What to look for in WordPress Templates and other helpful links

moo-small copyMore in the “Moooving Dabbled” series..
WordPress Themes, part 1

One of the really great things about WordPress is the cool templates available. You can build just about any type of website, not just a blog, with them. You can even build a website with a built in blog (how nifty!).

There are thousands of website templates (themes) out there available for WordPress. Or you can of course build your own. For Dabbled 3.0, I figured I’d start with a base of an existing template and build from there. So I started researching, and through trial and error, here are some things to look for in choosing a template.

Free vs Pay – There are tons of free templates, so why pay for one? Well, sometimes designers may offer a basic version for free, but charge for one that is more powerful or has more features. If you don’t want to code it yourself, sometimes your time is worth it to pay for exactly what you want. If you’re paying for one, check on what support is offered, and how upgrades are handled. Also, check the licensing information on the free ones (or pay ones) and ensure you are using it according to its license–you may need to leave certain footers in place or not use for commercial purposes to be in compliance. There are a lot of good free or “link-ware” (ie free, but you need to link back to the developer) themes out there, so I’d start with free and see where you end up.

Widgetized – This makes it easy to drag and drop standard widgets or html into your site, without messing with the code. (Similar to how Gadgets work in Blogger). Look for templates with widgetized sidebars and footers. You can always add this feature yourself by getting your hands in the code, but it’s nice to start with it.

Recent – Technology changes. And the most recently created templates will likely (though not always) be better.

Child Themes – You may or may not care about this (but I learned it in my research, so sharing!), but child themes are a way to build a new look and feel (and even functionality) on top of a base theme. This means a couple of things: 1) if you’re modding a template, it may be a good idea to create your own child theme, rather than tweaking the original code. 2) If you have a child theme you (or someone else) has modified, you can get updates–new features/functions/bug fixes– to the parent theme without breaking/losing your modifications. 3) Some template builders have created a good solid base theme (ex: Thematic), and have encouraged people to build children for it.

I’ll get into more theme/template goodies, and maybe even plug-ins (one of the BEST things about WordPress) tomorrow…