What is a WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a collection of files that controls the styling of a website or blog. If you change themes, the overall design your site will display differently in a browser.
Every new WordPress installation comes with a default theme installed and activated. WordPress “ships” a new annual default theme every year, the current default theme is Twenty Sixteen.
How to Change your WordPress Theme
Follow these 3 steps to change your Theme in WordPress
- Log in to the WordPress admin area
- In the left-hand menu click on Appearance → Themes. This takes you to the Manage Themes screen where you can see all installed themes.
- Click Add New → Install and Activate the chosen theme
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But … which theme should you choose?
5 Tips for Choosing a WordPress Theme
We know that choosing a theme for your WordPress website or blog can be overwhelming. Here are 5 tips to help you.
1. Choose from Accessibility-ready themes
All themes included in the directory have been reviewed by the theme review team. You can narrow down the list with the Feature Filter. We suggest that you start the selection process by narrowing the filter to accessibility-ready themes.
Themes in the WordPress Repository tagged “Accessibility-ready” have been reviewed and meet accessibility standards. The theme is “ready” for you to add accessible content. You may be required under AODA legislation (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) to have an accessible site, but even if you aren’t, it’s just the right way to build a site today [read more about AODA and WordPress accessibility here].
2. Make Sure your WordPress Theme is Future-proof
When choosing a theme you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t creating problems for the future. We have previously discussed the theme-lock effect and what happens when you decide (and that time will come) to change your WordPress theme. So with good reason, we recommend using a plugin to create a custom post type such as portfolio or testimonials instead of looking for a theme that comes with these built-in. Plugins continue to work when you change themes.
3. Visual Composer vs The Native WordPress Way
A lot of premium themes rely on the Visual Composer or other builder plugins that allow users to layout their site without having to touch code. The problem with this approach is that when you change your theme or turn off the visual composer plugin, you will have to deal with a mess of shortcodes—like this!
If Visual Composer is packed with your theme you may miss out on VC updates.
“If you got VC in a theme, that means that theme author has a license and only he/she can download latest versions of VC and include it in the theme. You as a theme user may use Visual Composer free of charge while you use the theme that came with VC (because you have a license for that theme).” [source]
We are big believers in sticking with the WordPress native way of doing things. Many times students have come to us for WordPress training after a frustrating attempt to build their own WordPress site with the Visual Composer.
WordPress is constantly changing and improving. If you stay with the native WordPress way, your website will be ready for whatever goodies WordPress has in store for us down the road.
4. Considerations Before Purchasing a Premium Theme
A premium theme is a theme that you purchase.
Keep in mind that the WordPress alert system does not include premium themes. If you do go the route of using a premium theme make sure that you can keep the theme up-to-date.
- If someone else purchased this for you, you will need to contact them every time you want to download the updated theme files. If you purchased it yourself, make sure you keep track of your account login where the theme was purchased and that you have a purchase code.
- If you don’t receive email notifications, you will need to check periodically for theme updates – put a note in your calendar to check once a quarter.
- Updating a premium theme is usually done manually by FTP. You will need to either do this yourself or hire a developer for assistance.
5. From Theme Demo to Real Life
- Premium themes are often challenging to setup. Before purchasing a theme, make sure that there is clear documentation. Keep in mind that purchasing the theme may not be your only expense, you may in the end, need to hire someone to help you.
- Students often choose a WordPress theme because it looks beautiful with attractive professional photos in the theme demo but, when they replace the photos, they are disappointed with the results. Their own images don’t work with the design, dimensions, or quality of the original theme. Try to visualize what the theme will look like with your own content.
- Premium themes are often trying to be all things to all people. If the theme has a lot of features you don’t need make sure that you can turn off those features. Too many options in the WordPress dashboard can be confusing and can create extra bloat that will slow down your website.
We hope that this post has helped make choosing a theme for your WordPress blog or website easier. If you still have questions please add a comment below or attend one of our WordPress workshops.