When it comes to choosing the best WordPress design for your website, one of the first obstacles you paradoxically stumble on is the wide variety of choices you have for designing your custom space.
updated April 2022 from a previous publication September 2016
There are so many WordPress themes out there and their numbers are constantly increasing. So, before you start doing research, make sure you already have some basic ideas about how your website should look and perform. Everything from visual placements on desktop and mobile, to web accessibility options, should be considered. What is web accessibility? We’re going to explore that more in an upcoming blog topic so stay tuned.
In the meantime, we’re going to explore the aesthetic side to website design and what you can do with your WordPress site to help it become more appealing to potential visitors, garner trust and authority, and through that appeal and trust-building – eventually help you convert potential business.
In order to help you decide which WordPress design tools best suit you, we will focus on 7 basic aspects you should take into consideration:
Loading and Coding
The first thing you should expect from a good design is clean and fast loading. Good coding is the key to an effective theme and it triggers all the other performance factors. If you want to make sure the design you choose is highly efficient, check out how often it is updated.
Having your page load at a high speed is important, not only because your visitors demand it today; less they go to a competitor’s site who loads faster, but also because load times are one of the indicators to search engines when ranking your site performance. Faster load times can help bring you better results in search engine rankings. But, understand there are two forces at work here… site speed and page speed, and understanding both will help you with your website’s reach and visibility goals over time.
There are a number of frameworks and themes on the market that appeal to various buyers for various reasons; some of which include apparent upstart time, cost considerations, and even long-term maintenance or SEO strategies. However, overlooking something like code structure could end up costing a website owner more time, frustration, and financial commitments because that maintenance, SEO, and growth strategies are negatively affected by overloaded, or unnecessarily heavy-coded frames.
Make a Choice Between FREE and PAID Themes
We know many entrepreneurs and small business owners with restrictive budgets like the idea of using a pre-designed WordPress theme to help get a branded website up more quickly and for a lesser cost than a custom-designed WordPress website. And, when searching for popular theme layouts, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of available “free” and “paid” theme options. But, just because there are numerous options to select from; many with fun widgets and functions does not mean these designs would be appropriate for your business or give you the ability to manage growth or change on the site easily. This is especially true when considering your long-term SEO strategies, content development, and navigation expansion, usability changes, or even brand stylization or special marketing efforts over time.
There are many advantages and disadvantages in both free and premium versions. Therefore, it’s important you carefully consider which features you need the most as well as how you plan on growing your site over time before settling on a specific theme design.
While a free theme can work out perfectly well, in the beginning, to get you up quickly and inexpensively, there are some indisputable benefits to paying for a premium version, like the fact you will get updated more often from premium authors; ensuring your site has the ability to stay more secure. Additionally, premium licensed themes typically provide users with the ability to make page designs stand out more with customization options not available with free themes.
Even clever “drag’n’drop” designs can cost you money in the long run anyway.
Why? Because most are designed to use special widgets, CSS customization abilities, or shortcodes to get that custom feel. And, this would be great if you already knew what CSS or shortcodes were, let alone how to manipulate them, or have the time to figure it out on your own. In the end, you usually have to hire someone to help you customize within the confines of the theme.
Know the Product’s Pros & Cons – Do Your Research
As we mentioned in the beginning, it is very important to have a hint of what kind of design you want for your page. Once you start looking for suitable options, be careful when you examine every single one of them. Except for their description and the user experience, you should also analyze the demo versions of the theme and imagine your visitors’ reactions to that particular design.
Additionally, you may not want to choose a design that has been downloaded and used repeatedly over and over again. Thousands of sites using the same architecture will only mean your site looks more “cookie-cutter”. You don’t want to look like someone else. And, primary concerns should be form and function, and then aesthetics. A beautiful site is great to look at but may not do much to help you capture new business.
If you’re looking at purchasing a theme to use rather than having one designed for you, make sure you also research what kind of documentation comes with the theme. Less information will mean fewer resources to aid you in customizing or troubleshooting theme functions and features should you run into a challenge with the theme.
Finally, research what type of support the author of the theme supplies, how many products have they created in the past, and how others rate their designs and support.
A Quality WordPress Design Needs to be Mobile Responsive
Another aspect you should not overlook is the responsiveness degree the design can provide for your page.
As people like to be more connected to what’s going on online, they are more likely to want to access your main landing page(s) during their coffee breaks; straight from their mobile devices, rather than doing it in the evening from their desktops or laptops.
So, if you want to make sure they can access it from any device, choose a theme that is coded for responsiveness. Back2Basics© really likes working with the Genesis Framework, and holds a developer license to aid in the development of our website designs.
