I’ve been designing websites since 1997, and since then I’ve seen a lot come and go. When I first started designing my first sites I used a program called quick site, which was a what you see is what you get HTML editor. At the time it was the closest thing I could find to using a graphical program call PageMaker produced by Adobe.
This is a program I had learned to use while developing newspapers back in the early 1990s and having zero HTLM knowledge, I needed something that made sense to me as a graphic designer. The only unfortunate thing about the Quick Site program is its passion for deleting hours of work unexpectedly and for no reason.
After using Joomla for several years, I first discovered WordPress in 2006. At the time there certainly wasn’t the amount of themes available back then like there is now but I liked the simplicity of the back end as well as the constant security updates. Today there are literally tens of thousands of themes available and the potential to develop unique sites is a web designers dream.
One of the trends recently though is for theme developers to create artistic themes rather than themes that are effective niche site layouts. Artistic neat looking themes may look cool but they suck when it comes to presenting information and creating conversions for niche or authority sites.
When I talk about authority sites in this sense, I’m more are referring to when a first time visitor comes to the site and their subsequent immediate interpretation of the value and reputation ( authority ) on the subject the niche site is about. This is an area many amateur niche site developers make their biggest mistake when it comes to developing the revenue potential of their website.
As a website designer I’ve learned to see the site through the eyes of the viewer. The entire process begins by asking myself what do I think the visitor wants to see from the “image” of the website. For example how many times have you gone to a web site that maybe had very factual information, but was so amateurishly designed that you did not even bother taking the time to read it simply because you made the assumption that the content on the site was also equally as amateur.
The key for successful visitor engagement as well as ultimately revenue conversions is to create a site that is visually what the reader is looking for. When a person goes to a new web site, they judge the look of the site far sooner than they do the actual content of the site.
Now granted WordPress has equalize the playing field in a lot of ways when it comes to layouts, but as any talented web designer knows, the fonts, the colors, the use of white space, the side bars and the entire layout of the website will determine play vital roles in the financial success of the site.
Let me give you a few examples of what I mean by proper theme selection. When I start out designing a new site I usually have an image in mind of how I want the site to look and what will convey the written information the most effectively to the visiting reader. For example a site on planning a wedding is going to be visually different than a site on portable welding machines. Let me clarify as well that I’m not just talking about the logo design or the images that I may use on the site, but the actual site elements itself.
On a wedding site I’m going to use pastel colors, a more whimsical font structure, as well as more white space in the design. In many cases I will use larger headlines usually H1 or H2 where on a more factual industrial site I will use smaller headlines such as H3 or H4.
One of my niche sites has a male oriented theme. Because I choose to add a heavy dose of ads and widgets, I made sure I put them on the same side of the page so I dont’t complicate the actual content of the site which remains easy to read on the left side of the page.
The reason for these variations is the expectations of the visitor are much different. If we make the assumption that the typical visitor to the wedding site is likely going to be female, there are certain visual rules that apply to building sites tailored towards women that do not apply to sites primarily focused towards a male audience. ( such as the welding site )
The key then when you are selecting the theme for your niche site is to ensure that the theme will convey the image of the website with enough success to engage the first time visitor long enough to read the content presented on the site.
I likely have several hundred themes downloaded to my computer, and although I am forever playing around with new themes, I find myself still using the same dozen or so. In many cases I often prefer themes that I know are is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of setup time or short code insertion. If I’m developing the site for client I also want to make sure that the theme is as easy as possible for them to maintain in the future.
A lot of new fancy themes use a variety short codes in their HTML to add function and content – but if you are not HTML fluent and and are new to WordPress design, these can be both a frustrating and intimidating element of a WordPress page or post.
Even with the experience and knowledge I have with short codes, some complex themes may take me 3 or 4 hours to figure out how to modify properly. Sites like themeforest.net have an incredible selection of themes but are often far too complicated for the average WordPress user to use.
One of the biggest issues is that most of these names will not upload via the WordPress theme panel but need to be added manually via FTP to the WordPress Administration folders. This in itself depending on the size of the site can take upwards to 1/2 hour to complete which for me makes it too time consuming. With that said I like to make sure that a theme can be easily uploaded including its style sheet without any kind of FTP involvement.
The best themes for niche sites are those that allow me to keep the front page visually appealing but not overly complex. This means that sliders and other visually interesting elements of the page should be avoided as they kill conversions and confuse the reader which leads to higher bounce rates.
There obviously are a lot of different elements and considerations that go into choosing the best theme, more so than would be practical to try to cover in one single article such as this. I’ll continue to add articles discussing the subject though as I believe it is one of the most important elements of the site design.
By the way one of the best sites I know of where the themes are naturally suited for niche and authority sites is from a company called Theme-Junkie.com. They offer a membership site for a $50 annual investment, which gives you access to about 40 different teams. I would estimate 30 of them are excellent niche site project.