How To: Picking Out a Good WordPress Theme

One of my favorite parts about the WordPress blogging software is the WordPress themes that are contributed by the WordPress community.  There are literally thousands of themes available for anyone to download, and most are free and contributed by individuals who believe in WordPress and want to make the product better. 

Unfortunately, when theme users are trying to find a theme that provides the right look and uses the correct colors, I’ve found that users often forget to look for good functionality.  In my experience, good functionality goes a lot further than a good appearance.  It is also easier for someone without coding knowledge to take a theme and adjust the colors than it is to manually add better functionality. 

Here are 5 things I look for when shopping for a new WordPress theme:

  1. Plugin Compatibility – Many themes come already setup for certain plugins by using the same method I’ve previously discussed. If you have your mind set on using certain plugins with your blog, you’ll want to look for what plugins are already compatible with the theme before selecting it.   It still amazes me more theme authors don’t take the time to add out-of-the-box functionality with many popular plugins. 
  2. AJAX Comments – Maybe Web 2.0 has just spoiled us, but it is extremely discouraging to comment on a site that requires the full page to completely reload. Many WordPress themes now come with AJAX comments, which allows a comment to be left without the entire page reloading.
  3. Page Menu – Some WordPress themes come with the page menu in the sidebar.  Not only does this look tacky, but it also uses up a lot of valuable sidebar room that could be used for other information information, such as sponsors, advertisements, or displaying your most popular posts. A good theme will have the pages displayed in a menu somewhere above the blog’s content (usually either immediately above or below the logo).
  4. Widget Ready – Does the theme come widget ready? If you aren’t comfortable manually adding code to your sidebar, this is extremely important feature.
  5. Logo Space – What is a blog without a logo?  It doesn’t have to be something fancy, but it does need to be something that readers have affiliate with your blog.   For whatever reason, many WordPress themes don’t seem to leave room for a custom logo to be added, but instead will provide a text title.

If I was going to release a theme, I would make sure the above 5 things were included.  What do you look for when picking out a WordPress theme?

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