Are you planning your next website update? WordPress has hundreds of thousands of themes you can download for free. It can be hard to find the perfect one. You need something responsive, engaging, and easy to use.
How do you know you are making the best choice of WordPress theme for your company? We’ve compiled some tips to make sure you download a theme that will take you into 2019 and beyond.
Minimum Requirements for 2019
There are some considerations that you must address. Let’s go through them right now.
Before settling on a design for your WordPress site, you need to know your theme is going to work well with Gutenberg. At the time of writing Gutenberg is not released, but your theme developer should at least have a position on their Gutenberg integration.
I can only speak for StudioPress, but we feel Gutenberg is so important we are dedicating a lot of resources to ensuring our entire range of themes not only works with Gutenberg but makes the most of the opportunities that Gutenberg brings.
Mobile, Tablet and Phablet Experience
Does your theme work across different web browsers, different screen sizes and different kinds of devices?
“Consumers today aren’t just mobile first, they’re mobile only,”
— Mary Ellen Dugan, chief marketing officer at WP Engine.
If your website does not work well regardless of the visitors’ device, you are going to lose. Hard.
Some websites claim to be mobile-friendly but redirect the user to a different experience by detecting that the user is on mobile. That is not ideal for the visitor, and in many cases, the visitors’ experience is actually interrupted. In the worst of cases, the specific article the visitor had clicked through to find is ignored, and the visitor is taken to a special, separate mobile home page. This leaves the user lost and confused, rather than engaged. If the person was clicking through believing they would be taken to a product detail page, you lost at least one sale.
A far better approach is for the same design to adapt to the user’s screen and device. This is called mobile responsive design. You can test one aspect of this quickly by shrinking and enlarging your web browser. If the design fluidly and elegantly adapts to the changing real estate then you know it has been smartly designed.
Even better, though, is if your experience on mobile is optimized for mobile.
One of the ways screen real estate is preserved for mobile users is the “burger style” menu. An icon representing three horizontal lines that when clicked, fold out a menu. You probably don’t want every possible option in that menu.
While there is some debate exactly how much speed influences conversion rates, we know for sure that slow sites frustrate visitors and increase the number of people who immediately hit the back button.
“Two seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability, according to Akamai. Yet, only 17% of respondents’ enterprises have an average website load time on mobile devices of under 2 seconds. In fact, 31% admitted it takes an average of 5 seconds or longer for their website to load.”
— Connecting the enterprise with today’s mobile-first consumer.
Yes, your hosting will have a huge influence on your page load speed, but the size of your page in terms of download also impacts the experience.
Is your theme lightweight, or is it bloated with unnecessary code?
Many people consider page builders moot in a Gutenberg world, but another strong argument against page builders is all the code that goes along with them. The reason for this extra code is it is a byproduct of their flexibility. The ability to have any element anywhere can mean that extra accommodations are made in the programming and styles that are not needed when the look and feel is only going to be modified within well-known parameters.
Caching can mitigate this to a point, but with heavy page-level caching comes the price of not being able to personalize the experience quite as much. For example, if the person is a returning customer, it is nice to great them by name, and maybe show their recent purchases or their existing order status. That is unique to the current logged in person, so cannot be cached in the usual site-level way.
Ideally, you want a design that is going to be lightweight to download but has the customization options you need to fit the design to your precise brand requirements. Do not sacrifice your whole site speed and have page downloads in the megabytes for the off-chance that one day you might want to move things around.
Google is Still King
Will Google love your content or find you confusing?
The death of SEO has been announced every year since I started optimizing websites going back to Altavista, Lycos, and Hotbot. Like it or not, search engine optimization is still a thing. Being on page 3 for your search times means you are effectively invisible.
Now, if you have a huge advertising budget then you might not feel the hurt of that quite as much, but you would still be foolish to overlook the power and influence of being highly visible on Google.
A well-developed theme, with robust SEO options, can be the difference between making money and spending it.
Your choice of WordPress theme needs to go beyond aesthetics. You need a theme that is future-proof, is fast to load, works across devices, and provides Google what it needs to rank you highly. Choose well!