Do you know what a WordPress theme is? Let’s back up and explain. WordPress is a free, open source program that allows anyone who owns a domain name and has hosting to set up an effective business (or personal) website and/or blog. Yes, WordPress(.org) is the core source of the program, but it is very easy to install on your site. The core WordPress program holds the information that you place on the site — words, images, etc, but you need a specific “theme” to create the look and feel of the site in the virtual world.
Once you have it installed (see our blog installation software video post), your WordPress blog is completely in your control. Your first goal should be to set up (1) your customized look and feel of your site (this is done with a WordPress theme, that is, a “skin”); and (2) your background search engine optimization (easy to do with free plugins that work seamlessly inside WordPress). You can have a professional looking site in a matter of minutes. It will have both website AND blog capability from the start. And, you own it. You control it.
Let’s take a closer look at themes. A WordPress theme is the “skin” that captures the complete look and feel of your site. It sets up user-friendly ways to set the color and graphic images on the site, the width and number of columns on your site, position of the columns (right or left), and fonts. Many themes are set up to let you put in photos that rotate (using a slider), others set up videos easily on any page. But, if they aren’t already able to do that, you can always find a free or low-cost plugin that integrates with WordPress to set up your photos and videos (and audios) (consider a plugin to be the WordPress equivalent of a smartphone app).
Let’s take a quick look at screenshots of a few WordPress themes below.
Default for the current version of WordPress (called the Twenty Ten theme) (do not stay with this — you need much better customization to brand your business). And, don’t be fooled into creating a beautiful (and very expensive) site that doesn’t get down to business fast. It may be gorgeous to look at a dominating logo and header or a flash image that sings and dances at the top of your main landing page, but your visitors looking for someone to help them with their problem will be off to the next site on the list in a flash (pun intended).
Here is the default theme for WordPress in 2010:
But what if you want to use one of thousands of free WordPress themes, like this one called Intrepidity:
But then you decided you’d rather use a green theme rather than a blue theme (this change happens throughout the site in a split second). This is power and simplicity of using a WordPress blog on your own hosted domain.
Want a completely customized look and feel? You can get that too, for a reasonable price.
Do not confuse the WordPress.org sites that you can easily install on your own hosted domain with the ones you can set up at WordPress.com. At WordPress.com, like other public blogging sites, you can get going very fast, but WordPress.com basically controls your site. They can shut you down in an instant, remove your site and all of its content. This is no way to run a real business of your own. It is a good way to market yourself or to have a fun simple personal site, but not to do what you can do with your own site.
An effective website these days must be found easily, be easy to navigate, engage the visitor quickly, and provide interactive tools. Otherwise, they will leave very quickly (called a “bounce” in internet jargon). A good business WordPress theme enables you to achieve these goals quickly and easily.
Go for pleasant looking, but functional. Make sure that engaging material and navigation show up above the fold, that is, the location at the top of a web page that shows without having to scroll down (most website visitors either won’t scroll or don’t seem to know how).