As you probably already know, WordPress is a versatile CMS and because of that one of the most popular in the world. It is estimated that about 26% of all websites are powered by WordPress. When it comes to designing a website, WordPress allows everyone to play a role of a webmaster by using various themes and plugins.
Among thousands and thousand of themes, it is hard to choose which one to use. At the very start of your site, you might get stuck making decisions. Will you use a free theme or will you buy one? Which colors to use? Create a one-page or a standard site with a menu? Questions will continue to rise with every step you take. But that’s a good thing – it will mean you want to make the best out of your site.
Two days ago, we showed you some of the most popular free WordPress themes you can easily download from the repository. Free themes are great; you can install one in literally several seconds (depending on your Internet speed), and you can start customizing one right away. But as you can already guess, free themes are very simple, and they won’t have everything you wanted. You’ll find yourself losing quite an amount of time customizing that free theme. Even if you’re an experienced developer, sometimes a premium WordPress is a must-have.
Yes, you will have to pay for a premium theme, but you will get what you pay for. Premium themes are designed by professionals, they will have the entire lists of features, you can expect numberless customization options, and you will have the help from a developer. Where you may lose hours to code something for yourself, support team should be able to help you in a matter of minutes. But before buying a premium WordPress theme, you should take care of several things.
The first thing for most of us to check will be, of course, the price. You should know that there are dozens of marketplaces where you can buy premium themes. That means that you get to choose different themes for different prices. You will know your budget limit and it will be easy to find the affordable one, but take note that not all marketplaces deal with prices the same way. Some themes will have fixed prices, while the other ones will be paid for per month/year. Usually, those paid annually will be bundles of themes and plugins so don’t rush. At first glance, it might seem that a theme is much more expensive than the other one, but you might be actually getting a whole bundle where you get to use tens if not even hundred of themes from a specific developer.
2. Last update
For an unexperienced user, creation date might seem important. The truth is that it doesn’t matter when the theme was created, but when the theme was updated. Every marketplace will have this date imprinted so be sure to check it out. While it is ok that a theme isn’t updated for several months, you should be alerted if the last update was uploaded more than a year ago. Since WordPress is regularly updated, themes’ developers should keep up with changes and refresh the core files. If a theme hasn’t been updated for more than a year, the chances are that the theme has security holes. Still, that doesn’t have to be so – if it’s been more than a year after the last update and you really like the theme, contact the developer and ask them for the explanation.
Usually, a marketplace like Envato will have a rating system. It will allow users who paid for a theme to rate the item and let know others about the quality. The more popular a theme is, the more ratings it will have, so take a glance at those little yellow stars which may tell you a lot. If a popular theme has a rating of 4 stars or more, the chances are that people actually liked it and that the theme is good. Still, be aware that the rating system depends on the number of votes; if there were only several people who rated the item, you shouldn’t count on that.
4. Reviews and comments
After checking the rating system, make sure that you read what others say about the item you’re interested in. Popular premium WordPress themes will have a lot of comments and reviews which might be helpful. You can find out answers to your questions and you can learn about what actual users think of a theme.
Usually, a theme will have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) segment where a developer made things clear. Check this section out because it might hold an important answer about the theme – is it compatible with specific plugins, what framework is it using, what kind of support you have, and much more.
Support is a crucial thing when it comes to premium WordPress themes and plugins. While you’re checking out the layout and color options, don’t get distracted – take a look at what kind of support do you get for that item. Depending on marketplaces and developers, you might get no support at all. Usually, you will have 6 or 12 months of support, while some developers will promise lifetime support for the item. You can also test the support by leaving a comment or sending an email to see if and how fast the support team will answer you. There are a lot of developers, and you should be aware that not all of them will be ready to help you immediately.
Make sure that a theme you want to buy has a reliable documentation. Even when you’re an experienced user, it might get hard to catch up on every feature the developer has included. Documentation can help you learn how to use a theme quickly.
This one’s obvious but we have to mention it. Although you might like the overall looks of a theme, take a look at the features list. Some items will include what other won’t, some will be more or less customizable, and some will come packed with other premium plugins which you will get for free. Don’t take that for granted – read out the list and make sure the theme features everything you need.
9. Is it responsive?
Although every WordPress theme in 2016 should be responsive, there is still a significant number of those which aren’t. While this might not seem important to you, in most cases this can be a deal breaker so don’t forget to check how the theme scales up and down on different screen sizes.
Every premium theme should have a demo link where you check it in action. Those previews can help you get a picture of your website, but don’t completely rely on that. Depending on the content, the same theme can adopt a different look. If you’re planning on easy customization of the demo site, make sure that the theme comes with the demo content. That usually means that once you install a theme, you will get to click a button and import dummy content which will be easy to modify.
11. Is it compatible with all browsers
There are several modern browsers which most of us are using. Whether you’re opening a site in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer, you don’t care much about what it looks like in other browsers. But when it comes to your WordPress site, you must make sure that every browser renders it nicely. Take a look at meta-data attached to a theme where you’ll find info about cross-browser compatibility and don’t forget to test the demo site at least across two popular browsers (desktop and mobile).
12. Is it SEO-friendly
Maybe not as easy to check as other things we mentioned in this article, it is important to check if a theme is SEO-friendly. While the most premium themes will have this listed as a feature, it’s not always the case. You can check this by opening the demo site and then scrutinize the code behind it. Look if taxonomies have descriptions, archive pages should have excerpts, there should be breadcrumbs, proper anchor text for post titles and you can scan a post for valid H1, H2 and H3 tags. You can also test the markup language on the demo site and check if a theme comes with SEO plugin like Yoast.
Now that you’ve finished checking your theme of choice, we hope that you have found the one you will use for your new WordPress website. Hopefully, it will look good and also have everything in place. If you thought that you’re done and that everything will be easy after you’ve got yourself a premium WordPress theme, you should think again and prepare for the real work – start customizing the theme and have your site up and running, and ready for new visitors. Good Luck!