This article is for those of you who have experience representing their business online and who know what websites are all about.
Whether you have a page representing your business, hosted on free web resources and social platforms like Facebook, or a simple static website which you may have created years ago and it’s time to upgrade it, then this information is for you.
You have already decided on a website management system – CMS WordPress.
Why WordPress? According to a recent survey up to 25% of all websites on the Internet are powered by this system.
So you have installed the latest version of WordPress on your server or hosting (even the cheapest one costing only $2 per month will do). Now the only thing left is to choose a beautiful template to get your website up and running.
You have two options: download and install a free template or buy a premium one.
Below I will describe all the pros and cons of both strategies.
OK, let’s begin with a free template for WordPress
Nowadays the Internet offers more than 8000 free templates with the majority featured on wordpress.org.
The rest may be found on a variety of websites that produce their own premium templates. They offer many free versions of their premium templates as well. As a rule these versions (LIGHT or BASE) have a limited functionality.
Usually most of the free themes have basic functionality, plain design and a limited number of plugins.
With a few exceptions, there are some decent, good-looking themes created by top design studios which have been in the theme market for years and have garnered recognition for their creations.
The rest you can easily find in Google by yourself.
So how do you choose the best theme for your website from this vast assortment of free templates?
I’d recommend that you focus on four main criteriа: design, usability, support and security.
Now it’s time to discuss each criterion separately.
If you wish to impress your customers, then your website design must be modern, sleek and clean.
To find lots of web design inspiration and check the latest trends, visit WEBSITE AWARDS. They gather the most attractive designs from all over the Internet and get web design experts to vote for their favourites, sorting out the best examples.
Such modern technologies, like CSS3/HTML5, allow the creation of flash websites and animation of certain blocks and elements which are very popular in web design now.
But personally, I don’t recommend using themes overloaded with more than 3 animated elements.
Too much animation overloads the computer processor and those visitors with old software will encounter problems with displaying your website and the slow-down of the browser speed.
Good website usability is the key to website development these days. It means your website needs to be as easy as possible to maneuver around so the visitor can quickly find the information for which he or she is looking.
For example, the so-called hamburger menu has become extremely popular in web design today. The Hamburger menu consists of three horizontal lines you can often see at the top of many modern sites, either on the far left or on the far right. I do not personally recommend using this navicon as older people sometimes get confused and may not even click on it to see the whole menu.
Regarding website usability, stick to the Golden Rule – the less time your users spend clicking around, the easier it is for them to find the information they need.
Another “must follow” requirement in web development is Responsivity. Responsive design means your website will look great on any device including mobile phones, tablets and even smart TVs (smart watches are on their way too!)
To check your website responsivity, use this resource http://design.google.com/resizer/
Customer service is another extremely important factor influencing your website safety and security as well.
Pay attention to the following criteria:
- How often the developer responds to customers’ inquiries on the WordPress forum
- If the developer has his own personal website
- If the developer has a forum with open access on his website
- In case there is no forum, make sure they have at least a feedback contact form
- How often is the theme updated and how frequent are there new developer releases? (You can find this information in the theme’s page Activity Log on wordpress.org or on the developer’s website directly)
- If the theme has child themes, then how many sub-themes have been created on its base
Apart from that, make sure that your free theme has a premium version, so you could easily upgrade your site in the event that you need to extend the functionality and add some new features to your existing website without having to change the current design. With little extra cost you’ll get an extended version with lots of useful updates which would cost you much more if you order the refinement from freelancers.