Some of the biggest decisions bloggers face involve their blog theme. Should you change your theme? Should you pay for a premium theme, a custom theme, or a free WordPress theme? What should you look for in a new theme?
With so many free themes readily available (especially for WordPress users) you could literally change your theme every day if you wanted to. While the availability of themes is a major plus for WordPress users, it can also make some of these decisions more difficult.
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How the Theme Impacts Your Blog
First, you need to consider how the theme impacts the blog in the following ways:
Blogs that have been effectively branded have typically used a blog theme as part of their branding strategy. How does your current theme contribute to the branding of your blog? Will changing your theme result in the loss of some of the benefits that you have developed over time in building your brand?
If your blog does have an established brand but you feel it is time for a theme change, consider creating a new theme that will still feature many of the same recognizable elements as your current theme. For example, consider using the same logo, color scheme, layout style, etc. while giving the theme some updates to improve the look.
On the other hand, sometimes a drastic change can be good too. It’s a decision that should be thought out by considering what you have to gain and what you could potentially lose.
With so many blogs out there, and so many of them using the same free themes or very similar themes, a unique look is valuable. By changing your theme will you make your blog more or less unique? If you currently use a free theme and you are moving to a premium theme or a custom theme, chances are you will be improving the uniqueness.
Blogs that are at least somewhat unique are more likely to be remembered by visitors, so this factor should always be considered. Of course, if you are using a commonly-used free theme you can always make it stand out a little bit more by using a custom logo or a unique header image/photo.
Related reading: Showcase of Beautiful Blog Designs
Obviously, your theme will be the single most influential factor in the overall quality of appearance for your blog. Will the new theme really be an improvement in quality, or is it just something new? Be sure that if you are going to change themes you are getting improvement in some area of appearance.
Different themes will have varying levels of usability for readers. Your current readers may be used to your theme and where they need to go to find what they are looking for. Will a new theme be more difficult for them to use?
You may need to make some adjustments or customizations to a theme to achieve a level of usability that both you and your visitors will be happy with. Usability can be even more important than appearance. If there are significant changes, consider writing a post that will explain where everything is and how to use the new theme.
There are some areas of functionality that are always important for blogs. Where are the subscription links? Is there a search function? Is there room for advertisements if you are interested in selling ad space? These are all things that should be considered any time you are thinking of changing themes.
Also, many blogs display featured content in prominent areas. Some bloggers achieve this by simply linking to popular posts in the sidebar, but others do so by placing links to featured content in other areas, such as the header. If this is something that works well for you, make sure that any new theme you consider will allow you the same possibilities.
Factors to Consider
Will the new theme help you to increase the income that is produced by the blog?
If you are making money with your blog (or if you will be after the new theme is implemented) you should consider spending some money on a premium theme or a custom theme. Making some money with the blog will obviously offset the costs of the theme, plus a better or more effective theme may help you to increase the earning potential of the blog.
How does your current theme stack up? How does it meet your needs?
There are too many themes out there to settle for one that doesn’t adequately meet your needs. If other themes will be more effective for you, consider making a change.
What are your blogging goals?
Your goals should always be factored into your decisions about blog themes. Are you aiming to be a Technorati Top 100 blog? If so, you’ll most likely need to get a high-quality, unique theme. If your goal is simply to communicate with readers and you’re not concerned with making money, why not stick with a free theme? Take a look at your goals, and decide how a theme will help you to meet those goals.
When was the last time you changed themes?
Most bloggers like to change themes every now and then, plus it keeps things fresh and interesting for readers. If it’s been two years since you changed themes, you may want to seriously consider a new one.
If it’s only been two weeks since your last change, you’ll probably be better off staying with the same one for a while. This is a pretty obvious question to consider, but what you really need to evaluate is whether or not your blog needs a fresh look.
How long will the new theme be effective?
If you are hoping to significantly increase your readership over the next several months, be sure that any theme you choose today will still be sufficient when that time comes. Don’t choose a theme that you will need to change again in a month or two when your blog reaches a new level.
Can you keep certain elements to make it recognizable?
If your blog has an established audience, you most likely will want to keep some elements from your current theme to make the new theme still recognizable for visitors. Will you be able to use the same logo or color scheme?