As your nonprofit grows it will become more evident just how important having a good website is. It is great to get a “free” website from a volunteer or one of the free website services out there. But eventually you are going to need (not want, NEED) a professional website – one that functions well and looks professional.
I highly recommend using WordPress to make your website (learn how to make a WordPress Website). A WordPress website can be built upon to grow with your organization. (And yes there is a free version.) The best thing about WordPress is that there are thousands of designers making awesome themes (aka templates) that will make your site look stunning.
But finding the right theme can be tricky. So, here are a few things to look for when searching for a WordPress theme for your organization.
Where to Look
Just type in “WordPress theme” in to Google and you’ll get thousands of results from all over the world. But the best place for the “one stop shop” is at ThemeForest.net. Here you will find an arsenal of WordPress themes for every type of business venture, including nonprofits. Theme Forest is a community of theme users and developers. Each theme has reviews, comments, live demos and developer notes. All the information you need to make an informed decision on your next theme is on this site.
Most themes come with additional features, called plugins, that can greatly increase the function of your website. Plugins come in many forms: donation pages, e-commerce carts, search engine optimization, event scheduling, photo galleries, portfolios and more. Be sure to check which plugins come pre-installed with the themes you research.
Shortcodes are little snippets of code that you paste into your WordPress page to create tabs, photo galleries, embed videos, create popups… just about anything. Most templates will have a demo of all the shortcodes available with their theme. So be sure to see what the theme comes with.
Many themes include a drop-n-drag page builder. This will allow you to create great layouts for your web page without have to cut-n-paste shortcode. For the average user it is much easier to drag content features into your website than it is to cut-paste pieces of code. Make your life easier, look for a theme that has a page builder.
Check that the theme is updated regularly. Most themes will tell you when the last update was and what version of WordPress the theme is compatible with. WordPress gets updated about 4-6 times a year. So look for a theme that has been updated in the past 3-6 months. If a theme hasn’t been updated for over a year, don’t buy it.
If you use Theme Forest to search for your theme be sure to check the comments and ratings of each theme. Here you will see what others are saying about the theme and also get an idea of how good the support is from the person who made the theme. A great theme with lots of features and a beautiful design can be rendered useless if the developer of the theme provides poor support. Read the comments and see what others are saying about the theme and the support.
Over 50% of users surf the web with a mobile device. So having a website that can be viewed with a phone or tablet is important. When searching for a theme, be sure the theme layout is “responsive”. This means the layout of the page will adjust to a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. A nonresponsive website viewed on a phone just looks horrible. Plus it is difficult to navigate. Make life easier for your visitors and keep your site looking professional – get a theme that has a responsive layout.
WordPress is highly customize-able. And a good theme will take this even further by giving you the power to customize the color scheme, the font style, the menu bar color, the fonts of headers, the placement of sidebars and so much more. Most themes will tell you what customization options are available to you. Also, look to see if they have “preset” color schemes. Chances are you will be able to simply select one of the presets and be done with hit. How awesome is that?
So now you have an idea of what to look for when buying a theme for your WordPress website. Don’t bulk at the idea of spending money for a theme. Sure there are free ones out there but they just don’t compare to the features, customization and design quality of a professionally created theme. And most only cost about $50. There really is no reason not to invest in a theme.