Choosing the Right WordPress Theme: Why Simplicity Matters.

When building a website with WordPress, selecting a suitable theme is crucial.

Theme choice can significantly impact your site’s performance, user experience, and overall success.

While the vast array of available themes might seem tempting, it’s essential to understand that more complex themes often come with a trade-off: slower loading speeds.

The Importance of Site Speed

In today’s digital age, where attention spans are shorter than ever, site speed is paramount.

Studies have shown that even a one-second delay in page load time can result in a staggering 7% decrease in conversions [1].

Additionally, search engines like Google prioritise fast-loading websites in their rankings, making site speed a crucial factor for search engine optimisation (SEO) [2].

The Downside of Complex Themes

While feature-rich and visually stunning themes might seem appealing at first glance, they often come with bloated code, excessive scripts, and many unnecessary functionalities.

These elements can significantly slow your site’s loading speed, leading to a frustrating user experience and potentially driving visitors away.

Complex themes also tend to be more resource-intensive, placing a higher demand on your server’s processing power and memory, further impeding performance.

The Benefits of Simplicity

On the other hand, simpler themes tend to be leaner, more streamlined and optimised for performance.

These themes typically have minimal code, fewer scripts, and a focused set of features tailored to your needs.

By opting for a simple theme, you can ensure that your website loads quickly and provides a seamless experience for your visitors.

Additionally, simple themes are often easier to customise and modify, allowing for greater flexibility and control over your site’s design and functionality.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Theme When selecting a WordPress theme, consider the following factors:

  1. Responsiveness: Ensure the theme is fully responsive and optimised for various devices, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. With the increasing prevalence of mobile internet usage, responsive design is crucial for providing an optimal user experience across multiple platforms [3].
  2. Code Quality: Look for well-coded themes from reputable developers or marketplaces, as poorly coded themes can compromise your site’s security and performance. Check for clean, valid, well-documented code to ensure the theme is lightweight and efficient.
  3. Compatibility: Check if the theme is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and any essential plugins you plan to use. Compatibility issues can lead to conflicts, errors, and potential security vulnerabilities, so ensuring that the theme plays well with your existing setup is essential.
  4. Updates and Support: Choose a theme that receives regular updates and has reliable support from the developer to ensure compatibility with future WordPress versions and security patches. Keeping your website up-to-date is crucial for maintaining its security, performance, and functionality.
  5. Customisation Options: While simplicity is essential, ensure that the theme offers enough customisation options to meet your branding and design requirements. Look for themes with intuitive customisation tools, such as theme options panels or page builders, that allow you to tailor the design to your needs without compromising performance.
  6. Reviews and Ratings: Before making a final decision, read reviews and ratings from other users to better understand the theme’s performance, ease of use, and potential issues or limitations.

The advantages of a bespoke theme in WordPress.

Given the many considerations involved in an off-the-shelf WordPress theme, it’s no surprise that businesses often prefer a bespoke approach.

The main difference between a bespoke and off-the-shelf theme is:

  1. A bespoke theme starts with virtually nothing and is built around your requirements
  2. An off-the-shelf theme ships with everything and the kitchen sink built into it, whether you need it or not

If you seriously consider any form of SEO, a bespoke theme will give you the edge in the search results.

It will also deliver time and cost-savings because:

  1. It’s built for you, so you don’t have to learn the theme; you use the blocks that are built for your content
  2. It’s quick and easy to use – WordPress sites that are simple encourage people to post more content
  3. It removes the daily theme battle: you’d be surprised how many of our clients hate using their old websites because the theme is so bad.
  4. It’s simply to add new custom blocks for new content
  5. You don’t need a licence
  6. Bespoke themes should be built around the core WordPress codex, which makes them more future-proof.
  7. You don’t have a third party effectively controlling what you can and can’t do on your site

Custom WordPress themes do have some disadvantages:

  1. They can sometimes be more expensive to create
  2. It might take a little longer to develop
  3. You can’t endlessly fiddle with styling

For some clients, locking down styling so the site does have benefits as it can keep the site on-brand.

Base your theme requirements on your content needs.

By prioritising simplicity and focusing on the essential features you need, you can create a website that loads quickly, provides an excellent user experience, and ultimately contributes to your online success.

Remember, a fast and responsive website is crucial for user satisfaction, search engine rankings, and overall business performance.

David Foreman

David Foreman

Dave is the Managing Director at Toast and has been working with websites for over 25 years. He's a WordPress expert and has built 100s of WP sites. He now mainly works in improving organic SEO for clients.