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How do you Choose a Theme?

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Somebody asked me the question, “With all the themes available for WordPress, how do you choose the right one for your site?”. The answer to that comes from the answer to another question. What’s your goal for your website?

Choose a Theme Based on Website Goals

If you’re starting a business website and your goal is to be found online when somebody searches for your service in a search engine like Google then you want a theme that is fast and that doesn’t load you down with a bunch of extra stuff you don’t need.

A theme that gives you control over your SEO or over Schema is important. Also, you want one that looks similar or close to what your ideal website looks like when you imagine what you want your site to look like.

How Not to Choose a Theme

All beginners start differently. But almost all beginners start with the question “what do I want my website to look like?”. They don’t start with the questions “what should people find in my site?” or “what kind of content do I have?”

They start with no content whatsoever and start asking “Do I like this website?” or “Do I like this theme?” That may be the easiest way to choose a theme because it’s very concrete but it’s the wrong way to choose a theme if the objective is to be found in a Google search for your products or services.

Other Considerations When Choosing a Theme

Now, if you’re trying to impress people and what you care about is how good your site looks then that’s a different matter. Let’s say you’re a photographer and you want to impress your clients and you don’t really care whether or not the site shows up properly on SEO. Well then you make your decision about your theme based on how good it looks and whether or not it displays your photography the way you want to be displayed.

If you’re a blogger and you don’t expect anybody to be searching for your blog post, you just expect to develop a following because people refer other people to you. This is really the mindset of WordPress.

WordPress all by its lonesome doesn’t really think about SEO. It still fixates on all the cool stuff you can do on your blog. In that case they use Facebook and Twitter, etc to get people to look at their blog.

But most of the people that I work with are concerned about using their website as a marketing tool for their business.

Website as a Marketing Tool for Your Business

In that case, the most important thing is its SEO prowess and what the site can do from a search engine optimization standpoint. The next concern is whether it’s a lightweight site so that it’s fast. And then whether it’s responsive so that you don’t get dinged by search engines.

If the site is not mobile-friendly it’s going to drop in rankings. It automatically drops in the rankings, it’s automatically less important or less valuable a resource from Google’s standpoint because so much search traffic is with mobile devices.

I would say these are really your big three considerations.

  • Does your site have all the SEO optimization possible?
  • Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • Is your site fast?

And then, does it look reasonably like you want your website to look? In most cases you don’t have to be overly concerned about this.

How to Tell if a Theme Has Features You Need

Unfortunately, you can’t really tell by just looking at the theme whether or not it does all those things. In fact, I assumed that the 2017 theme would implement Schema. There’s been so much talk about how to implement Schema in the WordPress themes group that I’m a little astounded to see that the flagship WordPress theme doesn’t implement it.

So you can’t assume that everything you care about it is in every theme. You need to look at the material, you look at the site that’s been developed using it and you look at the source to see whether or not it has all the features you want. Ultimately, this process ends up requiring that you learn about the theme you like.

Thesis Theme, Agility Skin and Schema

If you are using Thesis you know that Schema manipulation is built into it. I decided that I wanted more granular control over Schema so I changed the Schema system in the Agility Skin so that you can choose your Schema page by page, post by post.

You can set defaults and not have to choose but once you create a post you can always choose something different. Even without that level of granularity you can accomplish that in Thesis by just understanding how to use the Skin Editor and by creating a template that works that way.

Genesis Theme and Schema

Genesis minimally embraces Schema. Well, it’s probably not fair to say it minimally embraces Schema but the only people who can control Schema on their site are people who are programmers. You have to write your own code to control Schema in a typical Genesis child theme.

BYOB Genesis Schema Plugin

However, I do have a plugin on my site for members that gives you granular control over the Schema of your posts and pages. So, as long as you’re using my Genesis plugin you can set the Schema for each of your posts and pages individually.

WordPress and Schema

Besides those two themes, which are really the only two I work with at the moment, I don’t know what other themes are out there that implement Schema. It’s a difficult thing to implement in WordPress because WordPress is dependent upon hand-coded templates.

If the hand coded template doesn’t have filters in it that allow you to change or set Schema then the only way you can get it is if you re-hand code the template. This is what makes it difficult in WordPress for most themes.

Again, the answers to the questions of SEO optimization, mobile friendliness and speed are the primary way you determine which theme is best if you want to use your website as a marketing tool for your business. That’s how you choose.

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