What to Look for When Selecting a WordPress or Shopify Theme on a Budget

WordPress is one of the most popular CMS platforms to build websites on because they are easy to update with new content and there are a lot of plugins available to help add custom features and functions with little to no development and coding experience.

With WordPress or Shopify, everyone can be a webmaster and run a website without knowing how to read or write code. There are also a lot of themes available that allow you to have a fully functional (and customizable) website without the cost associated with a custom design and development project.

Your website theme is important. When Google returns its results, providing the best answer is their main objective. The way your website is structured, coded and optimized all play a role in where it is displayed. A theme is an important thing to consider that many overlook.

If you would rather spend $50 on a theme than $20,000 on a fully custom design and development project, here are some things to consider when picking out a theme.

Code that isn’t clunky.

There is a big difference between a $19 WordPress theme and one that is $79. Themes that are coded sloppy or feature a lot of unnecessary features will load slow and impact your website performance in a negative way.

“Make sure you always try the demo sites and run them through speed tests to see if there are any issues,” says Darryl Howard of Blogger Tips. “If an optimized demo site loads slow you can guarantee it will be slow as a pig for you. “Knowing how to monetize a blog involves understanding that no advertiser wants to spend money for impressions on a slow loading website that provides a poor user experience.”

Don’t be afraid to ask the developer about the speed and performance before you buy it. You want to make sure it’s going to give your users a good experience.

Mobile responsive that is conversion focused.

There used to be a lot of talk about themes being responsive. Now they all are, but that doesn’t mean that they are designed with conversions in mind. “Anyone can build a website that is in block form, which adjusts to ‘pass’ mobile friendly tests, but not all designers and developers know how to make designs that help convert traffic,” says Loren Taylor of Soothing Company. “I wanted to make sure our theme delivered a great user-experience on all screen sizes. That was very important to me.”

If you are a blog, you want to make sure that there are plenty of sharing options built in. If it’s an e-commerce theme you want to make sure it’s designed in a way that makes the buying process, all the way to completing a purchase simple to do on a mobile screen. A theme is useless if the mobile experience is poor. You also need to make sure you have a theme that is designed for your main goals and monetization avenues. For example, this website has several “related” content widgets, which allows it to push traffic to other articles of interest. The longer the visitor is on the website, the greater the chance of them clicking on an ad or converting into a customer.

Customization options that meet your needs.

“Make sure that any theme you are considering has customization options that will meet your needs,” advises Ignacio Soria of CANN & Co. “For example, will you be able to change the colors in a way that will match your logo and branding? If not move onto another option.”

If you are an e-commerce store but plan on using content marketing as a main marketing option is there a blog included in the theme? Does it offer all of the options that you need? Is there a contact page that allows you to display your business information in a way that meets you needs?

All of this needs to be taken into account. You want to find a theme that has as many functions you need out of the box as possible. Sometimes simplicity with a few strategically placed calls-to-action work well. You can learn why it works for this call center provider by taking a look at their website. When you start adding too many plugins the chance of a conflict or error breaking the site increases.

Responsive support and upgrades.

Every time WordPress upgrades the platform there is a good chance that your theme will also need to be upgraded to handle the changes. Look for themes that are done by large development companies.

Also, look at their changelog and support ears to see how responsive they are. If they are constantly releasing upgrades that means you will be in good hands. If they are fast to reply to support questions that is a good sign as well. If you have a last developer you might be left out to hang during an important upgrade.

Satisfied current users.

You can use the website ‘builtwith’ to find all the websites that use a particular theme. Then, contact them to see if they are happy with the theme and if they have any complaints. Often you don’t have to contact them. “If their website is up to date and they are still using the theme it’s a good indication that they are happy with it,” says Andrew Tran of Therapy Blanket, an e-commerce website built on the Shopify platform.

You should also look at the most recent support requests on the theme purchase page. If it’s filled with complaints about things not working it’s probably a theme to stay away from.

Proactive in terms of compatibility with popular plugins and APIs.

Make sure that you pick a theme that will integrate with the popular tools and program you use currently. For example, if you use Mailchimp for your email list make sure that it has that capability built in.

You also want to make sure that the theme will not break when some of the more popular plugins are used. Yoast is probably the most popular SEO plugin, and one you will want to use. You can look at this website to see a great example of a WordPress build that doesn’t go overboard with unnecessary plugins.

Look for a theme that is compatible with it. Any competent developer should have tested the theme with this plugin, simply because such a high percentage of users will have that plugin installed. If a theme author mentions a lot of popular plugins as being compatible it’s a good sign, as they are doing extensive testing.