How to pick a WordPress website theme for building your own site

Not sure what to look for when picking a WordPress website theme?

We at Digital Fuse are WordPress experts and offer affordable web and graphic design services in Eastbourne and East Sussex area. Today, we’ll be touching on one of the often-overlooked areas of choosing a suitable WordPress theme and how to avoid common pitfalls.

There are countless people who are taking on the responsibility of building their websites themselves. Much like someone teaching themselves a bit of DIY to save money on redecorating the home. We are big advocates for this and actively encourage our clients to learn everything they can about creating and populating their own websites. This can have the benefit of keeping costs down, however there are a few things you need to check into thoroughly first.

To avoid any mishaps we advise that you undertake some research into your chosen theme. Considering the features you feel are most important and ensure the theme will allow you to integrate these easily. Having to pay for additional add-ons and install plugin after plugin is a big red flag and should be avoided as much as possible. The increasing number of plugins significantly increases the chances of code / script conflicts and can create an unstable environment for your website. This instability could result in vulnerabilities which can be exploited / hacked – or bring your website down without warning if a certain error code is triggered.

Choosing a WordPress Website Theme

Will this WordPress website theme work for me?

Your theme needs to demonstrate competency for supporting your chosen features. Failure to verify this will result in you wishing you had paid a developer to create your project from the start.

A common issue we come across is that the theme isn’t well optimised and therefore takes ages to load. The theme can often be loaded with a variety of page templates and styles that are not needed. This can result in bloating the size of your website and therefore the page load times. Additionally it could cause technical problems with SEO tools.

Before we get into things, try some new tools!

Digital Fuse are big fans of GTMetrix and Pingdom Tools

GT Metrix and Pingdom Tools are systems we use to check the key areas of any website. By running your site pages through either of these two websites checkers you can gauge how your website is performing. Form a technical standpoint that is. Furthermore they give a breakdown of any performance issues you may have.

There are a few things you should consider when picking your website theme

Firstly you should be considering overall loading speed. It’s never advisable to choose looks over speed with a WordPress website theme. If your theme is bulky and slow out of the box then it will only slow down further once you start adding plugins and building your website. Having a wonderfully animated website that looks incredible is pointless if it takes so long to load. Users end up going back a page in the browser and clicking another link in their results! Check out a previous blog post of ours on website speed. Nobody will see your amazing website, or experience it’s dull, infuriating sluggishness (the latter being a positive). There is a path to take for both looks and speed but you’ll likely need some more advanced coding knowledge. Pick a theme that loads quickly and performs well in a page speed test and you’ll have a good basis.

The 3 second rule works well. When your website is fully built you’ll be looking for each page to load within 3 seconds. Meaning that when you are at the ‘theme picking’ stage you’ll want it to load within around 1 second and have a fairly low page file size. This gives you 2 seconds to play with once you start adding all of your content.

WordPress Web Design Eastbourne

All that mesmerising movement takes a fair bit of code!

Secondly, go for minimal use of javascript. Pretty much all WordPress website themes use Javascript. In laymen’s terms JS is a great coding language to get complex things done with less code and fewer plugins. That being said, some themes make too much use of it. Or they use it in combination with other coding languages and elements that make it become inflated. This adds to page file size. Some themes we find use 1-1.5mb of javascript which is already going to take a whole second to load let alone the rest of the website. A theme’s javascript should be well optimised and used sparingly.

If for example loading the live demo of a theme all the elements appear form fading in and animating, then chances are a lot of javascript is used for the theme. See if you can get backend access to the theme before purchasing. Some themes allow animations to be turned off in the theme options.

Please sir, can I have some more?

Thirdly, another feature to take note of is the number of ‘http’ requests, the fewer the better! This might sound rather technical and put you off reading anymore of this article but we’ll explain this! It’s actually quite simple:

A standard WordPress website theme is made up of multiple languages and multiple files and resources – lots of them! The ‘http requests’ count is basically the amount of requests to external websites or servers to look for files and resources. Basically any website other than your own.

A great example of this is Google Fonts. Some themes come with the ability to select any Google Font from the theme options. This is great and super handy, however there are consequences. This adds a few extra requests to the http requests number. Themes will send a call out to the Google Fonts server to ask for those files. Ideally, the Google Font needs to be downloaded from Google, converted to a web font (WOFF or WOFF2 file) then uploaded to your website server. You’ll save 2-3 external requests that way and save some loading speed in the process.

The ultimate goal is to make your website as self contained as possible. There are some things that you won’t be able to prevent from adding to the requests. Especially when it comes to plugins and extra features that are non-theme related. Examples are MailChimp Newsletter Sign ups, Google Analytics and any ecommerce payment systems. This is why you need to keep requests down where you can!

Feeling like it might be worth talking to a professional developer?

It’s not going to be easy building your own website, there are always hurdles to overcome and problems to solve. It’s not just a case of picking a theme, adding your content, picking some colours and then pushing it out there! As developers we are always learning and having to learn the new techniques, coding languages and processes as technology improves. If you are going to build your own website, just take some time to research. Learn some of the basics so that your website doesn’t cost you more money, time and frustration down the line. You don’t want it to be it’s own worst enemy when it comes to attracting users, which is ultimately why it’s there!

Professional Web Design in Eastbourne, East Sussex

Expect to at least pay something for a professional service!

Often when choosing between using a template theme that’s £30 or choosing a professional developer that costs £400+ the age old saying – “You get what you pay for” comes into effect.

Any template theme purchased online will likely be used numerous times by other businesses in a similar industry. Even after changing the logo and colour scheme it can be hard to completely separate yourself from your competitors. This, in conjunction with poor loading times and unverified codes and scripts, will likely stall the progress of your website. Don’t run into hold ups before your business is even off the ground!

Taking the professional web developer route

In contrast, choosing to go with a professional service has several key benefits.

If you were to come to say professional web design Eastbourne AKA Digital Fuse – “Hi there!”, We would have an initial consultation about what features and functions were needed within your website. Our wealth of experience will allow us to highlight any rough patches. Furthermore bring any elements to your attention that may have not been thought about or considered. We can also build quality, professional and custom websites from scratch very quickly!

Give us a clear idea of your vision, goals and aims for your website. We can then build you a bespoke design that is unique and custom tailored to your business. The features you require will be integrated as requested in the original brief, without any unnecessary calls to scripts and functions. Images and code will be optimised and solid SEO foundations will be integrated allowing you to maximise your website potential. Training on how your website can be edited is also provided along with a simple jargon free user guide. This allows you to take full control of your website and add products, post and pages whenever you wish. You’ll be safe in the knowledge that your website is stable and secure as well as future proof.

After the website has been launched, we’re always on hand for support. Our team will help point you in the right direction if you’ve forgotten anything or do the edits on your behalf if that’s easier.

Drop us a call or a message if you’d like a quick chat about your WordPress website theme or anything website related, we might be able to offer you some advice!

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