Choosing a theme is a common challenge I’ve noticed while helping many people create or revise websites. So why are we so challenged at times to move beyond stuck and make a decision?
For the most part, we are hardwired to avoid failure.
Starting from infancy, our parents interacted with us in ways that seemed to reward or punish our behavior. We generally elicited a positive response from an adult when we smiled or reached out to grab an offered finger. As infants, to survive, we needed to connect. To get attention. We couldn’t do anything for ourselves. So we learned early what the “correct” action was so we were rewarded.
Even as adults, we don’t want to fail. Some part of us still feels like our survival is threatened. Because we are sensitive to energy, the clues to success or failure may not always be physical, yet we feel them. And we feel the disappointment when we “fail.”
What does this have to do with your sustainable website design?
Working with clients, I’ve noticed again and again the fear of choosing a theme. No one wants to make the wrong choice. Instead, we spend time doing anything but preparing to launch our website. No website can be sustainable if it doesn’t yet exist.
We struggle to choose a direction because we are afraid to alienate anybody. So instead, we alienate everybody. One way to alienate everybody is to not have a website. Another is to be so blah (booooring) that you go unnoticed.
One of the gifts of using WordPress for your website is that it is theme based. One of the downsides to it being theme based is that there are thousands of themes to choose from. The good news is, you can get unstuck.
I am here to tell that you cannot fail. The right theme is the one you choose because it gets you unstuck and moving toward your business goal of a new or revised website.
I am also here to reassure that you are not stuck with one theme.
- Choose a theme
- Create a minimum viable website
- Test and
- morph as needed
When you know that the best direction is the one you choose, it is easier to make a choice and you free up a lot of energy.
A friend called me one day. She had spent over a week’s worth of time creating her minimum viable website. She was excited.
Then she heard about WordPress and wondered if she’d made a mistake. Her site was not in WordPress. We discussed what her website plans were and she made a decision—move to WordPress. In the end, it only took her a few hours to recreate the site as she already had what she needed. Making a decision and getting started, even though she changed her mind, got her website launched.
You may not easily let go of doubting yourself. Perhaps like me, you have a rebellious side that likes to sabotage your efforts. Embrace this side of yourself. Let it participate in the process of choosing a theme. And if you’re not happy with the choice, you now know more about what you need and can make a new choice.
To help you with making the choice less daunting, here’s a secret
Because the core of WordPress, your pages and blog posts, remains the same no matter what theme you choose, just like my friend, all that hard work you put into your content is still valuable, even when you choose a new theme.
One way to understand WordPress and its relationship to a theme is to view it like you and your clothes. Each day you choose a different set of clothes and perhaps jewelry to wear, yet your body—the underlying structure—remains the same. You can choose a new theme (the clothes) and the WordPress core (the basic content) will remain the same.
When you change from one theme to another, most of the content you’ve added to your site remains. However, there are a few exceptions to that basic rule. Just like each outfit contains different features, so does your WordPress theme.While every pair of jeans contains two legs, each pair has its own feature set, too. One pair may have four pockets while another may have that extra little one you get with the Levi’s brand. And yet another brand might include extra cargo pockets. Each WordPress theme has the same basic features and will also have its own set of unique features, too.
One way to be sure the important features you need are not lost when changing your theme is to use plugins. Plugins are theme independent. To follow the same analogy, while your clothes change daily, for those who wear a watch, generally we wear the same watch on a regular basis. The watch stays consistent regardless of other clothing or jewelry choices. A plugin stays the same no matter the theme choice.
Backup your website before changing themes
If you are just starting and don’t have any content on your site yet, it is simple to choose a different theme from the WordPress admin panel.
If you have added some content already, before deciding to change themes or if you are revising an existing website, it is important to have a good backup of your website before changing your theme. Any quality host provider includes backup services with your hosting. Check with your host support and they can tell you what backup and restore services they offer.
There are also a number of both free and paid plugins available to help you create a backup. No code knowledge required.
After you have a good back up, you can easily make a new decision and change your WordPress theme. Hopefully knowing how easy it is to change your WordPress theme frees you to make an initial theme decision and get started.
Every time I start on a new or revised website design with a client and she sees her vision start to manifest, magic happens.
Still feeling stuck, even with permission to change your theme?
A consultation with a good designer can help you choose a theme. Many people say that even with a live theme demo, they struggle to visualize what their site might look like. A designer familiar with WordPress can help you find clarity and narrow the choices to get started.
Ready to move beyond stuck and choose the best theme in this moment?
Are you willing to risk failure to succeed? If so, where and how to look for your ideal WordPress theme? While you can choose one of the free themes that come installed with WordPress, it will take a lot more customization to get something that is uniquely you and support is harder to come by.
I recommend you start with a premium (purchased) theme. There are many good options, though I recommend StudioPress*. Whatever option you choose, make sure they offer support. Most premium theme providers include a year of support with purchase.
- Set an intention of curiosity and a desire to choose a theme to get started.
- Make a list of any must have features
- Offering courses
- Selling digital or physical products
- Taking payment online using a credit card processing service or Paypal
- Featuring a blog
- Embedding videos
- Doing a podcast
- Wanting a sidebar (multiple columns)
- Selling a membership site where you offer educational or other content only to subscribers
Will you be—
- Once you have your list, look at sites of others in your industry who might have similar clients and at demo (sample) sites offered by premium theme companies. When looking at the demo sites, ignore colors as those can easily be changed, even without knowing code. Instead look at the basic layout and features.
This will start to give you a sense of what your site might look like without a lot of customization. And know that many things can be customized.
- Don’t like
- What you are curious about
- Features you’d not thought of previously
- Remember to copy down the url along with detailed notes so you can review them or find out more information later. What you like or don’t like often changes as you actually take the time to look at websites with an intention to choose a theme.
Make a list of what you—
- Before you buy a theme review the features list and FAQ page and see if there is a match to items on your must have list.
- If you want to DIY creating your website, consider contacting the theme company before you buy with a question. This will help you get a sense of the company and if the support available is enough.
- Remind yourself that, just like you can change your clothes from one day or even one minute to the next, you can also change your WordPress theme. So make a purchase, install your new theme and watch the magic unfold.
Steps to choose your ideal WordPress theme
If you’re still not sure, hire someone for a consultation. You will walk away with a lot more information to help you get your site launched than just which theme to choose.
And for that extra jewelry flair, with the Genesis Framework, you can buy a plugin—Design Palette Pro—that allows you to easily change fonts, colors, whitespace (padding between elements on the page) all at the touch of a slider button and without needing to know any code.
No more excuses
Even when fear of failure looms large, you now know you can—
- Decide on a theme
- Get started on your sustainable website
- And if your vision doesn’t manifest, decide again
Just remember, you can’t join the party if you don’t decide which outfit to wear and put it on.
Still have questions? Curious about sustainable website design?
Website Strategy Checklist
*Affiliate link for a product I love and use daily. Be sure make your own choice based on your needs. Questions? Ask me. If you use the link, I, at no cost to you, might get a commission. Read an amusing affiliate link tale.
Header image photo credit Jack Moreh, Free Range Stock