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What Elements Make a Good WordPress Theme? (And How to Identify Them)

Take a look at this theme:

a Good WordPress Theme superstar_theme

Now this one:

a Good WordPress Theme construction_theme

Finally, take a gander at this theme:

a Good WordPress Theme levelup_theme

Besides the fact that they have some demo content and features from varying industries and companies, can you tell which one is worth paying for?

Do you have any idea as to what elements make a good WordPress theme?

Obviously these examples are only featuring the header and slider modules, but if you were to check out the demo links, you’d find that all of them look pretty darn good in terms of pages, features and designs.

However, one of them is rated incredibly low in the ThemeForest library, and the other two are well received, and highly rated, options that we picked from the TeslaThemes library.

Still wondering which one is which?

That’s a problem isn’t it? Because picking a poorly designed or coded template could cause you major problems down the road, considering you may find out that a pivotal feature is missing, or the code conflicts with some of the more popular plugins you want to implement.

So, how do you figure out if a theme you’re interested in is worth downloading and installing on your WordPress website?

We’re here to figure that out for you, so keep reading to learn more.

The First Question You Need to Ask Yourself

What types of features does your company require in a WordPress theme?

This question starts to cut down some of your options, since you can search for solutions that cater to organizations like schools, construction companies, blogs, eCommerce stores, banks, churches or personal portfolios.

Once you have written down what type of organization you run, it’s time to consider the types of features your users would expect when coming to your website.

a Good WordPress Theme woocommerce_ready

As an example, let’s take a look at some of the tools you need if selling shoes through your website:

  • WooCommerce compatibility
  • Live chat functionality
  • A blog to talk about your recent products
  • Galleries and sleek product pages
  • Shortcodes for quickly displaying items like Buy buttons
  • A slider for promotions and images of your shoes
  • Landing page templates for linking from Google ads
  • Widgets for highlighting your most recent or popular shoes

On the other hand, let’s take a look at the theme features you would want if building a band or musician website:

a Good WordPress Theme discography

  • An audio clip player with track management
  • A blog or news section for talking about your band
  • An events calendar to share information about shows
  • A possible ticket booking system
  • WooCommerce functionality for selling merchandise to fans
  • A countdown timer for revealing when your next show or album release is
  • Image and video galleries with clips of your past shows and photo shoots
  • A slider for promotions and events

Your first step in filtering down which theme to choose should rely solely on the features that will make your users most satisfied. After that, we can move onto the areas to look into for deciding whether a relevant theme is worth buying.

Hold Up a Minute….

Let’s say you stumbled upon a beautiful theme that has the right features for your band. The discography management is there, and you love the fact that you can collect emails and send out updates for upcoming shows.

But…do you have any idea as to whether or not these features function properly?

Obviously you can check to see if one of these features or tools is listed in the feature set, but the big question is: How does the feature work?

After all, I’ve stumbled upon some themes that offer responsive designs, but then I bring them up on my mobile phone and they don’t look that great. On other instances I’ve noticed that they may not have a useful mobile menu that flies in when clicked on.

This is a huge problem, since marketing copy is rarely going to tell you if a certain feature is going to cause you problems in the future.

This brings us to our first element that makes a good WordPress theme:

A Premium WordPress Theme with Awesome Code and Killer Support Resources

When we say premium, we mean one that you have to pay for. Sure, it’s not wise to automatically assume that a WordPress theme is great based on the fact that you have to pay for it, but most experienced developers will agree that forking over around $50 for a theme is a small price to pay for things like automatic updates, theme support, quality code and an onslaught of features.

a Good WordPress Theme premium_theme_payment

Some free themes are solid, but you’re taking a leap of faith when opting for one. Heck, even if the free theme has great reviews, you’re not going to receive much support when a problem arises. (And problems always seem to pop up at the wrong times.)

Do yourself a favor. If you plan on running a legitimate business that brings in a living for you, and potentially for many other people, spend the small amount of around $50 to $100 to establish your online presence like a pro.

How Do You Narrow Down the Premium Themes?

