The first step to selecting a premium theme is to gauge your own needs and expectations. You can’t pick the right theme if you don’t know what’s right for you. So before you start looking at cool themes and get excited about fancy designs, you need to sort out what you need. And before you even do that, you should probably understand what you’re getting.
What is a Premium Theme?
No guide to premium themes would be complete if it didn’t answer one question: What is a premium theme? There are a lot of different opinions on what a premium theme should entail, including customization, documentation, support, higher quality code, better “design” work, etc. But the reality is that a premium theme is a theme you pay for, and nothing more. All the other potential extras and goodies depend on the creator of the theme. Not all premium theme creators are equal. Everyone has a different idea of what makes a theme great. Where one premium theme creator may have a lot of professional experience dealing with design, interacting with clients and carefully considering the theme’s uses, another may only produce themes as a hobby. Both themes may be equally good but you’ll get a different experience from each.
If you buy a theme from a hobbyist you can’t expect the always-on levels of support a pro-theme creator can offer. And if you buy a theme from a giant corporation that offers premium themes as a second thought, you might get crummy or non-existant service. Neither of these examples mean you won’t get a great theme. You could get an incredible theme and impeccable service from a hobbyist or a faceless corporation.
The point is to be aware of the differences, to not be swayed by slick marketing, and to ultimately do your research. There are some excellent premium themes out there that can do great things for you. And there are also some not-so-great themes out there. The most important thing is to do your research and make sure you know what they mean by “premium theme” so you can be sure the theme you buy will work for you.
What Do You Need in a Website?
Before you start picking themes you need to make some big decisions. If you don’t think things through now, you may end up regretting it later. The biggest thing to figure out is what you need your website to do.
- What kind of content do you need to manage?
- Do you need a blog or blog-like capabilities (news, portfolio, press releases, catalog, etc.)?
- Does your site need a specific call to action (like an e-commerce component)?
- How many pages will your site need?
- Will those pages need a hierarchy? (Do you have only five pages or do you have a few dozen pages where some will be filed under others?)
- What do you want to feature on the homepage?
These are the kinds of questions you need to answer. Basically you’re trying to figure out what you need from your website. Once you have that sorted out, it’s easier to find a theme that offers what you need.
What Kind of Theme Should You Buy?
One of the common mistakes in picking a theme is assuming it will fit your needs. Premium themes come in all shapes and sizes. Some focus on a specific need while others focus on generic blogging.
Some themes are designed to put the focus on the content. Magazine/news-style themes are intended to put as much content out there as they can for your readers to choose from; however, if you can’t generate that level of content then they also do a great job of highlighting your lack of content. At the other end of the scale are the corporate themes. These tend to focus on static pages and relegate the blog content to a small news section. Not great for daily blogging; but if you want a normal site with a small news section then it’s ideal. Of course there are a lot of steps between these two extremes. The key is to not make assumptions about what the theme can or can’t do. Don’t assume that because WordPress is a blogging platform that any theme will be great for blogging. WordPress is extremely flexible and more and more themes are focusing on sites that don’t revolve around blogging.
Check out our Using WordPress as a CMS resource website here
What Features Do You Need?
Before you start looking at any themes you should decide what features you need. Some features may seem fascinating when you read about the theme and view the demo, but if you don’t really need them then you may be paying for something you’ll never use. In the worst case those fancy features could interfere with what you do actually need. Finding the right theme for your needs is a much better approach than finding a cool theme and bending your needs to make it work.
Below are examples of some features that are available on premium themes:
- Featured post on the home page
- Featured photographs from Flickr
- Featured video(s) from YouTube
- Advertising integration (Adsense / 125 squares / banners)
- Advertising management
- Optional color themes
- Control panels for adding tracking code or feed URLs
- Header image replacement, resizing, and cropping
- Contact form functionality
- Tabbed sidebars
- Tabbed featured posts
- Multiple positions for optional widgetized sidebars
- Multiple page layouts
- Menus auto generated from WordPress pages
- Menus auto generated from categories
- Menus generated from the blogroll
- Manual menu control
- Drop down menus
- Built in asides / sideblog
- Advanced search functionality
- Niche specific templates; e.g. real estate
- Ecommerce integration
- Image / banner rotation
- Reordering the home page
- Alternative graphics packs
- And more…
There are so many choices that you have your work cut out for you.
How Much Customization Are You Comfortable With?
A final question in assessing your needs and expectations is how much customizing are you prepared to do? If the thought of tweaking code or installing plugins makes you dizzy, you better pick a theme that has everything you need out of the box. But if you’re fine with tweaking code, installing plugins or adjusting the CSS, then you can be a lot more flexible when you pick a theme.
A lot of the features mentioned above are built into some premium themes, but many of them can easily be added to themes with simple plugins. If you’re up for making some of those changes yourself, it might give you more flexibility to pick a theme you like for other reasons.
In the next part of the guide we’ll cover specific details to look for when choosing a premium theme.