Choosing a Theme
Episode #8 of the course Build a website and online brand quickly and cheaply by Rob Cubbon
I really wanted to stress the greater importance of content over design in this course. With that done, in this lesson we’ll be talking about WordPress themes.
A WordPress theme is like a cloak of color and formatting that will change the appearance of your site but not the content.
The way you change your WordPress website’s theme is via Appearance > Themes in the back end.
On the Appearance > Themes page, in the WordPress administration area of your site, you can “Live Preview” any of the other themes or “Activate” other themes to make your website look different. You can do this as many times as you like to get a feel for changing themes.
Choosing a theme
The default WordPress themes are secure and robust, as they have been tested thoroughly by the WordPress community before release. The only problem is that if you use one of these themes, your site will look fairly bland and like a lot of other sites.
I wouldn’t advise you to go to the WordPress theme repository and search through the thousands and thousands of free themes there. Theme selection can be a time-consuming practice.
Have a look at the sites you admire visually and contact the site owner, congratulate them on the look of their website, and ask what theme they’re using. (This is a great way to start one of those win-win business relationships I was talking about in a previous email.)
Most of the best websites would have spent a bit of money on their WordPress design. Free is great, don’t get me wrong. WordPress is free. There are many great free plug-ins (plug-ins add functions to the website; we’ll come to them later) and many great free themes (like the default themes). However, I would suggest you spend a bit of money on a premium theme.
Premium themes not only look better and more professional, they are also superior in terms of functionality, ease of use, security, and SEO (good for Google rankings).
There are many successful premium theme companies that have emerged off the back of WordPress’s success. Thesis, WooThemes, and PageLines are theme shops that spring to mind.
But I use Genesis (that’s an affiliate link), which is a reasonably priced WordPress theme framework that has over 40 themes under its umbrella.
Customizing your theme
The best option you have to create a professional-looking branded website is to customize a premium theme. You’ll get the best of both worlds—all the flexibility, security, and support that a premium theme provides, plus, with a few inexpensive design tweaks, you’ll get a website with its own individual look and feel.
You can do a lot of the customization by yourself via the back end of the theme. The Genesis child themes have their own plug-ins where you can easily edit areas of the site like the sidebar and the footer.
Also, the Genesis themes (as well as many other premium themes) have a lot of “widgetized” areas. WordPress widgets are self-contained bits of website code that can be applied to a widgetized area via an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface; this can be found in the back end at Appearance > Widgets.
Within seconds, you can add search bars, email sign-up forms, featured posts, etc. into certain areas without having to ask a professional.
How far you go down the customization route depends on your budget. Look at my site: RobCubbon.com. It is a customized version of Magazine Pro, a Genesis/StudioPress child theme. I changed a few fonts, text sizes, and colors here and there (Genesis themes can come with three or four color schemes that you can change yourself).
We’ll continue with customization and branding of your site in the next email.
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