Now that we've covered a lot of the preliminary steps for setting up our new blog, it's time for the fun stuff! Today we're going to install a new theme.
How the best WordPress themes are built
The best word press themes are built with a 2-part system. There's a framework underneath that gives the site its structure and there's a "skin" (called a Child Theme) which lays on top and gives the site its design.
You might think of the framework as the wooden frame of a house (the lumber & plywood) and the child theme as the exterior material (brick, siding, stucco) which gives it its unique look. You can listen to me blather on about it here if you'd like a visual:
Can't see the video? Watch it here.
The benefits of this 2-part system is that when updates to WordPress are needed, the updates can be made to the underlying framework without touching the child theme on top. If you use a theme that does not have 2 parts, every time you make an update to the bones of WordPress (which is relatively often), you must go back into your theme and re-customize the design as well. It's a bit of a hassle.
So the moral of the story is, use a 2-part theme–an underlying framework and an overlying child theme.
WordPress theme options
Most any WordPress theme you find is customizable. That is, you can make it look however you want. But, this is easier to do with some themes than it is with others.
You have some options here.
If you're doing this yourself, in general, paid-for themes will be easier to work with. Free themes (there are a gazillion of them) require a bit more coding knowledge on your part. A third option is to hire someone to do all the work for you. So, the first decision you have to make is whether or not you have the budget or desire to shell out cash to make your site the way you want it.
Here are the options:
1. DIY free theme
The advantage here, of course is that it's, well, free. I like free. And up until the last couple of years, I never had a budget for my blog so I didn't have an option otherwise. You may not end up with as fancy a site, but there are still some customizations you can make. Believe me, there are plenty of people using free themes for whom it works just fine. I used free themes for years and they worked fine for me. Granted, I spent much of that time learning how to code…
2. DIY paid-for theme
The paid-for theme I recommend is called the Genesis Theme Framework coupled with the Prose child theme. The two together costs about $85. What's nice about this combination is that you have more customization options than a free theme (and many other paid-for themes) which don't require coding knowledge. Of course, you can further customize if you have more advanced coding skills too. Another advantage of Genesis is that the creators know what they're doing and have gone to great lengths to make sure it's clean, runs great and is SEO-optimized. Also, there are countless Genesis resources that will help you along the way.
3. Going pro
The nice thing about having someone else install and customize your theme, of course, is that you don't have to do it yourself. A fully customized WordPress theme will run you at least $1000. For some, it's a great option. You can find some recommendations for blog designers here.
Getting started with your WordPress theme
The process varies depending on what theme you use of course.
1. DIY free theme
I recommend you use the default theme that is already present when you install WordPress. It's called TwentyEleven and it looks like this (yours might differ slightly):
One minor problem with TwentyEleven is that it does not come with a child theme. I recommend you create one yourself. Here's how to create a child theme for TwentyEleven. Also, here's a brief tour of the TwentyEleven theme.
2. DIY paid-for theme
Like I said, I recommend Genesis. This post walks you through the purchase and installation process. Basically, you'll receive a link to download both the Genesis Theme Framework and your child theme of choice (Prose in this case).
3. Going pro
Just tell your designer what you want and sit back. Simple.
Overall, choosing the right WordPress theme comes down to cost and DIY comfort level. No single situation is right for everyone. I do suggest you not going into debt when you get started. You can always switch themes down the road.
Remember, if you'd like to work faster or slower in this series, don't forget to check out the How to Start a Blog or Website: Cheat Sheet.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Other posts in this series
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Intro & FAQ
- How to Start a Blog or Website: Cheat Sheet
- How to Find (or Refind) Your Passion
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for Readers?
- How to Decide What to Blog About: What Works for You?
- Understand Branding: 4 Tips
- Understand Keywords: Increase the Odds of Getting Found
- Writing Great Content: 3 Tips
- How to Write a Killer About Page
- 12 Blog Organization Tips
- How to Choose a Domain Name: 12 Tips
- How to Register a Domain Name
- How to Set Up Hosting and WordPress
- How to Change Your Nameservers
- How to Add a New User in WordPress
- How to Optimize Your WordPress Settings
- How to Install a Plugin
- My Favorite Plugins
- How to Get & Optimize a Feedburner Feed
- How to Choose a WordPress Theme
- How to Install a WordPress Theme
- Elegant Themes for WordPress
- How to Install Google Analytics
- How to Use WordPress: Tips & Tricks
- How to Start a Blog or Website: 10 Tips for New Bloggers