Blog Design – Where to Get the Best WordPress Themes
This is part five of the One Week Blog Challenge series.
It’s like a tux for your blog. Let’s go with Armani.
Now that you have your WordPress blog installed and setup, you want to make your website look good and stand out. In WordPress that’s done by downloading and installing themes (they’re basically skins or designs for your blog).
What you will want to do is download or buy a theme, pop in a new logo, customize some parts of it to make it your own, and install some plugins. Let’s tackle themes first.
When it comes to choosing the design and layout of your site there are a lot of options and it can get confusing so let me give you some guidance.
Free vs. Premium Themes
There are thousands of free themes available for download and some of them are quite good. I found a great free theme for my girlfriend’s website recently that came with some nice extra features.
However, most of the time I recommend going with a Premium WordPress Theme. A premium theme usually costs anywhere from $25 to $100 and comes with a few advantages:
- They are often professionally designed, better coded, and (usually but not always) come with better support in case you need to ask specific questions about implementing it.
- Because you have to pay for a premium theme, there are generally less downloads and less blogs out there that will look similar to yours.
- Many premium themes come with plug and play options that let you customize them a lot easier without having to know how to program any html or php code.
Here are some Free Theme lists that are worth looking at if you want to go the free route
- 40 Free Quality themes and 100 More for 2009 by Smashing Magazine.
- 45+ Excellent free themes by Instantshift.
Thesis Theme – In a Class of Its Own
I would say for 90% of the sites we run, we use the premium theme Thesis. It’s coded by Chris Pearson, who is an absolute madman when it comes to clean code and design. If you want the full details, Nick has done an excellent and thorough thesis review as well as a video review discussing all the benefits of Thesis.
Countless world-class blogs are also powered by Thesis including Chris Brogan, Matt Cutts, Zenhabits, Man vs. Debt, Copyblogger, Sugarrae, Graywolf, Paul Stamatiou and thousands more. Using what the pros use is always a good idea. Check out 101 ways people have customized Thesis.
Another of the ultra-premium themes that looks promising is Headway, which allows you to move things around visually on your blog. You can read Nick’s review of the Headway theme if you want to learn more.
Premium Theme Collections
While Thesis allows you to set a lot of options through its interface, doing more complex graphic-intensive stuff or moving things around in unusual ways requires some knowledge of coding. These are some quality premium theme shops that I’ve had some experience with and who put out great themes:
- Theme Forest – check out Convergence (what I will probably use), and Twicet
- Woo Themes – check out Antisocial (good for social media focus)
- Elegant Themes – check out Evid (good for video sites)
- Templatic – check out Productfolio (good for product sites)
What Theme Do I Go with For HotShotPhoto
Ordinarily I would go with Thesis, but since this is such a rush project I am going to purchase the Convergence theme from Theme Forest. My reasons for this are:
- The design is the closest to what I want my website to look like right now without a lot of tweaking.
- It looks a lot like psd.tutsplus.com (used to known as psdtuts) which gives readers a subconscious association of the design with quality.
- It’s fairly cheap
Eventually, once the site is launched I will probably convert the theme to run on Thesis – just because I want all the extra features, SEO, and bonuses that Thesis offers. But I’ll do that sometime later when I’m not in as much of a time crunch.
UPDATE: After having bought the Convergence theme from Theme Forest, I have decided to go ahead and custom develop a Thesis theme that looks similar to it with the help of some of Matt Hodder’s code (thank Matt!) If you need anyone to help you mod a Thesis theme, give Matt a shout at matthodder – his work is some of the best I’ve seen.
Installing the Theme
After you buy and download the theme, unzip the files and transfer the theme folder over to your server under yourdomain.com (in my case hotshotphoto.com) > wp-content > themes folder using an FTP client. I use FireFTP, which is a Firefox addon.
Then login to your WordPress and in the left sidebar go to Appearance > Themes > find and activate the theme. Voila, your blog has a new look.
I won’t go into much technical detail for the rest of this series – I’ll just assume you have some technical expertise or can Google to find how to take care of FTP’ing files, changing settings, etc.
Next up – Your Logo
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