August 26, 2017
I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

Blogging - Choosing your theme

Blogging. There is so much to learn. You need to get your domain. You need to create your site. You need to write posts. Each of these is a task unto itself. So, I thought I would share some thoughts and knowledge I have learned through the years or using WordPress, to at least get you on the right path for you.

This post is all about WordPress. Before you go wading into the content, I wanted to add that. There are other platforms out there, you can even use HTML themes and not use a CMS such as WordPress; that's content management system just in case you wanted.

WordPress gives you so much up front which is why I use it and why I am talking about it. That said, let's carry.

The theme

So, in this post, I'm not going to tell you how to blog. That is something I am still learning every day, and so are many others. For that, you need to find your own path.

I'm not going to tell you how to register a domain or find a hosting service. I may do that if asked in the future, but for now, I won't. There are many posts out there on the subject.

What I wanted to go through, is to talk about WordPress themes and what is best for you. At least, at the end of this post, I hope you know which is best for you.

Why is the theme so important

Before I talk about the different type of themes; I just wanted to talk a little about why the theme is so important. It's quite simple really. The theme, how you set up the site, is the first thing that people will see. We all know that first impressions are important. You could have the best content in the world, but if people are put off before they read any content then this is not good. They could be leaving your site without ever reading content at all.

What you want is for people to be engaged from the start. They need to see your site, see it as easy to use, find it pleasing enough to view. Those first few seconds are vital to making the best possible first impression you can.

So, the themes. I've broken it up into 3 different fields or types, depending on how you want to call it. There are the Free themes, the Premium themes, and the theme Frameworks. Let's talk a little about each.

Free theme

Free themes. These are probably the most used themes out there, and there are so many to choose from that you can spend hours or even days just looking. Then you may not get through them all.

You start by looking through WordPress itself, you can choose to add a new theme and from there you can scroll through or search. There are hours or days worth to scroll through and it seems to be the biggest repository of them. This is not the only repository for Free themes though, there are many others. I personally use a site called MyThemeShop.

They have both premium themes which you have to pay for as well as free themes. I use them because I have found that both the free and premium themes are both quick and have good SEO as well as seem to be quite solid to use. By the way, MyThemeShop didn't pay me for this advert, however, the above link is my affiliate link if you did purchase anything from them. It costs you nothing extra, but I would get a little something off the sale.

So, to continue with my free theme chat. Free themes are great for getting going. They can look good (like anything, it depends on the theme look). However, they usually don't have the best optimisation. They don't normally have great SEO and the customisation features are usually quite lacking.

Free theme
Free theme

Usually, to do some customisation, you need to know how to edit the theme. You need to certainly understand CSS and, in some cases, Php. You edit the theme files themselves. You create your own custom theme. However, if you edit the files directly, if you ever update the theme then all your changes get overwritten. You need to take some time and understand how to create a child theme and edit just that.

I'm sure you get the idea. A free theme will get you started. It costs you nothing other than your time and it can be edited to match what you want. But to do that, it takes time and effort and you may find that its optimisation may not give you the speed and reliability, especially if you have lots of people visit.

Premium Theme

The next logical step is to go for a premium theme, again MyThemeShop has these available too. I have sites that use a premium theme from them.

The first thing to notice is that there are so many more customisation features available. With simple edits from the WordPress admin interface.

Premium theme
Premium Theme

The free theme doesn't really allow you to do much from the WordPress panel. You can maybe work on things such as the colours, but you can't change the typography, or social buttons or many of these other options that are easily accessible in the premium theme. You could change those for the free theme, but you would most likely have to get into the code. Whereas, from the premium themes, usually its there in the interface.

Many of them also have custom CSS boxes, which means that if you change some of the CSS and put it in there if you update the theme it is not lost.

You find that the theme is generally more optimised for both speed and SEO. That said, there is a cost involved. It could be as little as $10 or up to over $100. If you want to go for a premium theme, you need to do your research first. Find out what it offers you and try to see if its the best fit. Many of the sites have free demo sites for you to play around with.

My personal opinion is, that when I first went to a premium theme, I never went back to free themes. But that is just my own personal choice.

Theme framework

Ok, so I've talked about free themes. I've talked about premium themes. So what are theme frameworks? If you did a Goole search now for theme frameworks, the usual suspects come up. You have Thesis, you have Elegant Themes - something like Divi theme, you have Genesis and you have Ultimatum. There are others; it's just these are the ones I have tried and own.

Generally, the idea is this. You have a base framework, which is where all the good stuff is. Then you have a child theme on top which is the design and where you tinker. 3 of the 4 mentions above go a little further than that.

Let's start with the odd one out. Genesis by Studio Press is the only framework in this list where you don't have a builder. The idea is that you install the framework and on top, you install your child theme, they have many pre-built ones to choose from or you can use the base child theme. You then change the design using CSS and other code. This sounds similar to the free themes you say? Well, not really because inside Genesis are many pre-built codes that access code in the framework to make changes easier to do. On top of that, Genesis is one of the industry bests, at least they say when it comes to things such as security, reliability, and SEO. If you're happy to go through the documentation and do some editing yourself, then you won't be disappointed. It is also one of the cheapest in the list I have given.

Elegant Themes Divi Theme, Ultimatum, and Thesis all have one common thing. They all allow you to build your site how you want it. The idea is simple. You use the page builder UI (it's a different one in each of the frameworks) to add elements to the pages and so build them to your design. I have used these with some success over time. This site, at the time of writing this, is currently using the Divi theme; though this may change back to Ultimatum or Thesis at any time in the future.

Divi Theme Framework
Divi Theme Framework

As you can see from the above, you can build up each page just how you want it. Theme frameworks generally also have a good set of options to configure your site also. They really, in my opinion, offer the best package. But for me, the reason behind that is this ability to be able to design my site my way. You may not feel the same and so may go for a free or premium option. Generally, these frameworks are usually the more expensive options too, though if you compare it to the cost of getting a developer to design your site, they are probably cheaper.

It's really down to you

At the end of the day, your the deciding factor. I just wanted to give you an insight into the options you have. This insight has come from years of using these themes and frameworks (even creating a course on Ultimatum). Personally, my personal favourite is the frameworks. I have sites using most of them. That said, one of my biggest sites using a premium theme because it is thinner in size and gives me some great options. There is no one size fits all and if you have more than one site you may find that you use a combination of all of these - I know I do.

I hope this has been useful. If so please leave a comment. If you have any questions then why not ping them below. If you use a great premium theme or one of the other frameworks, then please let me know. Also, I would love to see your sites and what you have done with themes and frameworks.

*Please note, the links in the post are affiliate links. They do not add to the cost of any item you may purchase but what they do give is a percentage of the purchase cost to me. You pay no extra if you buy but it does help support me and my site. 


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I recently came across the following quote “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ― Maya Angelou This is my new goal in life. Not to conform to be normal, but to be amazing and I hope to inspire you to be amazing too.

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