What Do You Want To See In A WordPress Theme?

As some of you know I’m developing a WordPress theme as an entry point into the premium theme market. I’ve talked a few times in the past about changing my business model and this is one step in that direction.

While I have many of my own ideas on what makes for a good theme, I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if I asked you as well. So what do you want from a WordPress theme?

What I Think Makes For A Good Theme

When I ask the question, by far the most common response is a good design, with an emphasis on aesthetics. I agree it’s important, but I think there are more important things that go into a good theme.

One of the cons of free themes is that after awhile you start to see the same themes over and over again. The situation is mitigated to an extent with premium themes since the price keeps some away, but even with premium themes it’s not uncommon to see the same theme on different blogs.

I think ease of customization is one of the most important features any theme can have. One way to achieve that is through separation of presentation and structure. In it’s simplest form html is the structure and css is the presentation.

Getting deeper into css style sheets some of the code can be further separated to define the layout and the more aesthetic side of the design.

One thing I’ve often done for clients is to separate the css responsible for things like color and font to make it easy for them to change.

I tend to think most non developers will have less desire to change the basic layout of a design than they will to change the color scheme.

If you’re looking for a 3 column layout you’re probably not going to download a 2 column layout and then try to add the third column. You’re much more likely to find a 3 column layout in the first place.

What Do You Want To See In A WordPress Theme?

With the above in mind I’d like to ask again what you like to see in a WordPress theme? I’m mostly concerned right now with some of the things you might want to quickly customize beyond color and font, but I am interested in anything you think goes into a quality theme.

If you’ve ever downloaded, installed, and/or customized a theme, what did you find useful and what tripped you up?

What did other themes include that made your life easier and what did other themes neglect to include that you would have liked to see?

What things do you absolutely need to see in a theme and what things do you hope will be there?

Any and all suggestions and ideas will be welcome. Thanks.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. I’m not really sure; while not everybody has the same sense of aesthetics, I’d say that probably simplicity is really important.
    Also, if you know how (if) you are going to monetize, it has to blend in with the ads you are going to use; if you’re not sure, it has to be versatile, in order to support a variety of ads; anyway, good question, I’d love to hear what others have to say

    • Thanks mihai. I agree about simplicity. I’m working on a design now and keeping it clean and simple.

      I have an area in the theme I’m working on for people to run ads or something like AdSense. I’m looking to code things in a way so that those people who don’t want to run ads can easily remove that section, but it will be there for the people who do want it there.

      Do you think something like that would work?

      Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. No pink monster trucks, wrestlers or Stooges, please.

    As you already know, I can read HTML but I’m not all that technically savvy. A theme that separates out the stuff that I might want to change and makes it easy to make those changes would be great for me. You’re right, I’m not going to try to add a third column to a two column theme. I might, however, want to change a graphic or the colors. So being able to do that easily would be a plus.

    • Sorry Kristine, you’re getting pink monster trucks.

      That makes sense. Graphics and colors. Some basic things. Given that you’re not all that technically savvy would you also appreciate an extensive help section or tutorials about installing the them, making changes to files when necessary, and other useful things you can do?

  3. Ability to flip sides (sidebar(s) on right or left).
    Color schemes to choose from.

    That’s pretty much all I can think of. I play with themes a lot, and yet my mind draws a blank after just two suggestions. Weird.

    • I’ve thought about the idea of moving sidebars to either side. I think it’s possible to include something like that the way I want to set the theme up, though it’ll take a little experimentation to see how easy it is.

      Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. As you say, we all have different aesthetic values, and different sites require different design approaches. Under the skin is a different matter…

    I’d like to see:
    Valid XHTML(strict), valid CSS2 and valid RSS
    Fluid layout, measured in ems
    Extensive use of microformats

    As you can probably tell, I like to tinker.

    • Thanks Andy. Valid code is definitely something I plan on including. I tend to use transitional, but it’s about time I updated to strict anyway.

      Good idea about microformats. My knowledge of them is still limited, but they seem easy enough to understand and I think using them will just take some practice on my part.

      The fixed/fluid thing is something I always think about. I like aspects of both, but have leaned lately toward a more fixed overall layout. I do code fonts in relative measurements as a rule, but haven’t always been happy with completely fluid layouts. I’ll have to look for a good compromise or a good way to allow others to easily make my semi-fluid design completely fluid.

      Thanks for the suggestions.

  5. Hey Steve, just noticed this post. I saw a thread like this over at WT awhile ago here:

    I’ll say the same things here. What I like about my theme (Royale) is the fact that it gives you so many options to choose from, for example:
    * 2 or 3 columns on the left or right side
    * Variety of backgrounds to pick from
    * Built in SEO options
    * Special HTML inserts
    * A custom Theme Menu to configure all the settings
    * And many more options to choose from

    I’d highly recommend checking it out to see what exactly it offers.

    • Thanks James. I checked out the thread and downloaded the theme to take a look.

      A lot of what you’re suggesting are things I want to incorporate. I’m not sure how many I’ll get in when I first release the theme, but everything you mention is something I’ve considered adding at some point.

      Thanks again for pointing me to Royale. It looks interesting.

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