Unless you’re a coder or a WordPress developer, and you’re able to create a custom design for your WordPress powered blog or website, the appearance of your WordPress site is going to be determined by the type of WordPress theme you’re using.
BY BRIGHT OCHUKO
That means, when you create a new WordPress blog, if you don’t like the default 2017 or 2019 WordPress theme that comes pre-installed in it, you’re going to have to go out there to get a new theme to change the appearance of your blog.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the WordPress theme I use for this blog is the WPAstra WordPress theme.
I use it because it has some important features which I don’t find in most themes, and in this article, I’m going to share with you some important features or factors you must consider when choosing a WordPress theme for your own blog.
Even though I had started some good ole blogs before, I started my first real blog with a free theme, the 2017 WordPress theme.
It’s a good theme, I used it for some time, let’s say about 6 months. But after that time, when my blog started getting a good amount of traffic, and I was making some money and all that, I realized that the free theme, which is the 2017 WordPress theme wasn’t going to cut it.
It’s a good simple theme with basic features, but that’s just what it is. A good basic WordPress theme with no features to make it look the way you want it to look, unless you’re WordPress developer which I’m certainly not (for now).
So, I decided to go out there and look for a better theme, a premium wordpress theme.
One that’s perfectly suited for blogging. A theme I don’t need to customize much, but that will give my blog that professional look I desired (at that time).
Luckily, I ended up with a good blog theme at that time. The theme I ended up buying was Koala from Ecko themes.
I bought the theme on Themeforest, and I can say without mincing words that I was totally satisfied with what I got with the Koala theme.
With just a few clicks, I was able to transform my blog from that basic 2017 looking theme to the way the Koala demo theme looks.
And it was perfect. Immediately, I noticed a bump in my traffic, because the Koala theme was more lightweight than the 2017 WordPress theme, hence it loads faster, which is one important SEO factor for getting more traffic to your blog.
Koala is the first WordPress theme I bought. However, I’ve stopped using it because it has not been updated since 2017.
With WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg and all the latest updates going on, if the theme you’re using is not keeping up, then maybe it’s time you let go. That’s why I stopped using the Koala theme.
Now, enough about my first premium WordPress theme and Koala. Now, I’m going to list the factors you must consider or the features you must look for when shopping for a WordPress theme for your blog.The WordPress theme you choose to run your blog can either make a break your blog. That’s why I had to tell you about the first WordPress theme I used, how it affected my blog, and why I stopped using it.
1. Loading Speed
One thing you need to ensure when creating a WordPress blog or website is that it loads fast, preferably under 3 seconds.
These days, everybody likes things done fast, and the time it takes your site to load is not going to be spared.
If someone clicks on your blog link and it takes forever to load, guess what, they’re going to close it and move on to the next site that offers the same content, and you’ve lost that visitor forever.
Nobody’s going to wait for your site to load forever. In fact, stats shows that 53 percent of visitors will leave and abandon your site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Think about that, 53 percent. That’s more than half of your site visitors. Obviously, you don’t want to do that to yourself.
So, to make your blog load faster, you need to make sure you put some things in place, and be careful about what you use on your blog such at the type of plugins, media files, and obviously the theme you’re using on that blog.
The loading speed of any WordPress blog is affected by several factors including the web hosting you’re using, the size of media files contained in the site such as images and videos, and undeniably the theme installed on that blog.
So, when shopping for a WordPress theme, you need to make sure it loads fast. Any theme not coded properly will take a long time to load.
To check how long it takes a theme to load, you can check the speed of the demo page of that theme using a nifty tool known as pingdom tools.
Just enter tools.pingdom.com on your browser, and enter the demo page right there.
Pingdom tools will load the page and will tell you how long it took to load that page. You can load the page several times, and calculate the average time it took to load that page.
If it loads too slow, like 5 seconds and above, then you can begin to think twice about that particular theme. Pingdom tools is very useful for checking site speed.
Millions of people use it worldwide, I use it myself to check my site’s speed and demo theme pages before I opt to buy any particular theme.
Does the theme you’re planning to buy load the same way on desktop, tablet and mobile devices? Do you have to scroll the page from left to right when reading looking at the page on mobile devices? Or do you have to zoom out to view the complete page on tablet and mobile devices.
