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How to Select Your WordPress Theme

When you start your search for the perfect WordPress theme for your writer website, it’s easy to get caught up in the number of options. You can spend hours browsing for just the right theme. There are nearly 3,000 themes on the WordPress website alone, not counting the thousands more available from other sources. That’s a lot to sort through.

The best way to start narrowing down your selection is to decide what you do (and don’t) want for your new website. Find a few websites that inspire you, and make a list of what you love about them. Is it the clean design? The overall look or feel? The colors? Bookmark these pages for future reference.

Basic Website Decisions

There are a few basic decisions you need to make before selecting your website.

  • Number of Columns: All websites have at least one column (the main content of your website), most have two or three. Those extra columns are almost always sidebars. Sidebars are designed to provide easy access to the information or web pages most useful to your visitors. It’s a great place to link to your social media accounts, add in contact details, and share links to your most popular articles or blog posts.
  • Color Scheme: Brands (and if you’re a writer, you should have a personal brand) need to be easily identifiable, and your color scheme is going to help set the stage for the rest of your brand. Your colors should match your genre. I haven’t seen many horror writers with cotton candy pink websites, unless that color matches some aspect of their plot. Not all themes allow you to pick your own color scheme, so if you know which colors you’d like to use, pick a theme that can be customized or one that is already set up for your colors of choice.
  • Static vs. Dynamic: Will your website have a blog? Will that blog be the first thing that readers see when they land on your homepage, or will they see a traditional home page, with a welcome message and basic site information?  Either option is appropriate for your author website. The decision should be based on your personal preference and how often you (realistically) plan on updating your blog. It can also depend on whether or not you have any books already published; many published authors elect to showcase their books on their homepage, and place their blog on a different page.
  • Customization: Do you want a theme that you can use as-is, or one that you can customize in any way you choose? Unless the theme’s description says that it is easy to customize, don’t assume that it is. Most free WordPress themes have limited customization options; it’s important to select a theme that provides the options you want for your website.

Free vs. Premium Themes

If you’re a new writer on a tight budget, free WordPress themes can provide a basic website without any added expenses. They’re a great option if you don’t need a lot of extras on your site, or if you find a free theme that you love, without any modifications needed. The downside, of course, is that you can’t usually do as much with them. Most have limited customization options, and because of that, they sometimes have a cookie-cutter feel.  They don’t always update as frequently as the premium themes, and because there is less competition, they aren’t built as well.

Premium WordPress themes typically offer more customization options, and a better working site overall. Most are designed to be SEO-friendly (SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a series of techniques that make your website easier to find on Google, Bing, and other search engines), which means you need to put less work into getting your website found and listed by search engines.

If you have an extra $50 or so to spend on a premium theme, it’s going to be worth it in the long run. If you don’t, you can still get a great website by using one of WordPress’s free themes.

Check the Details

Pay attention to the details. When was the theme last updated? If it’s been more than six months since the most recent update, cross that theme off of your list. If the developer has stopped improving the theme, it may not work as well with the most recent WordPress version or with the most recent versions of popular plugins. Free or premium, don’t pick a WordPress theme that doesn’t have good reviews, or several hundred downloads. Look at the ratio of questions asked in the support area vs. questions answered. You are looking for a proven theme with great support. If you aren’t happy with the details, keep looking for a more reliable theme.

The Bottom Line

You want a website that will help you to sell your writing. Your website is the home base of your author platform; take the time to review your options and pick the best theme for your needs.