Making a WordPress Theme work for — not against you

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WordPress Theme Work for you

Choose wisely, and you won’t have to do so much WordPress Theme work

The different types of WordPress themes break down into a group of about six different items out there. I originally thought five, but then realized there is a sixth — the brochure site. Finding a theme is easy. Making a WordPress theme work for you is something you want to pay close attention to.

Blog Themes

Blog themes are easy spot. It may not look like a blog because it may just have big visuals but this is how they will be built. Structurally, when they are looked at, they are article-driven, if you will. They’ll have an archive, very prominent, somewhere in the piece, which will always be hidden. But you’ll know that is a theme that’s built to support blogging. What’s important about that? Well, if blogging is the last thing that you are really concerned with on your company site, move on. Don’t even touch a theme that is primarily set up to support blogs. There will be plenty of others that are aesthetically and functionally better suited to your needs. On the other hand, some industry thought leaders want to have a magazine site theme. Maybe it might not be their core site, but it might be the one that they want to use to talk to their industry about certain issues.

Magazine Site Themes

Years ago, I worked with AMD, the chip maker, at a time that they were hot and heavy going back and forth in a chip war with Intel. And one of their most important things that they needed to do was let people that were PC builders, gaming box builders know, “We have chip sets that work for you.” So they built an entire community around a magazine, around the AMD connection. It was a separate site. So this is where a magazine type-site may not be your core business site but works very well for other efforts. And magazine site themes will also support articles but they’ll treat them differently. It won’t be so open to comments as much as the blog invites that. And it’s built into a variety of layouts, much like a traditional magazine. If anything migrated from the traditional print-on-paper world in terms of design, it is the magazine layout of websites.

Portfolio Site Themes

There are lots of portfolio site themes out there. One of the biggest most largest growing areas is with photography because there are so many people doing photography now professionally and semi-professionally. So there are a lot of sites that are built to them. They are not my favorite sites from a direct marketing standpoint, because the images are so big, you have to either swipe down them, if you are looking them on mobile or on your tablet, or they put everything way down below the fold. I also have my own personal gripe beyond the traits that you see here. My gripe with portfolio sites is they tend to be very cute, very fine, and when I say fine, I mean in terms of the text that they use, the lightness of text. I used to have 20/20 vision until about ten years ago. I thought everything was cool and dandy. I probably designed with a lot of light gray type on white until somebody like creative director would smack my head, years back. But I learnt by ten years ago, very much so, as a direct marketer, you want maximum readability. What I find with a lot of these theme sets is, if you get one that you find they are fundamentally working for a project that you have in mind or a need that you have, you probably, as a direct marketer, especially and a marketer, you want to make them as readable and responsive as possible for a person. That means somebody needs to go in and make type-readable stuff using paragraphs and paragraphs against reverse, especially against something like a laptop or tablet screen, things like that. So that’s just a note about watching out for portfolio sites, or anything that sort of lists itself as a portfolio theme, if you will.

e-commerce Themes

If making a WordPress Theme Work for you means you have to support e-commerce, time has been your friend. E-commerce used to be a very weak area of WordPress and it’s become much stronger now. It’s still growing into its own on that. And there are sites that are primarily built to support offerings of multiple SKUs. They are very good at integrating information, but they are not as good as much bigger sets. Remember we’ve talked about Drupal and Joomla and their strengths. If you’ve got a lot of SKUs to work with, if you’ve got a lot of integration that needs to be made, think carefully about WordPress. But if you do, your theme may not necessarily be your answer. But if you are in that scenario where you are dealing with a lot of SKUs, a lot of inventory codes, lot of product and imagery, you are probably also working with a fairly sophisticated development team, and they should be able to be well matched to not just be working with your theme but working with plug-ins, not too many, but one plug-in that will drive your e-commerce structure. The popular WooCommerce is very popular to use with WordPress websites. The downside of WooCommerce can be it’s also a bit constricted in terms of how much you can manipulate its presentation in your site. But that continues to improve. Here’s the hitch. Some themes don’t play well with WooCommerce. Before you fall in love with a theme, make sure to test them together to be sure your WordPress theme works for you.

Some themes are self-contained with ecommerce built in right out of the box in terms of shopping cart function, shopping functions, things like that. But check the theme in demo mode to see if the cart function and the user experience works for your business and your customers.

Avoid poorly done modifications. Just because somebody can program workarounds to the shopping cart, doesn’t mean you have the best, most secure shopping cart experience. So make sure your shopping user experience on an e-commerce site is what you need it to be. It shouldn’t have extra steps and it shouldn’t miss anything in terms of interaction.

Membership Site Theme

Some sites need a membership site theme to serve the needs of a site that has two sides of it. One is the public side, and the other is going to be closed off and only available to people who have either paid for the privilege or have somehow passed a vetting process to obtain access/membership. And there are some site themes that do that without the need for plugins.

If you already have a WordPress site that is working for you and you need to inject or overlay membership to certain pages, you don’t have to abandon what you’ve done in order to get to that area. One solution is to buy a membership plug-in or add-on that will either open or close and safeguard content areas based on different user privileges.

Brochure Site Theme

The most applicable, least-promoted theme type is the brochure site theme. You might think there should be many of these because a lot of sites need to support brochure content on the Web. It should be the first one that pops up, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. There’s still a fixation on blogs and portfolios in the most popular themes on any theme repository. But this is probably the one, the type of site that will give you a lot of what you want in terms of flexibility of your layouts within your website. A good brochure site theme will have multiple layouts. It will also include the ability to add call-to-action items on a page. It might actually have something called a “call to action.”

A brochure site theme normally has a front page. A brochure site has a separate front page that can look different from other pages you design within the WordPress theme. There is a subset that don’t have a front page, because they use a style of site user experience called single page design. Like the name implies, all your key content is contained on a single VERY long scrollable, linked page.

Summing up Making a WordPress Theme Work For You

So the different types of WordPress themes we’ve covered give you an idea of where to start your search for a theme appropriate for your needs. Put in the time vetting themes, and you’ll be able to confidently say your WordPress theme works for you.

What’s the one thing you need help changing or adding to your current Website? Share in the comments below!

I’m a creative problem-solver helping clients who use Direct Marketing but need more effective lead generation and deeper customer relationships. You can learn more about me on LinkedIn.


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