Picking the best WordPress theme for your client
Have you ever started to build a WordPress site for a client and realized—after you’ve already invested a good amount of time and money—that you’ve chosen the wrong theme? Or that the theme your client has selected is actually lacking many of the fundamental features they require? With deadlines looming and budgets tightening, a last-minute change may not be feasible and you could get stuck delivering a site that neither you nor your client is entirely satisfied with.
We want to help you avoid that unpleasant scenario. We know how difficult it can be to find the right theme for your client—especially these days when the options are virtually endless—but it is possible. By determining project requirements early on, narrowing your search, and comparing potential themes before you commit, you’ll maximize your chances of selecting the right theme and minimize your stress and second-guessing.
Sort out the important details
Before you even so much as glance at a theme, it’s crucial that you take the time to go over the project objectives with your client. What is the purpose of the site? Who is it for? How do you want to structure it? Try to be as detailed as possible in your answers. It might not even be a bad idea to sketch out a site map at this point so you can start to think about the functionality different pages might require. This will also get your client thinking about the content they’ll need to provide.
Decide on a list of must-haves
Once you and your client are on the same page about what you’re building, it’s up to you to identify a list of essential theme features. Some of the most important things to consider are site navigation (do you need mega-nav to handle dozens of menu items?), image requirements (do you have the photos to fill a site-spanning hero area?) and header treatment (is its size and position compatible with your client’s name and logo?). Create a list of 3-5 essential features and start shopping.
Limit your search
As mentioned earlier, there are literally thousands of WordPress themes on the market, and even if you limit your search to the ones that have your desired features, there’s still going to be thousands to comb through. Because of this, we recommend considering the themes of just two or three providers you trust. Not only does this narrow the field substantially, but it will make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to digging into the codebase. (And by only using reputable theme providers, you’re ensuring your client has someone to call if things go awry—someone that isn’t you!)
Look under the hood
Whether or not it made your list, clean, intelligible code is a must-have for any theme, and unfortunately, it’s not as common as you might expect. Shoddy, deprecated code is a nightmare to customize and can result in broken layouts and plugins, corrupted data, and worse. By taking the time to check out the code before you commit, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into, and save everyone a lot of grief down the road.
Keep your eyes open
The WordPress landscape is forever changing and it’s important to keep apprised of the latest trends and developments. Instead of trying to implement the latest, greatest features and styles into each and every project, set aside some non-billable hours once or twice a month to see what’s new and check out what other designers are doing. We hate to admit it, but sometimes the best ideas come from your competitors!