Picking a Blog Theme

by A.D Paterson on 03/09/2009

Is your blog theme something that’s high on the agenda when you’re creating your new blog? A lot people thing about them, see what’s about, and then tend to go off with a free one that’s vaguely along the line of what their site is about, but is this the right way to be doing it?

In this article we’re going to look at where a blog theme should be in your list of priorities, the look and feel you should be going for and whether there’s any real difference in one you might buy over one of the many free blog themes available, and finally we’ll look at how to get it installed.

How soon should you be looking at what’s out there?

While it makes sense to think about what your site is going to be about first, so as to be able to see what domain names are available, and, for financial reasons, check out the cost of the hosting plans that you can get, looking at your blog theme will be in the top four or five things you should do first.

That my surprise a lot of people but, the reason for it is this: you have a lot of options open to you and some of those will cut down dramatically on the amount of time you’ll have to spend on searching for plugins to get it to do what you want, or, they can speed up the ranking process by taking away a large amount of the thinking you have to do when it comes to SEO.

Some people get a basic blog put together and then find they spend hours trying to get it to do what they want it to. Although the plugins are generally free and easy to find, you really have to know what you’re looking for in the first place i.e. if you want to monetize it with Adsense, and don’t have that feature built in, you’ll spend the next few hours looking at plugins and seeing which works best for you.

What sort of look and feel should you be going for?

The blog theme you pick will pretty much come down to what you’ve decided to focus your blog on.

It’s always good to have an idea of what ‘theme’ your blog might take on i.e. is it a personal blog? Or, will it be aimed at a specific group of people (such as the supporters of a football team)? Once you know that you can have a look around for blog themes that will suit your particular niche – it saves you a lot of time.

People will generally expect a personal blog to be a bit haphazard. Most personal blogs have photos of what the person has been up to, diary type entries, and even short videos of special events from their life. While these aren’t difficult to file away in categories, most people don’t.

If you’re running a blog about a sports team you’re going to be far more likely to have separate categories covering the history, the players, the results etc. If you have a business blog you may choose to show the employees as well as the location, products, etc.

Each of these different sites will have a certain level of expectation from the visitors as to how professional they look and feel. You should look for a WordPress theme that reflects that level of expectation. Simple clean lines may be great for a business blog, but could look out of place on a personal blog, where as sports blogs tend to have ‘a lot going on’ when you look at them.

Should you go for the free option, or spend a bit of cash?

That, again, really depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your blog.

The free WordPress themes are a great way to start off if you’re looking to do a bit of experimenting. They are usually a good option for personal blogs, too, but if you’re after something a bit more professional, and really need to get people to your site, then the paid option may be best for you.

Some of the more recent WordPress themes have a high degree of features in them that make it a snap when it comes to sorting out the SEO (search engine optimization) of your site, and, as you probably know, SEO is one of the major contributors when it comes to getting a high ranking in the search engines.

Most of the work you’d normally need to do, and possibly not even have thought about, can be setup to work automatically on each new post you add. Others will be there as a reminder and can be tailored to each and every new post you make. Many will include plugins that you’d spend ages trying to track down yourself.

The paid for versions will also often have a much slicker, highly professional, and more feature driven look and feel – just the sort of thing that a high-end customer might be expecting if they’re visiting your business blog.

How do we get this installed and running?

When you see a blog theme you like you can preview it, more so with the free themes, but any good paid for one will have a demo area. If you like it then you just click the ‘install’, which will install the blog theme for you under the ‘themes’ section in the sub-directory for your blog.

If you’ve bought yours you will probably have to manually upload it to the ‘themes’ sub folder on your site. This isn’t too difficult and really only relies on you up loading the unopened zip file using an ftp (file transfer protocol) programme, and one of those should be included through your CPanel.

When the zipped file has been uploaded you’ll be able to unzip it directly in the folder on your server.

Once that’s done it’s just a case of clicking ‘themes’ under the ‘appearance’ section and clicking on the new WordPress theme. You’ll get a preview of how it’s going look and then you just activate it to be up and running with your new look blog.

Don’t worry if the first one you try doesn’t quite fit the style you’re after. With the click of a button you can completely change the look of your blog, you won’t lose any of the content you already have on it, but you may have to tinker with some of the widgets to get them to work with your new look.

There we have it, picking and installing a blog theme.

Make sure you know what you’re site is going to be about so that you can pick a look that will match the visitors expectations. Go for one that will eliminate the need to search for a huge number of plugins, and, if you’re paying for it, will meet your SEO needs. Once you’ve installed it you can change it as often as you need to until you’re happy with the look and functionality of it.

It can make a world of difference if you have the right blog theme.

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