Do you need some tips for wading through the thousands of WordPress templates? With all the designs and features, small business finds choosing a WordPress template overwhelming, if not downright frustrating. Here are some tips for evaluating WordPress themes to ensure their functionality meets your business needs.
WordPress Template Design Tips
Design is your website’s first impression. Pick uncluttered designs with easy-to-follow navigation. The tone and style should match your business: A hot pink paisley scheme is more fitting for a fabric store while a blue graphic-oriented theme is more fitting for an architect.
Look at multiple theme galleries to compare designs and value. For example, a free theme may lack a some functionality and flexibility, but if you like the design, you likely can find a premium (not free) theme with a similar look that offers more features. Premium themes are usually under $100, which is a small price to pay for good support, well-tested code, and easy-to-use functionality. Or if you are familiar with WordPress and can do customizations confidently, you may not need the extra features so you may be able to find a free theme that looks similar to a premium theme design you like. To avoid malware and viruses, use a reputable theme vendor (read reviews of vendors to decide). Here are a few reputable places to start:
While more of a feature than part of the design, an overriding decision upfront should be whether you want to invest your website in a responsive design or not. “Responsive” means that its display optimized for the device the user is on whether it be a smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you want this flexibility, you must only look at responsive themes which will cut your options down. You will have plenty of options, just much fewer than if responsive is not important to you.
Does the feel your style or brand?
How will your logo and images look on the theme?
Does the theme look like something you have seen a lot so it does not feel original? The more unique it is, the more memorable your website will be.
Does the theme support your business needs for displaying information about yoru products or services?
Business themes focus on descriptions of services and/or products including client portfolios.
News or magazine themes feature articles with images, often by multiple authors.
eCommerce themes include key elements you need for an online store such as a product catalog and shopping cart.
Portfolio themes focus galleries to showcase art, photos, and images.
Industry-specific themes meet the needs of a specific industry such as real estate, education, sports teams, etc.
Blogging themes focused on (duh) blogging have the simplest layouts.
Does the theme offer more than one style? Some themes, usually premium, offer color variations.
Will you use video? Some themes make it easy for you to embed videos.
Do your business plans include using ads such as Google Adsense? Some themes make are optimized for placing advertisements.
Imagine your own images and content in the design or imagine it with no images at all, do not get distracted by the well-curated art in the demo.
Many WordPress themes have a demo or preview mode that lets you see how a theme works before you decide to use it. Take time to investigate how a theme works if it offers this option. After finding 3 to 5 designs you like, evaluate how easy they are to customize.
Customization and Features
WordPress template customization not only makes the website special but also makes it less template-like. Even if you are happy with the theme’s colors and fonts now, it is a good idea to make sure it is flexible in case you do want to make changes later. The good news is that there are many WordPress plugins (applications that help you easily customize your site), but if you select a theme with built-in functionality you have fewer working parts that can break. Things to consider for customization:
Does the theme allow for easy insertion of your logo in the heading?
Can you change the footer contents?
Can you easily customize fonts, colors, backgrounds and layouts through a user-friendly options panel?
Is the theme widget ready?
Does it support or use WordPress 3.0 menus?
Is it optimized for WordPress 3+?
Does it require you to install 3rd-party plugins?
Does the theme support search engine optimization (SEO)? Usually, a plugin is used, but if the theme supports SEO, it is a bonus.
Does the theme come with social media follow and share buttons? Again, this is an easy plugin scenario, but a bonus if supported in the theme.
Lengthen the lifespan of your theme by using one with up-to-date programming techniques such as HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery. Avoid Flash (especially if you plan to use SEO) and themes more than 3 years old. Look for WordPress themes tested on many browsers. If the developer did not test theme properly, users may encounter problems with your website when using older browsers.
Free or Premium WordPress Themes?
Research theme marketplaces by reading reviews and comments on individual theme pages. You’ll likely not find a theme that has absolutely no problems reported, but evaluate how those problems were solved and how satisfied current users of the theme are. Common problems to avoid are themes with compatibility problems with popular plugins, themes with bad reviews, or themes that require many changes to perform like the demo. Also, check any URLs commenters leave to get an idea how the theme is being used by other businesses.
Free WordPress themes are tempting, but they usually offer limited or no support. If you are well-versed in using WordPress, this may not be a problem, but if you are a novice, or don’t want to be bothered with your own troubleshooting, a small investment (under $100) will usually provide you with a support forum and often the theme developer directly participates in the forum or provides email support. Search for such a forum before deciding to use a theme. Also, look for documentation and read forum comments to gauge the helpfulness of customer support.
If you are really sold on a free theme, download it and try it out before creating your website with it. If you choose a premium theme, you won’t have the luxury of testing it before you buy, but if you have done do your homework as described above, you can confidently purchase the theme that most closely meets your needs. Personally, I think most premium themes are worth the cost if you get a good support forum.
