A quality user experience is essential when looking into your next WordPress theme. As with most developers, you most likely utilize a solid library of themes to use for your clients.
However, as with all themes, some of them get outdated, and the UX can slip in terms of current expectations, or because the recent updates or plugin compatibility issues render it less useful.
Therefore, designers are required to constantly keep an eye on new developments in the theme world to ensure that their client sites are not falling behind. From fast page load times to responsiveness and code optimization, WordPress themes change, and so should the mentality of what developers look for in those themes.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to sift through the marketing mess that you find on most theme company websites. Sure, they’ll say that their templates are fast, but how fast? Responsiveness is great, but how many times have you bought a theme, implemented on a website, then noticed that it doesn’t really look that great on mobile devices?
WordPress theme user experience requires delicate research prior to purchasing, so we wanted to outline a solid list of what to look for when seeking an incredible UX in your next WordPress theme. Keep reading, and feel free to bookmark this page to reference back to on your next shopping trip.
A Google PageSpeed Score of 90% or Higher
Page loads are one of the first areas you’ll think of when improving the UX on your website. Almost all theme vendors are going to tell you about how their theme has blazing fast speeds, so how can you differentiate?
The key is to utilize tools like Google Developers PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix. Some of the theme companies do the work for you, but you have the opportunity to check out exactly what speeds are rendered yourself.
As you may expect, themes with higher scores are shown to perform better and give your users a better experience when jumping around your site.
For example, take a look at some of the highest rated WordPress themes from the past year:
- Jupiter – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 97%, Desktop: 98%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 96%, YSlow: 84%) Average Score: 93.75.
- Monstroid – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 90%, Desktop: 96%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 87%, YSlow: 71%) Average Score: 86.
- Enfold – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 77%, Desktop: 91%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 93%, YSlow: 82%) Average Score: 85.75.
- Divi – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 76%, Desktop: 88%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 88%, YSlow: 83%) Average Score: 83.75.
- Avada – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 67%, Desktop: 87%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 91%, YSlow: 88%) Average Score: 83.25.
- BeTheme – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 64%, Desktop: 79%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 93%, YSlow: 83%) Average Score: 79.75.
- Bridge – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 69%, Desktop: 70%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 89%, YSlow: 78%) Average Score: 76.5.
- X – Google PageSpeed (Mobile: 65%, Desktop: 76%) GTmetrix (PageSpeed: 57%, YSlow: 77%) Average Score: 68.75.
Finding this information requires you to copy the URL of the theme demo in question. After that, the results are pretty clear.
Keep in mind that many of the UX requirements we outline below can also be identified with the Google PageSpeed and GTMetrix sites. The systems recommend solutions to improve the UX, such as optimizing images or using a page cache.
What are some of the areas to look into when we talk about code optimization? To start, you must realize that lots of resources and plugins are going to be added to your WordPress theme, so the prebuilt code must play well with others.
What other elements should you consider when thinking about code optimization?
- Optimizing images
- Minifying resources
- Browser compatibility
- Lazy loading
- CPU and battery saving
- Advanced memory management
- Modular architecture
As discussed a little bit above, responsiveness is constantly advertised as a feature on WordPress theme sales pages. However, is the responsiveness effective? Google has clearly stated that responsiveness is a requirement to improve UX and boost SEO, but it’s essential to bring up theme demos on your mobile devices before purchasing. Does it show the essential resources at the top of your page? Do the elements snap into place as expected?
In addition, consider pasting the demo URL into the Google Mobile Friendly page to see if they approve.
A quality user experience almost always utilizes browser caching, a tactic that stores earlier versions of your webpages to serve them up quicker to the user. The user doesn’t see any differences, yet it prevents further work that the server has to do. Although some themes do have caching tools available, it’s not a bad idea to implement a plugin like W3 Total Cache to make this happen and improve how users see your site.
Consistent and Effective Theme Updates
All themes have shortcomings. You’ll find bugs, problems with popular plugins and various other “under the hood” type situations that require fixing. However, in order to maintain a quality UX, it’s essential to find a theme that’s offered by a company with consistent and effective theme updates. This way, those problems eventually get solved due to user feedback and testing.
Most developers discover that making updates requires not just a few bug fixes, but drastic changes that can eventually lead to tripling or quadrupling your page loads and overall user experience. For example, the following elements are often updated to ensure that your user experience improves. They are reflected on the frontend, and you can see immediate results as a user of the theme, seeing as how your customers should find it easier to use:
- Overall reading experience
- Rise of gradients
- Smart and clean navigational settings
So there you have it. When seeking out an incredible UX when looking for your next WordPress theme, take into consideration the various elements that actually come into play when your site renders to the user (Jupiter ftw). Some tools like GTMetrix are handy for testing the themes before purchase, but it also requires you to check in on theme reviews, ratings and discussions that are scattered throughout the internet.
If you have any questions about boosting the UX of your current WordPress theme, or would like to give some more tips on sifting through potential themes, drop a line in the comments section below.