How to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Website

Published by Julian on

Congratulations! You’ve decided to create a new WordPress website for your business, or maybe for a friend or family member. You register the domain and acquire hosting (perhaps using our EasyWP?), and you’re ready to get started.

That’s when things get complicated. There are over 30,000 themes actively available for purchase, thousands more free themes on WordPress.org, and hundreds of companies to choose from.

With so many themes to choose from, how do you choose the best theme for your site? Let’s take a look at how you can narrow down your choices and find a theme that works well for your new website.

Where to Start 

Whether you’re creating your first WordPress website or your 100th, there are a series of questions you always should ask yourself before choosing a theme:

  • Structure and layout Do you want something with a single splashy photo or that shows multiple articles? Do you need to focus on visuals or text? Are you creating a business website or a blog? All of these questions will help you narrow down your choices. To make it even easier to hone in on the best theme, you might sketch out a basic layout you’d like for your home page. 
  • Budget – You can get lots of free themes, but they are often basic designs or “freemium” themes that only allow you to do certain customizations if you pay for the premium upgrade. If you have room in your budget for a premium theme—even as little as $25— you will have a lot more options for a professional site.  
  • Functionality – Do you need special layout options, pre-formatted buttons, or maybe a design that works for e-commerce? Do you want a home page with different sections for different content? Or do you just need a simple blog or portfolio theme?
  • Time investment – How much time do you have to build this site? You might know how to create a site from scratch, but you still might not want to sink 20+ hours into designing a site for your sister’s baby photos.
  • Maintenance – Who will be maintaining the site and updating the content? You might find themes with all kinds of cool bells and whistles, but will that nonprofit you’re helping out be able to figure it out later? Depending on who the site is for, you might want to review both the design and the backend to make sure it’s easy to add or change content later. 

Once you’ve made some decisions on the kind of theme you’re looking for, you can jump into the search. Here are some tips for making it easier.

How to Choose a Free Theme

If you go to the free theme repository on WordPress.org (also available through your WordPress dashboard), you can find lots of free themes.

The folks at WordPress.org make it a little easier to find the best themes for your needs. You can sort by popularity, featured, or latest themes added. Even better, you can use the theme Feature Filter:

theme filters in WordPress repository

Using these options, you should be able to find several themes that might work for your needs. So how do you choose between them?

For each theme on WordPress.org, there’s a page with more information about the theme, including reviews, development information, last updates, and a link to the support forum.

Here’s an example:

screenshot of Twenty Seventeen theme in WordPress repository

When you’re considering a theme, be sure to choose one that has been updated recently, suggesting the developers are still actively testing and supporting the theme. You also want one that works with the most recent version of WordPress.

Beyond that, a large number of downloads and a 3+ star rating will help you choose a reliable theme. If you want to learn more about what people think, you can click through to see individual reviews. You can also check out the support forum and the theme homepage to learn even more information.

How to Find the Best Premium Theme

With so many free themes out there, why pay money for a theme? Here are a few reasons why it’s often worth paying $20 or more for a theme.

  • Reliability, with regular theme updates for security, WordPress compatibility, and features
  • Better support options (forums, support tickets, troubleshooting)
  • Some offer child themes or variations of the base theme
  • Additional customization options (colors, fonts, layouts, etc.) 
  • Feature-rich options often better for e-commerce, real estate, news media, and other specialized uses

So if you’ve decided to choose a premium theme, where should you find a good one?

You can buy a theme from a theme marketplace like Envato, or from one of dozen stand-alone theme shops that develop their own themes such as Elegant Themes or Gorilla Themes. Even WordPress.org has a collection of “commercial” themes.

And regardless of where you buy a theme, before you hand over your credit card details, be sure to read through the company’s website for purchase terms, theme license (can you use the theme on multiple sites or is it limited to one?) and the refund policy. 

Setup, Documentation, and Support

Responsible theme companies want to make it easy to use their products. 

hedgehog listing what he needs in a theme

Some of the best themes have complex (and not always intuitive) steps to make your home page look like the model site. Whether a free or commercial theme, a good developer will provide ample documentation, such as tutorial videos or written documentation (or both!). Most will also offer a support ticket system or public forums. If you get stuck, there should always be someone you can ask. 

In particular, support forums are a popular way to help you figure out a new theme and get the help you need. But they’re only as good as the people who respond. Look for the kinds of questions people are asking and how long it takes for a response. Do the developers respond to questions, or are they volunteers and theme users? 

Get Recommendations from Others

Whether it’s a free or premium theme, you want to choose one that has many happy customers. This is especially important if you’re about to part with your hard-earned cash.

One of the best ways to find a great theme is to talk to other WordPress users. Everyone has their favorite themes that have stood the test of time. You can also check to see if your city has a local WordPress meetup, or find a WordPress group on Facebook.

Check with reputable WordPress blogs and review sites for suggestions. For example, WP Beginner offers a nice rundown on some good theme shops.

When you’ve found a good theme, see if you can view reviews or find out more about the person/company behind the theme. You might do a Google search for independent reviews of the theme company or designer.

What’s Your Favorite Theme?

Have you found the perfect theme for your website? We’d love for you to post in the comments and tell us what theme you’re using, and how you found it.

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