"Wow! What a theme! It looks so beautiful! It costs only $59!"
If that's your thought after seeing a premium theme, then you hold on to it for a second.
That theme may be exquisite on the outside but let's check up the soul of that theme.
Ok, enough creative writing for me. Let me get back to the techie way of copywriting, which suits me.
You know there are so many themes that look beautiful that you wanted to purchase them yesterday. But you should not decide to buy a theme. And I will tell you why?
But first, let's clarify what I mean by a perceived beautiful premium theme?
When I say a beautiful theme, I mean a theme where there are too many graphics gizmos. Like a slider or hover boxes or moving client logos or a top-bar that that show itself on clicking something, etc. That is a theme where almost everything is moving. It is a theme where the layout is complex.
A theme is an important part of WordPress' constitution
A bad theme will hamper the performance of your website, and that will ultimately translate into the loss of revenue. As per my experience, the themes that are astonishingly beautiful are usually very slow to load. Because there are too many graphic elements. Too many moving parts.
There is your slider (that no one gives a sh*t about yet we want to have it on our website) then there's a content box that will animate when the cursor hovers on it.
Google says "Please, load faster."
Slow websites are bad for the business. Nobody will wait for 8 seconds or 10 seconds for your site to load. Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyone is anxious, impatient and want things yesterday.
So a slow loading website is meh!
We need to understand one thing. People come to our website to get information, solve their problem. They are not here to measure the quality of your art.
If they think your website is too good looking, they will pat on your back and move one. But that will be the only time they will come to your site unless it provides them with the information they need quickly and efficiently.
So, it's our responsibility to make the website as fast as possible. Have you seen how the website of Reddit looks?
If you haven't then you should. Here is the link.
The website looks age-old but yet millions of people log on to it on a daily basis. Why? Because it provides us with the information, we need.
I cannot say this more, but the purpose of your website is not to showcase the beauty of the website. Do not fall into the trap of making a website beautiful.
Google says "Please, no moving parts,"
That's right. Google has given us a guideline where they say it is imperative that our website should have as little moving parts as possible for a better search engine ranking.
See the reason behind Google's this guideline is, people used to stuff keywords on the website and then they used to add a large margin to them like 1000px or 10,000px, something in that range. Now, this content is not in the visitor's visible area, but it is on the website.
Because of this practice, these people got an unfair advantage in SEO. So, these people circumvented good SEO practices using a method that was not unethical but not ethical either.
So, what Google did?
Google said no hidden content allowed. Content that is parked way too long from the main website or the content that has a white colour on the white background or the content transparent.
They penalised all such practices.
How does that tie up with my theme?
Let me give you an example of an image slider. How many images do you see at the moment? One right?
So, where are other images?
Got it? It hides the other images.
And as you know, Google penalises hidden content. The same logic applies to logo sliders or all the content sliders.
In simple words, Google says, "Keep all the content visible."
Many fantastic looking themes usually have such widgets where they hide a lot of content, and that results in Google's SEO penalty. Google is trying to impose practices that will enhance the user's experience on our website.
Do you want to customise me? Get the f**k out of here!
That is what many themes will say to you. You know it is the biggest problem that many of the WordPress developers experienced or not face. I have heard at least a thousand times that my theme does not allow me to it. I don't know how to remove the CTA in the footer.
Most of the themes are set in their way. There is a little customisation you can do.
And if you want to customise them, then you want to hack into HTML, CSS or even PHP code. Now, the whole purpose of developing a website using WordPress is to avoid chopping the code.
Recently I developed a website for one of my client. They had purchased a theme from ThemeForest, and they wanted to use that one only. Now, that theme belonged to the tribe of beautiful themes.
There was one hover box. Where the services of the company were portrayed. They wanted to change the look of that box altogether. To change the look and feel of that simple box, I had to replace three files, wrote almost a hundred new lines of code.
My client had to pay thrice of the cost of the theme for customisation.
What was the profit for my client from all this?
See sometimes we see a complex layout that looks cool. But ask yourself can I make modifications later on? Can I change the look and feel without hacking into the code?
Beautiful themes are set in their ways, in the long term, they cost a lot for customising even a simplest of things.
So what to do?
Great question. What to do?
Have you heard "Less is more"? Yup, that's right. Same applies to WordPress theme.
A theme that is a simple looking will most probably load faster than a so-called beautiful theme. It will be easier to customise too. Because such themes do not come with all the bells and whistles, they are easy to use and personalise.
But then do I have to write the code to design my pages?
No, you don't have to. You can use the plugins like Elementor or Divi or Thrive Architect to build pages using a drag-and-drop interface. I have used all of them a lot. And let me tell you with the help of these plugins, we can change the layout of our website quickly.
Plus they do not slow down our site. Well, Visual Composer slows the site according to my experience.
Check out the following video where I designed a page in WordPress using Elementor. And it took less than 5 minutes
Which themes to use then?
I am a fan of dead-simple themes that do not come with any bells and whistles. I look for four things in a theme
- Is it loading in under 3 seconds?
- Is it mobile responsive? By mobile responsive I mean it should look perfect on iPhone6/7/8/X, Google Pixel 2/2 XL, iPad, iPad Pro, OnePlus 5/6/T, Samsung Galaxy S9/99/999, etc.
- How easy or difficult it is to customise this website?
- Is it compatible with WooCommerce if you want to convert your website to an e-Store?
I didn't like either of them. How should I find a good theme then?
As I had said earlier, there are a few metrics using which I judge a good theme.
Let me show you how you can find that out yourself.
To check the speed of a website, an excellent tool called Pingdom Tools.
The site from which you will buy the theme will give a demo link. Grab that demo link and paste it in the URL box on Pingdom Tools. This tool will show you in how many seconds the website is loading.
As a rule of thumb, it should load within 3 seconds. If the theme is taking let's say 8-10 seconds, then definitely dump it. Do not even think of purchasing it.
But if the load time is around 5 seconds, then you probably you can think of purchasing it.
It is impossible for us to check our website on all the devices simply because we at the most have a mobile, a tab, desktop and a laptop with us. But there is a simple way to check how the theme will look on a particular device.
For that go to Screenfly.
Enter the URL of the theme demo, and then this tool will show you how the website will look on a particular device.
If the website is not looking perfect on a popular device, then don't buy it. Responsiveness of a theme is not negotiable.
Avoid a theme that comes with all the bells and whistles. I had said it earlier, the themes full of graphic gizmos and a complex layout are more often than not least helpful for customisation.
Now, this is your judgement call. Read through all the description of the theme and decide yourself whether the theme will be easy to customise.
Compatibility with WooCommerce
WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin for WordPress. If you want to convert your website to an e-store down the line, then you should consider a theme compatible with WooCommerce.
Theme developers will tell you in the description whether the theme is compatible with WooCommerce. If they do not mention it, then a better idea to shoot an email to the developer or search the support forum of the theme developer.
If you have no intention of converting your website to an e-store, then you can skip this.
A theme is an investment you will make on your website. Even if small, it has enormous repercussions. A theme slow to load, hard to customise will give you grief in the long run.
So make sure you study the themes carefully, use the grid I have provided to compare various themes.