I recently confessed to being a theme-a-holic, and I’m not the only one. For theme-a-holics, it’s not simply the lure of shiny new web stuff that makes us change themes regularly. It’s also the never-ending quest for the perfect theme. But what exactly makes the perfect theme? Here are my WordPress theme must-haves.
Easy To Use
Ease of use is at the top of my list and over the years I have seen WordPress themes improve in this area. At one time, it was difficult to find a theme with options that allowed you to tweak the theme without touching code. Now most themes allow this kind of easy customization.
Theme frameworks such as Thesis and Headway have also helped a lot in making it easier for any blogger to have a great site. In Thesis, I particularly like how easy it is to manipulate the navigation bar and the killer recent entries widget. In Headway, the best feature has to be the visual editor which makes it simple to create stunning layouts in only a few minutes. Ease of use covers a wide range of useful functions, but here are some more.
Although you can use the All in One SEO plugin to make sure you get the most SEO juice from your WordPress blog, I love it when a theme is already optimized. That means including touches like reducing duplicate content by using automatic excerpts on tag and archive pages, making some pages no-follow and using canonical URLs. Being able to change where your blog title appears is also a plus. Another good SEO feature is the ability to change the meta description and keywords for your blog and to specify treatment of categories.
Social Media Included
I love themes that have social media functionality built in. Sometimes it’s a question of being able to link to your social media profiles easily, at others it’s a matter of having social bookmarking sites integrated into the theme. Having built in subscription options with Feedburner integration is also a big plus.
Header Images With One Click
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like spending eons trying to get my header image into a new theme. If this is built into the options then that’s a big plus for me. The ability to also choose the location of the header image is also useful.
Scripting Without Pain
Bloggers often need to include header and footer scripts in their sites. Many of these are for analytics and similar functions. It’s much easier to put these in a special theme options box than to have to mess around with the theme files and risk breaking the theme.
Unless you’re into tweaking your theme yourself, as I am, then you need a theme that looks great. It has all the backend features you want and makes your blog look good for readers. That means you need:
- nice widget and comment styling
- good typography
Good design is not about the color, though a good color scheme helps. As one of my journalism teachers once said. “Your design should look equally good in black and white, otherwise it’s not good design.” That said, being able to change the colors is a plus.
If you get a great theme, you may not need to use as many plugins, but the chance are that you will still need a few. I’ve had to ditch themes before because they didn’t work with my favorite plugins due to some coding error, which brings me to my final point …
Whether you like it or not, WordPress is always being updated. Ideally, theme developers will be ahead of the curve and will build in planned functionality so your theme won’t break when you update the core files. If not, being quick to update the theme when WordPress launches a major change is also a plus.
Those are the things that are on my perfect theme list. What’s on yours?