So, finally, you have done it! You’ve decided to start your lifestyle blog, got your domain and hosting, downloaded WordPress, but now you are stuck staring on TwentyTwenty Theme wondering how you are going to turn THIS into your new blog!
Sure enough, you want your new blog to be original, not just in content but also in design and you start to wonder whether the plead of free WordPress themes is going to be up to the job.
I completely understand, because like you, I was in the same situation a few months ago, when I was re-designing my Practical Frugality blog. The website was long overdue for a design overhaul, and I decided to change my theme to make my blog easier to navigate and also to make the design more up to date.
There are a few things I’ve learned during this process and I’m happy to share them with you right now. So, here are my top tips on how to choose the perfect theme for your blog.
Choose a theme you really like
This one is a bit of obvious advice, I know, but I can’t stress this enough. You will be working on your blog day in and day out, so you really need to like your theme and like how the theme makes your blog look and feel. Remember, your blog is the virtual shop window for your business, so it needs to represent you and your business well.
Choose a theme from a reputable company and with good reviews
The look of your website is important, but the functions of the theme are crucial too. Make sure you choose a theme from a reputable design company like www.themeplanet.com with good reviews and one that offers customer support after you buy the theme.
This could mean paying a little extra for membership or extended theme support, but if you are not a WordPress pro, it’s good to know that if something goes wrong, you have somebody who can help.
Don’t judge a theme by the look itself – sometimes less is more
While I think you should absolutely fall in love with your theme based on design, I also think you need to be sensible when choosing a new theme for your blog. Website design seems to have come full circle from simple websites back in the 2000’s, to complex ones with lots of design features and sliding photos everywhere like those of just a few years ago; and now back again to simple websites with a minimalistic design.
As much as I love the details on beautifully designed themes, the harsh reality is that most people are now viewing websites and reading blogs on their mobiles, where complicated design either doesn’t transfer well, slows down the website or doesn’t show up at all. So, less is more!
And please make sure that you view your chosen theme in mobile mode before you buy it, to ensure that it flows nicely, displays everything well and the design is fully responsive.
Make sure that the theme can grow with your blog
If you are just starting your lifestyle blog, you probably want to focus on content, so the blog features are going to be your main focus when choosing a new theme. But what if you, later on, want to develop your own products? Most WordPress themes are compatible with Woocommerce, but if your focus is mainly on online shop you might like to consider Shopify themes from the start. They are designed with e-commerce in mind and perfectly coded to help you to the most from your online presence.
Another example where you might like to think ahead is for instance if your blog becomes popular and you’ll want to monetise it with adverts. You need to make sure that your theme allows advert placements and it’s fast enough to handle the extra traffic.
And finally, if your business branding changes you want to make sure that you can change your theme’s fonts and colours.
So, make sure you check out what additional features your theme has to allow you to grow your blog.
Choose a lightweight theme
When I started blogging back in 2011, I loved all the beautifully designed themes with endless options and features that I couldn’t possibly even need or be able to use on one website. The downside of such themes is that they are, generally speaking, very large and take up a lot of resources to run. It also means that they can run slower and because they have so many features there is a chance that they might not be compatible with every plugin that you might need.
Some of my earlier websites were designed using Headway and Divi theme, but recently I’ve switched to Genesis themes, which are smaller in size, run much faster and are very easy to use.
If you want to monetise your blog choose a theme with a sidebar (min 300px)
There is an upward trend for websites with no sidebar and while such blogs look very stylish, most adverts companies will want you to have a sidebar if you want to monetise your blog in the future.
Check out the live preview for the theme on different devices
To make sure that your new theme will look great on all devices use the preview that most website designers provide alongside the theme description. Pay special attention to how the theme displays on mobile and make sure that you don’t check out just the homepage but click around to see the other pages.
Check what additional support the theme designer offers
Make sure that your new theme comes with customer services support after you’ve purchased the theme. Some designers offer lifetime support, although it’s more common to offer 6 months with an optional extension to 12 months.
If you are new to WordPress, it’s worth paying a little extra money for the 12 months support. After that time, you’ll be more familiar with your theme and be able to solve minor issues by yourself.
Check out also if the designer provides an online support group for the theme owners as then you’ll be able to help each other.
Pick a theme relevant to your niche
Theme designers usually design the themes with features, colours and fonts suitable for a particular niche. Whilst nothing is stopping you from using a theme designed for a dentist practice for your lifestyle blog, the chances are that you might need to make some adjustments before you are truly happy with the design.
So, to narrow things down, start by choosing your theme based on your niche and see whether you like any themes designed directly for your own particular niche.
Check what plugins are recommended by the theme designer
Each designer has an opinion on what plugins they prefer and use for their own websites. They will design and code their themes based on what they know. This means that some themes work better with particular plugins and might actually cause you a mild headache if you try to upload a plugin that’s not compatible.
To sum up and no matter what niche your blog is going to be, please pay attention to the reputability of the theme, post-sale support, theme size and lightness of the code, as well as its compatibility with plugins and the ability to allow the theme to grow with your blog.
And so my final piece of advice, especially if you are just starting with your first WordPress blog. The choice of themes might be overwhelming, but please don’t worry! No blog has ever stayed with just one theme for their lifetime, so just choose your theme the best you can, knowing that you can change it to a different one couple of years down the line!