We all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but we all do it, right? And people judge blogs by their covers, too. You could be the best writer in the world, but if someone lands on your blog, and the theme puts them off, you better believe they won’t be sticking around to find out all about your wonderful way with words. Here are some tips to help you choose a WordPress template that will make your website look as good as its content.
First of all, you need to make sure your website is responsive. “Responsive”, when used to describe websites, simply means that the site will change to fit the size of screen you’re viewing it on. A responsive site is really important in today’s world, because so many people now browse on their phones/tablets/whatever, so you need to make sure that all of those people can still read your blog on all of their different devices. Most of the newer blog templates are built with this in mind, and will flag up the fact that it’s a responsive layout in the description, but if you want to check, just try changing the size of your browser window – the blog you’re looking at should change to fit it.
Just as people use lots of different devices, however, they also use lots of different browsers, and you need to make sure your blog template is compatible with all of them – or with the main ones, at least. If you’re buying a theme from a good designer, they’ll normally have taken care of that for you, but again, if in doubt, try viewing the demo site on a few different browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE, etc) just to make sure it’ll work.
Currently, the trend in web design is for minimal templates, with white backgrounds and big pictures. That trend will change in time, so you shouldn’t let yourself be too influenced by it if that’s not your style: what you should bear in mind, however, is that people will probably always prefer sites which use dark text on light backgrounds, purely because they’re easier to read.
Next up, it’s time to choose the layout of your website, and decide whether you want to go for the classic blog format, or a magazine style layout. For those who don’t know, the “classic” blog layout is where all posts appear in chronological order, with the latest post at the top of the page, and the rest underneath, while a magazine template involves a layout whereby there are lots of posts on the page, and you choose which one you want to read.
Which style will work best for you is up to you to decide, but, in general, if you’re planning on posting lots of content, and want people to be able to find it easily, magazine layouts tend to be better than the “old style” blog format, which presents each post in its entirety, and forces readers to scroll past each one in order to get to the next article.
No matter what kind of theme or layout you end up going for, the top half of the screen is the most important part, and the top of the page – where your banner goes – is the most important of all. If you have an eye-catching, well-designed banner, it’ll go a long way towards improving the appearance of your blog: a bad one, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect, so choose your logo with care, and consider investing in a professional design (You can get very affordable logos on Etsy, for instance) if you don’t want to DIY it.
On that note, you’ll want to make sure that the theme you choose has an option for you to change the header by uploading your own banner/logo: some themes only allow you to change the wording of the text banner that comes with the theme, which means you don’t have the ability to personalize it to a huge extent.
Most pre-made themes can be customized to some extent (and all of them can be customized if you know enough about coding!), but some more so than others. A very basic theme, for instance, might just allow you to switch between a few pre-made colour schemes, while others will allow you to change almost every aspect of your blog’s appearance. With this, it’s very much a case of “you get what you pay for” – the latter type of theme will be more expensive, but will also give you a lot more versatility, and reduce the chances of someone else having a blog which looks identical to yours.
Not everyone wants to spend a lot of time messing around with their theme settings, though, so if you want to keep things as simple as possible, a good way to approach it is to decide which aspects of the theme are most important to you, and work from there.
With all of this said, as with so many aspects of blogging, design is a very subject thing, and you can’t possibly hope to please everyone. One of the biggest barriers to success in blogging is the failure to get started, so don’t spend so much time obsessing over your WordPress theme that you don’t actually get around to writing: the good thing about design is that it can always be changed!