OK, I have a confession to make. I am actually quite the pathological blog theme “refresher”.
I will give my blog’s theme and layout a complete overhaul usually about once a year… occasionally a bit more often than that.
Sometimes it’s just for fun (or when I’ve found an AH-MAZING theme or new layout idea… you know what it’s like… don’t judge me…), other times it’s because I am just sick of the sight of my current blog, and then there are also the times when the Internet hates me and I have no choice.
This week was a case of the latter.
But rather then get too “woe is me”, I thought I’d try and flip my last 48-hours of pain into something useful and share some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way about how to know when it’s time to break things off (with your theme that is) and what to look for in your next one!
You should break up with your theme if…
1 – It’s slow or crashing a lot!
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Slow blogs and unstable blogs are annoying to run, and worse to visit. Although, sometimes, it’s not always super clear what is causing your problems. The easiest way to check is to get something like the Chrome extension Page Speed Monitor installed in your browser, then load a few pages of your site and write down the “speed” for each (it’s good to load and then refresh each page a few times, and take the average of that number).
Then deactivate your theme and activate the default theme (like twenty sixteen), and quickly test those same pages again. If the page load speed is vastly faster, then yep, your theme is slowing you down (or a conflict with your theme and a plugin) and it’s probably time to go (you want to aim for 10 seconds or less at the most).
If your problem is that your blog crashes a lot, you’ll need to contact your host and see if they can tell you why it’s happening (it’s normally either a theme, a plugin, or a combo of the two).
2 – It doesn’t let you do what you need it to do
Themes are getting smarter and smarter now, but not that long ago most were created with fairly limited capabilities. So maybe you want to add a slider to your homepage, or an opt-in offer on your category pages. If your theme pretty much just lets you change your logo, colours and font styles, it might be time to look at a theme with more inbuilt functionality.
Personally, I love any theme built with Visual Composer included because then it will let you get as creative as you like (without knowing any code!)
3 – It’s not mobile friendly
In nerd speak, this is the equivalent of your theme messing around behind your back, with your mum.
It’s just NOT OK.
With around 70%+ of all web traffic now coming from mobiles, if your site looks rubbish, or just looks “the same” (aka it doesn’t reconfigure and resize to be easy to read and use on a mobile phone, so people have to zoom and scroll to read your content), then it is NOT mobile friendly.
You’ve found “the one” if…
So you know you need to find a new blog them, and you’ve located a few possibilities, how do you know if that theme you’re crushing on is THE ONE!
1 – Check the comments & ratings
2 – Check the demo site
Never buy a theme that doesn’t have a demo site! And if yours does, I highly recommend viewing the theme demo in different browsers, on mobile, or even just resize your browser window and see how it looks. Plus it’s a good idea to check the speed here too. For a demo site, it should be 5 seconds or less (because it won’t have a lot of plugins or ads slowing it down). Anything slower than that, forget it!
3 – Does it have good support?
You know how I said check the comments and ratings before? Well, it’s also a good idea to check to see if the owner is replying and actually being helpful (in a timely manner too).
How to break up with your theme (without things getting messy!)
1 – Back up, back up, back up!
Never start switching themes without doing a full back up first. This includes going into any “custom code” or “custom CSS” boxes in your old theme and copying out anything in there into a notepad file (because you’ll probably need some of it in your new theme too).
It can also be helpful to screenshot your homepage and any other key pages as a reference. Save this all in a folder somewhere safe.
2- If you can, test it on a staging site first
If you can do that, then definitely do. It is a much safer way to do any changes to your blog.
3 – Test, test, test (and be prepared to walk away)
No matter if you are using a staging site or not, before you start prettying up your new theme, or spending any time on it, you should check it first.
So upload it, activate it (it will look messy and gross, don’t worry), then check some pages and post for speed (like above). And just make sure no big errors pop up or anything like that.
I personally am all about the first impressions with a theme. If you turn it on, and it’s faster and error free, then you are good to go. If it causes any problems off the bat, then that’s a big red flag and I would just walk away (you should be able to get your money back from the developer if you tell them it clashed with something on your site too).
4 – Better yet, maybe get someone to install if you can?
The easiest and most failsafe way to get your theme up and running, fuss-free, is to actually get the developer to install it for you. Most themes in the marketplaces I mentioned below offer this for around $50-100 (which is worth every penny if you ask me!)