I was in the market for a new theme to refresh the look and feel of WPDude, I was scouring Themeforest for a great new look and I thought I would share my experience.
What Is ThemeForest
If you have not used themeforest before, it is a marketplace for premium themes, both WordPress and stand alone website themes.
You can browse and find some really good designs on their site.
Themeforest is absolutely massive there are tens of thousands of themes available out there.
Once you start browsing you can very quickly become overwhelmed. This post is really to help you overcome the frustration of too many choices.
Before You Start
Don’t just start browsing, have a clear picture in your mind of the functionality you need. Do you need a portfolio, do you need a team page, do you need services. Have a brain storming session and throw all your requirements onto a sheet of paper.
If you have specific complex plugins like WPML or Woocommerce you will need to find a compliant theme.
What I Am Looking For
The main reason I am looking for a change is the mobile navigation of my current theme is not great, there is a massive header area that covers everything above the fold on mobile.
I am looking for a minimal design, pretty monochromatic. Lots of white space.
I need a services function to highlight what I do for my clients.
It needs to work with gravity forms, my testimonials plugin.
Narrowing The Search
You main job when you start looking for a new theme is to narrow the search to reduce overwhelm (and you will be overwhelmed with the huge choice of themes).
The first thing to do is select WordPress naturally, then under the menu item are a series of pre-made types. If you are looking for a magazine style perhaps this is a good starting point.
You can also use the search function and throw in some keywords, I went with wordpress minimal.
The next step in narrowing down your search is to use the compatible with option. This is really important if you use pugins like woocommerce or buddypress which need very specific theme files.
I returned 2,398 results, erghh!! I need more pruning.
We will be testing the theme before we buy it. so if the theme does not have a live demo ditch it.
As you browse through your search results if you hover over a theme you like and it does not have a live demo i would consider this a red flag not to choose that theme.
Each theme has a small thumbnail on the search results, this will allow you to get a feel for that theme
A word to theme developers, give us a glimpse of your theme in the thumbnail don’t add some abstract links for “designery” nonsense, we are searching for a needle in a haystack, just give us a glimpse of your theme.
Testing Your Theme
Once you have found a theme you like click through and give it a test drive on the live demo. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you like the design?
- Does it have all the features you need?
- Does it work on mobile?
- It is fast enough?
- Is it compatible with your current site’s plugins?
- Is support good? Look at the developers support forum, are thye responsive, look at the updates are they still developing this theme.
Get out your phone and your tablet and test the demo site on multiple devices, does it still look good on a mobile device. Remember mobile usage is growing and you must have a site that looks good on mobile and desktop.
Run the demo site through this google checker https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly.
Will the new theme load quickly and perform well.
Run the demo site through Google page speed insights at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
If after all that testing you have a potential candidate, please please remember to bookmark it on Themeforest.
You will be looking at an awful lot more themes so create a shortlist by bookmarking the theme and add it as a favourite.
You have your new theme, buy and download the files (but don’t get me started on Themeforest’s ridiculous credits and charges for using PayPal).
You Pay Before You Test
Themeforest (rightfully so) has a no refund policy if you don’t like the theme so you need to play with and learn to love the demo or you will pay for a theme you might not want to live with.
I spent an entire evening navigating and getting a feel for my new theme before committing to it.
Making It Look Like The Demo
This is often the most disappointing aspect of your new them, you install it and it looks nothing like the one on the demo.
Before you buy check to see if there is a demo install option where you can make your site look like theirs. Dig into the downloads most themes come with an import file.
I highly recommend you install your new theme on a staging site before you make it live so you can tweak and get the look just as you want it. Moving themes is not as quick as you may think, you may need to setup new custom posts, portfolios, the list goes on, you don’t want you live site looking like a shambles while you build it out.
Check out this post on the options for a staging site. How To Build A WordPress Staging Site
Wrap Up – Navigating The Vastness Of Themeforest
In the end I went for the Breal theme. What do you think?
It’s hard to see the wood for the trees in the virtual Themeforest, it’s a good idea to have a plan before you start searching for a new theme or you will experience analysis paralysis.
UPDATE: The new theme was not gelling with me, so I rolled back my search continues.