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How to Choose a Great WordPress Theme

How to Choose a Great WordPress Theme for Your Coaching Website

WordPress is a great way to get a professional looking site up and running in a matter of hours or even minutes. You can set up a basic WordPress site in about 10 minutes. Yes, it’s that fast. But then the real work begins as you configure, customize, and add content.

Once WordPress is up and running, you’ll need to add a WordPress theme that matches your business and branding. And with tens of thousands of WordPress themes available – both free and paid – choosing the right WordPress theme can be time consuming and challenging.

In this article, I’ll give you 5 things to consider to set up a client attracting website for your coaching business. Use this when reviewing WordPress themes to help you quickly eliminate themes that won’t work and narrow down your choices on which will.

Understanding WordPress Themes

There are a couple of things you need to clearly understand about WordPress themes in order to choose the best theme for your website.

1. A WordPress theme is a template.

What you see is what you get. Unless you hire a webmaster to customize the stylesheet, you will have to be satisfied with the look, feel, graphics, and layout of the theme you are using.

If the theme doesn’t come with drop-down menus, then you’ll have to do without them. If it only provides for one sidebar or one navigation menu, you’ll have to make-do with that. So write down what features are really important to you so you can use this as a checklist when considering themes.

2. Not all WordPress themes are interchangeable.

One of the beliefs promoted about WordPress is that you can quickly and easily change the entire look and feel of your site by just changing themes and that all your pages and data will stay the same. This is only true some of the time.

In actuality, not all themes will have the same layout and navigation menus. And some specialty themes even store your data differently in the database. What this means is that if you change themes, some of your pages, posts, and sidebars may no longer appear, or they may contain gibberish. I had this happen on a site with the Thesis Theme.

So when you pick a WordPress theme, do so with the intention of keeping it for a while.

Now that you understand the basics about WordPress themes, here are 5 things to look for to choose a great WordPress theme for your coaching website.

Pretty vs Optimized for Sales

Of course, you want an attractive website that will give you a professional online image.  But ultimately, you want a website that will attract your ideal client and turn them into prospects and clients.

While there are a lot of attractive, professional looking WordPress themes available, few of them are optimized with effective online marketing strategies, e.g themes that incorporate an opt-in box for a free irresistible offer.  This is the cornerstone to having a profitable coaching website.  Yet, finding a theme pre-designed for this strategy is almost impossible to find.

That means you need to look for a theme that can be easily customized to include an opt-in box on almost every page.  Some coaches choose to put their opt-in box in the header graphic section to accomplish this.

However, I personally don’t recommend this because extensive research has shown that the header graphic and footer areas are the two least looked at sections of a webpage.  That being the case, why would you want to put your opt-in box in the least looked at area of your webpage?

Note: For more information on this topic, see my article “Website Layouts that Maximize Sales and Sign Ups”.

Other coaches choose to put the opt-in box in the sidebar, which is a great option.  But it then requires you to have a sidebar on every webpage.  That may not always look great.

Masculine vs Feminine Designs

There’s very little information on this topic, but I believe it is critical for coaching websites.  If your ideal client is a woman and you’ve been having trouble finding a WordPress theme you love, there’s a really good reason.

According to a University of Glamorgan study done a few years ago about what aesthetically appeals to males and females when surfing the web, women prefer sites designed by women and men showed a preference for those created by men.

They also found that:

  • 74% of sites were produced by a man or a predominantly male team while just 7% were designed by a female or female team.
  • 94% of websites were biased towards men and only 2% towards women.
  • websites which might appeal greatly to one group are a total no-no with the other

Now combine that with a recent Nielsen Company poll that shows that women are the most frequent shoppers online in the USA.    I personally find that most of the WordPress themes on the market have a masculine look and feel about them, which is why I often create custom graphics for my clients and replace the ones that come with the theme.

When you’re choosing a WordPress theme, look at it from the prospective of whether it’s more likely to be attractive to women or men and compare that to your ideal client.

Women tend to prefer a clean, uncluttered look with space to breath, rounded edges, neutral background colors, great images, high-end photography, and easy to use navigation. Men tend to prefer straight lines, few colors in the typeface and background, and formal or expert language.

Easy vs Flexible

The easiest and fastest way to get a WordPress website up is to use the theme as is and do little or no customization.  But if you’re like me and you want to customize, look for a theme that is flexible in design.  Some themes include a dashboard that lets you select fonts, backgrounds, colors, and more with just the click of a button – no HTML or CSS programming required.

Fast vs Slow Page Loading

Most of the theme designers are not Internet marketers.  That means they are more interested in offering theme features than in designs that load quickly.  I have found that even themes promoted as “minimal” can load slowly.

You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of a website visitor.  So look for a WordPress theme that loads quickly.  Since “quick” is a relative term depending on the speed of someone’s ISP, you can click here to test the loading time of several different themes using this site.

Just enter the URL to the theme demo on that webpage and submit the query.  You’ll get a detailed report to help you make the best choice.

Built-in Features vs Adding Plugins

This is closely related to page loading time.  The first thing many of us do after we set up a WordPress theme is add in all our favorite plugins.  There’s the SEO plugin, Facebook plugin, spam filter, Google Analytics plugin, video plugin, and more.

