well as the Genesis theme. (you only have to buy Genesis once. If you find other child themes by studiopress that you like you will only have to buy a new child theme, not Genesis).
They have also changed the color palette of the Lifestyle theme to a bright turquoise, which I’m not super fond of.
This morning while I was looking around the net I came across a theme membership site called “Elegant Themes” this site has a LOT of different themes, and you get access to all the themes with your annual membership fee of under $20. (you still can use all the themes you’ve downloaded if you cancel your membership after the first year. You just won’t have access to support and any new themes) I picked them up today and I’m loving them.
The themes are very clean, they have a lot of different kinds of themes, some regular blog type themes, some magazine themes and some combo type themes. Many of the themes have nested categories, which is the one thing I really loved about the Lifestyle theme.
What makes these themes super great (other than the very low price) is they are SUPER easy to customize. Each theme has an “epanel” in your wordpress dashboard where you can click/unclick and make changes without every touching the code. VERY COOL. You can even change colors within the theme (like links, headers etc).
So all in all this is a super great deal. I had the classic lifestyle theme on my new site, (Everyday Life and Balance) but changed it over to one of the elegant themes this morning. (cherrytruffle). I had a hard time picking which theme I wanted to use lol. I really like the one I chose but miss the featured posts slideshow at the top ~ but I think I can put it in with a plugin, so I’m going to look into that. I am going to be switching some of my other niche sites over to these new themes as well.
While you’re looking for a theme keep in mind that you can usually change the header pretty easily. There are some things that are harder to change in a theme, like the font, and things like that, but background color and the header are usually pretty simple to change if you love the theme but hate the color.
Blog vs. Magazine themes:
A regular blog theme has sidebars, and one column of content. New content shows up at the top of the theme and it just goes down.
Magazine themes are heavy on images. There are usually multiple columns on the page offering information about different categories or topics. I feel like magazine themes can sometimes be very overwhelming ~ because there’s so much going on you don’t know where to start. However, there are some much more simple magazine themes now, including the lifestyle theme. If you think you will be using a lot of images ~ or your topic lends itself well to images you might want to think about a magazine theme. You will be able to show many images on the front page ~ which can pull people into your content.
Just think when you look at your theme how it will play to your reader. Will they be able to find what you want them to see? Will they be confused? Will they be able to navigate with ease through the homepage to the actual content? Most magazine themes only have a snippet of content for each post on the homepage ~ people will have to click through to see the post.
While I’ve never been a huge fan of magazine themes, they are growing on me. If you have a site that has 3 or 4 main categories ~ like a health site with nutrition, supplements, exercise as the main topics a magazine theme could be fantastic. Especially if you have nesting categories. You can set up each of those categories as a column on the front page and people will be able to navigate quite easily through the content.
How to find the best wp theme for your site
This can take some time, so set aside an hour or so to go theme hunting. Think of it as an adventure and have fun with it. There’s a couple ways to start your search.
1. Google what you want.
If you know you want a blue 3 column theme then go ahead and google that ~ it will bring you some options you might like.
2. Theme directories.
My favorite way though, is to go to a theme directory. There are so many of them online now. You can google wp theme directory ~ or you can check out a couple of my favorites.
Rock Kitty ~ unique themes on many topics.
Free theme forum ~ this isn’t exactly a directory, but a forum with tons and tons of themes.
3. WordPress dashboard.
You can also now look for themes through your dashboard in wordpress. Just go to the add new theme area in your dashboard and you can search and upload from there. I haven’t used this method so I’m not sure what kind of themes the will bring you when you search from there, but it’s an option.
So once you’ve chosen your theme you can upload and activate it. You’ll find the instructions to do that in the top half of this post on installing a wp theme.The second half of that post is about plugins which we’re going to work on next week ~ but if you want to get a head start, you can start on that. I’ve got a couple extra plugins I’m going to talk about though.
I’m going to figure out the mclinky thing today and add it to the challenge post for the week. So when you get this all done (which means you have accomplished the challenge! YAY) go back and comment on the weekly challenge post so you’ll get your new site included in the linky. I can’t wait to check out which themes you guys choose!!