Setting up your own website can seem fun at best, daunting at worst, but there’s no reason to believe you can’t do it yourself, fellow creative. There are a lot of information and choices out there that can make your head spin. I’m sharing my method for choosing a WordPress theme for your creative business that will make the process easier for you, instead of getting you stuck in a rabbit hole of information you don’t need.
This may be a biased post, but I love WordPress. I use it for all my client projects because I can build a one-of-a-kind website to do basically anything we need, plus it is easy for my clients to make their own updates as their business grows and changes. I spent the first part of my web career working with another CMS (content management system) on huge sites with complex problems. I wouldn’t take the experience back because it taught me how to solve almost any problem that can arise, but now I love how easy WordPress makes creating a beautiful online presence.
Today, I want to step back from the developer chair and help you choose a WP theme that will work best for your online livelihood. I like to call it a holistic approach: looking at the whole experience rather than just a few features that seem flashy and cool.
Let me clarify that I am talking about self-hosted WordPress (wordpress.org), as opposed to wordpress.com, which is a more all-inclusive solution where WP takes care of domain and hosting. This is a great place to start if you are trying out a blog, or want to get your feet wet with an online presence. To get started with professional website with self-hosted WordPress, you will need to purchase your own domain and hosting, which you can read more about in a previous post about finding the best host for your website. (You can read more about the differences between wordpress.com vs wordpress.org here.)
*Tip: I provide a walk through lesson on how to purchase your hosting and setting up WordPress in my free email course, You’re Creative Business, Up & Running.
After purchasing your hosting and setting up WordPress, it’s time to choose the best theme for your new website! Yay!
This can be a fun process, but also a little (lot) overwhelming when you are first starting out. WordPress powers over 20% of the internet, and there are tons of people selling premade themes. Because of this, it can be very confusing when you start looking for a theme for your creative business.
The most common issue with customers after purchasing a theme is that there is WAY more than they need. This happens mostly on huge marketplaces with lots of developers selling their themes. Some themes will come bloated out of the box with extra features that are not needed, and actually end up slowing down your site, and getting in your way. Sometimes the support that goes along with these themes can be lackluster as well.
It’s better to start with a clean, blank canvas and extend it later than to get into a theme that is bloated and weighed down with features you’ll never need. Bigger themes can get in the way of your brand, not allowing you the flexibility to add your own flourishes, and instead trapping your message in a box of someone else’s rigid design.
You want to take a more boutique approach than the big-box, lots of choices one. I take a very less is more approach to the web. This means that when I begin a website project for my creative clients, I start with a WP theme that has just what I need as a clean foundation, but gets out of my way the rest of the time.
Here’s what you want to look for in a professional theme for your creative business:
Clean, easy to navigate layout
It can be very easy to get caught up in the “Ooooh” and “Aaaaah” factor of some themes. Allow yourself a little time to dig in and see what’s going on in the market right now, but reel it back in and focus on your goals. You want to choose a layout and have options that will serve your business purposefully, and not overwhelm your user when they land on your site.
If it has more than 3 options for things like layout and colors, or if it comes with a slew of it’s own plugins, you may want to move on. Keep in mind you want a minimal starting point that has a few features you like and can see working with your vision. Less is more, as they say.
Matches your industry and purpose
Don’t waste time trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. You want to choose a theme that is specifically built to showcase your business in the best way. One of the main reasons to start with a pre-made theme is that it gives you a head start without a developer.
Are you going to sell your products? It would be best to look for an e-commerce theme that is made for selling them.
Are you a photographer? You’ll want to look for photography portfolio themes that put the emphasis on your work, not the site itself.
Opening your own salon? Find a salon theme that is elegant and fits with your style and has options you need.
Can you set up pages in the way you would like, or are you confined to a certain look? Are there features that are very rigidly designed?
You want to watch out for heavy trends and animations as well. Some themes will seem great at first glance, but the internet (and your website) is iterative, meaning you will be changing your content as you grow and learn more. Beware of choosing a theme that has a lot of set layouts and elements that are too fixed to change later as your vision evolves.
This is why I prefer small boutique theme shops. They focus solely on creating themes, so the support tends to have a more personal touch than big marketplaces like Themeforest. If you are going to go with a theme on Themeforest, remember the tips above, and look through support tickets or reviews. If they are responsive and helpful, it may be worth it.
A note about free themes: These can work sometimes, but you get what you pay for. Keep in mind that a WordPress theme is an investment in your business coming across as professional online!
So who do I recommend? Here are a few resources to start with:
Taking a holistic approach to choosing your WordPress theme for your creative business will not only set you up for less headache, it will showcase your work in the best possible way.
This post is a sample from my free email course, Your Creative Business, Up & Running. If you are an entrepreneur that needs to go from creative idea to online presence in a calm and focused way, this is for you.