As stated above, a paid theme is not necessarily going to yield quality results, so one of your first steps is to view reviews and track records from sellers. Think about when you go shopping on Amazon. The reviews and ratings are super easy to look through, and they typically allow you to figure out exactly what is good or bad about the theme.

Keep this in mind: It doesn’t matter if the WordPress theme looks awesome, because something in the source code could be horribly wrong.

a Good WordPress Theme comments_section

So, use this time to check out comments, reviews and ratings, which are almost always provided on the seller’s product pages. Feel free to ask questions to other users who have tested out the theme in the past, and scan through some of the forums to discover which features are most troublesome to current users.

What About the Support Team?

Exploring comments and forums gives you a solid idea of some of the outlets provided to you after buying a theme. However, a support team is often much deeper than that, so it’s essential that you figure out exactly how available support reps and documentation options are going to be for you.

Remember that when working with a WordPress theme you’re going to encounter a problem eventually, whether it’s due to lack of experience or a bug in the system.

a Good WordPress Theme support_and_documentation

Scan the developer’s website, and check off the following list to ensure that you’ll have quality support when managing your website:

  • Extensive documentation with search tools
  • A blog with hints and tips
  • A knowledge base with past situations
  • Comments on theme product pages
  • Social media outlets for connecting elsewhere online
  • Guaranteed email and ticket support
  • Possible phone and live chat support
  • A forum for chatting with other users

Some other bonuses to look for include video tutorials, guides and links in the backend of your WordPress site, eBooks and an FAQ page.

Once you’ve decided that a theme has premium support, quality coding and the features required for your company, you can move onto some of the other elements that make a good WordPress theme.

Clean, Lightweight Code That Won’t Mess With You Later

We talked about this a little bit above, but that mainly involved scanning through comments and asking questions to see if folks have encountered situations where certain features don’t work well. This unveils that a theme may have source code problems, but what about going directly to the cause?

One tip worth mentioning is to bring up a theme demo on your computer and some mobile devices. Consider trying it out in different browsers just to make sure it works well in all of them. The goal is to examine how quickly the demo loads as you bring up the homepage and the various other posts and pages in the theme. Since the demo version of the site isn’t that jam-packed with content, it should load pretty quick. However, if you encounter slow page loads when looking at the demo, this should raise some concerns.

a Good WordPress Theme theme_check_plugin

The next step to take involves a plugin called Theme Check. The unfortunate part about this plugin is that you need to purchase and install the theme in question to take advantage of the features.

However, we like this solution because it prevents future problems. As an example, you may waste $50 on a junk theme, but discovering that it doesn’t follow WordPress standards is crucial before building your whole site or implementing the theme on dozens of client sites.

Therefore, install the Theme Check plugin in order to see if your chosen solution is up to spec on all the latest theme review standards. This is a WordPress endorsed plugin, and it’s nice because you can uninstall the plugin once finished with the process.

A Beautiful, Responsive Layout that Works on All Devices

a Good WordPress Theme responsive_layout

It doesn’t matter what type of industry your theme caters to, because it must have a responsive design. Google has clearly stated that mobile responsiveness is required to keep your search engine rankings high, and more and more internet users are looking at websites through tablets and smartphones.

Warning: Don’t take a developer’s word that a theme is completely responsive.

Complete your due diligence and run the theme demo while on your own mobile devices. Even after uncovering that a theme demo is responsive, don’t stop there!

Play around with the mobile interface to see if it has all the mobile movements and placements you require. Does the menu minimize and maximize on command? Is it necessary that your contact information sits at the top of your mobile website?

Keep in mind where you’d like certain items to sit when viewing on mobile devices. After all, if you run a hot dog stand, the first few things people would want to see while running out to lunch during work is a menu, a map and maybe a phone number. Are all of these right at the top of your mobile homepage?

In addition, Google has a mobile friendly test page to keep you at ease as well.

a Good WordPress Theme mobile_friendly

Importable Demo Content That Makes Your Site Look Like the Demo

Beginner developers often wonder why a theme looks nothing like its demo upon installation. Well, the truth is, most sellers import content such as blog copy, images, videos, sliders and more, all to make the theme demo look as if it were a real website.

