I get a lot of emails asking me all sorts of questions, but at least once a week (often more) a potential client will say – “Please copy the look of this website….” or “I want my website to look very similar to….”.
My answer is always “Why?”.
Of course I know the answer. It’s because they like it, or they know it’s successful. I’ve had two requests this year already for sites like Yaro Starak’s Entrepreneur’s Journey.
But “Why?” is not really my question. It’s “Why would you want to be like someone else?”.
Be different, or be better but don’t be the same as anyone else. Case in point is a competitor to Headway Themes (that I use on my site and for many clients) – Ultimatum. Below are side-by-side screenshots.
While there is nothing really wrong with what they’ve done by being similar to Headway’s layout, again I always wonder why? They’re both drag and drop themes for WordPress (though work differently), so they’re already similar to Headway in that respect, so why have a similar website? Differentiate yourself, make it look better, unique, new.
There’s a difference between being inspired by someone and trying to emulate them, and being a lesser version of them.
A few updates of my, admittedly, awesome WordPress child theme for Headway that allows you to have a full screen video background:
– It now allows users to hide the content to view the video full screen. – Color Picker now allows you to change links color as well as background color of the navigation menu, sidebar headings and homepage post dividers (WordPress 3.5+ only). – A few CSS updates and fixes.
If you already own the theme you can download it again from the email you got or your My Account page if you created one. If you haven’t altered any of the core files you can copy over the new ones via FTP replacing the ones there. If you have customized any files they will be lost so make a backup/note of changes before updating, and then reapply them. In future I’ll keep a proper changelog when version 1.0 is released.
Headway is the WordPress theme that this site runs on. I’ve talked before about why I think it’s great, but the current version is not for everyone.
At this moment it means designing the site yourself, learning the interface, graphics added and so on. But this is all about to change. 40 seconds into the video below introduces the new Child Themes that will be available for use with the next version of Headway.
The next version is out on November 25th, so why am I saying to buy it now? When the new version is released they are moving to a subscription model with a recurring fee, and not only that, but the price will be higher. So if you buy BEFORE the 25th and get the current version of Headway:
You will get the Headway 3.0 upgrade for no extra cost, and no ongoing/recurring fees.
If you’ve been on the fence about getting Headway, then now is the time to do it as current members get the best deal. Of course there are many other changes in the new version, it’s been built from scratch, has a new blocks system and many other changes. But the child themes is something I know a lot of my clients are excited about, and while these will be an additional cost they save you the time and effort of designing complicated layouts yourself. I may even be releasing some child themes for sale myself….
I will be upgrading this site to run on the new theme once I get time to play around with and see what new features I can use and what it can do. If you already own the theme then don’t worry, you’ll be seeing version 3.0 very soon!
You probably haven’t noticed (at least I hope not) but the Blog Tech Guy website now runs off the Headway theme for WordPress. Headway tries to take the programming and technical challenges out of customizing a theme and each version it gets better and better.
My design is a wonderful custom design by Nate from Unique Blog Designs and I didn’t want to lose that. With Headway I didn’t have to and hopefully not many people have noticed that I’ve even moved.
So why switch? There were a few reasons. Being a geek I wanted to see if it was possible. Not just from a technical standpoint but from my own abilities. I customize sites all the time for clients and I wanted to see if what I thought I could do, I could. I’m glad to say I was right!
I also recommend Headway to a lot of people and I wanted to get more hand on experience on how it works and what it does when you ask it to do something. I also wanted to see how easy it was for others to change elements. With 1.7 things are getting easier and easier, and more intuitive.
Can you transfer your site to Headway? I’ll be lying if I said my transfer was easy. It was straightforward, I had a list of things that needed to be done, and with a few minor hiccups I achieved them. But it wasn’t easy and took about 6 hours. However it’s unlikely that you will be transferring to Headway and wanting to keep exactly the same theme as you have now, like I have. The beauty of Headway is that you can easily make a different layout or design to what you have now and you have ultimate control over colors, fonts, layouts and more.
You can see a video of me taking a quick look at the new features for Headway 1.7 (early September) below. Additional features include a quick start wizard, leaf templates, automatic upgrades, SEO improvements, speed increases and much much more.
WordPress themes are available for free, for a “premium” or for more money a custom personal theme, but how do you choose between which type, and then choose which theme? I’m a blog customizer, I spend my days editing, changing and (hopefully) improving blogs, so I hope I’m in a position to know what I’m talking about.
A question that I get asked regularly is “Should I buy a premium theme?”. This is the wrong question, the real question is “What theme is best for me?” whether that’s a free one, a premium one, or a custom one.
