When familiarising themselves with WordPress, it’s easy for many new users to be drawn in by the base sets of slick, aesthetically pleasing templates that the platform has laid out for them. Unfortunately, while these page themes will certainly get the job done, their ease of implementation means that you are sharing a visual identity with the thousands of established sites that came before you.
This may not necessarily be an issue for portfolios or other similar websites that aren’t attempting to form a cohesive brand but, for businesses looking to solidify their image, this poses a variety of hurdles. How can you hope for users to connect with your website as a unique offering when they have seen the same page layouts and designs on dozens of other pages?
Strategy and Planning
Just like any other project, designing a website requires a considerable amount of strategy and planning to work effectively. It’s the same as hiring a professional architect to prepare blueprints when building a home; an ill-conceived or under-developed plan can quickly lead to disarray and issues later down the line. When specifically discussing website design, your strategy should reflect where your content, creative and conversion points need to be based on your objectives.
Creating a Wireframe
To do this, you begin by building the wireframe; a digital blueprint which allows you to visualise the key aspects of your site’s design. This wireframe can include components such as a homepage slider, or accordion sections of content to be implemented later. With this, you are ensuring that your website works for you, as opposed to you attempting to fit your vision into a simple template or theme. By avoiding the use of pre-existing components and layouts, you are also making sure that you have the highest level of control and specificity when designing features and functions within your pages.
Choosing a Theme That Works For Your Needs
All themes are not created equal.
One of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced website creators is assuming that an aesthetically pleasing theme will be universally effective. This leads many people to utilise themes and designs that contrast poorly with the service they provide, quickly causing discord within their brand’s image. So, when deciding on how your website should look and feel, it’s important to choose a design that will fit with your, or your client’s, requirements and needs.
With that said, choosing the ideal theme is not an exact science, as even established web developers won’t be able to provide you with a solution that will work for every business within your field. This is due to the fact that, even among companies offering similar services, objectives and preferred brand image are likely going to be quite different. The important thing is to keep your goals in mind while looking into theme options (Themeforest and Envato are two excellent resources when searching for examples), focussing on categories you feel are relevant to your business or service.
Issues With Code
More popular themes will often have code bloat; an overabundance of unnecessary or wasteful code that can slow down your site whilst attempting to deliver on too many functions. It’s important to keep this in mind and ensure that both you and your web developers are making smart decisions throughout the design and implementation process. Laziness is likely to cost you more further down the line, and making sure that you have the right theme from the start will certainly pay off once you begin the building process.
Weighing Up Your Chosen Theme
Regardless of the initial effectiveness of your site’s theme, it’s important to ensure that you will still be able to receive support in 12 months. Going back to Themeforest and Envato, these platforms offer a variety of metrics to see whether or not certain themes will still be around in the future. For some additional information, look at the star rating, comments and the consistency of replies from developers for each theme. Always ensure that the theme you start with has been updated regularly, as this will become invaluable in the coming months.
On a similar note, while free themes can be effective in the short term, they are often over-utilised and under-supported; giving you very few options when looking to improve your pages’ performance. Therefore, premium themes are always going to offer a smarter investment in regard to both time and money.
Taking the PSD Files to a Professional Web Development Team With Design Skills
In most cases, theme developers will provide PSD files that you can use to create unique designs from their initial templates. Just as a refresher, PSD files are layered image files that allow you to edit the images disparate layers even after it has been saved. Because of this, you can take these designs to a range of popular design programs such as Sketch or Photoshop and create a custom design that gets the most out of your chosen theme. At this point, the WordPress developer that is building your site can customise the design to fully reflect your brand.
An experienced WordPress web developer will be able to add custom styles and functionality that will mean no one knows if your theme is a custom built theme or a premium theme rollout. These web developers can tweak themes without breaking them. They will also install and setup the theme so that any custom styles you have created to make the site unique won’t be lost with updates.
Using the Theme Functionality, but Not the Design
After all of the hard work and dedication that has gone into developing your new site, why would you get lazy by using demo styles and fonts? Follow your branding, taking note of your page’s design, and incorporate those elements into a professional, conversion-focussed website that fits your brand’s existing aesthetic. Not only will this resonate with customers and users; it will give you a more robust set of guidelines to work from when creating advertisements and other external pieces of brand-related media.
The impact that unique design can have in differentiating your brand can allow you to use a common WordPress theme. So, consider the steps that we have offered in this piece and your site is sure to benefit from it. Good luck!