Variations on a Theme: Tips for Choosing an E-Commerce Platform

Many users new to WordPress hit an overwhelming scenario right out of the gate: which theme to choose from the thousands offered on the platform. And for those who are launching a money-making venture via an e-commerce site, the importance of choosing the best theme for your needs is even more vital. Will your customers respond favorably to the theme you choose? Will it work in an intuitive way that speeds conversions and positive actions? Will it be attractive overall and allow for expandability in the future? All good questions to ask.

For those caught in the e-commerce-theme dilemma, here are some tried-and-true rules to follow when picking out a theme for your online store. Consider all the elements carefully, and be sure to do your homework before settling on a choice.

  • The first hurdle to overcome is whether to pick a free theme or shell out a few bucks for a premium one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. To begin, there are a lot of great free choices available, but make sure they have the specific functions you need for your products or services. Additionally, more often paid themes are better designed and built, and you may end up saving yourself time and headaches as you’ll have more options for customization. And most importantly, many premium themes come with user support: this is a critical component to an e-commerce site, because if your pages go down you’ll be losing revenue until the problem is fixed, and professional tech support can almost always get you back up and running faster than you’ll be able to on your own.
  • When choosing a theme, first consider how it will present your e-tail concern at first glance for the visitor. Remember that your home page is the gateway to all other product and information pages, so you should make sure the look is specific to the products or services you’re selling. Also ask yourself how many products you plan on displaying on the home page—some themes allow for a layout that presents single product options while others let you present many at once. Also consider that certain themes use widgets, which add functionality, while others give a more static view that you won’t be able to fiddle with very much.
  • Navigation is another critical element to consider when choosing a theme. Will shoppers be able to maneuver around your site easily and find what they’re looking for quickly? Will the theme you choose come with a search function? What are the “menu” options available with different themes? To answer these questions approach your research from your customer’s point of view when investigating the different choices out there and be sure a particular theme has reliable and easy-to-use navigation features.
  • It may sound contradictory, but many first-time e-commerce site owners discover that the particular theme they chose doesn’t work well with the e-commerce plugin they want to use. For instance WooCommerce is a wildly popular choice for many site builders, yet certain themes don’t support it or you may have to manipulate the theme to make the two play well together. Again, do your research ahead of time and be sure any and all plugins you plan on using are supported seamlessly by the theme you choose.
  • Lastly—and this can’t be stressed enough—remember that the vast majority of online shoppers use smartphones or tablets these days, which means your theme and your overall site needs to be mobile-friendly. So ensure that whatever theme you choose is responsive across all mobile devices (ideally it should be designed with the “mobile first” concept) and that all elements of your site, from plugins to widgets etc., render correctly and attractively for your customers shopping via their smartphones or tablets.


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