Often times the clients I coach or people that find my YouTube videos ask about what style, layout or content works best to build an effective website. Generally they're looking to build a website to sell products (physical or digital) or promote their services or programs.
I build websites on the WordPress platform because WordPress provides literally hundreds of thousands of plugins that can be used to give you the functionality you want, from video players to social media feeds to mobile compatibility to forums to membership sites. WordPress has evolved to be the # 1 website platform for creating new sites due to its flexibility and user-friendliness.
When I build sites in WordPress, I can then turn the site over to the client to show them how to edit, add to and continue managing their site on their own. That way, they aren't stuck waiting on my team to update their site when they want to add a few small details … they have the power to do it themselves.
I used to custom-design almost every website I created, because I couldn't find an existing WordPress theme that "fit" a client perfectly. Now, there are so many beautiful, flexible, customizable WordPress themes available that it is much more efficient to build a website using a pre-existing theme.
This means that when WordPress updates as it tends to do every couple months, the site theme often releases an update to compliment that. This keeps the website secure from hackers and adaptable to browser updates, mobile platforms, etc.
A custom design made from scratch would require a re-build every time WordPress updates. That would cause more problems and a higher likelihood of the site "breaking" and not displaying properly.
So if you're someone that wants to create a new site or upgrade what you have, you might want to shop around to see what kind of themes are available so you can get ideas for what's possible.
Shopping Around For Designs and Ideas
You can search for free themes in the WordPress directory. They can be a bit more challenging to customize because they may not give you as many customization options as the "premium" themes, but if you want a simple website to get started, they can be an ideal solution.
The WordPress.org theme directory is the biggest and most official place to find free WordPress themes.The WordPress.org directory has gained in popularity in the past few years. This is mainly due to a huge effort by their review team. Each and every theme in the directory is now reviewed and meets specific quality and security standards.
If you want something that's customizable, mobile-friendly and offers additional features than just the basics, you probably want to shop for a premium theme (usually $ 25- $ 99). There's a few in the WordPress theme marketplace space that I usually refer to:
ThemeForest: Think Walmart. This directory has a massive selection and cheap prices.
Mojo Themes: Think Target. Still focused on volume.
Creative Market: Think Etsy. Handcrafted and more expensive.
You can also go the route of independent local shops. Many of them also sell themes on these marketplaces above, while a few are completely independent. If you go this route, be sure to see if they offer support, if it looks active, if they are updating their theme with new releases regularly and how long they have been in business. Here's a few of my favorites that meet this criteria:
Graph Paper Press
Here's a few things you can keep in mind and think about as you start searching for WordPress themes:
1. Make Note of Your Desired Features
Unless you want to make a bunch of design customizations to your WordPress theme after you install it (not ideal for most people), it's always best to select a theme that has the major features you want.
For example, do you want to have one column, two columns, three columns …? Do you want to customize your colors? Do you want to have a main image or featured area on the homepage to display a photo or form for people to enter their name and email to join your mailing list? Does it need to display on all mobile devices?
Make a list of the main features that are most important and search for themes that meet as many requirements as possible. That way you aren't spending time having to customize the code and design later.
This is especially true if you opt to go with one of the free themes provided by WordPress. They can be a bit more challenging to customize because they may not give you as many customization options as the "premium" themes (usually around $ 25- $ 99).
2. Identify the Purpose of Your Site
For example, if the primary goal of your site is to collect email addresses for future promotions then you might want to use a theme like the Generate theme by StudioPress.
If you want to build a membership site and sell an information product, or if you want to have several landing pages for different products or offers, you might want to use OptimizePress. It has membership functionality and integrates with shopping carts and email autoresponder services.
If you want a blog site, you could go the route of a free theme and find something that's clean and efficient without being overwhelming with tons of features and customization options.
3. Consider your navigation.
The navigation is one of the most important parts of your site and one that many people starting out screw up.
The navigation needs to be concise and make sense to your visitor. Think in terms of what THEY want to learn, not what YOU want to share. How can you organize your content so it focuses on the visitor finding what they want to know as quickly as possible? Too many options can be confusing. Navigation that's only about you, your experience, your credentials, your location, your hours etc. may not be compelling to your audience.
Think about whether they know about you before they get to your site. If they do, what questions are they looking to answer when they find you? If they don't, what are they looking for that you are offering them a solution to?
If you consider these factors as you shop around, you'll be much more equipped to find something that will meet your needs and adapt as you evolve.