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Jenna Dehn

UX Design Lead

Jenna listens closely to understand clients’ goals and uncover solutions for their marketing and design challenges. She specializes in developing wireframes and prototypes with a strong focus on UX/UI and collaborates with Northwoods' digital strategists to ensure that strategy guides the design process. Jenna has a wealth of experience designing for data and creates stunning page layouts that showcase complex product information in a digestible format. She enjoys creating infographics, display ads, and illustrations that enrich marketing collateral and has a knack for using movement to bring websites to life. Away from Northwoods, Jenna enjoys downhill skiing, and her fuel of choice is Dr. Pepper. Be on the lookout for her cats Viper, Saber, and Flash, who are frequent guests during WFH calls.

5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Theme for Your WordPress Website

February 6, 2023 | Jenna Dehn, UX Design Lead

5 Minute Read

Updated: Feb. 6, 2023
Originally Published: Oct. 12, 2020

WordPress has grown a lot since its creation in 2003. One of the larger changes was replacing the classic WordPress editor with Gutenberg back in 2018, with WordPress 5.

Gutenberg provides improvements for content editing by introducing a block-based system that closely resembles page builder tools, such as Beaver Builder or Divi. The goal of Gutenberg is to give users more flexibility in design. 

However, even if you are using the Gutenberg editor you still need a WordPress theme. A theme is responsible for the layout, templates, styles, and other design elements of your website, while the Gutenberg editor is used to create and edit the content within that design.

What Is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme behaves as the foundation of your website and manages global elements that control look and feel, such as:

  • Fonts
  • Color Scheme
  • Page Layouts
  • Header
  • Footer
  • Buttons

The way that WordPress is currently designed, a theme is required to be installed and activated, making theme selection one of the early steps in developing a WordPress website.

So, what do you need to consider when choosing a theme for your site?

What to Consider When Selecting a WordPress Theme

1. Determine if You Want to Use a Page Builder

Page builders offer more control over the design and layout of website pages. Page builders like Beaver Builder have a variety of benefits when used with WordPress. Some of these include:

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface: This makes it easy for users to create and customize pages without any coding knowledge.
  • Customization: Page builders often provide a wide range of customization options, allowing users to create unique designs that fit their brand.
  • Better design experience: With the help of a page builder, you can create visually appealing and professional-looking pages, which can help to improve the user experience.
  • Time savings: With the help of page builders you can easily design and publish pages in a short amount of time

The best themes to use with page builders (and you’re still required to choose a theme even if you’re using a page builder) are ones designed with page builders in mind. These themes typically have a minimalist design and are flexible so that users can easily create the layouts they need.

Themes that aren’t created with page builders in mind will prioritize their own code over the flexibility of a page builder, making it much harder to override the theme’s layout or settings. For these themes, pick one that isn’t stubborn and that will simply get out of the way and allow the page builder to take over.

Many page builders provide their own themes, which users can feel confident will work well with their corresponding plugins. However, they can be quite expensive. Other options include:

2. Identify Future Integration Needs

Consider the features you need (or will eventually want), such as a slider, a portfolio, a blog, a contact form, and so on. Make sure the theme includes these features or is compatible with the plugins that can provide the needed functionality.

This functionality will most likely be added to your website through plugins; however, not all plugins are compatible with all themes. Avoid getting stuck with a theme that doesn’t allow you to easily meet your current or anticipated future needs.

For example, if you know that you want to add an e-commerce solution at some point down the line, pick a theme that works well with a third-party plugin such as Woocommerce. Many themes come with a list of recommended plugins, like Avada, and some themes even flag plugins that have proven to be incompatible, such as Beaver Builder.

Do the research and find these recommended plugins lists before investing in a theme. Make sure that your theme works well with the plugins your site needs now - and in the future - to be successful.

3. Ensure You’re Able to Comply with Critical Regulations

The world is evolving, and with that comes changes and regulations that impact websites. Companies across the globe are working to follow privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA, as well as accessibility regulations. Consider how your theme allows you to address these important and evolving topics.

Some newer themes are built with greater consideration for accessibility right out of the box, but most themes require additional configuration, including adding a plugin or your own custom code. Even if accessibility or privacy regulations are not a primary concern for your business right now, see what options your theme has in case one or more become critical later on.

4. Consider Both the End-User and Internal User Experience

A theme might provide a beautiful and exceptional user experience for your site visitors, but a terrible one for your internal team to manage.

A good internal user experience extends into having good support and theme documentation. If a site manager is unable to figure out how to build something or encounters an issue, having additional resources will help keep things moving along and minimize stress.

A good way to judge the usability of a theme is by reading reviews from other users. Try to find reviews that match your level of technical ability. If you’re not a very savvy technical user, then look for reviews that address how easy a theme was to setup and navigate.

Bonus Tip: Look for a theme that's regularly updated and well-maintained to ensure that it's secure and free of vulnerabilities.

5. Look for Flexibility to Add Additional Code

Finally, consider the level of customization offered by the theme, and whether it will allow you to create the design you want for your website. Confirm that the theme allows you to extend functionality by offering a variety of hooks. Hooks allow coders to inject custom code or content in the proper place. For example, if you want to create a top bar that offers a discount code to your customers, you would use a hook to inject the code right before the header.

Simply put, hooks allow the more technical users to change the default configuration of a website and allow for adding or disabling elements without changing the core files. Even if you don’t plan on making any customizations to your theme, it’s a good option in case of emergency.

Bonus Tip: Consider the speed and performance of a theme before purchase. A fast-loading theme is important for user experience and SEO. It's important to look for a theme that's optimized for speed and performance

Running into roadblocks selecting a theme, or need help fixing a WordPress mess? Our WordPress experts will guide you down the right path! Contact us today.