There’s a great Facebook group out there that I belong to, Tech Support for Real Estate Agents (if you want an invite, just leave a comment. I *think* we have to be Facebook friends for me to invite you. If we’re not, hit me up on FB with a friend request). In said group, the topic of WordPress themes comes up. Often.
Here’s the short answer to the question, “What WordPress theme should I use?”. . .
Isn’t that helpful?
It does depend. It depends on what your goal is for your real estate blog, it depends on your experience level with WordPress, it depends on how much money you have to spend, it depends on your personal taste – it depends on many things.
So I can’t tell you what is the “best” theme you should use. Best means different things to different people and everyone is in a different situation. Me telling you which theme to use is akin to me telling you what kind of car to drive…
Here is what I can tell you about WordPress themes for real estate blogs
All themes are not created equal. A theme does more than just determine the look and feel of your blog. There is a boatload of code that makes up a WordPress theme, and as with any pile of code, how it is written can impact not just how your blog looks, but how it performs – rendering in a browser and in search engines. I’ve experimented with themes that look fabulous in Firefox, Chrome and Safari. Then I view the site in Internet Explorer and all hell has broken loose. Things shift around, columns grow and shrink, all sorts of weirdness going on. While I wish nothing more than for Internet Explorer to be banished from the face of the planet, the simple fact is, a LOT of people use IE. I have people visit my blogs every day using IE6 – which is now THREE major revisions behind the latest offering from Redmond.
Wonky browser rendering is maddening enough, but how about using a theme that search engine spiders choke on? That’s a bad idea.
Another bad thing, potentially very bad is that there are themes out there where the designer is, to put it bluntly, a douchebag and they insert malicious code into the theme. Malicious code can do anything from inject hidden links in your theme to wreck havoc on your computer.
Here is a great article, Why You Should Never Search For Free WordPress Themes in Google or Anywhere Else, that dives deep into many sites offering free WordPress themes, and some of the scary things found. It also offers great advice for how to check your themes for malicious code, and where to find clean free themes.
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Believe me, I understand the love for free themes. Free is cheap. And there are some stellar free themes out there. But let’s face it, in most of life the adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. That’s not to say that every premium theme (i.e. theme you pay for) is necessarily a great theme. But designers that charge for a theme do so because they make a living coding WordPress things. You are far more likely to get tightly and appropriately coded themes, free of malicious code, from a premium theme. You will probably also get support of some sort (often in the form of a user forum) and the themes will be updated on a regular basis. Updates are important not just for added functionality, but for keeping up with WordPress updates as well. WordPress seems to update their software at roughly the same frequency that I change underwear, so it’s important to have a theme developer that stays on top of WP updates. I’ve seen theme break completely with a new (usually major) revision of WordPress.
Again, I’m not dissing free themes. This very blog you are reading is running on the Weaver free theme. It offers all the goodness mentioned above – clean code, support, frequent upgrades. It’s just important to be careful with theme selection and remember that generally you get what you pay for.
Ease of use matters to many. I often get asked, “can I (or someone) make my theme do X, Y, or Z?” The answer is yes. Any theme can be modified to do anything that’s possible with CSS and PHP code. And if you have PHP skills, that means in theory just about anything can be done with any theme. Of course most of us don’t have the requisite skill set to modify our themes extensively. Most people reading this blog, primarily real estate agents, will be lucky if we can figure out how to change a header graphic or some color in the theme.
Fortunately, theme designers are starting to understand that most users don’t have their coding skills and they are beginning to add control panels that make changing many theme properties as simple as pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping. Many themes make it super easy to add a header graphic, support native WordPress menus (including drop downs) and more.
“WYSIWYG” (What You See is What You Get) themes are also coming out. Some make it pretty darn easy to drag “modules” (or “leaves” or “boxes” – whatever the theme calls them) around and create some very “non-bloglike” layouts.
But beware, there are still countless themes out there that offer none of this. I recently helped someone change their header graphic and it required editing core theme PHP files AND the two CSS files to simply change the default header graphic.
Theme choice ultimately is personal. In the end, the theme you chose defines the look (or capability to make the look) that you want for your blog. As such, choosing a theme gets pretty personal pretty quickly. There are literally thousands of options for theme selection. Play around with a few, look for sites running themes you like and see what the owner has done with them. Explore the user forums (some premium themes will lock down certain parts of the user forums for paying customers).
And keep this in mind:
The greatest theme on Earth means nothing if you don’t have consistent, quality content.
That is important folks. I know agents that have dropped thousands of dollars on visually stunning custom themes only to find out within a few months that they hate creating content.
And if you hate creating content, you won’t do it.
And if you don’t do it, you can not have a successful blog no matter what theme you are using.
Here are some themes I like and use. Of course, as mentioned throughout the post above, what I like and what works for you may be completely different.
PlatformPro Framework by Pagelines. (Premium theme. WYSIWYG. My main blog, Phoenix Real Estate Guy is currently running this theme).
Thesis (Premium theme. I ran this on TPREG for a long time. Great theme, not simple to customize, but very powerful. I still use it on many sites.)
StudioPress / Genesis / AgentPress (Premium theme. AgentPress is a popular real estate “child theme” on the Genesis framework.)
All of these are affiliate links. I get a small pittance if you actually purchase the theme.
Do you have a favorite theme? Tell us about it in the comments!