However, many of these themes come raw, without the demo content. Therefore, we recommend scanning through the theme details to ensure that you’ll get a demo file that you can import into the theme. This way, you don’t have to start designing from scratch. In fact, many people like this because they simply replace the demo content with their own branded information.

A Simple, Minimalist Design with Less Clutter

a Good WordPress Theme simple_and_clean

It’s tempting to look at a theme with tons of content crammed into the homepage and marvel at the crazy amount of functionality. That said, trends are starting to show that less is often better, considering they generally only go to a website to click on one or two links.

Although it depends on the type of website you’re creating (online magazines are generally more crammed with widgets, images and links,) you should constantly think about how a design could be more simplistic.

Are there too many sidebars or widgets that take away from your call to actions?

Is your contact information overshadowed by other useless modules for social media feeds and animations?

The Ability to Change Around Branding Elements Like Colors, Typography and Backgrounds

a Good WordPress Theme unlimited_colors

A rudimentary WordPress theme might give you tools to change your logo and switch between a couple color palettes, but that’s not what you’re paying for.

You want the ultimate branding experience, and that all comes into play with quick buttons and settings you’ll find on the backend. When deciding between themes, give bonuses out to those that advertise unlimited colors, typography and background options.

It’s also not a bad idea to ensure that logos are easy to change, translation files are included and maybe an icon set from Google is packaged into the mix.

It may not seem like a huge deal at first, but getting stuck with three or four colors or fonts is not fun for making your site look the way you want it to.

Some Sort of Simple Customizer for Staying Away from Source Code

Are you an experienced developer? Then you know how important it is to speed up your processes when building sites for clients.

Are you a beginner? If so, you’ll want to stay away from source code as much as possible.

Regardless of your experience level, two features help you out quite a bit in the long run.

The first is a drag and drop editor, which means that you can quickly drop elements like sliders, text boxes and widgets throughout the layout of your website. This minimizes your time with source code, and with good editors, it can completely remove the need to know anything about development.

a Good WordPress Theme drag_and_drop

The second element is a set of quality shortcodes. These items are short snippets of code that you can copy and paste throughout your site to render more complex design items like columns or buttons.

Basically, if you wanted to design a button without a shortcode, it would take some CSS and HTML editing, along with way too much time.

Shortcodes remove this process, enabling even the most inexperienced designers a chance to develop beautiful layouts.

So, make sure your theme has some shortcodes and a drag and drop editor.

Note: Some drag and drop editors stink. So complete some research, check out reviews and ask other users if it’s any good.

Combines Well with Plugins That Will Make Your Online Presence Complete

This element goes hand in hand with quality source code, since one of the main problems you’ll encounter with a poorly coded theme is that it doesn’t combine well with popular WordPress plugins.

Seeing as how WordPress is so popular due to its plugins, it can be a bummer to realize that a plugin doesn’t work because of your theme.

Some compatible plugins are listed on theme product pages. As an example, WooCommerce, Visual Composer and Revolution Slider are often included or mentioned for premium themes.

a Good WordPress Theme plugin_compatability

However, it’s also prudent to make a list of the plugins required to make your company run efficiently online.

If you need a live chat plugin, talk to others to see if the plugin merges well with the theme. If you’d like to install a third-party drag and drop editor, it may serve you well to ask the theme developer if the plugin is going to work.

How is Your WordPress Theme Search Going?

Figuring out what elements make a good WordPress theme is not as easy as it seems, but with some research into developers, support and the overall feature-set of your desired theme, you can fight through the mess of theme options provided to you on the internet.

As stated before, do yourself a favor and start by looking at premium themes. Continue your research into support options and code credibility. Then, move onto elements like responsiveness, customization, compatibility and simplicity.

If you’re currently searching for the perfect WordPress theme, let us know in the comments how it’s going!


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What Elements Make a Good WordPress Theme? (And How to Identify Them)