WordPress is a great software for building small business websites. One of the reasons it’s so good is ‘themes’. So what are ‘themes’?
Themes are template website designs.
There are thousands of them available both free and paid. Let’s look at how to find themes.
How To Find Free WordPress Themes
In your WordPress dashboard click on <Appearance> in the lefthand column. In the dropdown menu that appears, click on ‘Themes’. The default themes for WordPress will appear. You can choose one by clicking on <Install> on your chosen theme.
The standard themes are pretty good choices. They’re nice looking and you can rely on WordPress’s developers to update them. That’s important when it comes to security updates.
But if want a greater choice, click on the <Add New> button at the top of the page. Thumbnails of themes will appear for you to scroll through. If you find one that you like, click on the <Install> button that appears when you hover your cursor over the thumbnail.
Be warned! The thumbnails only show what the theme could look like. You’ll need to configure the theme to produce the website that you want. Some themes are easier to configure than others. If a theme is too difficult to use, then it’s easy to delete it and add another theme.
From the main WP dashboard, go to <Appearance>, then click on <Themes> in the dropdown menu. A thumbnail for the installed theme will appear. Click on the <Theme Details> which will appear on the thumbnail when you hover your mouse over it. A window will appear. In the bottom right hand corner, it says <Delete>. Click on <Delete> and the theme will be deleted. WordPress will revert to the default theme.
The themes in the free WP theme library rely on the free efforts of their individual developers to keep them up-to-date. In particular, regular security updates are important to prevent hackers from breaking into your website.
Paid WordPress Themes
Like free WordPress themes, there’s a massive choice of premium, paid themes. An increasingly popular type of theme is the ‘Page Builder’. Let’s look at what it is.
Many website hosting companies offer proprietary website builders. They’re designed to make it easy to build fully-featured websites. Using such web builders does tie you into that company. Page Builders for WordPress achieve the same thing, but with more flexibility and independence. Also, as you own the WP site, it’s a business asset increasing the value of your business.
One of the most popular page builders is Instabuilder 2.0. This video shows how it works:
Other popular pagebuilders are WP Profit Builder and Thrive Themes.
Sadly, page builders are not all good news. The web pages that they create are often quite big and make a large number of requests to the server. The larger the webpage, the longer it will usually take to load. The search engines give higher rankings to fast-loading webpages.
You can check how big your website pages are and the loading speeds at pingdom.com/speed test. Your website will load at different speeds in different locations. Pingdom will give you a choice of test locations, so pick the one nearest to your market.
Ideally, the website needs to be under 1mb and load in under 1 second in your test location. If your site is over 3mb and takes over 3 seconds to load, then you’ll need to reduce the page size and the number of server requests.
If you want to browse a large number of premium themes, Theme Forest is a great website. There are usually demos for each theme so that you can see what different variations of the theme look like.
This website uses a premium theme.
So what am I using and why did I choose it?
The answer is the Genesis Framework and the News Pro child theme.
That’s probably as clear as mud to you, so let me explain.
Take this coach.
The coachbuilder will buy a chassis from Volvo, Scania or Mercedes. Then it will design and build its own body on the chassis.
The Genesis Framework is like the chassis. It has all the features to make the website run efficiently including speed and security features. The child theme is like the coachbuilder’s body.
Different coachbuilders will build different bodies on the chassis. A coach from one coachbuilder will look different to one from another, but both coaches will have the same chassis underneath.
Like a chassis from Volvo, Scania or Mercedes, the Genesis Framework is well built. It uses the latest HTML5 and CSS3 protocols, all cleanly coded.
The clean, lightweight code means that the Genesis Framework is quick to load. Load speed is important.
But just as important as website speed is the website security. Studiopress, the developer behind Genesis, regularly updates the framework, keeping it as secure as it can. Sometimes, when developers update their themes, the updates can cause a website to crash. With the Genesis Framework, because the design ( ie the child theme) is separate from the ‘chassis’, it shouldn’t cause the website’s design to crash.
Another advantage of the Framework is that there is a variety of child themes, both from Studiopress and third-party developers. It’s easy to find one that will make your small business website look highly professional.
Anything but the simplest theme will require configuration. This article should help you understand more about themes, but you probably won’t want to configure the theme. Your local college may have a student who is willing to do it cheaply. If not there are freelancing websites like Upwork where you can find suitable freelancers.