When it comes to picking a WordPress theme for local businesses, there are few things you need to consider. It’s very easy to go down the rabbit hole as there are 1000’s of free and paid themes to choose from.
There is a growing interest for local businesses to showcase their services online and generate leads. If you’re a marketing agency owner and using WordPress to build websites for these local businesses, it’s important that you pick a good theme.
So how do you go about choosing the best WordPress theme for local businesses?
For most local business websites, the requirements are quite straightforward. They need a simple content based website that is optimized for conversions such as phone calls and form submissions.
The following considerations therefore matter:
- Lightweight theme with minimal coding
- Compatibility with Gutenberg and/or page builders (if any)
- Support available from developers and community
- Ratings and reviews from users
- Compatibility across multiple devices and browsers
- Supports various plugins
- Mobile responsiveness
- Availability of starter templates
Importance of picking the right WordPress theme
Choosing a WordPress theme for local businesses has a lot to do with its ultimate goal, i.e. converting visitors into leads either through phone calls or form submissions.
If you don’t choose the right one, it can severely impact the page load speed, search rankings, conversions and ultimately lost sales.
As such, you would need a theme that can provide the right foundation to build a website that optimizes these metrics. This is because the theme you choose is the face of your WordPress site and plays an important role in how users as well as search engines perceive it.
Factors to consider when choosing a theme
This section can be used as a guideline for picking a WordPress theme ideal for local businesses.
With over 1,000’s of themes to choose from, choosing the right one can be overwhelming and we have therefore included a list of things you need to consider when choosing the right WordPress theme for that fits your purpose.
Since page load speed is important for any website, you need to choose a theme that’s lightweight, free of bloat and has clean code.
Some WordPress themes have a lot going on with them. You may have seen sites that have flash light boxes, slide-ins, or other flashy things. It looks good but it could actually distract the users and slow down the loading time of a page.
There are many lightweight WordPress themes that you can choose from and most of them are free too.
To make your website SEO friendly, your choice of theme matters a lot. If the theme is poorly coded, it can indicate to the search crawlers that the site is of a lower quality, thus affecting your site’s performance on search engines.
It’s therefore important to check with the theme developers what steps they’ve taken to ensure it’s SEO-friendly or better yet, read through the reviews of the themes you shortlist to find this out.
Gutenberg and/or Page Builders
The WordPress block editor is future and it’s therefore important to choose a theme that’s compatible with Gutenberg. The last thing you want to happen is to be left behind with a theme that isn’t compatible with the future of WordPress.
Alternatively, should you decide to use a page builder to create the website, it can narrow down your choice of themes easily. This is because there are certain themes which are designed for specific page builders.
Some of these page builders have evolved into theme builders, meaning, you can design a responsive website using drag-and-drop modules. This is great if you want more flexibility to build your or your clients’ sites.
Below is a table that lists popular page builders (in no particular order) and the suggested themes that support it.
|Page Builder||Suggested Themes|
|Gutenberg||Kadence, Blocksy, Astra, OceanWP|
|Brizy||OceanWP, Blocksy, Neve, Page Builder Framework, Astra|
|Beaver Builder||Beaver Builder Theme, Page Builder Framework, GeneratePress, Astra, Genesis Framework|
|Elementor||Hello Theme, Layers WP, Astra, Kadence, Hestia, GeneratePress, OceanWP|
|Oxygen||Native Oxygen Theme|
|Divi||Native Divi Theme|
Should you decide to go for a free theme, guaranteed support is something that you might have to compromise on. However, there are some theme developers like WPAstra, GeneratePress and Kadence that provide excellent support even if the themes are free.
Better yet, theme developers also publish documentations and knowledgebase for you to refer to in case you run through some problems. This can be useful as well.
Finally, if the theme you choose is popular, you will likely find a community and forums dedicated for each theme as well. For example, WPAstra users have a dedicated Facebook group that you could join to discuss any theme-related issues that you come across.
Next important consideration is that the theme you choose should be easy to use, navigate and also visually appealing.
There are certain in-built features within themes that can make the visitors to easily move around the site and overall, have a pleasant experience browsing through the site.
To make the website user-friendly, it may be important to check if your theme has most (if not all) of the features listed below:
- Customisable fonts and typography
- Header/footer styling options
- Customizable mobile navigation
- Scroll-to-top toggle
- Blog layouts, including archives and singles
- Customizable sidebars
- Customizable container/full width options
- Cookie notices
Ratings & Reviews
Another thing to look for is the WordPress theme’s ratings and reviews provided by its users. This is indicated on the WordPress theme repository. Alternatively, if it’s sold on the third-party marketplace such as ThemeForest, you’ll see a dedicated section for reviews as well.
Additionally, you can browse through some of the reviews and comparisons posted by independent bloggers/Youtubers as well.
Below a list of reviews on popular WordPress themes:
Browser and device compatibility
It’s likely that users will access the website from multiple browsers and devices. So it’s important to test your theme not only on the browser that you use but also on what potential end users might use.
Most WordPress theme developers test their themes rigorously by using sophisticated browser compatibility testing tools.
This information is generally mentioned on the theme developers website. At minimum, you could run some basic tests on browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.
You are most likely going to need to install WordPress plugins specifically for local businesses. These could be to extend the website’s functionality in terms of advanced SEO, form submissions, speed enhancements, backups etc.
It’s therefore important for you to choose a reputable theme that supports all the plugins that you are going to use. If you’re not sure, it’s better to always ask the theme developer.
Making a local business website mobile responsive is not an option anymore, in fact it’s a must! With over 61% of Google searches are performed on mobile, it makes a great case for choosing a WordPress theme that is mobile friendly.
However, the good news is that popular WordPress themes are mobile responsive by default. But it’s always important to keep an eye out if the theme that you choose does in fact pass the Mobile-Friendly Test on Google.
A significant number of web traffic is generated from mobile and other handheld devices. Depending on your website’s topics, this number could go even higher than 50% of your traffic.
Some themes offer you demo websites that can be directly important to a fresh site. This can help you jump start the development of a local business website.
Depending on the theme that you choose, you will have a wide choice of templates designed for specific local businesses such as automotive dealers, fitness centers, painters etc. These are ideal to gain inspiration from and have your work cut out.
Note: Some themes offer free demo sites whereas certain others offer more advanced templates on their paid plans.
Below are links to the starter templates of some of the popular themes:
Best approach to choosing a WordPress theme
As you may have already noticed, choosing a WordPress theme for local businesses is not an easy feat. There are various points to consider and most of them are quite important ones too.
Therefore, it’s important you spend some time assessing which theme is the best for your needs and just stick with it. Not only will this streamline your process, but will also help you operate more efficiently especially in the website development phase.
Hopefully, the above considerations should help you with this assessment.