What have your experiences been with choosing a WordPress theme? Comment! Need help with your website, contact us!
Are Google Plus Community notification emails flooding your inbox? The Google Plus Community feature helps people connect, discuss, and share about topics which is great, but too much of a good thing is well…too much! Good news. You can turn off these notifications in your Google Plus Community settings and you can control what emails and notifications you are sent in your Google Plus Profile settings. Be sure to check both using the instructions below for the device type you are using.
NOTE: This article has been updated to reflect instructions for the early 2016 version of Google Plus interface.
Google Plus Community Notification Email Settings
To turn off (or on) your Google Plus Community Notifications:
Slide the button on the slider to the left to turn off notifications for community invitations or for shares.
Take a look at the other types of notification settings while you are there and make adjustments as needed.
Tip: Each time something is changed, it is effective immediately and there is no need to save.
Did these tips help you tame Google+ emails while using Google Plus Communities and other featurs? Let us know your tips for controlling Google Plus community notification email settings. Comment below!
Using Twitter for business is gaining ground, but many small business owners continue to hold out. I hear “nobody cares about what I had for breakfast” or “no one on Twitter is serious about doing business”. Well, for you hold-outs, I challenge you to “listen” to tweeters for only a day. I think you’ll find people tweeting about more than their breakfast fare and you will be convinced that is is an effective platform that reaches hundreds (or thousands) of business-focused people in a matter of seconds. That’s tip #1, more on that below. Other small business owners know it is powerful, but remain wallflowers, not really knowing what to say. Well, there is an art to using Twitter for business, but after listening and thinking about the tips below, I know you will find your business’ voice.
Top 3 Tips on Writing Business Tweets
Listen, listen, listen
Good advice on and offline. You must understand what your competition and prospective customers are talking about.
Learn about #hashtags. It is a simple concept but complex because it is loosely defined. Basically, tweeters use #hashtags to identify their tweet as a part of a greater concept. If a tweet is related to small business, #SMB is frequently used. If about a specific conference, webinar, or other event, usually the event organizer will add a special #hashtag for that event on presentation materials so that attendees can tweet before, during, and after the event. There are lots of ways to use #hashtags, but I point them out here because they are a great way to listen!
In the search field, enter a #hashtag like #plumbing, #drycleaning, or #houston…whatever your business is about. (check out Twubs to explore #hashtags). Then hit enter.
Voila! You see tweets about that topic.
You can also use regular keywords with no hash or search for competitors’ Twitter accounts.
Watch what others tweet.
Use a tool to help you efficiently listen. There are several tools that will do this, but I like Hootsuite. You can set up a free account, then create “streams” with #hashtags and keywords and save them so you can peek at them when you have time. You can set up multiple tabs of streams to listen to different topics. The best part of the social management tool is that you can listen across social media communities. In one stream, you can filter Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts. Very powerful.
Plan your tweets
It can be scary, so plan your tweets. Select a topic for a week. Then write out a few business tweets about your own content or promotion. Add in a few quotes, even some personal observations if you dare. Tweeting others’ content is a good practice, just be sure to give them credit:
Find others’ content to tweet by setting a Google alert using keywords in the topic you are watching. So, if this week you want to tweet about discounts for your plumbing business, you can set up one or more alerts with keywords like “plumbing discount cleveland” or “how to pick plumber”. Then the alert delivers online content that you can tweet.
In Twitter, to give another person credit for their content, use this form: “Got a Leaky Faucet? See the amount of $ you can save if you call a plumber, link.com via @plumbing-world”. By stating “via” and using the author’s Twitter handle (or if they don’t have a Twitter handle, then just their company name), you are alerting others that you find this information useful and you want to pass it on, but you are not the author.
After a few weeks of carefully planning and writing tweets ahead of time, it will start to feel more natural and you won’t have to plan so much.
Tweet for Business, just do it!
The ultimate goal for any Twitter small business user is to have their content mentioned, talked about (positively), remembered, and ultimately seen as a valuable resource that leads to a new customer. When using Twitter for business marketing, consider the following:
Choose impactful or attention grabbing, “headline” style language.
Make it re-Tweet friendly by leaving at least 15 characters fewer than the 140-character limit.
Be personable and interesting, focusing on communicating instead of selling.
If you would not say it to someone in person, don’t Tweet it.
Use a personal Twitter account for your personal life and a dedicated business account for business.
Some people think they can hide behind the avatar of their Twitter handle, but you can’t. Never lie or exaggerate. You’ll get caught and your business will lose credibility.
Really Twitter is like any other marketing. You have to figure out what customers want to hear about, then use an appropriate style to communicate it. So get out there and listen for a while, the Tweet your way to success! Have you used Twitter? Have you found success? Why not? Comment below!