The PodCraft Podcast: Series 3, Episode 4

WordPress is one of the best bits of web software out there, but out of the box it doesn’t look good… The default themes are clean, but plain, and if you want to stand out AND offer a good user experience, then you need a theme. In this episode I’ll look at what themes are and how they can help you create a great looking, effective podcasting website in WordPress. I’ll also cover where some of the best places are to find good quality themes. Let’s get into it!

Resources Covered on This Episode

Creating a Podcasting websiteToday I’m looking at a few different sources for themes. I’ll list them below with a little explanation of why you might choose them.

For the all-in-one experience, and a huge choice of great looking themes for just one yearly price, have a look at Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes is a membership site which offers access to a large number of great themes, and great support alongside. If you want to try a few different themes, or have the option to change at no extra cost, this is the one.

For  one-off purchases, I find Theme Forest to be a great source. This will be lower cost and you don’t have to keep renewing every year, but obviously once you buy, you’re stuck with only that theme. That’s no problem if you choose the right one, of course!

And for those looking for real power and customisation, especially if you’re working with a developer, you could go with the Genesis Framework, which powers the full range of StudioPress themes.

Need Help Launching Your Podcast?

Check out The Podcast Host Academy

What Theme Have You Chosen? Leave me a Comment

Please leave me a comment below to let me know what theme you chose for your Podcasting website. I’d love to get some good recommendations building up below. Let me know!

Transcription on This Show

Hey folks! I’m Colin Gray and this is PodCraft!

Hey folks and welcome to another episode of Series 3 of PodCraft, this is the series where we’re looking at creating a peerless podcasting website, so creating an excellent home for your podcast on the web. Self-hosted WordPress websites, that’s what we want, we want to be owning our website, making sure that we have control over everything to do with our podcast. So, yesterday, we looked at podcasting plugins. So, that’s looking at how we actually deliver our podcast to the public via subscription, via RSS feeds, so, that’s what pretty much it, a really essential step.

Today, we’re going to be looking at themes. So, today we’re going to be looking at how to customise your website so that it really stands out, how to make your podcast look about unique, how to make that website just pop, just make people want to come back and view your content after they’ve listened to your episodes. So, the whole principle around this is themes. As you know, from earlier on in this series, we’re working with the WordPress platform. And if you haven’t heard WordPress before, WordPress is a ridiculously popular platform with a huge community around it. And because of that community, there’s a huge range of themes that have been built for WordPress. Now, to explain what a theme is, a theme is essentially a skin that you put on the website. So, it’s a set of design files that include images, include controls over how a website looks that you install on your WordPress website that makes that WordPress website look in a particular way. So, there are hundreds and thousands and thousands of websites out there running WordPress but they all look very different. You do have some that run on a default themes, so you’ve got the very basic themes but most of them have their own unique themes and that’s how this works. It means that you can, you can get and you can change the design, you can buy themes from elsewhere, you can get free themes from elsewhere, you can basically make your site look how you want it. And then you can customise those themes in the future as well.

Now, what I’m not going to do in this episode is actually go through particular themes and recommend really specific stuff because every website really wants their own theme, they want something unique, they want something to make them stand out as I said at the start of the episode. So, my aim here is to really explain how themes work, the principle behind them and I will recommend a few theme frameworks and places to get themes so that you can find some decent reliable places to find good quality themes. Now, quality is quite a bit watch word with themes and that’s the reason I want to go through this because themes have a big effect on your website in a few different ways. So obviously they determine how a website looks, so they determine exactly how your website comes across to the public. It determines how your website works to the public as well. So, your theme determines where certain elements appear on your page, how people navigate around your website. So, to explain, that means first impressions, it means whether somebody is going to stay on your website when they first appear, does it look nice? But also does it have longevity? That usability aspect. Will people come to your website, like the look of it and then just start to navigate around and find it easy to use? So you some themes that look really nice but actually they’re ridiculously hard to use, they’re quite hard to customise, the navigation just doesn’t work really well. And you other themes that don’t look so good but actually the navigation usability is really good. So, what’s we’re really looking for is a theme that has both. You’re really looking for a theme that impresses with its looks but is also customisable and the navigation and the usability is really nice as well. So, the usability aspect really comes down to a couple of things, comes down to navigation first of which I’ve mentioned. So, how many menus does your theme offer? Does your theme just have one main menu that it offers you editing over or does it let you have two or three menus? You can easily determine this pretty quickly if you have a look at the demo of a theme, how many navigation bars appear? Does it have options to look at the about page, the contact page, that kind of thing? And maybe at the very top of the site but also have a main navigation a little bit below that which lets you link to categories. Does it have then in the footer as well? Look around the demo website for that theme and see how many places you can place navigation bars and menus. And we’re going to look at navigation tomorrow, that’s going to be a big thing tomorrow to look at how to setup that navigation. So, this is an important aspect of the usability of a theme, look at how it offers that navigation.

