Choosing a WordPress theme for your online store can seem like an overwhelming task. With thousands of them out there, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of choices and options.
It can also be time consuming. In fact, in the past, people have hired me to help them to find a theme, whether it was for their online store, business site or their blog. It could be a long process and often a lot went into it. But here are 14 quick tips will might help get started in the right direction.
1. Think of the theme demo as a puzzle.
When you are looking at a WordPress demo, picture it as a large puzzle, especially when you are looking at the homepage. Most themes have a specific layout so you need to think of how each piece of the content puzzle fits into that. On the other hand, if you go with a page builder, the puzzle becomes more flexible, but also more challenging to make sure it works for your customers.
2. Imagine how your content and products will fit.
Don’t get distracted by the demo’s content. Imagine in your mind’s eye how your own content will look in it—whether it’s text, products or other media. Does the theme present content in a way that will make sense for your needs and how you want your customers to react when they visit your site?
3. Focus on the theme, not the name of the theme.
A lot of themes are named for a special niche, such as a certain profession or business type. There are themes out there named for attorneys, realtors, churches, beauty salons, and other businesses. This does not mean that you can’t use them for your store. There will be some special functionality built into these kinds of themes for the needs of that specific profession, but the chances are high that it will work for you as well. So try to think creatively.
4. Poke around the demo.
Most themes don’t let you see the backend or settings via the demo. But they will show you color schemes, page layouts and other options. You can learn a lot just by checking out the navigation bar.
5. Look at all the features.
Themes will have some kind of description and that often lists features (mobile responsiveness, etc.). Read through it carefully because it might hold the key—the critical piece—that helps you make that final decision.
6. If deciding between a theme out-of-the-box or using a page builder, be prepared.
With the onslaught of page builders, you may be tempted to start with a theme more quickly, knowing you can design your own pages. But remember, there are pros and cons to using one. There is a learning curve to page builders and it will take you more time. You can also do more harm than good if you don’t have an eye for design. On the other hand, page builders like Beaver Builder can be a great way to set up A/B testing on product pages to see what works best. So just think it through before you make any harsh decisions.
7. Make sure it works with your eCommerce plugin of choice
More and more themes are eCommerce-friendly. See if there is any mention of it working well with your specific plugin. Or do a google search and see if any issues have come up between that theme and the plugin you hope to use.
8. If you have a chance, look carefully at the documentation.
Most theme documentation cannot be accessed before purchase, which makes sense. If you happened to snag the theme from somewhere else without paying, it’s just fair that only paying customers get access to the documentation. If they do share it with you—or you are going to use a free theme— look at it carefully. There could be some questions that will be answered by looking through the step-by-step process.
9. Ask a pre-sales question.
Don’t get carried away, but if you have a question about a premium theme that is a make-or-break deal, send the theme shop or developer the question. In fact, this might be a good time to ask if they feel it would work well for your specific online store. They want to make a sale so they aim to keep customers and potential customers happy.
10.Pay attention to the support offered.
First you need to realize that support can only do so much. Often people expect them to come in and actually help you as you build your site. See what kind of support they offer and also, remember, if you are choosing to go with a free theme, the support won’t be there for you at the level you would see if you paid for a theme.
11. Check out the reviews.
Googling for a review of a theme isn’t always the best solution— unless you know the person who is doing the review and you feel you can trust them. But sometimes, by reading reviews, you will come upon something that will help you with the process. Just be careful as everyone’s experience is different. I’ve seen someone rant about a product that 99.9% rave about. And all it takes is that one person to shake your confidence. But certainly, if an issue or problem is brought up repeatedly, you might want to pay attention to that.
12. Ask people you know and trust.
If someone has had experience with the theme—either by using it themselves or installing it on a client’s site—ask them for their unvarnished opinion. This kind of information can be very helpful as you weigh your choices. But be careful about asking a question on something like a Facebook group because you will likely end up even more confused.
13. Consider an eCommerce-friendly theme.
If you want to avoid any issues or headache, you might want to find a theme that is built specifically around the eCommerce plugin you want to use. It’s likely the theme will be set up to present your online store in a much customer-friendly manner. A couple examples of this is the Storefront theme and it’s child themes for WooCommerce, the themes for Easy Digital Downloads or the Genesis child themes that are WooCommerce friendly.
14. Don’t Expect Your Theme to Make Your Store a Success
Lastly, although it will be an important decision for you, don’t get your expectations out of whack. A theme is a tool and is not a solution for increased sales or conversions alone. Although it’s not about an online store, this podcast will give you more insights into what I am talking about: Your WordPress Theme: A Tool for Monetization
There you go. 14 pieces of advice for you. And if you are just starting your theme selection adventure for your online store, good luck.
An audio option for this post.