Frank’s Theme Test-Drive Checklist

Now that you have looked at themes from the directory and narrowed down the possibilities to a few ‘definite maybes’ it’s time to upload those themes to your site to see how they look with your content. I don’t cover themes in-depth until later in this class since you can’t really tell how a theme will work for you unless you have some of your own pages, posts and images to look at it with. It’s kind of a catch-22 since ideally you’d want to choose your perfect theme right from the get-go on a fresh installation of WordPress. The problem is that you can’t really tell what that theme has to offer and if it’s right for you until you see how it works with your content.


So, this checklist is geared toward someone who already has at least a few of their pages, posts and images published and will be able to swap out themes to see how the new themes fit with their content. If it’s the case that you don’t have any content  yet, there are a few solutions to adding what’s called “dummy content” to your new site so you can see how the theme handles.


There are a few plugins that will generate generic content, with the added convenience of being able to delete everything once you are done using it.

Two that I like are:

FakerPress (Will create Posts only but in a nice layout and with images which you can copy and paste into pages. You will still have to create a menu.)

WP Example Content (Will create posts and pages and only a few images. You will still have to create a menu.)


The other option is to simply paste in placeholder content and a good source for this content is . Simply copy and paste what they offer into your pages and posts. There’s a little more grunt work involved but it can be a simpler way to get dummy content if you only need a few pages to look at. You will have to create a menu and remember to delete all samples when you are done


Once you have content to work with let’s run through my test-drive checklist.


WordPress is encouraging theme developers to put all or most of their theme options into the Customize. While that may be unfeasible for themes with extensive options you’ll find more and more new themes where all the theme options are here. Go to the Customize page and look and see what the theme has to offer.
While you are in the Customize you might as well reset your main navigation menu, which gets knocked out every time you install a new theme. Here is also where you can try out a header image if that’s something you are evaluating.

2.Theme Settings / Theme Options

If you are trying out a theme with a lot of options, then here is where all or most of your theme customizations will be. Most often you will be able to change page layouts, background colors, font colors, etc. The options will vary widely from one theme to another. Be aware that every theme also has it’s own way of laying out the Theme Option admin. Luckily some themes also provide tutorials,and you can always check to the developer’s page for more info. Themes that offer extensive options will have more than you might expect. so keep an eye out for such things as social media settings, slider settings or if it’s a portfolio theme, settings for gallery images.

3.Page Templates –

Go to any exiting page and post and look at the template options. They will vary from one theme to another and can offer a variety of choices of how your pages will be laid out. To fully understand what you are seeing I recommend changing some and clicking on ‘Preview’ to see exactly what that template is doing. Many themes also have a specific Home page layout which is sometimes automatically generated for your declared Home Page (Front Page).

4.Post Layouts

If you are a blogger you will likely be particular of how and where your blog posts display the meta data of: date posted, author, category, tags, etc. Most theme designers put a lot of energy into making this  be a signature style of their particular theme. Some themes will have a variety of Post formats which can be a nice way to add style to your blog container page. Post formats don’t effect single post view but are a way to distinguish different types of posts when viewed as excerpts on a blog or category page.


More and more themes are utilizing ‘wigetized’ areas as a way to provide content in many areas outside the main body area. You need to look and see what these areas are. Add some widgets to different widget areas to see just where they will show up on your site. Keep in mind that some widgets may be specific to certain templates so you may have to look at a variety of page templates to see widgets that are specifically for a particular template. Because widget implementation varies widely from one theme to another, you will need to tweak your widget each time you swap out themes.


You will want a sample menu to see how the theme displays your main navigation. Some themes also offer multiple menu areas and some activate the menu item description which can be useful.. If you are into your site’s navigation capabilities you’ll want to pay attention to how the theme’s menus function.

7.Images: In the page or post| In a gallery| Featured images

Every theme will layout images in different ways. Some will add borders and have a specific look for captions, etc. Make sure you also have a default gallery to check out the layout there. Most themes do interesting things with the featured image on posts and or pages. Typically a feature image will become header for the page or post. Also posts container pages typically use featured images in specific ways. Most time the specific dimensions are critical to how they display and you’ll want to be aware of how that’s happening.


8.Responsive Test: Is your theme Mobile Friendly?

If your theme is responsive you need to look at it on a tablet and phone to see just how it ‘responds’ to a particular device. If you don’t have access to a mobile device you can try shrinking your browser window to get an approximation. Oftentimes this will be someone’s first impression of your website and you want it to be a good experience.

8a. Browser test. It’s a good thing to look at your site in the major browsers, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Explorer. There may be some themes and or plugins that can be wonky in one browser but not others.

9.WordPress generated template pages

The Many themes will have a unique template for the following auto-generated WordPress pages. Many themes will keep it simple with a one-size-fits-all template, but others will have very specific layouts.

  • Go to your named Category, Tag or Author and see how those pages display. You should be able to access those pages via published posts.
  • You can find your image’s Attachment Page through the Media Library.
  • Check your 404 Page by typing forward slash and nonsense letters after your domain name.(
  • Likewise, to reveal the Search Page (
  • And if you have a Blog, the Archives Page can also be found when you know the year and month a post was created and type in, for example. ( Tip: adding the Archives Widget to a widget area will quickly reveal your Archives Pages.)

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