Well, installment one of this series (Three Reasons Your Website Sucks and One Simple Way to Fix It) garnered 16 comments and over 200 retweets. Damn. I guess you folks want me to write installment two. Let me get right on that!
We’re going to talk about WordPress themes, and not all are created equal. A theme is essentially a templated design that you can upload into your self-hosted WordPress installation (read more about those at Stop Being a WordPress Whore). It defines all your fonts, color schemes and the overall look and feel of your WordPress-powered website or blog.
But all themes are NOT created equal.
Most often, themes are built by designers interested in creating “pretty things.” They’re not SEO-savvy and bogged-down with code that keeps the search engines from finding what they need most (your info and keywords). However, we’re going to talk today about three themes that I’ve personally used (two of which I currently run) that are the hizzy of da schizzy when it comes to design, functionality and SEO. I’m confident that there are many more themes that web developers and site builders enjoy – so PLEASE: add them to the comments section below so readers can have a solid collection of themes from which to choose when looking to use the smartest themes on the market.
A note about WordPress hosting:
Think that installing a WordPress-powered website or blog is hard? Think again. There are several hosting providers that offer one-click WordPress installations:
- GoDaddy – This site and RedheadedFury.com are both hosted with GoDaddy.
- BlueHost – I’ve heard brilliant things about Blue Host’s
- An Additional List from WordPress.org of one-click WordPress install hosting providers
Things to Look for in a WordPress Theme
- Widget-Ready: is the theme ready to accept additional sidebar widgets and plugins? Ask before you buy (all themes mentioned below are widget-ready).
- Clean Code: send an email to the sales team if you’re unsure or do a Google search for feedback on a theme. A theme bogged-down with poorly written code that’s designed to make a pretty theme versus a search engine/user-friendly one isn’t a wise use of your money.
The blog you’re reading right now is powered by Woo Themes Mainstream Theme (and…it’s FREE. Dang.). Why did I select it? Because it has some very powerful built-in features that are essential to RedheadWriting.com and my presence in the social media realm:
- Social Media Integration: just key in your info for Twitter and Facebook and it has slick home page icons that link directly to your profiles on those sites.
- Built-in Woo Themes Twitter Widget: Yeah, lots of the Twitter widgets kinda suck for WordPress. I think the one that you see over in the right hand side bar is clean and easy to read. It also includes a hot link to follow me on Twitter.
- Navigation: Built-in ability to have header or footer Category navigation (if you wish – great for blogs)
- Widget-Ready: Many WordPress themes are NOT widget-ready. This theme is 100% widget-ready and able to accept any plugin I throw its way. (Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the upcoming post in this series about WordPress plugins!)
- Dynamic Image Resizer: On my home page, you’ll see every post is accompanied by a graphic. Mainstream allows you to upload a custom graphic to display and automatically resizes the image to work on the home page, eliminating your need (and mine) to be a freakin’ image resizing wiz. Oh yeah.
- Integrated Banner Ad Management: If you’re monetizing your blog with ads, a big WOO WOO for this Woo Theme.
While the Mainstream theme IS free, I’d recommend becoming a Woo Themes member so you can enjoy support from their forums and more. All of their themes are ALWAYS buy one, get one free. If you’re a developer, you can buy a package that includes a PSD file for additional tweaking.
Quite possibly the most versatile WordPress theme on the market aside from Thesis (saving it for last), there are over 1,056 possible layouts with FLEXX. Perhaps the most simple plug-and-play, customizable theme out there, RedheadedFury.com runs on the FLEXX theme (in sassy Candy Apple). Available is 15 different color schemes (any of which are easily tweaked by a guy who knows CSS), FLEXX is web design-ready with all of its built-in functionality. For only $79.99 (or $199.99 for ALL 15 versions), I have no qualms that FLEXX is money well-spent.
I personally love the fact that iThemes offers video tutorials on how to make the most of your FLEXX theme. The ability for a complete newbie to go in and customize a complete website using this cleanly-coded theme is astounding. Their help forums are especially useful and provide hints for tweaks as well as instant answers directly from other users of the theme.
Want to find out more about the plethora of features that FLEXX offers (and I enjoy oh-so-much)? Visit the FLEXX theme online and see for yourself!
DIY Themes THESIS Theme
Yes, I own THESIS. While it’s not up and running on any of my currently live sites, I can assure you that it will be at some point in the future. I was turned on to THESIS by both Brian Clark (@copyblogger) and Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan), both of whose sites are powered by THESIS. If you’ve reviewed their sites, they really couldn’t be more different – but they’re both clean, easy to navigate and the built-in SEO functionality is unparalleled in any other theme on the market without installing a widget. Don’t believe me? Google’s Matt Cutts runs his site on THESIS (no shit).
If you’re not opposed to working with someone who is savvy with CSS of if you’re a web designer looking for the bomb diggity of WordPress themes to wrap your own CSS code around, take a video tour of what THESIS has to offer.
Key selling points for me:
- Unparalleled built-in SEO functionality, virtually eliminates many of the plugins most themes require!
- Likely the most developer-friendly theme on the market
- Lifetime updates, no matter if you purchase the Personal or Developer Theme
- Personal Theme is only $87 (one installation), Developer Theme is only $164 (unlimited installs for your clients)
- View the Developer’s Showcase to see all of customizations available with THESIS
If you have favorite WordPress themes, leave a comment below. Next Wednesday’s installment of this series is by guest blogger Jason Nelson of Visual Adventures. He’ll be discussing CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and how they’re used with WordPress themes. Whether you’re a developer or not, the blog is in plain English so everyone can benefit!
Subscribe to RedheadWriting today via either RSS feed or email at the top right hand side of this screen – don’t miss this ongoing series about WordPress and web design or the new series on web content (next installment: Tuesday, September 1!).