That’s it, you’ve finally got your hands on THE WordPress theme that best fits your project. You have spent hours or even days flipping the web in search of the theme that will best highlight your content. Of course, you have asked yourself the right questions before drawing your bank card or your PayPal account. Now let’s take the next step …

You have just downloaded the .zip file containing your new WordPress theme. Like a kid who just got his birthday present, you might be tempted to go headlong and immediately start working with your new toy. But stay zen and take note of the main mistakes that can make you waste time in setting up your project.

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1. Activate your theme immediately after purchasing it

Activate a WordPress theme

I hope you haven’t pressed the theme activation button in WordPress administration yet! You have to say to yourself, “Well what? I just bought my theme. Now I have to put it into service on my site.

In fact, two cases arise:

  1. Either you create a new site;
  2. Either you do a redesign.

In the first case, two possibilities can be distinguished. If you don’t plan anything for the pre-launch (waiting page, countdown, list subscription form, etc.), you can activate your theme and start working on it. I still recommend that you install the Private WP 2 plugin to allow viewing of the site only to authorized persons.

If you plan to organize something for the launch or if it is a redesign, you cannot afford to activate your theme directly. The personalization period can last a certain time and this can disrupt the navigation of visitors (and therefore give them a bad experience). I’m sure it’s not what you want.

To work in peace on your new theme, it is preferable to install WordPress in a sub-directory of your site (if it is a redesign, you will have to duplicate your site there). Once your development site is in place, install your new theme there and start testing. In the event of a problem, your visitors will not end up with an inaccessible site. Also install the Private WP 2 plugin to make your site private.

2. Configure it as the demo site

We agree, the theme writers are really making tons of them in their demo sites. There are X sliders, page models in shambles, several types of content (portfolio, services, testimonials, team, etc.). All with several layouts (in 1, 2, 3, 4 columns, mosaic, etc.). The worst part is that sometimes you can see demo sites of several styles for the same theme. Ok, that shows what you can do, but sometimes there is something to look at.

More and more often, we find in themes what are called “import files” to have content and basic settings. Many people are fond of this kind of tool, but in my opinion, it does more harm than anything else. Instead of leaving on a healthy basis, we already end up with a small gas plant even before having put our site online …

It is better to think about your project and put things in place little by little. This will avoid ending up with the superfluous (which we will certainly forget to delete) when the site goes online (like the article “Hello everyone” created with each installation of WordPress).

3. Put your hands in the code directly

Whatever the project, there is always a need to customize something that is not provided for in the theme options. However, it is better not to risk it when you have little or no knowledge of web programming. It would be like trying to repaint your car. There are certain subtleties to know, otherwise the result is not likely to be extraordinary (paint on the windshield, wheels, headlights, presence of drips, etc.).

He tuned his case

Source: Fips via Flickr

In addition to the right methods, you also need to use the right tools to get good results without spending hours.

In the case of WordPress theme customization, this can be limited to a basic code editor and an FTP client (to connect to your server), but other tools exist to go faster (code inspector, browser extensions, etc.).

Note: If you ever need to learn the basics of code to customize a WordPress theme, know the tools and the right methods to use, you can take a look at the Guide Relooker son Theme.

4. Do not use a child theme to make changes

If you have bases in HTML, CSS and PHP, you can take your first steps in WordPress theme makeover. However, there is one thing you should know: you need to create a child WordPress theme to include your changes.

“A child theme ?! ”

Yes, it’s sort of a sub-theme that “plugs in” to the main theme. This is the best way to customize a theme. We could edit the files of the main theme (which we call the parent theme), but a problem will arise if the author of the theme publishes an update.

Let’s say you’ve changed your site’s header code. If the author also made a change to this file, what will happen? By clicking on the update theme button, the files of the new version of the theme will replace the previous ones, that is to say the ones that you have modified. And there, you can say goodbye to your beautiful modifications…

I can already hear you say: “Ok, in this case I will no longer update my WordPress theme, na! ”

Yes but no. Because if the author of the theme fixes a security flaw and you don’t update, your site is now at risk.

5. Forgetting to check that the theme is well optimized for SEO

Normally, you should have taken a look at your SEO optimization before purchasing it. But if you can make the changes, here is the list of things to check:

1. Hierarchy of titles

In order to be well referenced by search engines, indexing robots must be able to understand the content of your pages. For this, they will inspect the structure of the titles.

For example, on article display pages (like this page), the title should be in an “h1” tag, the subtitles in “h2”, the subtitles in “h3”, etc.

On the other hand on a category page, the title of the page will have to be in “h1” (which indicates: “Articles classified in the category XXX”) and the titles of the articles will have to be in “h2”.

2. Beware of duplicate content

You should keep in mind that for each category and label (new keyword name) created in the administration, WordPress will make a page available to your visitors.

For example, if you create a “Recipes” category, you will be able to access a page listing all the items in this category.

If your site has a lot of categories and labels, then it has a lot of pages. In terms of SEO, each page of a site must bring something to visitors. However, this is not the case for the category and label pages which list one or two articles.

In addition, if these categories or labels are similar (example “car”, “cars” and “auto”), not only will the pages generated not be of much use, but the risk of duplicated content will be greater. Without being aware of it, we tell the search engines not to reference its content. Quite a shame, isn’t it?

3. attributes

To make it easier for search engines to analyze the content of your pages, it is possible to include so-called attributes in certain HTML tags of its theme. These attributes are commonly recognized by the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex). It is thanks to them that we can have a special layout for events and recipes in the search results pages: tags in actionOf course, these attributes will also be useful if you have a site that offers “classic” content. To test your pages, Google has made a tool available.

6. Do not optimize it for conversions

Sometimes (in fact often), WordPress theme authors have fun with design. This is what allows the theme to stand out. Even if the appearance of a site is important, it must above all be effective, that is to say, it converts. Its purpose may be to transmit information to a specific audience, to publicize your work or even to sell products. Even if you write for fun, you certainly want to make an impact on one or more people.

To have an impact, a site must get its visitors into action. For example :

  • The visitor has turned into a broadcaster (sharing an article);
  • The reader has become a prospect (contact);
  • The broadcaster has become a subscriber (subscription to the newsletter);
  • The prospect has become a customer (purchase of a product or service);
  • The subscriber clicked on a newsletter link.

You can find dozens of other actions to convert visitors. It all depends on the nature of your site. Work on hot spots on your site to drive conversions.

If you have a blog, you can try to get your visitors into action at the end of your articles (by offering them to subscribe to your newsletter, to like your Facebook page, or whatever.) .

If you have an online store, enlarge the size of the purchase buttons and play with the colors to make them more visible.

7. Do not check if the translation works well everywhere

The last thing to check is the translation of your theme. Indeed, almost all of the WordPress themes available are in English. Whether you’ve done the translation yourself or found it on the internet, you need to make sure that the whole topic has gone well in French.

I don’t know about you, but I hate finding words in English when I visit a site in French. This indicates a real lack of seriousness on the part of the owner of the site. In addition, people who do not speak English may be frustrated and leave your site … Before putting your site online, be sure to browse all types of page (single articles, pages, home page, category pages, etc.) looking for translation errors.


Customizing a WordPress theme and more broadly creating a website is not a walk in the park. It takes time and commitment if you want to get the minimum results. By following the recommendations in this article, you should be better equipped to make your site a success. Of course, you’re going to have to keep working on it. Rome wasn’t done in a day as they say 🙂

Have you ever made any of these mistakes? Your feedback is of interest to me. Tell your story and how you solved your problems in the comments.