How to choose an eCommerce WordPress theme
Choosing a theme for your WordPress site can be overwhelming. Selecting one to cater to online shopping — an eCommerce WordPress theme — can be just as much of a challenge, if not a greater one.
For example, if you go to WordPress.org and do a filter search with eCommerce, you will get 67 themes to choose from. If you Google eCommerce WordPress themes, the results go up exponentially — to 2.7 million.
Finding that “just right” theme can’t be summed up in a few paragraphs, nor is there a silver bullet to finding it.
eCommerce sites have too many variables to make it as easy as one-theme-fits-all. Here are six key questions to ask yourself as you start the quest of finding that perfect eCommerce WordPress theme for your online shop.
1. Freemium or premium?
There are a lot of well-built, free eCommerce themes out there. Before you try to cut your costs by snagging one of them, consider this: You are building your store online. This is your business. Compare it to a brick-and-mortar store. If someone was advertising on Craigslist with an offer of an empty store that could be all yours for free, wouldn’t you wonder if some strings came attached with that?
There are many things to consider here, but, most importantly, you want to make sure that the free eCommerce WordPress theme:
- has the functionality you need.
- is well-designed.
- is well-built.
You also want to know that it offers the support you need. What if the theme breaks? What if a critical plugin conflicts with it? In both scenarios, you could face the possibility of closing your virtual doors until it’s fixed. With most — if not all — premium themes, your support response is likely to be there when you need it, and in a timely fashion.
Your best bet is to ask around, get ideas from trusted friends and colleagues, and read the reviews. You might even want to visit each theme’s support forum to see issues, solutions and response times that other users have experienced.
2. Should you consider sliders?
Sliders are one of the most common elements seen when online shopping. At first glance as an online shop owner, you might be impressed with the large visual highlighting a few of your featured products.
In reality, sliders don’t always work the way you hope, especially for your users.
Some time back, a video I watched shared some good food for thought on sliders: A brick-and-mortar store rigged one of the walls in their shop so that as people started viewing the clothes, the wall moved away and a second wall slid into place — stocked with all new items. Shoppers frustratingly watched as the shirt they were interested in slipped out of their hands only to be replaced by new choices. The point of this analogy was that the abandonment rate is already high for online shoppers, without pulling away something they actually might have wanted to purchase.
3. How does the home page present your store?
The layout of the home page is going to be very critical here. Even though many people will land on specific product pages — either through searches or external links — a good number of people will still end up on your home page as first-time visitors.
The first thing you need to do is be very clear about is what you are selling. Secondly, you need to decide how many products you will show and which will be the ones you want people to see first. Does the layout give single product options? Or is it able to visually present categories of products?
The home page can be the most confusing part of any eCommerce WordPress theme because you don’t always know exactly what you can do by just looking at the demo. Some layouts are constructed in stone. Other themes may give you a home page consisting of widgets, which give you a little more flexibility. Still others are more like page builders, letting you create your own custom home page without knowing code. The options are endless, but just know that they are out there.
4. Can shoppers find what they want easily?
When considering an eCommerce WordPress theme, look at the options for easy navigation.
Of course, you will want a powerful search beyond the WordPress default search — and that can typically be done with a plugin. But navigation placement is critical to helping your customers find exactly what they want, when they want it.
If you have a larger online store, you might want to take advantage of a mega menu.
Some developers are critical of them, but if well designed, they can help your customers move around your site much easier.
5. Do your theme and eCommerce plugin play well together?
Typically your theme is not built with eCommerce in it, but rather framed to work well with popular eCommerce plugins like WooCommerce.
Although a lot of themes work very well with WooCommerce, not every theme works out of the box. You may get a message that says this particular theme does not declare WooCommerce support. In most cases, it’s just a matter of adding a little code. But the compatibility challenges can range from minor issues to your site not working at all.
On the other hand, you may use a plugin similar to Cart66. What this does is handle all of the cart functionality, creating your carts on their server. You are just using a shortcode to place your cart in a standard WordPress post or page, so it doesn’t matter which theme you use.
These are only a couple of examples of plugins and themes, so you will want to choose carefully and do your research.
6. Is your theme mobile-friendly?
We all know that your site needs to be mobile-friendly these days. But with an online store, it is even more critical.
The number of people shopping on their smartphones has exploded and will only continue to grow.
This is something thing I hear a lot with users on eCommerce sites: the challenges of buying online with their smartphones.
Your best bet is to make sure your theme is mobile responsive — and that it works well with your eCommerce plugin. Some people will choose to go the app route, but unless you are a big-box store, it’s likely that most people won’t add yet another app to their phone just to buy stuff from your site. The good news? There are now plugins coming out for some of the more popular eCommerce plugins, which are designed to make your online store more mobile-friendly.
The right eCommerce WordPress theme for you
We have just touched the tip of the iceberg here with these tips to help you get started in choosing that right theme for your WordPress online store. It’s a good idea to take your time to do the research and get help from friends and colleagues — people you know and trust.
The least effective way is to go into a Facebook group and publicly ask if people could suggest an eCommerce WordPress theme. You will end up getting so many conflicting answers that you will likely just be even more confused. Reach out to the right people and you will get what you need.
Originally published at Garage.