WP-blue200With thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available to style your WordPress website, it can be overwhelming for the small business or start-up to choose an appropriate theme for their WordPress website. To narrow the search a bit, consider these five features to make your WordPress website easier to manage, give it a contemporary look, and provide the functionality expected from modern, contemporary websites.

1. Responsive Design

Responsive-DesignA responsive theme means that your WordPress website will respond and display well to the various mobile platforms that people use these days to browse websites. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are accounting for an increasing percentage of web traffic. Mobile devices now account for over 25% of web traffic – with some estimations even higher. With more web users accessing your website on smaller screens, your website needs to be able to adapt to those smaller screens and display the content in a user-friendly way. If you’re using a WordPress theme that isn’t responsive, you could be unwittingly putting up barriers to your audience.

2. Featured Content Slider

A feature that you’ll see no most contemporary websites’ home pages these days is what’s known as a featured content slider. These are usually just below the main navigation menu and feature large photos or images with titles and excerpts of featured pages or blog posts. They’re a great way to showcase what you think is important and want your website visitors to see. The featured content will usually stay on the screen for about 7 seconds or so and then slide or otherwise animate off the screen to be replaced by the next. A lot of modern WordPress themes include this functionality, but some make it easier than others to add, change, and manage what is featured. It’s worthwhile to check a theme’s documentation to see how easy it is to add new content. You definitely want to make it as easy as you can to quickly add new, dynamic content to your website.

3. Easy Customization Options

customization-panelUnless you’re comfortable with HTML, CSS, PHP, and modifying WordPress template files, you’ll make life a lot simpler for yourself if you find a theme that offers a lot of customization options, like the example on the left that Woo Themes offers. Most good WordPress themes will offer some amount of customization these days and the more different things that the theme will let you adjust and control through simple check boxes and easy to use user interface, the better. Look for easy ways to manage layout options, styling, ease of pasting in Google Analytics code, uploading a logo for your header, etc.

4. Modular Home Page Sections

Related to the easy customization options listed above, a lot of themes will make it easy to add different module to your home page without having to write a single line of code. Look for themes that let you easily add a portfolio section to your home page or testimonials or whatever is most appropriate for your business needs. Even better, some newer themes come with page builders to let you more easily build custom page layouts without having to write your own WordPress template files.

5. Easy to Manage Galleries and Portfolios

If you want to feature your work, whether it’s products or services, a gallery or portfolio to showcase your work is a nice feature to have. Some themes do a better job than others in making it easy to update and manage galleries and portfolios so check into that before you commit long-term to a theme.

One last tip to keep in mind when looking for a WordPress theme is to look for a theme that’s appropriate for your business. Many, if not most, contemporary WordPress theme-makers will categorize their themes to fit into certain categories such as magazine style, business, portfolio, ecommerce, personal, etc. If you’re selling products online, look at the ecommerce themes. If you’re a service business, consider the business category of themes. If you’re website is an online magazine, look at the magazine style themes first.

As a starting point, here’s a few WordPress theme foundries that I often recommend to people:

Elegant Themes

Woo Themes

Theme Forest

Studio Press