Theme Jargon – Some terms to know:
– “Theme” – the design of your site. Sometimes called a skin, or a template, it’s the ‘clothes’ of your website. Template is often used interchangeably as themes are made up of template files. – “Magazine Style” – all this means is rather than showing the Posts in a list on the home page they may show the top posts from different categories, perhaps with an image slider for the latest or featured posts. There are many examples that we’ll go through below. – “Columns” – Your content counts as a column, so a two column theme means one content column and one sidebar. If you want two sidebars, you will need a three column theme. – “Widget ready” – You can use sidebar widgets, so can manage your sidebar more easily. Also sometimes called “widgetized sidebars”. – “Flexible Width” – The width of the site will expand and contract depending on the width of the browser window and/or the users screen size. The alternative is “fixed width” and is more commonly used. – “Theme Options” – Some templates have an options panel to configure elements of the site without any coding. – “Child Theme” – This is a theme that works off another (parent) theme. Sometimes these can be referred to as skins but more accurately are a separate theme you install which requires the other ‘parent’ to work. – “Theme Framework” – Used to describe a basis from which other themes can be created. Thesis and Headway are often described as theme frameworks outright, while Woo Themes and StudioPress create all their different themes based on their own frameworks to provide commonality of options and coding.
So the first thing to do is to take a look at what you like the look of. Then we can talk about your skill level and knowledge with regards to changing the theme.
There are a lot of free themes out there, and just because they’re free doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any less well written or lack some of the options of their paid-for counterparts.
With thousands of options it can be hard to choose and time consuming. However this time is not wasted as will give you an impression what is out there and. Most sites give you filtering options so you can narrow by by color (though colors can be changed), layout, number of columns and so on.
So what are the good free WordPress themes? Atahualpa has a LOT of back end options to customize your site (and possibly the World’s Largest Save Button™); Thematic looks basic but has a lot of widget ready areas for easy customization; LightWord is clean and simple; I do love Mimbo for a magazine layout that now has a Pro (premium) version too; Freemium looks great; The Latest is clean and bright for a magazine style theme.
There are plenty more great ones, even one that looks like the WordPress Dashboard. Why would you want this? I’ve no idea.
These are ones that you have to pay for, the “premium”. The advantages are: – Theme options menu. This can range from changing colors, to changing layout, adding/removing links, advert blocks, SEO options, from the simple to the very complex.
– Support forums. This is the preferred way WordPress/Automattic want premium authors to offer differentiation to free themes, by providing a support forum. Most good premium themes will have a support forum to answer your technical and how-to questions. Do not underestimate the value of this, often you can cut and paste from a similar question that has already been posted to easily solve something that has been bugging you for days.
– Updates. As the theme author is getting paid for their work they will often provide updates that fix bugs or add features. Usually these are free upgrades to paid members.
There main disadvantage is that licenses can be restrictive. You may only be able to use it on one or two sites, or there may be some footer attribution link back to the author that you cannot remove. Personally I try to avoid these, and go with GPL themes – you can read more about GPL WordPress themes here – but to summarize it’s best to go with GPL if you can. Go here for a list of commercial GPL themes.
Premium themes I have used are (most of these are affiliate links as I promote them so often I thought I might as well get some benefit, but feel free not to use them and go to the sites directly):
2. Solostream offer them mostly in “magazine-style” and have been recently updated with pretty great selection that have nice features, particularly the auto-thumbnail resizing and a featured posts slider/glider.
3. Woo Themes have some free options too but an awesome selection of paid-for themes. Regularly updated, they have themes in all different categories for different types of websites, plus each theme usually comes with between 5 and 10 in-built colors schemes you can switch between. Usually there are a great number of menu options too. They have an excellent demo viewer on their site where you can switch between any template and style.
4. StudioPress sell the Genesis framework and a great selection of child themes.
5. Thesis is the daddy of all premium themes though it is lagging behind a little at the moment (the new version will address that I’m sure). Brilliant and a pain to work with in equal measure, it gives you a vast number of menu options, but something as simple as adding a header image is a mystery to the new user. Changing layouts, fonts, colors and what appears on the page is as easy as can be (and as fun), but it’s plain vanilla “out of the box” and can take some time and knowledge to make it look different to all the other Thesis sites out there.
6. Headway has a unique Visual Editor that lets you easily change the layout and look and feel of your blog right in front of your eyes. This makes it simple to change colors and fonts, and completely removes the need for any coding. There is a learning curve in how the system works and what the options do, and it’s not perfect (yet) in many ways, but is a fantastic option for the non-technical blogger.
