I was presented at the Sydney WordPress meetup last night on choosing WordPress Themes and then, having procured said themes, creating child themes.
Here’s the basic gist of the first message. I’ll post the child theming post tomorrow
Choose your themes wisely.
For me, the imperatives when choosing themes are:
- That they are kept up to date. Up to date with WordPress upgrades, up to date with security and up to date with current developments in, well… web development.
It’s at this point that the benefits of buying a commercially released theme kick in… because in reality, a theme released for free has had less invested in it by the developer/designer and so the impetus to keep it updated is significantly less than if there is an income riding on the theme. And frankly, if you’ve paid for it, you’re more likely to be invested in the ‘health’ of the theme as well.
- The theme needs to be secure, needs to be coded well. Frankly, this is hard to measure. If you’re not a code head who can look at the code and see the universe (think Neo from the Matrix) then it’s hard to say what’s secure or not… and given that you’re potentially introducing risk with every thing you bring into WordPress to extend it one of the better ways to keep your site secure is keep it up to date… and keep the platform you’re running it on up to date (Thanks timgws). That goes for themes as well.
- The theme needs to be well documented and well supported – if you can’t find information about how to customise it, how to best use it, if you can’t find other people using it, or using themes by the designer then think twice about using it unless you’re really confident meddling with its backend yourself. If the support offered by the developer is non existent, or if the feedback you do find about your theme is predominantly negative, you may want to rethink your options.
I believe a mature, forward thinking, committed WordPress user shouldn’t steer away from commercial themes. I haven’t always felt this way, but having messed around with free themes (actually, this web princess skin is build on a free theme – and I know it’s well overdue for the code to be cleaned up and optimised), I think the benefits that come with handing over a bit of cash far outweigh the free…
In any case, here’s a list of my preferred theme providers, and a couple of extras thrown in after a chat with @thewpguy.
- WordPress.org – Yes, there are free themes, a lot free themes, and if you’re committed to not spending money, at least if you start here you know you’ll be downloading virus free, vetted themes.
- Woo Themes – The themes offered here are excellent, a little pricey but a subscription will give you access to all of their themes and support. Worth it for high quality professional files.
- Elegant Themes – this is a really popular site for attractive reasonably priced themes. $39US will get you a subscription for a whole year’s worth of access to all the themes and the PSD files. There’s an active supportive community to help you if you get stuck.
- Themify – this is a fairly small themeshop but their offerings look good and the designer has embraced responsive design so is getting along with the trend towards multiple screen sized access. This can only be a good thing.
- Themeforest – This is a huge marketplace for themes for all sorts of platforms, WordPress looming large, as you’d expect, among them. Tread carefully and keep an eye on the comments and feedback about your chosen theme, not all submissions are kept up to date, or supported well, but the themes are by and large, reasonably priced.
- Studiopress – I may have listed the above in no particular order… but I really saved the best for last. I’m a total convert to building themes on the Genesis framework, and while it comes with quite a steep learning curve, it really does make the life of converting a design to a solid, secure seo ready theme a lot easier in the long run. I honestly can’t rate it highly enough.
I gave a couple of honorable mentions to the following two sites and Tony, the wordpress guy put me on to the last two theme shops. So feel free to check them out as well.
Theme Garden – these guys appear to have quite a number of Genesis themes.
Below are the slides… and here’s a link to the video