The next aspect is calls to action. So, you really want to be able to tell people or guide people in a particular way. Your podcast will have a particular aim. Whether it’s a business podcast, so you’re trying to direct people to your services, whether it’s a company podcast that you’re trying to direct people to a particular product to buy a product or whether it’s a hobby podcast that you’re trying to get people to download maybe a book that you’ve written on that project or that concept or even just to get people to subscribe, you just want people to actually subscribe so if people find the website organically, you want them to subscribe to your feed. These are all calls to action. These are all things you want people to do when they come to your podcasting website. Even things like signing up for your email list, that’s quite a common one as well. So, you want people to do something that keeps them in touch with you, that either gets them to complete that thing that you want to do, buy something or get something to keep in touch so that you can then push other things on them as well in the future. Now, when I say push, I don’t mean push as in sell, as in a bad thing, but I mean actually give them more value. So, tell them about new episodes, tell them about new things that you’re doing and you’ll give them that stuff that they will like, that they will value, that will give them extra, that will make them like you and make them become bigger fans of your show.

So, the thing here to look out for on themes is whether that theme offers call to action boxes on the front page. So, is the front page just in a blog style format, so, it’s just post post post? Or does the front page have some options to add in widgets or boxes? Or does it have different elements on that front page that you think you can add in particular things that might guide them down that path? So, you can add in a banner that says “Subscribe to my email list” or you can add in an advert that says “Buy my product” that type of thing. Are there boxes on the front page of that theme that may allow you to do that? Look out for these extras, these little things on that theme front page that could let you guide people down the path that you want them to go. So, that’s really the two big technical things you’re looking for in a theme; navigation and calls to action. Other than that, lots of themes have lots of different features. Lots of them allow more customisation, so maybe to add more logos in different places, change of colours, change the layout of the page, that type of stuff. Some themes keep it very simple, they actually just keep it to the structure that they set out. Really, there’s pros and cons to both, so the more customisation the theme allows, the harder is to user, in general, the more complicated it is, the simpler a theme is, the easier it is to use. So, really, I’m not going to do too many, too much in the way of recommending that type of thing, those type of features. I would say just to experiment with the few different themes, see what you’re looking for. Perhaps even start out with something reasonably simple and work your way up if you like. It’s not, it terms of swapping themes, when I say that start with something simple and move up, it’s not a great deal to change a theme but it is a bit of work so don’t undertake that lightly, don’t think that you can install a theme and change it every week just to try different things out. And that’s not leash just because your users will start to get a bit annoyed because the experience will keep changing, it’s because you’ll keep having to reset stuff like navigation, widgets, all that kind of thing and basically your, the path that you’re or the actions that you’re trying to get your users to take will be affected by that. You won’t be able to self refine how you get people go through your funnel when they come on to your website, when you want to get them on to your email list, when you want to make them become fans, become evangelist for your podcast. You really want to start creating a regular experience that you’re honing, you’re making better and better over time.

So, that’s what we’re looking for. Now, where to get these themes? So, the few different things, a few different places that I tend to get my themes. Now, one, two of the most common places that I will buy individual themes are a place called Elegant Themes and another place called Theme Forest. Now, they’re different types of website, I’ll explain.