7. Theme Forest is different as it takes user submitted themes and sells them for a commission.
8. Builder Theme from iThemes is a great theme with a massively user customizable layout via a menu options page. They have lots of other great themes there too, but BUilder has a powerful, if potentially overwhelming, set of options.
The truly professional blogger will get a unique custom theme. The advantage of this is that no-one else will have the same design as you, and you can brand it more with your own, or your business personality.
This can be done from scratch, or is often done using a customized premium theme framework like Thesis or Headway or others. There are different ways of approaching it. You can get a designer to develop a design of your site and then send it to a coder or customizer like me who can then code it onto the theme framework of your choice or from scratch.
Some companies design and code themes, I actually didn’t design my own site, which gets many compliments. This was done by the wonderful guys over at Unique Blog Designs.
The downside of course is the cost, and it can be quite substantial whether you pay a designer and coder separately or together, it doesn’t come cheap. However it’s your site, it’s your brand, it’s your business. An advert in the paper or Yellow/White pages lasts only a short time and can cost 25% of a unique blog design. It’s an investment like any other.
So how do you choose a theme?
The ultimate question! There are a few guidelines:
– Design/look. This is the #1 criteria if cost is an issue. The closer the design is to what you want then the cheaper it will be in terms of paying someone (like me) to change it, or in terms of your time changing it yourself. Do you care if other people have the same theme? If not then a free theme that looks the way you want it will work fine.
– Theme options. Some free and most premium themes come with menu options that control a variety of things. Do you think you’ll want to easily adjust colors? Or choose between different layouts? Or select how posts appear and perhaps from different categories? Then you may need one that has a strong options panel.
– Technical expertise. Do you know some CSS and HTML? Are you comfortable changing how to query posts using PHP? If so, or you think you can learn, then design is again your #1 factor. If not, then best to make a choice that doesn’t involve these unless you can find someone to do them for you.
– Exact requirements. If you require an exact look and feel then you (or someone else) will need to customize either a free or premium theme, or get a complete custom one written for you.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’ve worked on some great and horrible looking sites that the owner has thought the complete opposite and either hated what I did or loved something I loathed. My place is not to judge, it’s to do what is required, and help you make the best choice for your circumstances.
If you have any questions please let me know. Have I missed off your favorite? Are there are other great themes that I should recommend?
Using premium WordPress themes is great, but often you need to watch video tutorials of how to do something. There are lots of sites with different videos for different premium themes, so after constantly directing people all over the place for their theme tutorials I decided to put them all in one place. Theme Vids was born, a site housing all the best premium theme tutorial videos in a central location. I’ve put together a short video below so you can see how to use the site.
Each weekday a different video will be shown and so the category links to your theme and the search box may be your friend to find relevant tutorials. Currently I am just covering Headway, Thesis, Woo Themes, and Flexx, but if you want other premium theme videos added just contact me from the site and let me know. I’ll be adding any training videos I do to there too, so will be redirecting clients to it over the next few months.
I’m always happy for any feedback so please let me know what you think of the Theme Vids, and what can be improved.
As an extra bonus, when you join the Income Blogging Guide Course, we will install a WordPress Premium Theme on your blog for free. More details are in the quick video below and the text afterwards.
Premium themes make the managing of your blog much, much easier. They are more flexible. They make changes to your blog much easier. They save you time and they improve the Search Engine Optimization of your blog.
And that’s why so many people buy them and rave about them.
But you don’t have to buy the premium theme… we will and we’ll install it for you as well…all for free, after you join the Income Blogging Guide Course
The premium themes on offer for free are:
The Headway Theme (value $87) – Click here for more information: Headway Theme
The Flexx Theme (value $79.95) – Click here for more information: Flexx Theme
This is an extra, unadvertised bonus on top of the 5 bonuses promised already.
All you have to do is come and join us at the Income Blogging Guide Course, choose which Theme you’d like and we’ll install it for you – all for free.
We also have the Thesis Theme on offer for just $40 including installation. If you were to purchase the Thesis Theme yourself it would cost you $87 plus installation.
You can have the one theme of your choice installed on an existing blog or a brand new blog…the choice is yours.
Available in six great different color schemes, the Citrus theme can switch between schemes using the built-in admin panel. It also allows you to change the logo, use it’s built in advertising system, and change the layout between “blog-style” and “landing-style”.
One of the best features is its auto-image resizing. No need to create a differently sized thumbnail image for the homepage, the theme will do it for you.
There are many premium themes out there, such as Revolution, Solostream and Woo Themes, so if you’re thinking of a new premium theme, also take a look at the new Citrus theme from Unique Blog Designs. If you use it already please, let me know what you think!