WordPress is an easy-to-use platform for both experts and newbies alike. Its diverse range of theme options and plugins, along with its scalability capabilities, make it ideal for businesses of all sizes.
If you’ve put time, effort, and cash into your website venture, you want it to pay off. You need a theme that will match the personality of your brand and encourage users to engage with your site.
Here, we’re going to discuss how your theme affects user engagement on your WordPress website.
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Does it Matter What WP Theme You Choose?
A WordPress theme is a window to your business. It presents your business to the [online] world and plays a big part in how your site visitors view you. After all, if you’ve got a law firm and you want to inform people about their custody rights and court proceedings, you need a professional theme.
Not all themes are the same, and not all themes allow you the same customizable options, functionality, and ease of use. Some themes require more technical know-how, while some are simple drag-and-drop types that can be learned pretty easily.
In short, your theme determines the design of your website and what it’s capable of doing, as well as what it allows your audience to do. Your theme also plays a vital role in your all-important search engine placement.
What Makes an Engaging WordPress Theme?
There are numerous things that make up an engaging theme:
1) Simplicity Goes a Long Way
Simple themes encourage more engagement than complex ones. Website users like to be able to navigate around a site easily without being bogged down by clutter. Some themes offer an abundance of bright colors, fun animations, and flashy images. These could be great for some purposes, but in most cases, they will distract your audience from doing what you want them to do on your site. If your audience is distracted or confused, they’re less likely to make that blog comment or fill in your sign-up form.
Keep your images, layout, and overall design simple. You want to guide your visitors around your website easily, without unnecessarily-complicated aspects getting in the way. Your visitors click on your site because they need something. Work on fulfilling that need, not on showing off with irrelevant theatrics.
2) Keep it Responsive
Although responsiveness and speed are not solely down to the theme, it does play a significant role in them. A speedy, responsive website will encourage far more engagement than a slow and clunky one.
I’m sure you’ve all been in the position where you’ve had to wait for a webpage to load and then proceeded to give up before it has. Not only does this mean fewer visitors (and less engagement) but it also leads to lower search engine rankings as it increases your bounce rate.
Choose a theme that will be smooth and fast. The more features and unnecessary obstructions you have, the slower it will be. This is true for images, videos, widgets, forms, and anything else on your page that needs to load.
Your next step is to do some research into hosting providers. Some companies that offer cheap WordPress hosting can be just as reliable as more expensive ones but at a fraction of the cost. The type of hosting you purchase can have a big impact on your site’s speed.
Once you have your theme and your host set up, there are some things you can do to encourage even more speed:
– Install a caching plugin
– Disable pingbacks and trackbacks
– Optimise your images
– Keep your homepage as minimal as possible
– Use a plugin like WP-Optimize to optimize your WP database
3) Themes Impact Your SEO
It’s not just keywords and backlinks that determine where you rank in search engines, your theme does too. Being found in search engines is crucial for your website’s overall success. Those lucky sites at the top of page one (below the ads) get far more visitors, and by extension more engagement, than those on page twelve.
Being at the top of search engines also increases website credibility as search engines put user experience at the forefront of their algorithms. Those at the top of Google, for example, have met specific criteria that Google considers most important for their users. Therefore, they are placed in front of searchers as the most relevant search result.
Credibility is a big factor when it comes to user engagement. The more credible you are, the more followers you’ll gain over time. The more followers you have, the higher up you’ll be in search engines and the more engagement will come your way.
For a theme to be SEO-friendly, it should be well-coded so that search engine bots can crawl pages easily. You can use W3C Markup Validator to check for code errors within your theme.
In addition, it should be fast-loading and mobile-friendly (more on that in a while).
4) Make it Your Own
While a cluttered page is never good, you do want your website to reflect your brand. Increase engagement by allowing your personality to shine through your website design with your brand’s colors, logo, imagery, and overall style.
Consider sites like eBay and Amazon. As soon as you land on their home pages you recognize where you are. That’s not because you are being told. It’s because they have their very own personalities, colors, and designs that make them stand out from other sites.
Add some engagement-encouraging features like:
– Enabling blog comments
– Having contact forms above the page fold
– Clearly displaying contact numbers, email addresses, etc.
– Add social media buttons to enable easy following
– Add testimonials for credibility and social proof
Your theme should allow you to add all these functions to your business website, either as part of its own features or by adding plugins or widgets. Not all plugins are compatible with all themes, so make sure you check you’ll be able to customize the theme the way you want to.
5) Make it Mobile-Friendly
More than half of online traffic comes from mobile devices. Some themes are considerably more mobile-friendly than others. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you could be missing out on a lot of traffic. And those mobile visitors you do get may be unable to do what you want them to on your site.
Additionally, mobile-friendliness now has a significant impact on SEO, with search engines like Google now prioritizing such sites in their ranking algorithm.
In short, if you’ve chosen a non-mobile-friendly theme, this will have a very negative effect on user engagement.
To be considered mobile-friendly, your website must:
– Have fast-loading pages, images, and forms
– Users should be able to see all aspects of your website
– Pages must fit nicely on the users’ screens
– Text should be readable – not too big or small
– Links must be far enough apart so that the user doesn’t accidentally click on the wrong one
Choose a simple and responsive theme. If you’ve had your theme for a while, make sure it’s all is up-to-date. Sometimes an update can be enough to fix problems with mobile-friendliness.
If you’re not sure whether or not your site is considered to be mobile-friendly, use Google’s free tool to check. All you need to do is simply add your URLs and it will give you a straightforward answer.
If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, in addition to taking the steps in our “Keep It Responsive” section, consider installing one or more of these plugins:
– WP Super Cache
– Auto Optimize
– Asset CleanUp
Make It Engaging
When your site has been designed and built, technically optimized for search engines, and is mobile-friendly, you can begin creating enticing content to encourage your visitors to engage with you. Display clear call-to-actions throughout your web pages to guide your audience to where you want them to go.
If you want your audience to comment on your blog posts, invite them to do so. If you want your audience to follow you on Facebook, place a link or button in front of them to make the process easy. Everything on your WP site should be simple, fast, and efficient for optimal engagement.