This guest post is by Ayelet Weisz of All Colores.
You’ve been reading all about the importance of a good blog design while struggling with your basic WordPress theme.
You’ve been frustrated with the limitations of this basic theme, yet you don’t have enough tech knowledge to create a new theme—or the budget to hire someone to create your dream design for you.
You drool over other blogs’ themes, and you search online for alternatives. Are you even ready for a change?
Well, maybe it’s time to tackle a theme upgrade! Today and tomorrow, I’ll share some tips from my own experience doing this to help you avoid the pitfalls—and the panic when something goes wrong.
First up, it’s important to get prepared. Once you find a premium theme you love at an affordable price, follow these guidelines before upgrading your blog’s design.
1. Verify the theme you’re purchasing is blog-friendly
Not every spectacular premium theme you fall in love with will be a good fit for your blog. Some themes are created specifically with online stores or static websites in mind. While those can sometimes be adjusted to blog format, the end result could be very different than the vision for which you pulled out your credit card or PayPal account.
Check to make sure that the theme is blog-friendly, perhaps by looking at implementations of it on other blogs before you buy.
2. Make sure it has a full refund policy
Some premium theme purchases can be canceled within 30 days (or more), and their makers offer a full refund—no questions asked.
If you’ve never upgraded your blog to a premium theme before, or even if you have, it’s a great idea to make sure you can change your mind later on. The fact that the purchase is almost risk-free might just give you the courage to finally take this step.
3. Read the terms and conditions
Some companies offer premium themes that you pay for once and keep for a lifetime. Some let you use that same theme on as many websites as you like.
Others offer premiums themes that you pay for once and can only use on one website, or you pay for once a year and can use on one or limitless number of websites. Some offer multiple themes for the same price as a single theme in a different company.
These are some of the considerations you’ll face when you’re upgrading a to a premium blog theme. Read what the deal includes and what it doesn’t, and life will be easier after you type in your credit card information and make the purchase.
4. Know what you want in advance—or at least have an idea
Build a list of features you love on other blogs’ designs. Brainstorm colors. Read blog design tutorials.
All this will help you choose your premium design, and make tweaking the theme after installation faster and easier.
5. Know when to switch themes
Traffic to many blogs decreases on weekends, holidays, and at night. If you’re willing to work when others are asleep or vacationing, you can make sure as small a number of readers as possible will be annoyed from the constant changes that take place while you’re working on improving your blog’s design.
If you need to take a long break and you’re not done tweaking, sometimes it’s best to save your changes and temporarily switch back to your previous theme. You’re upgrading your blog to a premium theme so that readers’ experience will be improved—make sure not to bug them on the way to that improvement.
6. Make time
Blog themes, especially premium ones, are made to suit different types of blogs and bloggers. They offer all kinds of options, and it will take you time to tweak the theme you choose so that it looks exactly as you want it to. It might also take time to adjust to the interface or respond to any surprises that might come up. You may even want to make changes you never imagined before.
Make sure you set aside time for this process in your calendar, and make sure you allow a bit more time than you think you need.
7. Take tech support into consideration
Before making your purchase, realize that you may need to use the blog theme company’s tech support team. Learn in advance how you can access this team and when, as well whether tech support is included in the price you pay for the theme.
Will the team be available 24/7, or does it only work during office hours? Is its time zone completely different than yours? Will you have to skip sleep to talk to them? Will the call be expensive? Does the company offer tech support via chat, email, or message boards? How fast can you expect a reply in these forms? If the tech support is given on a message board, can you stay anonymous if you want to, and still get help?
Make sure you know what you can expect in the way of support before you start switching themes.
8. Be willing to play with code—or get help
Some tech support teams prefer to guide you through the process; others take your information, log in and make the changes themselves. At times, it will be a combination of both, with a tech representative taking over only when guiding you through the process isn’t helping.
This, of course, can be an opportunity. Usually, tech representatives won’t ask you to do something too complex, and you’ll have good reason to acknowledge yourself for overcoming your fear of technology.
If you are not willing to play with code, or if you want to make sure there’ll be someone who’ll take over and help you out if you get in tech trouble, find out the company’s policies in advance by sending it an email or calling their customer service department.
9. Be willing to ask questions
The only way to get answers and to eliminate some of the unknowns is to ask questions. Don’t worry about looking silly or as if you have no clue. Tech support representatives get hundreds of strange and silly questions a day, and it’s very unlikely they’ll remember yours as the strangest or silliest one of all.
Remember, this isn’t about what they think, anyway. It’s about you giving your blog the best you’ve got—and expanding your comfort zone at the same time.
10. Get a recommendation
If you can find blogs that use your desired premium theme, email their owners and ask about their experiences with that theme. Some will give you the pros and cons of their experience, others will simply reassure you that the theme creation company exists and maybe even fulfills its promises of service or refunds.
If you don’t know anyone who’s purchased a premium theme where you want to buy one, look up reviews online or find Facebook groups dedicated to blogging, either in your niche or in general. Surely someone there will be able to share her or his experience with you, or refer you to someone who can.
11. Know that things will go wrong
Tweaking your blog’s new theme will take longer than you expect, or will take more work than you expect. You might find yourself dealing with tech challenges, or with a frustrated reader or two. The end result might not be as you pleased. Mostly, you might miss your writing and want to get this tech stuff done with already.
Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you started this part of your journey. Remind yourself of the benefits. Let go of perfectionism. Embrace your time in the uncomfortable zone. You’ll have a better blog once you’re finished.
Do you have additional suggestions for surviving a blog theme upgrade? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow, when we’ll look at what you can do if something goes wrong with your theme upgrade.
Ayelet Weisz is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter. She celebrates the everyday and extraordinaire joys of life on her travel blog, All Colores. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, and connect with her on Twitter.