Picking the best WordPress theme for your website might seem a little daunting. There are a lot of choices swirling around the internet right now. You might be scared about picking “the wrong one,” or overwhelmed by all the web design terms that are over your head.
I’ve been working with WordPress for over five years, and small businesses for almost ten years, and let me tell you something: you can do it! Running a business is much harder than working with WordPress themes. So pull up a chair, brew some coffee, and let’s spend a few minutes talking about picking the best WordPress theme for your website.
WordPress Theme Overview
What exactly is a theme?
Because you’re reading this page about how to pick the best WordPress theme for your website, you probably have some familiarity with what a theme is, but it never hurts to recap.
A WordPress theme is essentially just a bunch of files and folders that change the way a WordPress website looks and functions. If you can imagine the way a house is built, a WordPress theme is a lot like the paint and furnishing. The house itself doesn’t change when you change the furniture or paint color in a room, but the color of the walls and the type of furniture that room contains changes how you feel about it, and use it. Similarly, WordPress themes can be swapped in and out with relative ease, changing the way your website looks, feels, and is used. The content and structure of the website remain unaltered.
This might sound complex. You don’t want to mess with a bunch of files and folders, but fear not. Most themes are easily installed using one single file. That’s why WordPress is pretty awesome. You can change the way your entire website looks and functions without any web design skills. That’s pretty awesome. It’s one of the many reasons that millions of websites online today are built using WordPress.
How to pick YOUR WordPress theme
Now to the reason you’re here.
There isn’t one single right reason to pick a specific WordPress theme. I’m about to show you which reasons are most important and help you avoid making some mistakes that are, frankly, pretty easy to make.
Oh, and one more thing: I’m putting together a FREE excel tool to help you make your WordPress theme selection. Make sure you sign up below to get yours and jumpstart this process!
The first thing you need to do is plan on having a bit of fun. Don’t worry too much. If for some reason you decide you hate the theme you’ve selected, you can simply try another one. WordPress themes don’t change the basic structure of content of your website, so try as many themes as you would like ’til you’ve got the one!
Shop, shop, shop
There are thousands upon thousands of WordPress themes on the internet. Make peace with the fact that you’ll never see all of them. That being said, be prepared to shop around. Doing your homework up front is a great way to save yourself time and frustration later down the line.
Reviews and Roundups – Reading theme reviews is the best way to learn about a theme from someone who has (ideally) tried it out. This is my preferred method of searching out themes. You can find reviews by typing something like, “Best [your industry] WordPress themes.” Or you can read my theme reviews here.
Elegant Themes – Don’t let the name fool you, Elegant Themes offers lots of WordPress themes of all styles. Their support is top-notch, their themes are simple to use, and jam-packed with features. Some of my favorite WordPress themes are from elegant themes, and I think some of yours will be too. Look here first and you probably won’t need to look further.
ThemeForest – ThemeForest is huge theme marketplace with tens of thousands of themes. You can find just about any kind of theme you’re looking for here. You can browse themes by industry, functionality, popularity, or loads of other factors. This is a great place to find themes, and one of my other favorites.
WooThemes – WooThemes is another big marketplace for themes. They have tons of great themes, and most of them feature some great eCommerce capabilities. If you’re looking to build an eCommerce site, WooThemes may be a good bet!
Themify – Themify is another great theme provider with quite a few great themes, organized by website/industry type. Don’t miss checking these out.
Studiopress – I don’t have a lot of experience with Studiopress, but I know their reputation is solid. They have great looking themes and a number of raving fans.
WordPress Themes Directory – https://wordpress.org/themes/ has a directory of almost 5000 themes you can look through. The interface takes a little getting used to, but it’s a great spot to look. It doesn’t have as good a filtering system as other directories or marketplaces, but you can certainly try browsing here.
Assess your web design skills
Different themes require various levels of web design capability. Some require almost none whatsoever. Other themes are designed specifically for web designers with an in-depth knowledge of HTML, CSS, and other web design codes. Before you run off selecting every theme that looks cool, try to asses how simple the theme looks.
- Generally speaking, if the theme touts a gazillion features and being highly customizable, it probably takes a moderate to high degree of web design knowledge.
- Small, simpler looking themes are often much easier to use and may not require any design knowledge. If a theme touts how easy it is to use, or that you don’t need to be a web designer to use it, well, there you go!
If you’re not a web designer, it’s best to ask yourself, “Do I like this theme AS IS?” Obviously you’ll be replacing the placeholder content with your own, but you should generally be ok with how the theme looks and feels WITHOUT adding, removing, or moving many things around.
Find a theme that looks right
Simply, you want your website to look like whatever kind of business you run. You also want to enjoy the way it looks. So if you run a construction company, find a theme that makes your website look like a construction company’s website.
This part can take some time, but your web visitors subconsciously want your image to be consistent with your business.
Who made the theme?
Before I assess other factors about a theme, I always try to find out who made it! I can’t stress how much trouble following this step can save you.
Some themes are built by hobbyist and enthusiasts “trying out their theme-building skills.” Others are built by established companies with teams of designers and developers at the helm. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried a theme built by someone just starting out, and ran into bugs and glitches that rendered the theme nearly useless. I’m not saying that themes built by new or hobbyist developers can’t be good. But I am saying be very careful with these.
Conversely, themes built by companies that are obviously “in the business” of building themes have a much higher probability of building useful themes with better features and fewer bugs. While many folks love the word “FREE,” that can often bite you in the butt when it comes to WordPress themes. That’s why it’s often a good idea to pay for a good theme.
Is the theme supported?
Another important factor to consider is whether or not the creators of your theme offer technical support. If you encounter glitches, or want to upgrade your WordPress version, using a supported theme may save you hours of troubleshooting. Or worse, an unsupported theme may be rendered useless after a WordPress upgrade. Yikes!
Often, free themes don’t have anyone offering support. Some themes do. If you find a good free theme with technical support, count yourself lucky!
However, a good premium theme often has fast, reliable technical support in case you don’t know how to do something, or in case there is a glitch. If you are not a savvy web designer, I highly recommend using a supported theme, even if it costs you some money.
Is it user friendly?
Once I’ve figured out who made the theme, I like to consider whether or not the theme looks user friendly. Will your visitors be able to easily find what they’re looking for? Can you imagine how and where you can promote your services? Is the theme cluttered, or simple? Is the text large enough, and easy to read?
Selecting a theme that is not user friendly will not help you grow your business. Make sure you consider this.
Mobile and tablet usage online is at an all-time high, and it’s getting more popular by the day. Do yourself a favor and make sure your website theme is responsive. Most responsive themes will tout this as an important selling point of the theme, so it won’t be hard to find out.
What do the reviews say?
If reviews are available, READ THEM! You can learn a lot about a theme by reading the reviews. I like to look out for people complaining about glitches, and whether or not those people appear to be designers. You might also learn how responsive the developer is from the reviews, or whether or not something that looked possible in the theme sample is actually present in the download.
I can’t count how many times I’ve downloaded a theme, only to read the reviews later and find out I could have saved myself a lot of time.