There’s no question—a custom website is an expensive proposition. In most cases, you’re paying a designer to create the look and feel of your website, and paying a developer to code the website and make it live on the web. Add on to that ongoing maintenance and update fees, and you can be looking at thousands of dollars—on the low end.
But what if you could skip that expense, almost entirely? Enter the beautiful, thrifty world of pre-made professional website themes. In this guide, we’ll be showing you how to find, curate and ultimately choose the perfect pre-made theme for your author website.
We’ll be focusing on WordPress themes, but website themes or templates are available for nearly any content management or ecommerce system—be it Drupal, Magento, Shopify, Squarespace or one of a hundred others. (We just use WordPress because it’s the easiest to use and customize for the DIY indie author, and has the most numerous and varied website themes available.)
“Save me, my friend. Save so, so many of me.”
Whoa, Slow Down, Buddy. I Don’t Know the First Thing About Websites!
Then don’t start here—check out our previous posts that will help you learn how to get the ultimate DIY author website, in the order you should read them:
- The Insider’s Guide to Author Websites: Set Your Foundation
- Insider’s Guide: Essential Author Website Component Checklist
- Insider’s Guide to Author Websites: Execute!
- DIY Author WordPress Sites: 5 Skills for Success
- 8 Must-Have WordPress Plugins for the Ultimate DIY Author Website
Follow all of the author website articles I’ve written for BookWorks on my BW Expert page as well, and come back here when you’re ready!
What Are Website Themes?
A theme is more than just a skin that makes your website look pretty. It is that, of course, but a good theme will also contain options that enhance the back end of your site, giving you more control over how your users experience your site or enhancing your workflow when you’re building your site.
For instance, a theme like Enfold (available at ThemeForest—more on that later) has a custom page builder that allows you to simply and quickly create complex page layouts. This turns the page editor from a Microsoft Word-like document to a full-featured design machine.
Many good themes will also come with a number of out-of-the-box configurations that you can use to set up and layout your entire site with a single click. Really.
For example, the Bridge theme has 376 Demos that can played with when reviewing the theme at ThemeForest—that’s 376 pre-made setups that you can easily use just by buying the Bridge theme.
How Do I Install a WordPress (or Other Website) Theme?
It’s really easy! And thankfully, there A LOT of great tutorials on how to do install and activate a theme on a WordPress site—and for any type of content management system. As usual, when it comes to the technical instructions, check out this great article from WP Beginner.
Or you can watch their excellent instructional video below:
Where Can I Find Website Themes? How Much Will It Cost?
There are many sites where you can buy themes for WordPress, as well as other content management and ecommerce systems. Our favorites are below:
Our favorite, and the site that we use most often, by far. ThemeForest is a massive repository of high-quality templates for WordPress and many other systems. They even have services that will install your theme for a small fee after your purchase. Themes range from $15 to $99.
A maker of WordPress-specific themes that use a common framework called Genesis. Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying they all share the same skeleton and need this particular skeleton to work. Website themes here are a little more expensive than other sites, but the quality is very high. Themes range from $79 to $199.
We used to use TemplateMonster all the time back in the old days (which was like, 2006 -- “old days” for the internet is not really that old, I guess). I haven’t used them much in recent years, but their themes are well designed and TM has been around longer than just about any other player in the WordPress template game. Themes range from $72 to $98.
How Do I Know If a Theme is Any Good?
Start with the ratings. For most themes at any of the sites above, other users will have posted ratings and reviews of the themes. You can sort by rating at TemplateMonster and ThemeForest, and that can be a very handy way to find website themes of high quality.
Additionally, these sites will often show you themes which have the most purchases. While this isn’t foolproof, it does show which themes have the most users that believed enough to invest in them:
Let’s see, 52,315 sales times $59 per sale, equals… me being in the wrong business.
What Website Themes Do You Recommend?
As a professional, I choose the themes I work with very carefully. If the theme winds up being terrible, I’ll find myself replacing it (gratis!) for my client down the road. That’s why my list of recommendations is pretty short, but these are themes that I’ve come to know and love over years of using them.
They are all multipurpose website themes as well, meaning they can conform more easily to whatever you need them to be, rather than being highly prescribed for a particular category of business or individual.
I know people who have built entire web design companies on this theme alone. Incredibly versatile, quick to set up, and comes with a built-in page builder that is crazy easy to use. This theme so useful and can become whatever you need it to be. My go-to when I need to build a site really, really–really–fast.
In fact, I built the first version of Featherlight Websites [See it live at https://getfeatherlight.com] in just a few hours using Enfold—and it’s still running on the same basic build three years later.
This is the original multi-purpose theme. It’s also the one above that I mentioned having 376 demos that can be easily loaded into your site, to save you time and tons of cash. Bridge is flexible and smart, is always evolving, and very well supported by its creators. Plus, with over 116,000 sales, they must be doing something right.
Aaaannnnd, that’s it.
I warned you that my list of trusted themes was short, didn’t I? This is not to say that there aren’t 1000s of outstanding website themes out there—no exaggeration. These are just the two that I’ve used and trusted most in my professional website building career.
But don’t take my word for it—you can easily find a theme that’s just right for you! Now that you know all there is to know (nearly), you can find a theme that looks great, has great reviews from adoring site builders, and get your DIY author site taken care of with minimal fuss.
Good luck, and happy theming!
(Graphics used in title illustration Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay)
Special Offer for June. Be sure to head over to our Discussion Groups forum and enter our June contest to win a free Voice Search SEO course. You can read about the course in our Voice Search post from last week and check out this limited time offer HERE for an exclusive 50% off discount for BW readers using code BookWorks.