This week on WPwatercooler we are talking about what are some of the criteria to look for in picking a “business theme” for you next business related website.
Jason introduces the business theme topic. Chris calls out Steve for being skeptical about the topic. A few OC-ValleyGirl side comments ensue. Steve declares that every theme is a business theme, because every website has a purpose, depending on the business. Richard says there is a major difference between business themes and personal themes. He says personal themes are “blogs, people, comment, conversation”, whereas things like user comments may not be front and center, might focus on calls to action and focuses on making money rather than being a “rage face” site, that business websites focus more on being a CMS rather than a blog.
Sé asks “how is that necessarily related to the theme rather than the content?” Richard agrees, but says you have to have the right layout. He says business themes have calls to action, testimonials, contact pages, Sé says those things are all content-related. Jason says that you need to have areas available to put in your content easily and that newbies will struggle with where to put things. Jason asks “what’s a good way to start off and what criteria should people be looking for? Sé says “setting your static front page!” and then says we can all now go home. Richard concedes, it all depends on the business and what you’re trying to do with the site.
Julie says people get hung up on the “pretties”, i.e. the colors, the fonts, and not the functionality and if it can do what it needs to do. Steve agrees, that is a pitfall, people back their content into their theme, rather than having form follow function. He then asks Richard, “what if your business is a blog?” Richard says you have to look at how you’re monetizing that blog, whether that is ad placement, referrals, etc. and that you can’t rely on every theme to have a perfect match.
Sé says it is about what plugins you’re using, and that any theme can be used for a business site if the objective of the site has been mapped out. It then becomes about what you add on to make it a full-featured business site, which comes back to “Should functionality go in a theme or should it go in a plugin?”
Chris says we know the answer: Functionality goes into themes. In reference to having ads onsite, he says non-sponsor AdSanity by PixelJar is the best ad management plugin.
Sé says that themes that are trying to fit all of the functionality into the theme contribute to the breakdown of WordPress becoming difficult to use, and that stripped-down themes are better.
Chris says customers that go to ThemeForest and decide they want a specific theme often don’t have content and even a perfect theme won’t look anything like the demo without content.
Suzette says she spends a lot of time with ThemeForest themes making small tweaks. Everyone agrees. Sé comments that many themes are locked down and small tweaks are very difficult to make. Patrick agrees, says making tiny change takes a long time. He mentions that WooThemes WooFeatures and WooTestimonials are great plugins. Steve mentions WooCommerce. Sé mentions Testmonials Widget. Suzette asks if Testimonials Widget can be used with Custom Post Types, Steve says it creates a Custom Post Type. Sé says something like that can help make even a default theme like twenty twelve into a business theme, while keeping things simple.
Julie says often more complex themes can break plugins, so starting with a streamlined theme allows for plugins and features to be swapped out later on. Steve says _s is the best business theme. Sé agrees, except for DIY users. She says that WordPress.com’s new business tier is a good solution for non-custom sites and beginners, because it’s pure WordPress.
Jason says what is nice about WordPress.com is that is can be exported easily, so the site can grow. Sé says themes that lock cogent into CPTs are no better than WebsiteTonight.
Chris asks is sites on WordPress.com can sell online. Sé says no, you can’t add plugins, maybe with manual PayPal buttons. Chris said then “business” sites can’t generate revenue with WordPress.com. Sé says there are lots of businesses that aren’t selling online.
Steve says we should suggest themes for particular businesses, because everyone hears “business” different. Sé mentions Locu, which is available on WordPress.com and WordPress.org, which allows restaurants to manage their menus.
Jason says WooThemes has a lot of categories to pick from, even “one-pager” is categorized as a “business theme.” He says is comes down to how to you want the site to be displayed, column on the left, column on the right, etc. Steve says Zeek.com is using PixelPress.
Julie says many businesses don’t understand the purposes of themes, see what is presented and don’t understand that content and options can be configured. Sé says conversely some businesses want to customize themes too much. Steve mentions “Diner” as a theme for restaurants. Steve and Chris mention StudioPress’ “AgentPress”. Sé says those can be template-y. Chris says you can adjust for that with graphics and content.
Jason says that’s why we tell people not to get a theme that has too many features, because in order to move themes.
Steve says the takeaway is don’t start with a theme, start with planning. Sé says she explains it as building the house before doing interior decorating. Julie says house-building is a good metaphor, first you need to decide how many people are going to live in the house.
Chris says the first question to ask is “How many people are going to live inside the website.” Sé says the answer is often that people want a mansion, when they need a bungalow, and that it should be about setting expectations. Jason says it’s about making good decisions up front, and not pigeon-holing themselves with themes with specific functionality.
Suzette brings up budget, for example, if you’re a photographer allocating $20,000 for equipment but only $300 for your website, your priorities are off.
Steve says if the majority of your business isn’t online, a $300 website could be fine. Chris says spending days custom-designing a site then expecting it to be built in the click of a button is a problem. Julie says people want bells and whistles they don’t need. Richard says they want what they see, regardless of whether it fits the business model, you have to explain what each site has and that if it’s not relevant to business you can throw money away.
Chris brings up the TV show “Property Bros.” where people describe what they want in a house, all top-notch features for a small budget. One brother takes them to the dream house and after showing it he shows it tells them the price. Then the other brother says that many of the things in the out-of-budget house can be recreated in a in-budget house, if they focus on what they really want, rather than all of the site. Chris says he uses that approach in showing websites, shows them the full-featured sites and then tells them how much it costs. Steve/Sé says it’s a good “sell to sell down” approach.
Sé brings up a The Free State provincial government in South Africa website that cost R140-million (US$15,366,680) that was built from a $40 theme template.
Jason says everyone should visit YouTube and subscribe and leave comment there or on the WPwatercooler website.