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Choosing a website theme can be difficult. If you are using WordPress or Shopify for instance, you have thousands of paid and free options available to you. Your theme determines the overall look and feel of your site. It is a representation of your overall brand and has an impact on visitor experience.
Many of the pre-shipped themes are drab, clunky, not SEO-friendly and have been used too many times to really stand out. Fortunately, there is a rich variety of good-looking themes but even these too can introduce new problems such as slow speeds and poor user experience. In this context, the following are the things to take into consideration when picking a theme.
Not too long ago, many of the world’s leading websites were loud and spectacular. Flash animation, multiple colors and other fancy features were the epitome of good design. It didn’t take too long though for people to realize that the old adage on simplicity being the ultimate sophistication still held true.
Flat designs are back with a bang. Websites that have too much going on often distract the user from what they are meant to focus on i.e. the call-to-action. Such websites are also difficult to navigate on smartphones and tablets. A great theme is one that ensures a new visitor can quickly find what it is they came looking for.
People don’t give as much consideration as they should to the availability of developer support for a theme. It’s unlikely that you’ll install the theme once and leave it at that. You’ll need to regularly update it as the platform it runs on changes due to new features or security controls.
In the absence of these regular updates, your theme could get broken whenever there’s a platform update. Most themes will provide information about the theme developer and an inventory of updates released in the past. This information as well as customer ratings and reviews can provide useful insight on how active the developer is in keeping their theme up-to-date.
3. Mobile Friendly
Smartphones have been with us for about a decade and this has meant nearly all modern website themes are designed with mobile in mind. That does not however mean they will necessarily deliver a great experience for the end user. Many websites that satisfy Google’s mobile test are almost unreadable on small screens.
Look for themes that are adaptive and cognizant of the requirements of mobile visitors. The good thing is that many themes provide working demos where you can play around with the theme before you eventually make the decision to purchase it.
4. Cross-Browser Compatibility
Testing your chosen theme on all major web browsers is important. It’s especially vital if you are keen on a theme that hasn’t been updated for a while. With the ever growing combination of operating systems, devices and browsers that your site’s visitors are likely to have, testing ensures your theme provides the same functionality and experience for all.
If you have access to devices you could use to test all major browser environments, that would be ideal. If you don’t though, there are many free or paid resources and tools online that offer free trials. You should do a document review too (for instance, python logging documentation) to see whether there’s compatibility issues you can pick up even before you get to the testing.
5. Check for Plugins, Extensions and Apps
It’s unlikely that you’ll be contented with installing and running the stock version of your selected theme. You’ll want to customize the look to ensure consistency with your brand while also adding special features to improve user experience and convert traffic into sales.
Before choosing a theme, examine your site requirements so you can make sure the platform the theme will run on has the plugins and extensions you’ll need. Major platforms have thousands of apps and plugins. At more than 50,000 plugins, WordPress is by far the most diverse which partly explains its popularity.
Your website’s theme isn’t something you will be looking at changing every week or month. Ergo, your decision must be one you think about carefully.