If you caught this post last week, you saw why I decided to move my blog from Squarespace to WordPress. This decision was tough for me as you may have noticed from the post since I truly loved the look of the old TCM. I love how clean Squarespace sites are and often find most WordPress sites, especially blogs, to feel cluttered and chaotic.
When I started telling people I was moving my site, the initial response from almost everyone was, “but I love your site! Especially the minimalist feel”… yeah me too. To say I was nervous about the new site is an understatement, I was freaking out.
I spent about two weeks casually debating what to do:
– Should I hire a designer?
– Should I try to go it alone?
– Holy crap, there are a lot of options free or premium? What type of premium?!
After two weeks of contacting designers, looking at design packages, and reading entirely too many blog posts, I decided I would go it alone for a couple of reasons:
a) Hiring a designer can get pricey. I reached out to one designer, and her work is totally worth it, but at a $6,000 price tag simply wasn't in the cards for me right now.
b) I thought back on my own experiences. So a lot of you may or may not know, but I actually started my coaching/consulting business in 2014 – this whole blog thing started as a passion project this year and merged into my business. – I actually hired a company to design and do all the SEO and everything for my original site. The company is actually who scared the crap out of me about WordPress (they would always scold me for changing code telling me I was risking breaking everything). The experience with that company is actually why I started my blog on SS – I was terrified of breaking something on WP.
When I took a step back, I realized that I hated feeling out of control with my site. I hated that I had to rely on someone else's timeline. I hated that I felt locked out of certain aspects of my site (aka the Cpanel), and I hated the end product. I felt helpless if I wanted to change anything – a feeling I didn't like either.
c) Through all my research, I realized it's not that difficult. Seriously, figuring out the design of your site does not have to be difficult, you just need to choose a theme that suits your needs and have a vision for what you are trying to build.
I am not saying DIY is right for everyone. If you are someone who is okay with a longer timeline and paying a little more in exchange for help with filling in the gaps of your vision and a little more security, then by all means hire a designer or some other type of pro; but if you know your branding elements already and how to bring those together in a new theme, I highly recommend going it alone.
So now that we've tackled the DIY vs. PRO option:
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE A PREMIUM THEME?
*There are tons of free versions out there. I didn't really consider/look at them since often they are out of date or more common. Also, make sure you sign up for a WordPress . org not .com! Most templates will only work with .org! Ok back to choosing a premium theme:
1) Explore Explore Explore… The world wide interwebs that is.
But where do you start? I spent two weeks after my decision to DIY on upwards of 300 blogs. I scoured facebook groups, clicked through pretty pins on Pinterest, and visited the site behind those gorgeous Insta-feeds I loved so much. I approached each site with a critical eye identifying specifics of what I liked and disliked, and how the site was comparing to my needs for a site. Some questions I asked myself:
– Is there anything misaligned about this site? Wonky headers, footers, sidebars?
– How was the spacing in the sidebar? This is a huge pet peeve of mine when everything is smooshed together.
– Did I like the style of their menu on a desktop and mobile?
– Did the site make it easy for readers to stumble upon new content?
– What was the logo/menu options alignment like?
– Would this site support my style of graphics?
2) Bookmark bookmark bookmark!
I had like 500 tabs open during this process. Every time I came across a site I liked, I would click through “designed by” link found in most footers to get an idea of the template or designer. Since I had already decided to DIY it – any sites designed by a designer with no template options for sale got nixed from the list.
From there I would have 30 tabs open and do a side by side narrowing them down until I felt relatively the same about them all. I would bookmark that 15-30 and re-visit them every day over the next few days until I narrowed it down to five. I then showed them to my husband, who helped me narrow it down to two “shops”.
3) Check that fine print!
Upon further research, I noticed that one of the templates offered 6 months of customer support to help set up with the template and any code I didn't know. #YASSS! Seriously, when going the DIY route, good customer service is a massive help. As an added bonus, I could also become an affiliate with the theme (I wouldn't recommend choosing a theme based on this, but if deciding between two that are totally the same, this is a nice little bonus).
4) Re-Evaluate one last time. Once I narrowed it down to the shop, I was between two templates, so I re-reviewed my original criteria/questions I had outlined when in step one. Ultimately it came down to the graphics piece. I needed a site with a layout that supported my style of graphics. I typically make my blog featured image Pinterest style- as a side note: there is a way to have a normal horizontal image as your featured image but have a Pinterest image ready to go on the backend of my WordPress theme, not sure if it's like that for others – but since I don't work with a photographer regularly and am still getting used to my DSLR, I wanted to maintain the “Pinterest” style featured image since I plan on relying heavily on it until I get better with my graphics.
5) Buy, install, tweak, and enjoy! After all of that, I was able to make a decision. One I feel confident about and I have actually grown to like the new site more than my old one. I am still getting used to WordPress, but am enjoying the overall functionality and customization the new site is offering me.
Have you ever re-designed? How did you choose a new template? Drop me a comment below!
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51 thoughts on “How To Choose A New Premium Theme For Your Blog”
These are great tips! I switched themes about a month ago. The first theme that I picked out last month broke my site! I kept getting error messages and couldn’t log in! After around 10 hours back and forth on the phone with my host providers and optimizing my site so that it would load faster etc., I had to return it and buy a different one. It turned out that it had “too many processes running”. It was actually a good learning lesson because I ended up making photos smaller for the web and cleaning things up. The new theme was more expensive, but it is very light weight and has the look that I wanted, so it was a happy ending. So FYI to all you readers – you get what you pay for!
Gah! This is such a hard process. I’ve tried out so many themes on my personal blog and am still not happy with it. It’s so hard sometimes to make it look like the ad photos if the creator didn’t include in depth instructions.
Choosing the right theme can be a headache sometimes. Thanks for sharing these tips.
Picking the right design theme for your blog is so tricky! It’s hard to just choose one that you know you’ll be happy for a while. These are great tips
So much awesome information in this post! I had no clue that designers charged $6k for a theme. INSANE!
I still get confused by themes so this was extremely helpful! Thanks for the advice!
Thank you, thank you for this post. I am currently in the middle of this very messy process and am super nervous about hitting that ‘purchase’ button for a theme.
Great advice! I was the exact same way when I first decided to first switch my blog from Wix to WordPress and then again when I decided to change my theme. I thought about it for weeks! Your blog is an extension of you and your company so you want it to look absolutely perfect. Looks like you made a good choice though, your blog looks great!
I don’t have WordPress…but I will keep this post for reference for if I ever do switch. 🙂 Very detailed advice!!
This is a really interesting perspective, and it’s really helpful. I’ve thought about premium themes a few times and love your tips! I still DIY around in wordpress a bit, but know it’s tricky and you need to be careful. I’m thinking of going to SS when I renew… we’ll see!
Great tips! Thank you for the helpful suggestions, my friend!
xo Debbie | http://www.tothineownstylebetrue.com
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