Some things you need to know about plugins:

  1. They can significantly slow down your page loading time.  The more plugins you use, the slower the page loads.  So even if your theme loaded quickly in the tests, your plugins can slow it down to a snail’s pace.
  2. Not all plugins work well with other plugins or even with every theme.  I sometimes have to try 2 or more plugins before I find one that works with a specific theme and other plugins
  3. Sometimes free plugins aren’t kept updated, which means that they may stop working the next time you update your version of WordPress.

Some WordPress themes include a lot of built-in features, especially the paid themes.  The benefit here is that if the extra features you want are built-in, you won’t have to bother finding and adding compatible plugins to do the work.  This could also mean that the theme will load faster because the features have already been optimized for speed.

Paid vs Free WP Themes

A lot of people ask me if they should use a free theme or a paid theme.  I used to use free WordPress themes, but now use paid.  Why?  Because the paid themes I use are kept up-to-date with the latest versions of WordPress.  That means that I don’t have to worry about my theme crashing next time I update WordPress.

I also look for paid themes with a member forum and great customer support.  That is easily worth $35-$80 for a premium WordPress theme.

Summary

The best place to start when choosing a great WordPress theme is to ask your web designer or online marketing mentor.  If they set up WordPress on a regular basis, they’ve tested and looked at a lot of different options and can give you great advice.

You can also search online.  Here are some theme sites that I have either used or I know a trusted advisor who uses and recommends them:

  • WooThemes.com
  • StudioPress.com
  • ThemeForest.net
  • MySiteMyWay.com
  • DIYthemes.com/thesis/
  • OptimizePress.com – great for product launches

One last thought. To get the most out of WordPress, you’ll need more than a 10 minute set up and theme.  You will also need to configure the settings, create the sidebar content and menu, customize some of the graphics and/or stylesheet, add plugins, insert content, and optimize the design for sales and sign ups.

If you don’t have the aptitude to do these yourself, get training or hire a professional to help you.  Remember, the faster your website is online and effectively marketing for you, the faster you can get clients and sales.

9 Comments

  1. [...] a list of themes that I like and recommend, see my article “How to Choose a Great WordPress Theme for Your Coaching Website.” Tags: coaching websites, web design trends, website trends, websites for coaches, wordpress [...]


  2. Martin Sims
    Aug 22, 2012

    I am looking to build a Web site and I am at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed. I will need to hire someone to assist me, It is a retail site with social platform, Video, Pictures and it will have to look great! I am reading and trying to get a basic understanding of the Web and Marketing.
    My biggest issue at this who to hire and how to keep from getting taken. I am a contractor at a small base in Afghanistan.
    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated


  3. Pakistan Talkshows
    Mar 02, 2012

    I really like your wordpress template, exactly where would you obtain it from?


    • Karen Brunet
      Mar 07, 2012

      This is a customized template using the Infocus WP theme by MySiteMyWay.com. You can purchase a license at ThemeForest.net and find more great WP themes at MySiteMyWay.com.


  4. Tim Wade
    Oct 07, 2011

    Great info as always, Karen! Especially the part about masculine vs feminine. In our most recent launch, I used OptimizePress. It is customized for marketers, particularly those using Jeff Walker’s video launch sequence. But I do think it skews to the male in a big way.

    Thanks again!


    • Karen Brunet
      Oct 10, 2011

      Tim, thanks for the feedback on Optimized Press WP theme. It does look like a easy to use theme and is one of the few WP themes on the market that actually has a opt-in page template and sales letter template built-in – along with a whole lot more for Internet marketers.

      My suggestion for anyone who wants a more feminine looking design is to have an artist create some custom graphics and replace them with the ones provided with the theme. Large red arrows can me eliminated or softened, turn straight lines into curves, add more typography or graphics, etc.

      I’ll add Optimized Press to my list above of WP themes to look at. It’s not my favorite for a typical coaching website, but it’s the perfect solution for a product launch, especially with videos.

      Anyone else have comments on choosing a great wordpress theme?

      Karen Brunet
      Online Marketing Consultant
      It’s not just a website…It’s the Mother Lode!
      More Clients – More Sales – More Often


  5. Rhonda
    Sep 30, 2011

    You have some truly valuable information on web design, SEO and marketing for coaches.
    I will be happy to recommend.
    Thank you!
    Rhonda


    • Karen Brunet
      Oct 05, 2011

      Rhonda, thank you for your comments. I really appreciate it and your recommendations. As an online marketing consultant for coaches, my desire is to help my readers get more clients and more sales more often. So I especially like sharing tips and techniques that is very effective for coaches and consultants but rarely talked about. “How to Choose a Great WordPress Theme” is another article to help you do that.

      Let me know if you’d like articles on another topic or if you have any specific questions about SEO, web design, WordPress, or how to get clients.

      Karen Brunet
      Online Marketing Consultant
      It’s not just a website…It’s the Mother Lode!
      More Clients More Sales More Often

  6. [...] here to see the original: How to Choose a Great WordPress Theme for Your Coaching … Share and [...]

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