For many the choice of WordPress theme is where their journey with WordPress begins to unravel. The choices are endless, free themes, premium themes, bespoke themes, themes with their own page builders, and places like Themeforest which promise beautiful looking websites for less than you’d spend on a decent pair of jeans.

Theme choice with WordPress is everything, it controls so much of the way your site looks and functions and also the degree of flexibility you have. Like every designer I have my favourites, because they are reliable and flexible enough to be able to create contemporary designs which function well from both a speed, responsive and usability perspective and also allow great business function.

But my least favourite by far are those oversold in various theme market places that promise beautiful sites, but very rarely deliver, and worse than that, they cannot be upgraded from within the WordPress environment.

It leaves business owners with dysfunctional sites overnight. It’s just WRONG, and it shocks me that some designers and agencies work this way. Call me old fashioned, but I like to deliver sites that work. Seems pretty straightforward that every business owner paying for a website should expect that as a bare minimum.

Case Study

Recently a client came with problems on a site from an agency, they’d had the site designed less than a year ago, but their relationship had broken down, lack of support, poor design and a whole host of other niggles.

Initially it was just for some on page SEO, which included page content changes, and that’s where our problems started. A bit of irony here as the client had come to me for a quote at tender stage for this site, but chose a larger agency to work with as that they felt more comfortable with the ‘support’ they would receive. You can’t win them all. Effectively they paid triple elsewhere for something I’d be embarrassed to send back to the client at first draft stage. When it all went wrong they phoned back, 18 months later. Sigh.

The agency they had used had purchased the theme from ThemeForest, don’t get me wrong, it looked BEAUTIFUL. But from an SEO standpoint, it wasn’t performing any useful function at all, the copy needed a lot of work. So my task was to complete a full SEO audit, performing some standard on-page SEO tasks including some content updates. Simple… work out the theme structure, understand the page builder and get going. I’ve used many page builders over the years, so a new one is never issue.

But no, the page builder had stopped functioning completely, without killing you with the jargon, we were seeing a whole load of java script errors being triggered by the builder, probably because the theme files were so old, this particular one had version 1 of its theme files, from over 5 years ago, with not a single update in between.

This is a really common problem with these sorts of themes, I have had many conversations when clients come to me with great ideas based on a theme they have found from Envato MarketPlace or ThemeForest, and I say no, every time. With hundreds of sites under my belt I have learnt these lessons the hard way. I have a selection of themes I work with that I know are reliable and flexible.

What To Ask Your Designer

It’s vital as a business owner to understand what the future of your website looks like, and so key questions to ask at the scope phase of your project would be:

  1. What theme will you be using (even if you don’t understand, look it up, that’s what Google is for)
  2. Will my site work with future versions of WordPress
  3. Who will take care of keeping my software up to date
  4. Will my theme allow design changes

If you need help selecting a theme or are having trouble with your site and need some advice then get in touch.