Selecting a WordPress Theme
Now that you know a little bit about the structure of the WordPress admin, we can dive into the world of design and understand how WordPress manages designs with Themes.
Pre-Designed or Self Design?
When designing your site, there's a couple of different starting points wherein choosing the right one can really help you get what you want out of your website. That's not to say you can't go back and choose a different path at any point, but it will help you save time if you pick the right starting point from the outset. The two major paths from here are 1. Pre-Designed, or 2. Self-Design.
If you don't want to design or heavily customize your site's design yourself, you can pick a WordPress Theme that best matches the aesthetic you like. This is by far the quickest method to get your site up and running. Since, at the outset, your focus should be on creating great content, not the design of the site, this is often the best choice for beginners. Some of the most successful sites on the internet are not based around good design, but rather great content and/or a good idea. Good design can come later!
The downsides of this option are: 1) Rigidity. Many themes do not provide you with the visual elements necessary to change fonts, colours and page layouts without editing code, so you're often stuck with the style you pick. 2) Support Limitations. Many pre-designed themes aren't as well supported as self-design canvas themes. That's because the latter are built as long-term frameworks, so the developers are often in it for the long-haul, whereas pre-designed theme developers typically make their money by selling more and more themes, meaning their older themes often get left behind.
Self-Design Canvas Themes
If you want to design your site by playing around with page layouts, separate row sections and columns and by selecting your own colours and fonts, this process is going to take a lot longer, but you'll have more control over the styles of your site without (or rarely) having to code. To make this work, you'll need to start with a theme that provides you with the capability to manage styles, fonts and core page layouts from the WordPress Customizer graphical user interface (GUI).
The only major downside of opting to self-design at the beginning is the time investment necessary to build the design from the ground up. This is because these types of themes typically start you off with a blank canvas (barebones black text on white background styles) and you then must configure all of your styles in the theme's Customizer settings, such as accent colours, font faces, sizes, headings, header and footer layouts, etc. entirely from scratch.
Click below to select the option you'd prefer to proceed with.
The next most important thing to know is that while your theme's job is to provide you with a single spot to configure presets (like header styles, link colours, general font styles, etc) and consistent global areas that always appear no matter what page of the site you're on (like your header, menu, footer, and sometimes the sidebar), they may also try to get you to build your page content using their built-in tools.
We strongly recommend avoiding the use of a theme's built-in page building tools and shortcodes unless they provide them through a separate plugin that isn't part of the theme. This is because if you ever wish to change themes later, you'll need to go through every page where you've used their tools (shortcodes, builders, etc) and manually change them all to the new theme's tools, which may not even be available!
Instead we recommend using a page builder, like BeaverBuilder. There is a free version, called BeaverBuilder Lite, which we have pre-installed on all WordPress installations on Websavers hosting.
Whenever you go to create or edit a page, you will then have the option to use BeaverBuilder to create your layouts and content structure like multiple columns, adding photo sections, photo background rows, and more!
Important Words Of Wisdom For Theming
I remember the first time I installed a theme for my first website. I literally spent well over 10 hours previewing and testing themes until I decided which one to use. By the time the process was over I was so burned out and didn't even want to look at another theme again. I get it - you want it to be perfect right away. But there are some important things you need to keep in mind when deciding on a theme for your blog:
Content is more important than design. All themes are going to look incomplete unless you've got content planned for every part of the theme's templates. Without any content there will be nothing to fill the sections that are meant to be filled and ultimately the site won't look complete until you have the content to support the design.
We usually recommend that people choose a simple theme to start with and concentrate on building out their content slowly over time. When the content gets to be harder to organize that leads us to the simple fact that...
You can always change the design later. If you remember the video from earlier in this guide on changing themes without changing content, you'll remember that you can always install a new theme at any time without disrupting any of your existing pages or posts. If you can't decide on the perfect theme today, don't sweat it, you can always revisit themes once you have a better feel for your blog.
Finally: just pick one! Stop wasting time. Your time is much better spent creating great content and engaging with your community than it is trying to decide what theme to choose. If you want an opinion or help setting something up please ask us for help.
WordPress Design FAQ
If you haven't set up your website yet, I would strongly urge you to go back and do that now. It's really hard to design your new site when you don't even have it setup yet. If you have your website setup already, we can move on to the next section of the guide.