Most webmasters have found themselves in this type of situation at one time or another. You’ve got a great blog going, and at some point decide you want to go for a new look and feel. There are a couple of different things you may look at when in this scenario, usually layout, usability and advertising. If a particular WordPress theme meets two or three of these points, you might decide to download and install it. The fact is, themes have quite a few things which they should take care of, and many of them miss out on some of these important things. If you’re thinking about installing a new theme then I recommend giving the following points a thought before installing. Remember, your new theme should be accessible, compatible, customizable, integral, and completely standards compliant.
Define Your Needs – Whether you’re searching for a free theme, premium theme or just want to hire someone to build a custom theme for you, the first step should always be to define your needs. Take a few moments to write down what this new theme should do for you, both now and in the future. Maybe you need a good eCommerce theme right now, but also want the ability to add in a blog one or two years from now. What should the site look like? Which pages will you need? What types of content do you plan on publishing? All of these specifics will differ between one webmaster and another. Define the requirements specifically for yourself and keep them all in mind when searching for a theme.
How flexible is the theme? – A static theme won’t don you much good when wanting to change page layouts in the future. Make sure you choose a theme that is flexible in both its appearance and functionality. Refrain from choosing a design that screams full-width images when you only need a well presented place to write your poetry. Instead, check what happens to that same theme when you turn off all massive images. Does it still function? Is it possible to change colors, fonts and other elements? Your theme should have ample room for widgets, plus it should also support featured images and offer multi-language support.
Which Type of Post and Page Templates Does it Support? – When searching for a new WordPress theme always check to see which type of page templates are available for posts and pages. This is another great flexibility option that can save you time and hassle further down the road. If a particular theme only has two choices, that could give you very few options later on. Make sure you pick a theme with sensible templates available.
Watch out for theme bloat – This can be a hard one to spot without digging into the code of a theme, but many themes are bloated. If a developer included everything into a particular theme then not only can it slow down the page load time, but it might be extremely complicated as well. Instead, try to find a theme that offers everything you need, but not everything there is. Ideally, you want your WordPress theme to be lean and mean so that it offers everything you need, but can still load extremely quickly for your visitors.
Check site speed and mobile-readiness – In this day and age, mobile-friendliness is a requirement. In addition to that, as I mentioned above, your blog and its theme should load as fast as possible. Choosing a lean and mean theme will help lots in this regard. Always make sure you check the responsiveness of a theme and run it through a Google mobile-readiness check. You can even enter of address of the theme’s demo site into the Google PageSpeed tool in order to see if there are any particular loading issues that arise. Although you still won’t really know how speeds are until it’s installed on your web server, if it passes the Google test there is a good chance it will do fine on your hosting account.
Is the theme’s code valid? – Theme developers tend to be more like authors than coders. That means they may need to hack around with the code until it finally looks they want. Some developers will make these kinds of changes without bothering to check whether the code they’ve written is actually valid HTML or not. If it isn’t, current or future browsers might have issues rendering the content properly for some visitors. Use the W3C Validator to check whether a theme’s code is valid or not.