When on the hunt for a theme, there are certain things which we look for, as some things are easier to customize than others:
- Theme Lay-out
If you are looking for a two-column design, try to avoid those with three columns, etc. Making changes to the layout can be more complex than some other tweaks. Moving the widget bar from the left to the right is normally doable, but complex changes require a lot more work for your programmer
Fonts are easy to change on the web, but unless the font can be changed site-wide, tweaking each different header, content area, etc. can get time-consuming. I find when looking at previews, sometimes the fonts just don’t look as refined as I’d like. If you can find something which already looks polished, you’ll have a better starting point for your site.
Changing blocks of colour, backgrounds, fonts, etc. is fairly straightforward. You may need to purchase or supply images to replace the existing ones, but this is one of the easier fixes.
Now you know what you’re looking for, I’ve found that using their ‘tag and filter interface’ works best for seeing a broad range of themes.
When looking for a theme for someone, I usually start by checking the box for the primary colour from their logo. If they don’t have one, I’ll usually start with white or black, depending on the look and feel we’re aiming for. Unless you have really specific needs, I’d suggest just choosing this one box, and then click ‘Find Themes’. You’ll be presented with a grid view of all the themes matching your search.
Clicking the thumbnail image (rather than the name of the theme) will open a preview, so you can see how this themes works. You’ll want to look at this rather than the thumbnail, as the thumbnail is created by the plugin author, and is typically optimized by them to present the theme in its best light. It can also be altered by a graphic designer to look more appealing. As well, the larger view gives you a better idea of the theme.
The content of each preview will be the same, so you can see how each theme treats various content. I look down the whole page, check the footer, and if this is one I like, I’ll make note of the theme name. I normally try to group these by ones I really like, and ones which look okay. This way I can go back later and double check them all.
If you’re working with a designer or programmer, I’d suggest choosing a few themes (unless there is one you’re completely in love with), and let them see the coding behind each one. Because themes are created by contributors all over the place, some can be better than others, and may be easier for them to work with. You should also let them know what you like and dislike about each one, which will help them get you to the right place.
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can also install all the themes to your site and see how they look with your content.
Generally speaking, the twentyten and twentyeleven themes, which are actually put together by the WordPress folks normally contain the most (and most recent features), and are a great jumping off point.
Next week, we’ll talk about premium themes, and WordPress frameworks.