If you’re blogging on the WordPress platform, one of the first thing you probably did was install a new WordPress theme. You probably still occasionally change themes and waste a lot of time doing minor modifications that when summed up merely distracts you from blogging itself.

I get it; choosing the right theme is important. The theme defines the look and feel of your WordPress site and affects all the different widgets and codes you put in your site which controls the user experience and gets traffic and keeps them coming back.

So what factors do you need to consider in selecting a new theme? Here are five important ones:

1) Theme Width and Columns

Most WordPress themes come in 2-column or 3-column formats, with widths ranging from 500 pixels to 960 pixels wide. If you’re blogging for non-profit purposes, a 2-column theme can look more compact and reader-friendly. This format puts more focus on the content area. On the other hand, 3-column WordPress theme that will be able to accommodate additional content, widgets, images, and banners.

Some themes allow you to customize the number of columns and their position, like Weave Xtreme.

2) Use of Images and Icons

A theme with images and icons can look good, but it rarely increases your web traffic. In fact, many blogs have plain themes with a simple logo on top. Reducing the amount of images also means faster loading time and less chance readers will leave from the wait.

Ideally, a theme should allow you to use your own header image for stronger branding purposes, yet replace images and icons with links and text, or just not use them at all unless absolutely necessary.

3) Compatibility with Plugins

Another time consuming activity is selecting and  installing plugins. Plugins improve the functionality of your site. There’s a plugin out there for almost everything you want to do with your blog. While most of them are free and easily obtainable, it’s not always easy to install the plugins and get them working.

Complicated themes can affect the way plugins work, and you don’t quite get the features you wanted from the plugin. Some themes can even break plugins completely.

4) Search Engine Optimization

There are a lot of “rules” about search engine optimization; but in the end, if you have content worth reading, you will eventually get the rankings you deserve. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need worry about SEO; it merely means that as far as optimization is concerned all you really need to do is to make sure:

  • Your tags are formatted properly, with the name of the post first followed by the name of the blog
  • All your blog content titles use the H1 tag, with the main keywords used instead of non-descriptive text
  • Your theme has clean source codes, and if possible all formatting is linked to an external CSS file

5) Ease of Use

Can the theme be installed easily on an existing blog? Can the same theme be used and customized easily on your other blogs? These are some additional things you may want to consider when theme-shopping, especially if every minute of downtime on your blog may mean lost revenue.

While it’s hard to make comparisons due to the sheer amount of free and paid themes out there, it’s still a good idea to have a test blog site. Test any theme you plan on using, and make sure your test blog is also fitted with all the plugins and miscellaneous widgets used on your real blog. The last thing you want is for your readers start seeing weird error messages on your blog.

At the end of the day, a theme is is the window dressing for your site. Instead of spending your time installing them, it may be wiser to focus more on your readers.

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P.S. If you need help customizing your WordPress blog, check out my video course WordPress Basics Videos. These 11 videos will teach all the basics of setting up your blog from start to finish.