What you should know about design when buying a theme

Getting a new design for your website is both time consuming and expensive.  There are many great options for free themes but too often these themes do not have very many features and require a lot of extra work.

Purchasing a theme from premium theme designers or paying for a custom design can not only give you many extra features but also allow you a unique and useful user interface. Getting a design is much more than choosing colors, uniqueness and price.  There are a lot of important design elements you should know about before getting a new theme.  Here are your most important areas of interest as well as a buyer’s checklist.

Fundamental Design Elements

There are a few important things to consider when evaluating the design of a potential theme.  Some of these elements are often misunderstood so I will point out what is usually left out of posts about theme design.

We all know that features are important and themes with jQuery or admin panels add extra customization to your blog theme, but lets go back to the fundamentals.

White Space


In the image above all you see is the words.  The “whitespace” is exactly what the name implies... the area around the image that is white.  Now to categorize as whitespace an area in design does not have to be “white”, just clear of any text or images.

Whitespace is important in design because it focuses the eye on to what is important.  A good example of how this doesn’t work is when you go to a site and the design’s background is intense with a collage and millions of colors.  The text or image you are trying to highlight never even gets any attention.

Your eyes are taking in all of the background and trying to work out the text from all the other interesting images.

If you had an entire pack of with no whitespace then very easily you could find your blog with no readers, little click-through, and no brand.  Actually you would have a brand.. you’d be the blog everyone remembers not to go to. Avoid any design that does not have enough whitespace around important areas like the logo, navigation menu, and content area.  Trying to make your theme busy only leaves your site empty.

Eye Tracking

You're a blogger, NOT a crackhead! Its about finding a design that highlights the things that are most important to you.

The number one thing is your logo which brands you and should include near by your navigation menu and then your conversion tools.  Your conversion tools are your subscriber boxes, products, ads, etc.  Whatever your goals are for your blog is what your conversion tools should be pointing too.

Headings Matter


I talk a lot about headings because they really do matter.  They draw attention to your post and bad headings with unattractive fonts or the wrong typography can quickly scare away your readers.  Be sure your the headings in any blog you are looking into are clear and clean looking.  They should be prominently located on the page for maximum results.

Read: How to Write Incredible Blog Post Headlines?


Your text is the primary instrument for gaining more traffic and keeping readers.  Typography is the intricate design of the fonts you are using on your blog.  Although there are plugins to add extra font features to any WordPress blog, the original functionality of the blog theme you are using makes life a lot easier.

For example, Thesis theme comes with over a dozen options for typography. Other feature rich themes do too.  The key is many of the free themes don’t and unless you have the patience to setup a complicated plugin then you should look into typography early on.

For the best practices of good typography, and to learn what all of the most popular blogs are using for their sites, check out Smashing Magazine’s Typographic Design Patterns

Navigation Menu

Menus are one of the most important elements to your entire site.  A bad navigation menu will completely ruin a blog.

You heard that right:

A BAD navigation menu will RUIN your blog

Here’s the reason why I think this is true.  Navigation menus are the life blood of your blog.  People will see your content, conversion tools, and logo on almost every page but to get from page to page or post to post the best option is a navigation menu. If your menu is not helpful and never sends any traffic through your blog its time to look at what you can do to change that.

My opinion is to always have an archives page with lots of useful tips.  Additional menu items should point toward more content and resources you’ve created to funnel traffic and reach your goals. For the Best practices in Navigation Menus, again check out the resources Smashing Magazine have put together... they are phenomenal: Navigation Menus: Trends and Best Practices.

Wrapping it up

In the coming weeks we have more design posts planned to help you not only get the best design features on your site but also teach you what to look for. We hope you enjoyed learning more about web design and be sure to look at some of these fantastic resources.