The most important choice you’ll make after picking your blog’s purpose is choosing a theme. It’s like looking at paint chips for your home — yeah, you can change it if you don’t like it, but that means more work will be involved, so it’s best to choose carefully at the beginning.
Things to consider:
- Purpose — Choose a theme that reflects your blog’s purpose. Is your blog business-like? Whimsical? Newsy? Call me a copycat, but I picked this theme for several reasons, including the fact that it is the old Copyblogger theme. Since my blog is focused on blogging, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that choice. Besides, it was free and any theme designed by Chris Pearson is top notch.
- Layout — There are many choices here: How many columns? Fluid or fixed-width? Footer or not? Left or right sidebar — or both? Personally, I prefer a fixed-width theme. I like to know what the site will look like and not chance it looking, well . . . weird. If you’re not sure about how many columns, start with a 2-column site. When you’re just starting out, the fewer elements to deal with, the better. I prefer right-hand sidebars. Yes, I’m somewhat of a traditionalist, but it’s because those tried and true methods work, and readers read from left to right, so their eyes linger a bit longer on the right side of a page. The most important part of your blog is the signup form, and I want them to notice that.
- Content — Some blogs are so pimped out that it seems to me the blogger has forgotten the reason he’s blogging — to share information with the readers. Is your theme readable? Doesn’t mean it has to be Plain Jane, but the content should be the spotlight of your blog. Black print on white background is the easiest to read on screen. If you pick a dark theme, your audience needs to be young enough to see it well. (I’m serious!)
- Budget — There are dozens if not hundreds of quality free WordPress themes available. That said, I have purchased many “premium” themes. For one thing, I’m a theme-junkie! Plus sometimes there’s just one feature I want missing from the free theme I first picked. When you’re starting out, though, one of the free ones should do fine. A note of caution about free themes: I do not recommend using “sponsored” themes. These have embedded footer links that lead back to the sponsor’s site. Again, it comes down to your blog’s purpose. Sponsored themes are just unprofessional, but if your blog is personal and you aren’t opposed to what the sponsor is promoting, then there are plenty of attractive sponsored themes to choose from.
- Customization — Most themes are ready to use “out-of-the-box,” but some require a bit of set up and even some customization. If you can afford to hire a WordPress theme developer to spruce up your blog and make it unique to you, that is awesome. As long as you pick a reputable, experienced designer, you will have a great blog. Check references and prices and ask lots of questions before entering into any agreements. (Have I ever done this? No, but I wouldn’t mind some day . . .)
- Site Elements — When you’re browsing themes, look at the different elements of the theme — the font, header, quotes, sidebar design, comment area. Make sure you find all those things attractive before making your final selection.
- Images — Themes render images in several ways. Some have automatic image re-sizers that use a script. Some use the media defaults. Some have style the image with padding (space between the image and text) and/or frames. If you aren’t sure what to choose but you do want to have images included in your blog, it’s best to start simple and, after you’ve become more familiar with different functions of WordPress, CSS, and .php, then you can dip your toe into deeper waters.
If you do select a paid theme, read reviews of those who’ve used it. (That’s not a bad suggestion for free themes, either.) Also, see what kind, if any, of support is available for your potential theme. Many theme developers have forums set up so you can ask questions if any issues with the theme come up.
Kudos to the WordPress development team for including an auto-uploader for themes and plug-ins! This makes the process simple and a good selection of themes is available. Simply go to the Appearance menu in your Dashboard’s sidebar and click on “Add New Themes.”
The WordPress auto-uploader is not the only way to upload a theme. Another way is via FTP (file transfer protocol). For Mac users, I highly recommend my friend Fetch. I use this program almost daily. My favorite FTP client for PCs is by far FileZilla. File transfers fall somewhere between intermediate and advanced techniques, and won’t be discussed for a while on this blog. If, in the meantime, you ever run across a topic I haven’t yet blogged about, search about it on Google. There are many excellent sources about WordPress available out on the web.
(Personal Note: I use both Mac and PC systems, but if you’re wondering, my favorite is my MacBook Pro. I have the Snow Leopard operating system with Parallels, which enables me to run PC programs. My PC operating system of choice is Windows XP, which I have use on the MacBook Pro. I have Vista at the office, which isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be.)