Customization Options Can Make or Break Site Strategies
If you want to reduce the amount of time you’ll have to spend styling the theme directly, choose a design that is provided with a customized administration panel. It will give you the opportunity to make certain changes on your page rapidly and with less effort. Otherwise, work with a developer who is proficient and knowledgeable in customizing WordPress themes or creating child themes.
One of the biggest challenges we come across on website designs had to do with the website owner’s naivety in theme structures and functions, or their over-estimation in their personal ability to make the needed adjustments in function settings, content layout, or even graphic design work to get the site to look and function as they envisioned.
Many themes will come with functions designed around the use of a particular plugin, but those plugins may have to be separately licensed, installed, activated, and then set up. And, many themes will come with plugins installed that may never be used by the end-user; causing the site to be “heavier” than necessary or opening up added security holes because they’re not attended to.
Mapping Your Navigation and Content Delivery
Your website design has to look good and draw attention, but this characteristic is futile if it’s not easy to navigate. That’s why it’s important to make sure the site is built on a flexible theme that meets the needs of those visiting the site. Choosing two navigation menus you can use alternatively, or having drop-down menus are options you should consider as part of the overall site design; a consideration during the planning stage rather than the development stage. Site owners would also do well to plan options for customizable sidebar navigation and widget features for different pages.
Your site might contain special content or promotional content that you don’t want to be associated with the main navigation. You may have static pages of information that you want to further break down into several pieces of quantifiable or categorized content which may require the use of a sub-navigation on the sidebar rather than a massive sub-menu tree on your main navigation.
In other cases having a large sub-menu option from the main navigation could help click-through, while other cases warrant the need to keep visitors and readers more focused on the overview of the main subject matter with a strategic Call-To-Action before moving to drill-down information. Whatever the strategy, these are things that should be carefully mapped in the beginning to ensure you have the most proficient plan of attack in place before development starts so you can keep goals on track.
Compartmentalizing Content Design
Having a sectioned homepage is not an absolutely necessary feature, but it can add engaging value to your WordPress design. And, since an average of 8 out of 10 visitors come to your homepage first, this is where you want to put your best foot forward.
Many websites go for the type of themes with layouts split into focused sections and feature a distinct background because they simply look better. Just make sure the site is set up to load these sections with priority in mind and features such as parallax, load more quickly to support fast load times. Site owners should be aware of whether or not the theme provides the ability to add contextual value to the home page to aid in SEO strategies. Sites with little or no forward-facing; public view, contextual information on the homepage can still rank in the search engines, but they are typically more challenging to get rank; or at the least, more time-consuming or costly to get rank.
Working Case Studies & Examples
We were recently approached by a local businesswoman who decided to throw her hat back in the ring and run for another term as a School Board Member for the Osseo School District in Minnesota. Jacki Girtz had her domain already reserved and even had her ‘brand’ in place from previous campaign election efforts. But, she had limited time and a limited budget.
She had no need to have a long-term search engine optimization (SEO) strategy because she was reconnecting with her base directly and was going to use the site as a static, multi-page billboard people could visit for information about herself and her mission. She would not be creating any further content, had no need for blogging at this time, and would not be using the site beyond the purpose of the November 8th election.
We discussed some of the type of information Jacki wanted to present to those who visited her site, and the features she was hoping to include on the site; including a form capture, a countdown to election day, and a link to additional information about where/how to vote in 2016.
Taking all of her concerns, constraints, and needs into account, in addition to what her competition was putting out, we were able to find and recommend a politically focused theme that provided her the ability to make enough customized changes to give it a unique feel and focus the message and brand to Jacki’s campaign re-election initiative.
Here’s a screenshot of what this political theme by ThemeRex looks like before an individual, licensed user adds their own personal touch:
The Candidate theme offers great ‘dummy’ or ‘demo’ content and layouts to help get you started. However, various backend settings for the theme itself; including quick customization settings, and additional plugin or slider settings could cause some frustration to a user who’s not familiar with navigating or leveraging features like this.
Here’s a screenshot of the updated, customized theme branded with Jacki Girtz’s message, colorization, logo and contact information. We were able to get the site up and customized for her with 3 business days of receiving all of her content.
We can help you better understand how WordPress works
In the end, you will see that there are many options that may suit you, but only one that you like better. Therefore, feel free to add your own personal preferences to our list of recommendations.
If you need more support and advice on how to choose the perfect design for your website, be sure to get in touch with us.
If you are in need of assistance, remember to check out all the services we offer, since you are more than likely to find something to help you complete your business goals.