WordPress theme designers and web designers in general can make an attractive and functional design by making a comprehensive plan, designing the layout, knowing the source, starting with the default theme, and keeping the default CSS references.
In addition, they should maintain consistency, keep good navigation, provide easy accessibility, avoid distracting images, and enable comments.
So when you’re designing your own custom theme for WordPress, follow these tips for a theme that’s easier to develop, maintain and build upon.
1. Make a Comprehensive Plan
It is well worth the time to make a comprehensive plan of the entire project before beginning instead of developing as you go along. By knowing where you are heading before you get there, you can make the best choices and avoid backtracking because of an error or discovering a better alternative.
The imagination is a powerful thing, but it can lead to confusion if the project has no structure. By laying out a comprehensive plan, it also helps to know how to organize your time, and what to prioritize, delegate, and allocate.
2. Design the Layout
A WordPress blog has may structural elements and you should decide on what parts you want and where they go. Decisions have to be made about the elements, deciding on which widgets you want to use and which ones you want to exclude. Then you have to decide on the template modular elements, including the template to use, a site map, and the types of pages.
Graphics, colors, fonts, and spacing are all important choices. You have to decide on what graphics to use and where they should go, the best colors to use, the font type and sizes, the ideal amount of spacing.
3. Comment Your Code
Development requires knowledge of your code so that when you come back to edit your theme to update it for a new release of WordPress, you can use the comments in the code to remember what it does.
4. Always Begin With the Default Theme
Although it may seem somewhat redundant and a waste of time to start with the Kubrick or Twenty10 default theme when you can immediately jump into a predesigned style sheet or theme, there is a solid reason why you should take this slower, more cautious approach.
When you start with a default theme, you are using a theme that has been tested by numerous users, with the result that all glitches have been eliminated. In other words, you begin with solid code. It is then easier to implement another theme or use style sheets.
5. Keep the Default CSS References
While a designer should feel free to do as they please, it also makes sense to keep WordPress user-friendly, which means keeping the default code within the CSS files and templates. While it is fine to hide the code references, you should not remove them. While you may like certain details and dislike others, by leaving the code intact, you can accommodate the needs of different users.
6. Maintain Consistency
Whether designing the theme of a room or a blog, consistency is an important element in good design. It creates symmetry and aesthetics. For example, keep your images within a certain size and the same type of font and size.
7. Good Navigation is Essential
Good navigation will make the blog user-friendly. Your task is to make it easy for users to get around the blog. Sometimes creating navigation can result in redundant links that mar aesthetics but it is better to err in this direction than to have too few links.
For example, category menus on the top and at the bottom will make it easier for users to get around your blog.
8. Make Accessibility Easy
The user should be free to roam around the blog at will without having to go into certain pages to access other pages. For example, nobody should be forced to read a welcoming message or watch an introductory video before they can access specific pages of interest to them on the blog.
Coercing people to pay attention to your marketing message makes them impatient and more likely to click away.
9. Avoid Using Distracting Images
Some images are irritating and fail to convey any meaningful information. The use of cartoons and animated images, for instance, should be kept to a minimum and eliminated completely if they do not serve to improve the look and feel of your blog or offer the visitor any value.
10. Enable Comments
The entire purpose of a blog is interactivity and those blogs that restrict comments are not friendly. It is basically a statement from the owner that they are not interested in anyone else’s opinion.
An attractive blog is participatory in nature, encouraging others to share their insights and experiences about the topic.
Over to you
What’s you take on designing WordPress themes? Have you outlined a plan yet?
Photo credit: Bart Everson