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You’ve heard this one, I’m sure…
“Why don’t you get a new theme for your tired web site? It will breathe new life into your site and it’s easy to do.”
While that may be true, it may be more trouble than what you bargained for. Installing a new theme is simple but there are many things to consider when doing a switch. Most themes have built in unique features. Changing to a different theme may mean saying goodbye to features you need (and ones that may not be available alternatively as plugins).
In fact, there are so many things to consider that I wrote “Choosing The Perfect WordPress Theme For Your Web Site” to explain many of the things to watch out for when choosing a theme.
While doing a recent project, it turned out that what was needed was not a different theme but a re-focus on the site’s purpose and how best to serve user needs.
Paying attention to the five action points below may be just what you need instead of using a different theme to paper over your site’s problems.
1. Improve Navigation
Navigation allows you to group related links which will make your site user-friendly.
If you’ve been using Google Analytics to track the patterns of how users use your site, you have feedback on how to improve navigation.
Even if you’re not doing that, you can tell which pages are out of date and should be removed from your site and its navigation.
Less is more when it comes to navigation, so consider removing top level links. If you still have “Home” in your nav, you can remove that and use your logo as a button to home.
Your site will look a lot cleaner and work much better after you improve its navigation.
2. Improve Performance
This would be a good time to check the uptime of your site as well as its download speed. Both of these are Google ranking signals so you want to make sure your site is running at optimal speed.
Before you think of installing a caching plugin, contact your web host to see what can be done to improve your site’s performance. Some of the solutions may be:
- Move to a new web host or have your web host upgrade you to a better hosting plan.
- See if your site could use a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Some hosting plans do this automatically.
- Tweak your site’s code to help speed download time.
Also, determine and fix any issues concerning how well your site does with mobile devices and small screens in general. Pay attention to filling out forms and how videos look (or if they’ll even play).
3. Improve Readability
If, for any reason, your site is difficult to read, you’re finished. Here are some things to check:
- Consider the tone of the site. I prefer conversational over corporate.
- Keep jargon to a minimum.
- Replace “Click Here” and “Learn More” with meaningful text. (It’ll help your SEO too.)
- Use a font size, color, and type that is easy to read no matter the device or screen.
- Check the length of your text and the space between lines.
- Read your copy aloud. Check for “wrong” words that spell-checking may have missed.
Updating text and fixing broken links will go a long way to making your site reader-friendly.
Add some humor. People want to be entertained and informed! MailChimp is the champ in this department.
4. Improve Images
Many images are unnecessarily too heavy. I’ve seen images in the 1Mb and heavier range used on sites.
There is no reason for very large images when viewing images on a screen. They take forever to download from slow net connections, typically used over WiFi.
If any image is of poor quality or does not serve to advance or explain a message, think about replacing it.
Make sure your images display well on mobile devices. Consider using the popular “WP Retina 2x” plugin.
Also, this is a good time to remove unused media from your Media Library.
Which brings me to…
5. Cleanup The WP Admin
While you won’t see this on the front end, keeping a clean WP Admin is a must. (I hate messes especially when it comes to WP.)
I’ve seen plenty of client sites where unused plugins are still around waiting for updates. Get rid of those!
Since you only use one theme at a time (or 2 if you have a custom – Child – theme), remove all themes not being used.
The bottom line is that any plugin or theme not being used needs to be deleted if, for no other reason, than they present an unneeded security risk – however small – to your site.
What about Pages and Posts that were saved as Drafts and will never be used. Move those to Trash but don’t stop there. Go to your Trash and clean that out too.
Don’t think of changing to a different theme as the quick fix for what ails your site. There is a lot you can do to improve everything about your site without making that drastic change.