12 Tips for Choosing a Great Theme
We at Web Developers Studio love designing custom websites. Unfortunately, building sites from the ground up can be expensive. For clients with budget concerns, we often recommend purchasing a pre-designed theme that we customize to meet your needs.
Although some clients come into our offices with the notion that themes are outdated and ugly, a quick tour of available themes convinces them how sleek and beautiful modern themes can be. But with tens of thousands available, how do we choose one?
Web Developers Studio can help by finding options suitable to your business. But if you'd prefer to save even more on billing, here are some guidelines to help you pick. Some clients have fun with this and get really into it. (Some do not.)
- Find a good starting point for your search, like a large, reputable theme marketplace. WDS has a few favorites that we will happily steer you toward.
- Remember that a theme is just a model--we can change anything into anything. But each change takes time. Too many changes defeat the purpose of a theme.
- As you consider different options, visualize your content in the theme’s widgets and features. In the perfect development process, you give us bits of text and images that fit as-is into the chosen theme, especially the homepage. The less we need to fuss, delete, add, etc, the lower our billing will be.
- If you want a particular color palette, it’s a good idea to find a theme with multiple palettes, or "skins" (see right). Even if the offerings don't include the palette you have in mind, we use the theme’s “skins” code to build our own skin.
- We typically prefer themes that avoid breaking the most common style conventions unless there's a good reason. For example, a logo in the center of the page breaks a style convention - usually it’s in the upper left corner. We can do what we want, but we should be aware that breaking conventions confuses our users.
- Sliding image galleries at the top of the home page can be irritating to users. We can almost always tone them down or make them not start automatically, but we can be sure if you find a theme with multiple home page options built in.
- Generally we can remove "sections" easily, and move sections from one page to another.
- The rule of thumb here (RE: tips 6 and 7) is that it’s almost always easy to simplify or remove features. The themes are strutting all their stuff - most of their demos will look too big and fancy for an average business site. Our job is to pick and choose which of the theme’s features are right for your site.
- Many themes only have room for a tiny logo. But business owners (including WDS) often want to include their whole company name on top, not just a little symbol. If you want a big logo, make sure your theme has room for one - remember, it’s easier (i.e. cheaper) to remove features than add them.
- "Bootstrap" and “Foundation” are technologies we know well. We can move slightly faster if your theme uses one of those, but we can use anything.
- Brand new products may be faulty. Slightly older ones that have had time to build up positive reviews are safer. (But the brand new ones sure are shiny!)
- Mobile/responsive is not optional at this point. You won’t find many non-responsive themes anymore, but if you do, those shouldn’t be considered.
Note: Most newer themes completely break in old browsers. We do our best to make sites usable in IE9, but WDS no longer supports IE8 or below.
Remember, some clients love looking through themes, but some really don’t. Just give us a call if you start to go nuts. Looking for your own theme is supposed to save you some cash, not make you crazy.