So, Elegant Themes, you can get to Elegant themes, just go to podcraft.net/elegant. Elegant Themes is a membership site, so you pay a yearly fee and that means you have access to all of their themes over that year including updates to all of those themes. Now, Elegant Themes has quite a big range of themes, they’ve got, I think the last time I check them maybe 25, 30 different themes. Some really nice looking ones, they excel at really attractive themes. So, stuff that really blows you away when you see them, really well designed. And there’s a really big range as well, so lots of different topics, lots of areas, niches, you’re bound to be able to find something that really suites the niche that you’re in. So, if you want to be able to experiment with a range of different themes, try out a few different things, all have pretty good quality, all with a very similar background as well, a very similar admin panel. So, they’ll all work on the same type of admin panels, you can get used to one, customise it and you’ll be able to use other ones really easily. So, it can be a good option but if you’re only running one site and you’ll only need one theme, it can be a little bit expensive. You’re looking at around, I think the last time I looked it was about $80 for the developer license, I’m not sure what it was for individual at the moment. In fact let me just look that out right now, hold on, yes, so it’s $69 per year for the personal license. So, that means you can access all of the themes, use them on any website you like and you just pay that fee per year. So, technically that means it’s a little bit more expensive in buying an individual theme but you obviously get all that choice, you get the theme updated all the time, you get a lot of support with it too.

The other option is Theme Forest, now you can go and see Theme Forest at podcraft.net/forest and you’ll find that Theme Forest is actually just a standard type of market place. So, it’s just list lots and lots of different themes and you can buy them all for a one time fee. So, you’ll get them for anything between say $10 up to $50 and that’s just a one off fee to buy that theme and you’ll get updates for that theme for all time in the future. Now, the disadvantage of that, obviously, is that if you were to buy a theme in Theme Forest but suddenly discover a few weeks later, a few months later, it’s not working very well for you then you have to change to another theme, obviously, you just have to buy another theme and spend that money again. So, it’s not quite the same in terms of Elegant Themes and that you can’t experiment with a few different things for a, just the same cost. But then again, you can buy them for cheapers if you only try two or three themes that will cost you $20 it’s still cheaper than the Elegant Themes option. Plus, of course, with Theme Forest, you get, you don’t have a yearly so you can update that theme for as long as the theme supports it. Now, that is another drawback possibly because there’s no guarantee that the team that released on Theme Forest are going to continue to exist, continue to support it. Whereas Elegant Themes has an ongoing service, they’re more likely to go for a longer, they’re more likely to stay around. So, you could argue that you’re probably safer if you want to, if you think you’re going to stick with a theme for the long term, for a few years which possibly is unlikely then Elegant Themes might be the better option in that case. But, anyway, whichever you choose, that is the two platforms that I tend to use the most for my themes buying or themes procuring.

The last one I’ll mention just quickly is one, is actually a framework rather than a theme itself. And this is if you want to, if you’re working for a company, say, you’re creating a business website for your podcast, so you need it to be a bit more unique, a bit more powerful, a lot more customisation, a lot more to work with if you got developer involved as well, then you might want to go for a framework which is much more customisable. Well the most popular of these, one of the best around is the Genesis Framework. It’s nice and simple to work with but it does offer you a whole lot of power. And it’s worth looking into, I’m not going to talk too much because it is really just for the special case where you do want a lot more power, you’re going to be working with a developer but look into that if it’s something you want to do. You can get to that thru podcraft.net/genesis.

Okay, so, that’s enough for themes. So, that just leaves me to mention the tutorials, so how to install themes. This is to let you know how to go about installing your own themes. So,  I mentioned a course that I run on LearnDen awhile back, on the second, first episode, so you can always get to that, just go to podcraft.net/wordpresscourse and you can register on LearnDen, get yourself an account and it’ll take you straight to that course. You can look through it, you can find some instructions on how to install themes, how to go about that whole process and hopefully that will help you out. There’s a videos on there to help you through the whole thing. So, I hope that helps you with installing your themes.

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, we’re going to go in to navigation. So, this is one of the most important list, how to help people navigate through your content, find the good stuff and really become huge fans of your podcast. So, I hope to see you on the next episode. I’ll talk to you then.