Congratulations! Your new site is hosted, installed, and you’re already familiar with basic layout of the WordPress platform. You’ve probably been thinking about how you want your site to look for a long time now, and choosing the right WordPress theme is the best way to get what you’re after. But, third-party themes aren’t created equal, so we’d like to offer a few theme-related tips for your new artist website.
A WordPress theme is like the façade of a building — it plays the largest role in determining how your site will look and feel to visitors. While the other stuff is all about functionality, the theme is what people really see and notice. This is where you get to make aesthetic choices about your online portfolio … and knowing about potential pitfalls before committing to a particular theme can prevent frustration and save tons of time in the future.
As with choosing the right host, finding the right theme for your site can be daunting. There are loads of designers and developers out there trying to make a living selling WordPress themes, and the quality of their work varies drastically. Although we develop our own themes in-house, we’ve always been impressed with the setup at ThemeForest to help in your search for a premium WordPress theme. (That link will take you directly to the WordPress themes and templates sorted by highest rating on ThemeForest.)
What to Look for When Picking a Premium WordPress Theme
Tip 1: You Get What You Pay For
It’s often worth the $30-$75 it costs to buy a premium theme instead of going with a free theme. This has to do not only with the quality of the theme itself (lots of free themes are actually really well-built, although there are plenty that aren’t), but also with the ability to get support from the theme developer if something doesn’t work as advertised.
Tip 2: Looks Can Be Deceiving
Look beyond the pretty pictures in the demo at the underlying design and layout of the theme. It’s easy to think a theme looks great, but what truly useful features are lurking behind the awesome pictures they loaded up in the demo?
Unless you’re a photographer or you have loads and loads of professional photos that work well together, you may have a hard time achieving the cohesive look of a photo-heavy theme. Look at the other elements: buttons, fonts, colors, etc. Is there plenty of visual interest there *without* the photos?
Tip 3: To Customize or Not To Customize
Decide at the start whether you want a theme that offers lots of customization or one that you plan to use out-of-the-box. These are two very different approaches to theme-building, and they both offer distinct advantages, but if you intend to heavily customize a theme that’s not built for it, you’re probably going to be in for a rude awakening.
Read through the theme documentation carefully, and ask the developer questions about your intended use for the theme before you buy. (Be sure you tell them that you’re considering buying their theme — theme developers are naturally wary of providing support to people who obtained their themes illegally.)
Tip 4: Listen to Other Customers.
Read, read, read before you buy. One of the things we love most about ThemeForest is having access to the user comments. You can see how quickly the theme developer responds to requests, what sorts of trouble people are having, etc. Try to read between the lines — if you’re trying to build your website around a cool filterable portfolio and you see lots of people having trouble with that feature of the theme, steer clear.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve tried to help you with some of the first-time hurdles you’re likely to face when creating an online art showcase on your own. But these topics are only the beginning.
Stay tuned to Artist Web School as we continue explore the larger challenges all artists face when displaying work online. And as always, send us your questions and thoughts about what you’d like to see discussed here at Artist Web School! #WordpressForArtists