The Lost Commandments: Applying the Five Ws to Your WordPress Theme
When was the last time you considered “The Five Ws of Cyberspace?” Perhaps you applied them over a decade ago, when you were cranking out your first HTML site and wondering if folks would “surf your page.” Modern webmasters, on the other hand, may have never heard of them. Since the days of static websites, content management systems like WordPress have emerged and simplified the process of web development.Turnkey solutions, while convenient, typically promote ease-of-use at the expense of thought and intelligent practice.
In an odd twist to my habitual, template ranting, I decided to write an article for the WordPress featherweight (yes that was a rant, albeit, a subliminal one). There are thousands of free and premium themes available—each aesthetically and technically unique. Many, however, should be avoided at all costs; click here to learn why you should never search for free WordPress themes. As a webmaster, it is important to remain logical while making usability your main priority.
This means that not all themes are practical for you or your audience. “The Five Ws,” in general, are a set of interrogative guidelines applied across numerous fields of study. For websites, they are critical in assuring a memorable user experience, as well as your overall success as a webmaster. Whether you decide to use a predesigned theme or build it from scratch, you should apply the “Five Ws” when testing usability and validating the information you are presenting. Place yourself in the user’s shoes and ask yourself…
WHO is the source of the information?
With a predesigned WordPress theme, it can be hard to distinguish your presence from countless others using the same template. The same is true when using aggregated content or prewritten articles from sites like ezinearticles.com. Nonetheless, clearly defining WHO you are is critical to your success online. The last thing you want is for the user to think you’re a phony or carbon copy of a competitor. One way to overcome this is to ensure that your content is original. If you decide to use a predesigned theme, take the extra time to customize it and make it your own by adding your logo, modifying the color and layout, and changing the skin. Any foreign content you include should be expressly noted.
WHAT are you getting?
Are your users getting your content, or the content of the theme’s creator? Does the theme capture the look and feel of your mission, or are you selecting it because it’s popular and does cool things? What about the language; is it synonymous with your geography (e.g., the word labor in the US, and labour in other countries)? Selecting a theme that reads and functions beyond the scope of your market could have disastrous ramifications. You should ensure that all text and graphics are proofread, and if necessary, edited. You should also ensure that links to external pages are trustworthy. First impressions are the most important, and you definitely want your users to visit your site again!
WHEN was the site created?
In our age of instant access, old news is something of an insult. And nothing spells “old news” like a theme that’s been used a hundred-trillion times. Your WordPress site may have been launched a few months ago, but failure to make it your own could add several years of age to it. Couple this with an empty front page, or blog posts that are dated by more than a year, could send your audience packing! Consider paying for a newer, premium theme, or contracting with adesigner to modify the face of your free theme. You can also recruit content writers for original and/or timely content. In most cases, it makes sense to remove the timestamp from your content altogether. Lastly, you should ensure that all links to external pages are unbroken or up-to-date.
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WHERE is the site located?
This question draws the longest response and actually has more to do with your domain name and permalinks than your WordPress theme. Most people agree that the .com, .net, and .org extensions are the most popular. They also agree that the good names (via these extensions) are mostly taken. This leaves more or less room for creativity. When choosing a name and extension, you should keep it short. Often, spam will come in the form of “[email protected]” At first glance, “thisismywebsiteandihopeyougainsomethingfromit.me” appears spammy, too…even though it may not be! Simplify your domain name, and try to select top-level extensions or those that are becoming popular. A few good alternatives are .me, .co, or Internet country codes like .us.
I personally think nothing is cooler than a domain hack, like the now defunct del.icio.us or Matt Mullenweg’s ma.tt. If you are clever enough to come up with a domain hack, be prepared to do a lot more marketing to establish your URL as a trustworthy one.
I’ve actually addressed domain names already, and encourage you to read my article Is Your WordPress Site Just Another Business Card. For more information on WordPress permalinks, please click here.
WHY are you here?
This question focuses our attention back on WordPress themes. It is also the billion dollar question, and one you hope never forms in the mind of the user. Your WordPress theme should be readable, easily navigable, and displayed in a clean hierarchy. Your theme should not give the impression of an ad farm, or pool of robotic information. This means that your content should be written for humans and not Googlebot. If the user searches for roses and ends up on your marijuana page, chances are you’ve done something unethical (aside from the fact that you’re hosting a Marijuana storefront).
The following video is about evaluating websites and incorporates the Five Ws. Some of them are slightly different from the ones I listed. I’ve included this video a visual, and to expand on the points I listed above.