You’ve got your domain, it’s being hosted, and you’ve got WordPress locked and loaded. Now it’s time to build your site.

The thing that is going to make your website stand out from the rest is the theme – think of it as decorating your home. There are hundreds of thousands of themes available for free or to buy from any number of sites, but before you dive in and part with cash, you need to think about what you’re looking to do. To help explain this, I’ll demonstrate using three themes that I use on my own sites.

The first site I set up was www.scottishweddinghq.co.uk. I knew what I wanted from the theme – it needed to be a magazine style with a simple structure that would allow me to create a huge resource for people getting married in Scotland. I wanted a nice image slider to showcase new content, and advertising space that wasn’t too ‘in your face’. It took me about two weeks of looking until I found the one I wanted.

The second site was www.weddingfavourshq.co.uk. I wanted to set up an affiliate site selling products from a range of suppliers and was looking for a theme that allowed me to manage a lot of products in a quick and simple way. I’m a bit of a whizz with Excel so wanted to be able to download data from suppliers in spreadsheet format and upload it directly into the site. I also wanted the ability to showcase pictures on the home page and utilise the menu feature in WordPress. The theme I use does all of that for me. Some of the others did bits but maybe let me down on the import function.

The last example is this website, BloggersBlock. I’m a bit of a sucker for dark classy themes. While the two sites I mentioned above would simply not have worked with a dark theme, a personal blog is all about me and really, I can do whatever I want! The things I looked for in my personal blog theme were the social add-ins, such as an RSS feed, Twitter and Flikr, as well as the ability to promote resources. This theme is nice and simple, and perfect for writing articles and getting content out there.

So, before you buy a theme, have a good hard think about what you want from it. Are you going to be stocking your own products to sell? An inventory system would be a great help then. Aiming your site at a particular demographic, such as women or children? Do a little research and see what styles and colours appeal to those groups and then search for themes around what you find. If you’re looking to promote your own services as a photographer or musician, a portfolio-type theme will probably be the way to go.

Installing your theme is very easy. There are a couple of ways to do it but the way I find easiest is through WordPress. Under the Appearance section, go to Themes and then select Add New. Find the .zip file you downloaded and WordPress will upload the file to your server. All you need to do then is activate it.

The great thing about the theme system is that you can change the style of your website simply by applying a new theme. All of your posts, pages and images are store on the WordPress back end, so when you change your theme, the content is simply applied to the new layout.

The final point I’ll make on themes is that while they may look amazing, there is a chance that in the early days you’ll either run into trouble or you’ll break it. Each theme creator will offer some sort of support, either ongoing or for a specific period of time. Before you part with your hard earned cash, visit the creator’s website and see what kind of support is on offer. A fair few will have a forum, while others will offer 1-to-1 assistance. Once you’ve made a few sites and got used to the things that are consistent across all themes, you may find the level of support becomes less of an issue, but for your first site, make it a priority.

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