I’ve made a few assumptions in the title there.
First, that you’re an author. If you’re not, this still applies.
Second, that you have a blog. Again, this post is still relevant.
Third, that you’re using WordPress or another popular platform as a CMS (content-management system). Yup, you guessed it — this post is for you.
But I had to be generally specific so the title didn’t sound like this:
Choosing A Pre-Designed Template for One’s Website’s Blog, If Said One Has A Blog. Or If Not, Their Website Altogether.
It didn’t really roll off the tongue as well.
Okay, enough of the funny business. Let’s get down to real business.
Happy Halloween! I hope you eat lots of candy, but not too much…
This Friday (that’s 2 days from right now), November 2nd, I’m going to be hosting my very first giveaway. The prize will be a ridiculously-awesome theme for WordPress (my favorite platform, in case you were wondering). But we’ll get to that in a minute.
First, I want to go over some thoughts on choosing a theme for your Home Base. As a creator (author, marketer, video game designer, etc.), you need a website. You need a place online where people can find you, that you can call your own. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace don’t count, because you don’t own them.
When you set up this Home Base, it’ll need to look like something. I recommend setting it up through WordPress, either a self-hosted site through my favorite host, Hostmonster, or the like, or going with the free WordPress.com option (still not your own, though).
Hostmonster offers a one-click install for a self-hosted WordPress platform, and that’s usually what I do. Once that’s complete, you can log in and browse through the many free themes available to install (again with one click).
Here’s why I don’t recommend doing that:
- It’s not unique. Since there are thousands of free themes, but only about 100 really popular ones, you’ll often see a free theme used somewhere else online. While you can customize it to your heart’s content, it’s still a free theme that any old person could download and set up.
- It’s not backed by a company. This isn’t always the case, but sometimes you’ll find the perfect free theme and install it, only to find that there’s little-to-no documentation available. The developer is either hard to find, won’t respond to inquiries, or just doesn’t support the theme.
- It could be error-laden. Errors like being out-of-date can be pretty big deals for people trying to find a great responsive (showing up on any browser or device) theme. If you have a handful of visitors visiting from an iPad, but they can’t load your crazy Flash-based menu, they’ll probably jump ship. Worse, there could be actual bugs in the code (leading to #2 again).
The problem can be alleviated by doing one simple thing:
Find a theme provider who’s big enough to not go away, small enough to care, and good enough to be good enough.
I’ve done some homework over the years I’ve been building websites for myself and others, and a handful of companies have risen to the top of my list:
The “Framework” Companies:
Frameworks are like motherships that can support child themes — you install the framework, then you install a child theme to “skin” the framework’s basic design. I am using one of these right now, and I’ve used the other in the past.
Genesis is a premium (it costs money) theme that has a lot of awesome child themes (most are also premium). While this framework is one of the more expensive ones out there, it’s also backed by a reputable company that isn’t a fly-by-night business.
I use Genesis, but I’ve totally customized the child theme to meet my own needs. That’s probably the biggest draw to a framework — you can use the framework’s built-in structures and functions, and then add/tweak things without “changing” the code of the whole theme.
Another great option (used by many probloggers and “big guys”) is Thesis — they also offer world-class customer support, great community forums, and amazing themes.
Check either of these options out if you’re interested in the “best of the best” when it comes to framework-based Home Base designs.
Individual Template Companies
There’s another breed of popular template companies out there — the “template” companies. These guys offer individual WordPress templates (meaning you purchase just the template, not a framework as well), but the designs are still top-notch. My favorites (both of which I’m currently using):
Hands-down the best out there when it comes to WordPress themes that work, look great, and offer amazing features. I’m currently using WooThemes exclusively on my startup, TurtleshellPress (currently in beta signup mode — but I promise you’ll be able to see it first if you sign up…!), and I’m using their FREE WooCommerce plugin for the shopping cart. They offer a new theme about every month, and there’s probably something there you can find for a great price.
In addition, they offer a selection of totally free themes as well. Check them out — it’s worth your time to at least be familiar with them!
I used to use Elegant Themes as my go-to WordPress theme developer, but WooThemes has taken top-spot with me. However, I still use Elegant Themes every now and then when I can’t find something I like at WooThemes, and I still use them for my first startup, LoopingWorship.com.
And finally, I want to mention another option.
The best theme you can ever have for your WordPress install is the one that’s completely customized to fit your author platform’s needs. I have a few developers I work with on larger projects, and they’re my go-to people in general for WordPress customizations.
One of these developers is named Anne Dorko, and you’re going to meet her later this week. She recently built an amazing theme that’s fully ready to take on your author platform and make it look phenomenal:
It’s a theme I promise you will be around more and more in the near future. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it works.
And I have 3 copies of it to give away for free.
If you’d like to take the next step with your author platform, I’d love to help you out — the Anatomy Theme isn’t a great starter theme; it’s a great always theme.
Here’s how you can get it:
This Friday, November 2nd, visit the blog again and read Anne’s guest post. She’s going to be talking about “responsive” development, a fancy way of describing the types of things a great design should have. It’s a great post, and certainly one most of us will learn from, and we’ll be giving three copies of the Anatomy Theme away for FREE at the end of it.
All said, you have a great chance at winning one of the three copies of the theme, and you can enter numerous times during the week the contest’s open (Friday to Friday).
Finally, if you want to get reminded about the contest so you don’t forget to enter on opening day (and therefore get behind!), just sign up here. I don’t do anything fishy with your email address, and I only send on-target updates!
Have a question? Comment? Suggestion? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to sign up for the updates!