If your answer to those questions is yes for the particular theme you’re trying to buy, then the theme is not responsive.
Wpbeginner puts it this way, and I quote them, “A responsive WordPress theme smoothly adjusts its layout based on the screen size and resolution.”
That means, a responsive theme will adjust its layout according to the device you’re viewing it from, so that you can view the content on that blog or website properly without scrolling from right to left.
Hence, offering your blog visitors a better user experience.
Why is this important?
Website or blog responsiveness is a very important SEO ranking factor.
If your blog or website is not responsive, if it displays the same desktop layout on desktop and mobile devices, or makes users scroll from left to right when viewing on tablet and mobile devices, Google and other search engines will rank your blog down.
It shows you’re not offering your blog or website visitors a good user experience, and they will reduce the amount of people that see or visit your blog by pushing it down the search engine pages.
So, make sure to view the theme you’re trying to buy on all devices, including tablet and desktop and make sure it’s responsive, responding and adjusting according to the layout of the device you’re viewing it from.
If it’s not responsive, flee away from that WordPress theme.
3. Number Of Bundled Plugins
For some reasons, a theme developer’s knack to add too much functionality to a theme might result in too much plugins being bundled with the theme.
That’s why when you purchase some WordPress themes on Themeforest, you find out that they comes bundled with many plugins which you must install to get the functions or features that made you buy the theme.
Too many plugins is not good for any WordPress blog or site. Trust me, you are still going to need to add some few plugins that you’re going to absolutely need to run your site, such as Google analytics plugin, Yoast SEO plugin, caching plugin, and some other plugins that you absolutely need.
Then, why buy a theme that comes bundled with like 10+ plugins, and when you install your own plugins you end up with a huge mess of plugins all over your WordPress backend, slowing down your site and dragging it down.
You need as few plugins as possible. So, if a WordPress theme comes bundled with many plugins, try to at least find an alternative theme that comes with fewer plugins, before you go for the purchase.
4. Structure / Simplicity
Personally, I think simplicity is key when creating a WordPress blog or website. Simplicity is needed especially when creating a blog.
A simple blog structure showcases your content and places it at the forefront so that it is easily accessible to people that visit your blog for the first time.
When you see a demo theme page with popups everywhere, sliders everywhere, too much animation and content is difficult to access, then it’s not a good theme.
Content should be at the forefront. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful theme with good visuals, and animations where necessary, but when those overshadows the content, then it’s all wrong.
Get a simple theme that showcases your content, and makes it easier for your users to consume the content on your blog.
If people come to your blog, and all they see is popups and too much animations, sliders everywhere, with content difficult to access, then you’ll leave them no choice than to leave and never come back.
Make sure you pay attention to the typography, fonts and all that. Simplicity is key.
There’s nothing worse than buying a WordPress theme with a bad support team behind it, especially if when you’re not a WordPress developer or you know nothing about coding WordPress themes.
When you buy a WordPress theme, most likely you’re going to encounter some problems, challenges or questions you need answered while using the theme.
With a solid support team behind that theme you purchased, all your questions will be answered, and all the problems or challenges you face while using the theme will be solved.
However, if there’s no solid support behind the theme you buy, who do you go to if you have challenges or problems to be solved or questions about that theme to be answered? No one. You’re left in no man’s land.
Right now, you might be think, O Bright, but every theme out there has a support theme behind it. I agree with you, they do. But there’s a difference between support and reliable support.
You might buy a theme today, and encounter some challenges while trying to customize it on your blog or website. You reach out to the support, and they answer you after 2 weeks. That’s deadbeat support.
Whereas you can buy another theme, and the support will answer you almost immediately you throw them a question. When I bought the Koala theme I talked about earlier, their support was like that at that time.
They reached out to me immediately I threw them a question about the theme.
So, when shopping to buy a theme, make sure you vet their support and confirm that they stand behind their product, and not just sell to you and leave you hanging.
One way you can ensure this is to always buy themes from well-known theme developers, brand names you know will stand for a long time.
