What you should know before using
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Choosing a WordPress template

Posted by Peter Bacani on September 2nd, 2011 at 6:31 am

small photo of a checklistSometimes, when looking for a WordPress template, we tend to focus just on the looks – here are some other considerations you might want to make when deciding whether to use a WordPress template that you have found on the net.

  • Check your source

  • Not all authors who give away free templates provide them without strings attached. I once downloaded a template that was really nice looking and had the features I needed but unfortunately upon code inspection, it was hiding a nasty spam link at the bottom and had BASE64 encoded files which could be used for SQL injections. Using templates with these hidden links or encrypted footers may possibly cause your site to be banned from search engines. My suggestion is to do a quick search to see if the template you chose has any negative feedback or review.

    Below are some well known sites where you can find WordPress templates:

    wordpress.org – popular free themes
    woothemes.com – free themes
    smashingmagazine.com – 100 free themes for 2010
    smashingmagazine.com – 100 free themes for 2011

    dzineblog.com – 47 WordPress themes from themeforest

    Free vs Paid
    The most common reason why you will want to buy a template is because the authors will provide support, in case you encounter issues during install or when you have difficulty integrating some plugins and generally you could expect paid themes to guarantee a higher level of quality (i.e. valid markup, browser compatibility etc). Also some authors also provide the PSD files along with the wordpress template to allow you to better customize the design. Also, other paid themes are more expensive than the others because they come with their own theme admin panels that further allow you to customize theme properties (i.e. fonts, colors, background images etc) like what woothemes.com and pagelines.com offer.

  • See how it handles your layout needs

  • Different themes offer different levels of flexibility when it comes to letting you control the layout of your site. Most dont because they have fixed layouts while some are quite sophisticated and allow for drag and drop control an example is the Platform theme – if I’m right its the only one that allows this much column property control without the need to manually editing the CSS file. My suggestion is to determine clearly how your layout should be on your site (i.e. number of columns, should the columns be fluid etc) and choose a template that supports that. Here’s a link to an article from speckyboy featuring themes that have a flexible grid system as their key feature.
  • Does your theme have all the functionality you need

  • Some themes come with additional functionality such as image carousel/slider on the homepage, custom page types or social networking. My suggestion is choose the one that already comes with the features you need by default so you avoid relying on additional plugins after install – so there is less risk of encountering incompatibilities between your chosen template and that plugin you are trying to install later on.
  • How old is the template

  • It may be prudent to determine when the template you are using was released or last updated by its author. Its possible that older templates (two years or more) may may have less or no support to the features and capabilities of later versions of WordPress – which means they may break or leave security vulnerabilities unchecked when used with the latest versions of WordPress.

Consult with a web designer if in doubt

For people with little time in their hands or are not comfortable with getting under the hood of a chosen template, it would be advisable to seek the help of a web designer who can better help you mitigate any issues that you may encounter with your template when customizing it. Also a web designer may be better equipped in testing your template alongsite plugins that you will require to be installed later on.

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