The best thing about using a platform like WordPress (WP) is the access you have to themes you can use. There are themes that you can get for free and the ones you have to pay for. There are also frameworks and child themes. For my beginners, here’s a simple way of understanding it all.
Think of the iPhone 5C and this will represent your WP website or blog (shown on the right). With this particular model, Apple decided to release 5 different colors – white, pink, yellow, aqua blue, & lime green.
Those colors gives each phone their own look or personality. That’s what a theme is. Without it your WP Site or Blog would just be white background with black words.
So what happens within a month or so and you get tired have that color and want something else? You go on Amazon or Ebay and get yourself one of the bling out custom cases (shown below). That case started out as a plain plastic case to fit your particular model.
That plastic case is our framework theme. You are not going to glue all of the bling directly to your phone, right?
A framework theme is a plain theme that can be used alone. Or it can be “bling out” (as per our scenario) which will represent our child theme.
Child themes will only work with its parent theme (the framework) in place. Now that we are on the same page, let’s move on.
The good and the lemons (bad) WP Themes
The term lemon usually refers to a car that has been found defective after being purchased. I thought it was a fitting way to explain my experiences with WP themes. In the beginning freelancing days as a web designer, I used to purchase themes for myself to use as well as my clients.
Boy did I waste a lot of money. I’ve run into situations where the themes were just plain old trash with hidden links in the code, which left you open to hackers. I also found myself with themes where the developers just decided not to provide support anymore (although they kept it up for sell).
Which sucks because when you are not a Web developer (someone who focuses on the back end i.e. coding/programming, etc.) you’re fresh out of luck. Then depending on the level of programming knowledge of your web designer (because some like myself don’t identify ourselves as developers), we may only be able to help up until a certain point.
I have since learned my lesson and now I want to help you avoid those pitfalls. WP has a directory full with links of free themes and a few commercial/premium (paid) themes.
You can easily install them by searching for them through your dashboard, given that you have it installed already or if you are using the free version of WP. The main difference is support. Developers of free themes may provide little to no support.
Also the coding may not be of high quality depending on their knowledge of the programming language. Don’t get me wrong; all seasoned programmers/developers were once newbies. Practice makes Perfect!
- Do your homework (as always). First write down some features that you want in a theme. For example – featured post sliders, custom header, landing pages, etc. Check out your favorite sites and see what they doing. This is not to copy them but to be used as a source of inspiration.
- Do a Google search, type in feature + wordpress themes or just search premium themes and see what comes up. Here’s an example: Magazine WordPress themes
- Make sure you check for a few things such as the last time it was updated (it should work with the latest version of WP), support, and price.
- Check the support forum to see if anyone have come across any major issues that hasn’t been fix. For the most part if the developer doesn’t respond someone within the community may have found a solution and shared it. However, if no one has responded, take that as a red flag to move on.
- Make a list so you can compare your findings. Make sure you play around with the demos, so you can see how all of the features work.
More on paid themes
You may come across premium theme websites that offer membership packages. For example, you will pay a flat fee for access to their themes and support. Sometimes its for 1-year and others for a lifetime.
If it for a lifetime (access to current and future themes), this is where you get more bang for your buck. However, it won’t be cheap but it’s a very good investment for the right person. Also don’t forget to read the fine print.
Sometimes when you purchase a theme you may only be allowed to use it on one website or blog. Know what your limitations are. You don’t want to violate any rules.
So do you feel confident enough to go out and separate the lemons from the gems?
I hope you are but just in case as your tour guide, I am going to give you a little nudge.
Here’s one last tip: You should be running the latest version of WordPress and your theme at all times. However, there is some wiggle room when it comes to the WordPress updates, which I will discuses in more detail at a later time.
As always I’m here if you have any questions.