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Do you not know how to code? Then this is for you. Do you not know much about WordPress or themes in general? Then this is for you. Today, we’re going to be going over the steps you should take in order to make sure the theme you’re buying is actually a good one.

As developers that often take on clients who are already established, especially in the news world, I see the usage of a lot of paid themes. Paid themes, overall, are a good starting point when you don’t have the funding the get a developer for a project, but you’re serious about moving your site forward. However, I’ve seen multiple instances where these paid themes have affected the client’s website for multiple reasons. Not all themes are alike and not all themes are well developed. So, I’m going to go over some red flags that should dissuade for purchasing whichever theme has them.

Let’s get to the red flags. Starting from the point that you’ve browsed around and found some sites you like the design and layout of already:

  • First, check the author of the theme itself. If the author has a tag that says, “Elite Author”, then you can stop looking, as that generally means they provide good support and maintain their themes. If the author isn’t “Elite”, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. So, how do you check if they’re good? Click on “View Portfolio”. Check some other items they provide. Do they update those items? Do those items have good ratings? If they do, then you should be good to go.
  • Second, check the comments on the theme. Most themes provide support on the theme developers website, which generally sits behind a login form that you can’t access until you purchase the theme. However, some customers and users will still comment on the ThemeForest page itself, which means you get an insight into some problems you might have with the theme. Read those comments and see what issues users are having and how the theme author responds.
  • Third, check the theme for missing or broken elements. Are there images not loading on the demo site? Is part of the page looking odd and laid out in a way that just seems wrong? This might mean that the developer isn’t actively keeping up with everything or that they’ve ceased working on it entirely.
  • Fourth, check the theme’s responsiveness. Scale your browser window and see how the site reacts. Does it break? Does it stack elements oddly? Open it on your phone. Does it load quickly? Is it easy to use? Don’t forget to navigate around the site either. Make sure most of the pages work well.
  • Fifth, run the demo site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. You can do that here. You’re looking for scores above 80 on both mobile and desktop. If the site is below that number already, without all the plugins you’re going to use, then I’d stay away. Otherwise, your site’s speed is going to suffer.
  • Sixth, open the style.css file and check for @import. This is a little developer trick, but if gives you insight into how well the developer knows WordPress itself. Right click anywhere on the demo page (that isn’t an image) and select View Source.  Once that’s open, hit CTRL+F or CMD+F to Find in Page and search for style.css. When you see a link that ends in style.css, click it. Once that file is open, do another Find in Page search, but this time search for @import. If you see anything that says @import in the stylesheet, then the developer doesn’t know how to work with WordPress. @import is an old method of loading in CSS files, but it can be really slow because you have to wait for one file to load in order to load another. It’s like fileception, which in this instance is bad. WordPress developers will instead enqueue other CSS files so that they load directly into the page and therefore render faster. Or, if they really know what they’re doing they’ll have everything merged and minified in one CSS file for faster loading. But, that’s another thing for another day.

So, these are the red flags that you really should watch out for when looking for a theme. If the theme you’ve found that you like passes these tests, then you should be good to go! And if you want a custom WordPress theme, built directly for your site with speed in mind, then go ahead and contact us!

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