Beginning WordPress: Choosing a Theme

One of the first tasks after installing your new WordPress site is to choose the theme that you are going to use. At least at first, it’s worth looking at the default theme, Twenty Eleven, to get a feel for what is available in terms of capabilities. Once you are familiar with themes in general is now time to select what theme you are going to use on your site.

At the time of writing there are over 1,400 themes available for download on the WordPress site, so how should you choose a theme?

You can use WordPress’ Tag Filter to get a selection of themes that match a particular feature that you might be interested in. For example, try searching for a colour or colours as a starting point. You can click on the image in the resulting list to get a live preview of the theme using a standard set of information. This will give you an idea of what the theme looks like. I would suggest getting a list of themes that you like and then checking to see if they have a good user recommendation and when they were last updated, which are both factors to consider in your choice.

Once you have a few possible candidates I’d suggest adding them to your site, there’s nothing better when making a decision on what theme to use than to actually see it for real. You can switch between the themes quickly and see what they look like and how they can be customised.

Themes have a number of features that can be present, or not, that allow you to place information into various areas. These include widget areas, in the sidebar, header and footer, and menus. Sometimes the number of sidebar’s can also be changed. Sidebars will often have a default set of widgets that are displayed if nothing is placed in a particular sidebar.

Themes will normally also allow for the header and background to be changed. Header’s can use text, taken from the site name and description, or use images that include that information instead, or a combination. The header images are not a standard size, so you will need to use an image editor like Gimp to correctly size your images to fit the required dimensions, don’t just use the in-built editor to crop your image as it will not produce the best results.

One other thing to consider is Smart phone compatibility, always check what the theme looks like on your phone. Some themes re-format themselves to work on phones, some look OK without re-formatting, and some just don’t work. If you need mobile browser support them there are options to add plug-ins that help even if your chosen theme doesn’t directly support mobile browsers.

Next time, how to use CSS to customise your theme beyond what’s available via the theme’s controls.

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