For instance, the WPastra WordPress theme is an example of such kind of theme. It’s a theme that’s being used by 100s of thousands of people in the WordPress community. They have been around for a long time, and they’re not going anywhere soon.
So, if you purchase the WPAstra theme, you can be rest assured that the support will be there for you if you need help with something concerning their theme.
Other well-known themes include Studiopress themes which include the Genesis Framework and it’s child themes, Divi WordPress theme, Generatepress and OceanWP just to name a few.
These themes have been around for a while and they have rock solid support.
One sign to check if there’s a solid support behind any WordPress theme is to check how many people are using the theme. If there’re very few people using the theme, then maybe it’s not an established theme and there may not be a solid support behind it.
That’s what I do when I buy themes from Themeforest. I make sure to check how many times a particular theme has been sold, in order to estimate how many people might be using it.
That will tell me or give me an idea of how the support for that theme might be.
6. Compatibility With Your Favorite Page Builder
Presently, this is the Age of page builders in the WordPress community. The fact that WordPress itself created their own native page builder editor to replace the former classic editor is a testament to my first statement.
Right now, there’re many page builders out there. We have Thrive Architect which I use on this blog, Elementor, Divi, and Beaver Builder just to name a few.
All these page builders are really awesome, and if you really want to create a really professional looking blog without touching line of code, then you’ve got to pair your theme with a page builder.
However, not all themes are page builder friendly. In fact, some themes are not meant to be used with page builders.
If you really like a particular page builder, and you’re in the process of buying a new theme for your blog, then I’d advise that you make sure that the theme you’re trying to buy is compatible or integrates well with the page builder.
If not, you might end up in a big bowl of mess trying to combine that WordPress theme with your favorite page builder.
So, if you use a page builder for your blog or website, make sure the theme you are trying to buy works well with that page builder.
7. User Base
I’d hate to be the first person to use a particular theme on my blog, unless I’m just testing the theme on a demo blog.
I don’t care how good you say a theme is, I’d just like to confirm that there’re at least a few hundreds of people already using it and are satisfied with its performance before I actually buy it and use it on my own blog or website.
It’s possible for you to install a theme or a plugin on your blog or website, and everything goes BOOM! Crashing on your head. You know what I mean?
So, don’t be the first. Make sure there are already people using the theme successfully.
For instance, if you want to buy a WordPress theme from themeforest, check out how many times that theme has been sold, which is very easy to find out.
Then make sure it has been reviewed, and make sure the theme has 4.5 stars and above. Seriously, if it’s less than 4.5 stars, I don’t like it. I just look for something better.
Currently, I already use Astra which is just awesome, so I don’t really dig most themes from themeforest anymore, but I still check from time to time to see what’s out there. You never know.
If you’re buying from there, make sure it’s been sold at least over a few hundred times and it’s gathered some raving reviews at least.
8. Shortcode Free
Does the WordPress theme you want to buy require special shortcodes to add certain features to it? If it does, I’d advise you to think twice before you make the plunge.
Shortcodes are great. Don’t get me wrong. For instance, I use the tablepress plugin which I use to create some awesome comparison table for one of my blogs, and it uses shortcodes to place the table wherever you want them on your page.
The thing with themes that require the use of shortcodes is that, if it happens that you don’t want that theme again in the future, deleting that theme will result in huge mess of shortcodes on your blog or website.
On the other hand, if the theme you’re using does not require shortcodes for you to do anything, then if you ever change your mind in the future and you want to change themes, you can do it without fear, because the theme is not a huge collection of shortcodes.Changing themes will not affecting anything.
Wrapping it up
A good WordPress theme for blogging should be fast, well-structured, well supported, and content focused.
Chances are, when starting a blog for the first time, you might not choose the right theme or you might not choose the best theme.
But if you’ve read this post carefully and follow the advice given, I’m sure you’ll end up with a good theme that will help your blog grow at the rate you desire.
After reading this post, and you’re still confused on what theme to choose, then I recommend that you go with Astra, because that’s what I use here. It loads fast, it’s well structured, content focused, compatible with all the page builders out there and it’s well supported.It’s one of the best WordPress themes for blogging, and I’m sure you won’t go wrong with it.