When it comes to blogging, one of the most important steps is selecting the perfect theme for your blog. Of course content is important, but your theme plays a critical role in grabbing and maintaining your visitor’s attention. In some cases, your theme is the deciding factor for whether a visitor stays on your blog a little longer or immediately leaves after getting the information they came for. Equally, a bad theme design can turn visitors away and discourage repeat visits. Here are 8 key elements to look gor when choosing a theme for your blog:
1. Uniqueness and Originality
First impressions are everything. You want a unique theme that will stand out from the rest. You’ll never be the only one to use a theme (unless you design it yourself), but the more unique it is, the better. There is nothing worse than having a theme that your readers have seen many times before on other blogs.
It helps to use premium paid themes rather than free themes. Many bloggers are not willing to spend money on a theme, so you’re sure to be in the minority if you purchase a nice premium theme through a reputable WordPress theme source.
If you are a designer and good with HTML and CSS, consider creating your own theme. That way, you know that no other blog will look like yours.
2. Readability and Layout
It’s important to pick the right colors for your theme. There shouldn’t be any kind of contrasting colors or elements that make it hard to read your content. Using light text on a dark background is a huge no-no because it’s very hard on the eyes. Stick to dark text on a light background.
Also, verify the design and placement of the top header. This is one of the first things people will notice when they visit your blog, and it gives visitors a good sense of what your blog is all about. It shouldn’t be too big or too small. Ensure there is room to add the name of your blog since some headers are small and do not allow for long blog names. Check out things like white space, padding around images, content headers and bulleted list. These need to be formatted properly. Navigation is also important because this is how your users will search for and be directed to other content on your blog. If it’s not right in front of them, they’ll get frustrated and just give up. Your navigation should be highly visible, easy to get to, and employ proper functionality.
3. SEO Friendly
The structure and coding of your blog must be SEO friendly so that search engines like Google can easily find and index your content. To identify the SEO friendliness of your theme, take a quick look at the HTML coding of the front page, individual posts, and individual pages. Use header tags (H1, H2, etc), especially on the top header where the blog name and description goes. Also use H1 tags on the headlines of your posts, pages, and archives page.
While there are numerous WordPress SEO plugins that you can use to add more SEO features and override many of these things, the less plugins you have to use the better. Plugins increase page load time, so if your theme is already SEO friendly, you won’t have to worry about using additional plugins to make up for the lack of SEO friendliness.
4. Website Load Time
Your theme should not have so much going on that it slows the site down– large images, widgets, plugins, etc. The longer your page load time, the more more readers you’ll lose. Visitors are impatient, often stressed for time and want to get to your content as quickly as possible. A slow loading theme will cause people to lose interest, complain, leave and possibly never return again.
5. Mobile Friendly
With the growing popularity of mobile devices, you’re bound to have more mobile-sourced traffic. The theme you choose should function properly on mobile devices. Some WordPress themes are not very mobile-friendly, but there are WordPress plugins and Web services to help you mobilize your blog.
6. Valid Code
Having a theme with valid code is so important for a few reasons. It’s great for SEO and also helps to keep up the speed of your blog. The higher percentage of valid code, the less problems your readers will have when accessing your blog from various browser types. Since HTML tags and elements get depreciated quite often, valid code ensures that there are no issues with your blog in future versions of different web browsers. Also, the less HTML errors you have, the easier it will be for search engine spiders to crawl your site–important for getting your blog indexed.
7. Cross-Browser Compatibility
As mentioned earlier, it’s important that your theme can be viewed properly in all web browsers. Since it is difficult to test every single browser, focus on the most popular browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It is unlikely that your readers will use the same browser, so you can’t just focus on one. Most premium themes ensure cross-browser compatibility, which is another advantage to purchasing a premium theme. Test your theme in each browser or use a browser compatibility testing tool to make sure everything looks good and functions properly.
If you ever have any issues with your theme, it’s important to be able to get help from the designer. Make sure that you’re using a theme from a reputable source that has a support forum or at least a contact form that you can use to get help if needed. If not, you’ll be stuck trying to figure things out for yourself and could mess up your theme and hurt the functionality of your blog.