Using WordPress as your website platform definitely makes things easier for you in terms of putting your company or business on the online map. However, next comes one of the biggest decisions you have to make for your website: how your pages will look and function on screen.

The good thing about WordPress themes is that there are thousands available in the market. The bad news? There are thousands available in the market! If you start swimming in the deep pool of WordPress themes without any basis for choosing, you might end up getting overwhelmed or frustrated. That’s not going to do wonders to your website creation process, is it?

When choosing a WordPress theme for your website, you need to consider a number of important factors. These items will enable you to sift through the multitude of theme options, and zoom in on a handful that you can pick from. Here are some of the essential factors to look for in a WordPress theme:

Price

Before the dawn of open source and the creation of WordPress, people were generally skeptical about free stuff because its price somehow tells them how good the quality of a product or service is. Today, a lot of web developers have stepped up and offered their coding services free of charge but without sacrificing the quality of their work.

In a world of black and white, you really cannot choose a WordPress theme based solely on its price. Free themes have become more sophisticated and visually striking, while paying for some premium themes does not guarantee perfection. However, to give you a general idea, here are some common differences between free and premium themes:

  • Updates: Premium themes are updated more regularly because part of the fee is usually placed on lifetime updates. Not all free themes are updated as often.
  • Features: You should expect more functionality in premium themes, although some of its features may not be useful to you.
  • Attribution: Free themes are slowly evolving into less attribution, although some still require a link at the footer. Premium themes are 100% free from attribution links.

Bottom line, you should look at price as a low-priority factor in choosing a theme.

Speed

Site speed not only invites more visitors, but also gets premium points from search engines. It is in this light that I am telling you: STAY AWAY FROM SLOW-LOADING THEMES! (And no, my Caps Lock button is not stuck.)

Although you may be tempted to bulk up your website with so many moving parts, remember that each plugin or code that you add to your site also increases the weight of your pages. You need to be aware of the weight of your theme and whether you need that additional animated slider or not.

A bigger issue in terms of site speed is optimization. Make sure that the theme that you’re using doesn’t have poor or obsolete coding. Otherwise, that’s really going to drag your site down.

Fortunately, there are a lot of free online services that can help you assess your website’s speed. I highly recommend the Pingdom Website Speed Test or Google Pagespeed Insights.

Design

A big factor for choosing a theme is how your website will look on the screen. Your WordPress theme must have a great design that is not only visually appealing but also user-friendly. What good is a highly sophisticated website design if your visitors find it difficult to read your content? Choosing a theme that leads people to browse through your site properly can really do wonders to your page visits.

Looking through each and every theme for its design may seem time-consuming, but you can make your search easier by heading to popular theme developers. Popular premium theme companies such as ThemeForest and Elegant Themes are guaranteed to bring out some of the best-designed WordPress themes in the market, but you can check other sources as well.

Responsiveness

A 2014 report revealed that almost one-third of online browsing is done on mobile. When people access your website using a mobile device, you want them to have a good user experience, right? That is why you need to choose a WordPress theme that looks good on smartphones and tablets. Choose one that is responsive or mobile-friendly.

Besides, Google’s latest algorithm update in April 2015 now includes mobile friendliness as part of its search indexing parameter. Websites that are compatible on mobile devices get premium points in search rankings. If you’re unsure if your site is mobile-friendly, check it using the free mobile-friendliness tool from Google.

SEO

How else can you improve your ranking in search results except through search engine optimization (SEO)? This standard byword has become a staple in any WordPress theme, but you still have to make sure that your theme is SEO-friendly. If you have limited knowledge on what a WordPress theme must contain to consider it SEO-compatible, check your site using SEO tools like this one.

Customization Options

It’s pretty standard for current themes to come with a customization settings dashboard. Try to find a theme that lets you make changes to visual site elements conveniently without the need for coding. You can always refer to demo sites to get a feel of the theme’s customization options panel.

Security

Trusting someone with your website is really quite a stretch, especially in today’s age of online hacking, site compromised, data theft, and spam. If you don’t know how to create a WordPress theme from scratch, then I guess you have no choice but to trust the theme developer, right?

In terms of security, it’s probably wise to get a theme created by trusted developers. Choose themes that have been downloaded many times and received high ratings from its users. It’s also a good idea to select an often-updated theme, because it’s a sign that the developer is trying to address bugs or security issues in the theme code.

Support

Somewhere along the way, you may end up having theme-related problems ranging from minor margin misalignment to 404 errors. You’ll probably sleep better at night if you know that your WordPress theme is well-supported. Choose a theme created by a developer who is willing and available to answer your queries. Practically all premium themes come with outstanding after-sales customer support, although some free themes have a similar package as well.

These eight factors should be able to streamline your choices from thousands to a handful. If you haven’t noticed, many of these factors are linked to each other – paid themes have better customer support, and fast-loading pages can boost your site’s SEO score. You may not be able to find the absolute perfect WordPress theme that satisfies all eight features, but at least I hope you’re now more aware of what a good WordPress theme should have.

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