Sure it’s pretty, but will it do what you need?

If you own a business, your website’s first task is to leave a positive impression on visitors. A very, very close second is to explain how you can help.

An interior designer friend wanted a theme that matched her bubbly, quirky, colorful personality. She found one adorned with doodles, fabric, needlework, buttons, and color that met those criteria beautifully. One day she asked me for some help with her blog.

I pulled up her site. “That’s cute. I like how you called your landing page ‘Hmoe.'” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she replied.

“Look. Your first menu item is spelled ‘H-m-o-e.'”

She looked, then cringed. “Where do I go to change that?”

I skipped through the dashboard to find that she had not misspelled something. I started digging into the theme, and I found several problems.

  • Lack of contrast. This had prompted the initial call for help. The page title didn’t stand out, and the byline was lost in the beautiful but busy background.
  • The main navigation menu was hard-coded into the theme, but the user couldn’t edit the links to the landing page. Hello, 404 error! The designer incorporated common page titles into the theme, probably in an effort to make things “easier” for the user. But what if you only have three pages, or name one something different, or blog in Spanish? The theme screamed creativity, then restricted the user blog in a tiny box.
  • The menu elements were also graphics, not text. Without the funky font the original designer used, there was no way I could fix the misspelled word and have it match the other items. As it turned out, I found an updated version of the theme that fixed the typo.
  • The default sidebar widgets had custom graphic headers. Adding user-defined widgets to the sidebar deleted those out. This obviated the need to try to match graphic text, but the new text didn’t fit the rest of the theme.
  • Sharing options were built in to the theme. Again, this was a nice gesture by the designer, but it had limitations. What if your primary market is on a social network not included in the defaults? Without knowing code, the user can’t change this. This is better handled by a plugin.

My friend is now on at least her second replacement theme. Time will tell how long that one lasts.

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