Due to its vast network of dedicated developers and support staff, WordPress is THE most popular content management system (CMS). Over the past 15 years, WordPress has put together a pool of themes, enhancements and plugins that make for simple installation within most hosting platforms and easy plug-and-go design work.
This superior quality and dedication to providing great products and exceptional services is why WordPress dominates the internet with 60% control of all sites that utilize a CMS and 32% of all websites (source). No other CMS is even close to providing the same experience in terms of ease of use and breadth of capabilities.
WP users rarely have to compromise. However, for non-developers, getting a WordPress theme to do exactly what you need can lead to roadblocks every once in a while. When this happens, you need to understand how to make simple hacks that can help customize your site to get the most out of your DIY website.
Choosing the right WP theme
Part of hacking your WordPress experience is setting yourself up for success with the right theme from the start. By focusing on these key points, you can select a quality WP theme that will meet your needs now and in the future.
- Know the developers – Knowing the source of your WordPress theme will give you a great idea of the overall quality of the theme from top to bottom. Many themes can look good in a preview and say all of the right things in terms of features, and then disappoint once you’ve installed in and started to fill in your information. Working with a well known and highly rated developer means that the theme you choose will likely include all of the great features and customization you need, but also that the theme will be well maintained long-term to account for necessary updates and minor fixes. Consider themes built by these top WordPress developers.
- Understand the features – When it comes to WordPress themes, it’s best not to judge a book by its cover. Rather, you need to get in to the nitty gritty details of what the theme will really look like and function like when it’s a blank slate instead of the cutesy screenshots that are shown in previews.
- How frequent are updates? – Even if a theme is from an up and coming developer that doesn’t have a known reputation, that doesn’t mean they won’t be highly responsive to customer queries and active with updating their themes to keep up with WP updates, plugins and general industry trends.
- Read reviews – Previews are only going to feature the many positives of a WordPress theme. Reviews, both positive and critical, will shine a different light on what’s it’s really like to interact with a theme.
- Is their support active? – When issues arise, is the developer, or team of developers, going to be quick to respond to necessary fixes? Whether you have to wait weeks for bugs to be corrected, or the developer has stopped updating the theme altogether, an active support team can make your site more manageable.
- Features and customization – Themes come in many shapes and functions. Each one unique in its page layout, ability to be customized and features it includes. Taking your understanding of your brand and the ways in which you want to communicate with your website visitors, you’ll be able to choose the right theme with the built in appeal and flexibility to meet your needs.
Identifying gaps in features and functions
Now that you’ve found the theme with the perfect layout, menu options, customization or whichever particular set of features that best suits your UX goals, make note of what your website still needs before it’s ready to go live.
Even the perfect theme is still going to require some extra features to help boost your site’s performance or better enable you to design your pages without having to understand PHP or even CSS.
Take some time to inventory the various functions that your site is going to need to enable users to move through your site seamlessly. What do you need to present your brand properly and give users all of information they need to make a purchase decision? Are you able to feature the right colors, text and graphics to educate visitors on your brand identity and what makes you so unique? How can you enhance the engagement of your site? Do you have the ability to track necessary analytics to continually improve your site moving forward?
There are a number of WordPress plugins that can help the functionality of your website and/or the convenience of managing your website. Make sure you choose themes with the right compatibility to support the top plugins and features you need to create a captivating and intuitive website.
Filling gaps with reliable plugins
Perhaps WordPress’ most impressive feature is its variety of original plugins. A plugin is a program that adds additional features to your website. Adding these programs is a matter of a few clicks and does not require accessing the site’s code. From contact forms to SEO tools, if you need it, WP likely has a plugin for it. Start by looking through these popular WP plugins for business websites.
Fill in the gaps you’ve established in your initial research and wander around various categories of plugins to find a few extra features you maybe didn’t even know to look for. WP didn’t become more popular than all other CMSs combined by luck. They’ve put in the time and energy to compile tools and resources to make the complex, yet entirely necessary, activity of web design as easy as possible for business owners.
Don’t know code? No problem! Even if you’re a first time WordPress user, utilize the massive network of WP forums, chats, support staff, themes and plugins to get all of the help you need in building your website. You don’t have to pay a fortune for high end web design if you know how to hack WP themes for maximum results.