When it comes to deciding on a WordPress theme there are plenty of options available. Not all WordPress themes are created equal, so I wanted to chat about choosing a great theme.
I want to note that I am referencing WordPress.org (self-hosted) and NOT WordPress.com which is different. WordPress.org gives you the greatest flexibility over your content and allows you to customize your site anyway that you like.
WordPress has been part of my world since 2010 and I’ve had my share of crappy themes and of course some great ones. Then I started making my own for myself and clients and the rest was history.
For the business owner who isn’t quite ready for a custom WordPress website, starting with a pre-made theme is totally fine. I actually recommend it to those that are just starting out as it’s a great way to test the waters and not make a huge investment up front.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that has been around since 2003 and initially caught the attention of bloggers. Due to its easy way of managing written content for the web, now WordPress powers over 34% of the internet today.
When using WordPress.org it takes your information and stores it into databases so that you can easily access and control your information.
In order to use WordPress.org and make your content look amazing you need a theme and here are some terms and descriptions you should become familiar with.
Remember WordPress is your foundation and on top of that are:
Parent theme – houses the main functionality and features of the website design such as layouts, movements, etc. It can also remain intact when a child theme is being used (see below).
Child theme – can pick up the styling and functionality of the parent theme but allows you to create your own design modifications without changing the main theme. The major benefit of a child theme is that any change you make to your child theme stays in place if the parent theme is updated. (note: not all WordPress themes come with a child theme but can be created)
Plugins – can add additional functionality without needing to code them into the theme directly. For example, an events plugin can be added to your site so you can plan events and have people book event dates.
If you are going to make major changes to the parent theme definitely use a child theme so you don’t lose your design!
Free WordPress themes vs. Paid A WordPress Theme
Let’s talk briefly about free WordPress themes vs. paid WordPress themes, which should you choose? That depends on your needs, you can sometimes find free themes that will work perfectly work for your needs. Other times not so much!
One thing you’ll find is that the designs of free themes tend to be basic over more premium or paid themes that have more styling.
Premium WordPress themes tend to be not too expensive and can vary on pricing averaging from $50 – $130.
How to Choose a WordPress Theme
Now for the good stuff because I’ve had my share of working with a variety of pre-made WordPress themes. Here are some things to consider before you decide:
Goals & Content – What type of content will you be sharing on your site? For example, if you are a blogger you’ll want a theme that caters to bloggers versus one that caters to business owners.
The reason why is that the layout of a blogger based theme is different than a business owner focused theme.
Blogger themes tend to focus heavily on showcasing blog posts on the homepage. Where a business owner may want to have their services and/or products on the homepage.
When I started with WordPress back in the day my focus was using it as a blogger and not a business.
Features – This is also important, what type of features are must-haves for your website? For example, will you need to be able to easily integrate your newsletter? Or will you need to have a gallery or portfolio on your site?
Typically with premium themes, you’ll have a lot of options in terms of features because the theme is catering to a wide market of users. You’ll often find sliders, galleries and additional plugins that you may never use but may find helpful.
Definitely read through the features and if you see a theme with a lot of features you don’t plan on using, keep looking.
Support – since WordPress.org is self-hosted it means that anyone can create a theme. With WordPress.org themes they need to be updated with new technology updates. That’s why purchasing a WordPress theme with solid support is a must.
I’ve seen this far too often, where a business is using a theme they purchased and the theme creator is no longer providing support. So their site isn’t working as it used to because it becomes outdated.
Validate that there is a dedicated support team that is actively updating the theme. You can usually find information about their support by visiting their website. Also, check out how long they have been in business. Mainly because you don’t want to purchase a theme and then 6 months to a year down the line find out they are no longer in business.
Recommended WordPress Themes
I definitely have some recommended WordPress themes that make the list and exceed my expectations.
- GeneratePress – a theme and theme framework is a lightweight and speedy theme that isn’t bloated with features and has an amazing team of support. It’s the framework I use for my own site after discovering 2+ years ago.
- StudioPress – which has been around for several years and has a large community of active users. Has themes and a theme framework that has powered a good chunk of websites today. StudioPress has themes for bloggers, business owners, shop owners, course creators and beyond.
- Restored316 – caters to creating feminine themes for bloggers and business owners. Ran by Lauren – their themes are child themes based on the StudioPress Genesis framework.
- EmPress Themes – are custom themes that cater to lifestyle bloggers they are absolutely beautiful and have amazing features for bloggers.
Those are my recommended WordPress themes and I know there are a lot more out there. I want to also point you against using a marketplace like Themeforest to purchase your theme. It’s not that they are all bad, it’s just that sometimes you can get a not so great theme. Plus I’ve known people to no longer have access to support because the theme creator closed shop.
Also, should you need help from another developer. You may find it a challenge getting them to work on a theme from Themeforest. Mainly because it can be time-consuming trying to read through code that may or may not be written correctly. So I recommend not using Themeforest as a place to purchase a theme especially if you want to make heavy customizations to it.
Reasons to Choose a WordPress Theme Over Using a Page Builder
In your quest to find a WordPress theme you are going to come across page builders. They aren’t themes but are a way for you to be able to freely design your website pages. Which can be great but here is why I suggest you start with a theme first.
- A pre-made theme is already designed and if you aren’t a designer. It’s going to be a challenge to make a great looking and effective website.
- You may become overwhelmed with the options available with a page-builder versus a pre-made theme.
- There is a learning curve to learning how to use a page-builder. Installing a WordPress theme and having things in place for you is going to be a lot easier.
Now if you have the time and resources you can definitely try your hand at using a page builder. My recommended builders are Beaver Builder and Elementor as they don’t leave behind crazy code when deactivated.
If you have questions be sure to drop them in the comments.