Content is King is not only a cliche – it’s a dangerous one, because it makes it sound as if web design is not as important as web content. And that’s just not true.
If presentation really was separate from content then people would go to job interviews in their weekend clothes and no one would care.
On a psychological level, content and design are intertwined.
Visitors come for your content but it’s human nature to scan over a page briefly before reading it. That means a bad design can’t help but give a negative feel to your content before your reader has even made it to the headline.
Fortunately, it works the other way around too. A well-designed site invites the visitor to settle down for a good read and then share the post with their followers, explore more of your site or sign up for your mailing list.
In this post we’ll look at how you can identify a good design and how to use that to choose the WordPress theme that’s right for you.
Good web design fundamentals
Web design is a specialist art, which is why you shouldn’t leave it to your cousin who’s just picked up a copy of Web Designerz Pro 2.0 on eBay.
Here are four keys things a layout needs to be effective.
1. Easy navigation
Users won’t spend time figuring out how to navigate your site. If they can’t use it, they leave it.
Navigation needs to be clear and obvious both in design and wording – “Solutions” isn’t as clear as “Products”, for example.
2. Good use of whitespace
It doesn’t have to be white – any kind of breathing space between page elements makes them easier to see and comprehend. Good readability is good usability.
3. Easily scanned text
Studies show almost all users scan a page left to right and then up and down before they start reading it.
Large blocks of interrupted text are unappealing, so keep paragraphs short and make sure your design has large, easily read headlines, sub headings and bullet points.
4. Standard design conventions
Visitors expect certain things to be in certain places – logo towards the top left, menu across the top or on the right, for example. Putting things in unusual places means visitors have to search for them, which slows their experience down and could lead to confusion.
Professional designs without professional bills
Not so long ago, your choices when it came to web design were:
1) Hire a professional designer and get ready for bills that look like international phone numbers.
2) Hire a designer from Elance for a lot less but who’s eight time zones away with English that isn’t so great, especially when you’re using phrases like “edits” and “that revision you promised”.
Flash forward to today and you don’t have to deal with any of that. Instead, with WordPress as your publishing system and a pre-designed theme, your site can look fantastic for a nominal cost.
Introducing… Premium WordPress Themes
This the way to go. You get a top-notch look for your website from a professional designer with full support if you need it.
Because good themes come with an options panel, you don’t need to be a technological egghead to customize the theme and give it your personal touch by adding your own logo, tagline and so on. You can see an example of an options panel below.
Here’s a checklist of the important features you should look for in a WordPress theme.
Price & License
Premium themes are generally priced between $39 and $79.
For that you’ll get the rights to use the theme on one website forever. If you’re a web developer wanting to use the themes on multiple websites (for you or your clients), you’ll usually need to buy a developers license which will cost more.
Good search engine optimization
Although you can add extra plugins to optimize page titles and content for search engines, it’s just much easier if those features are built-in to the theme.
Make sure there’s a good support forum where questions get answered quickly. Most themes are easy to use but you might need help one day.
Don’t forget who your website audience will be. You don’t want to seem too informal or cute if you need to attract business customers. Likewise, you don’t want to appear staid and stuffy if your target audience is the arts and crafts crowd.
This comes back to having a great design. Not only should it follow the rules of good navigation and layout structure, it also needs to wow you.
If you love the look of it and it fits all or most of the criteria in this post, you’ve probably found the winner.
Here comes the eye-candy
These themes tick all the boxes for me. You? Click any image to see a live preview of the theme.
Let’s start with four of the best-selling designs from Studio Press.
Next, Elegant Themes who have a different business model to most theme companies – instead of paying per theme, your $39 membership allows you to use all the designs in their collection, working out to $0.50 per theme.