When it comes to how to choose the right WordPress theme for your next site a handful of decisions factor in. To best ensure that your goals are aligned with the style, support, and capabilities of the WordPress themes you’re looking at we’ve developed a framework for how to go through this process.
Armed with this framework the process of choosing the right WordPress theme for your site will be clear, easy to follow, and will leave you with a great base for your next website.
Why A WordPress Theme is an Important Decision
Self-hosted WordPress is a fantastic tool for building out almost any kind of website. Whether it’s a personal blog, a podcast site, an e-commerce store, or a company site you have complete control over the types of things you can do with WordPress.
And because of a concept called “Separation of Concerns” WordPress has very smartly split out the look, feel, and design of your site (i.e. the Theme) from the functional aspect of your site (i.e. WordPress core and its Plugins).
With this in mind it’s easy to see how you could readily change the theme on your website quickly, and maybe without too much thought. But beware that changing your WordPress theme too often can leave website visitors confused, cause them to lose confidence in your brand, and potentially have some negative traffic implications.
Best to make a decision about your website theme once, and stick with it.
Sure you can look at changing themes every year or two, but that’s at the most. Don’t go changing themes every week or month. It’s just too much work for you as a site owner, and could potentially complicate other things within your site.
With that in mind, the question becomes how to choose the right WordPress theme for your site, right? Well, let’s find out.
The Difference Between Free and Paid WordPress Themes
One important distinction to make before proceeding with the decision matrix we use for choosing the right WordPress theme is to talk about the difference between free WordPress themes and Paid or Premium WordPress themes.
As the names imply part of this difference is cost. Free themes are in fact free, and are all available directly from the WordPress.org repository, and right inside your WordPress dashboard.
Free themes can be extremely handy for putting together a site, and if you’re knowledgeable in how WordPress works (or want to learn) then you can definitely get by with using a free WordPress theme for most all sites.
However, if you can afford to spend ~$50 on a paid, premium theme it often times shortcuts that learning curve and development time. Premium themes usually have all the features and customizability that you might need to put together exactly the site that you’re looking for.
6 Things to Think About When Choosing A WordPress Theme
To narrow down what could otherwise be an overwhelming set of decisions let’s focus on a handful (ok, 6 in total) points to consider before choosing a WordPress theme for your next site:
Does it look good
When it comes to themes, looks are important. Does the theme you’re selecting offer the overall look, feel, style, and personality that you want to convey in your new website?
When choosing a WordPress theme getting one that overall has the “right look” for your new brand is massively important.
Often we find that using a minimalist theme makes this easier than one that has heavy and opinionated styling choices. Minimalist themes usually have a lower likelihood of conflicting with what you want your brand to say.
Is it responsive
We’re all on the go these days, and mobile web consumption has now outpaced desktop. So it’s essential that your site looks (and performs) well on mobile.
Are all aspects of your site easily accessible on mobile devices? Do new visitors to your site see the information you want to convey quickly and without having to look around for it?
Does your site look great not just on your mobile device but many different screen sizes and orientations?
There are a few tools to use to check what your site will look like on a variety of mobile devices but we like to use Browserstack for this.
Does it support the main functionality of your site’s purpose?
If you’re building a podcast website then the set of tools you’ll need will be very different from an ecommerce store or a corporate website. So with that in mind list out the top 3 things that you want visitors to be able to do on your site.
Do they need to be able to make a purchase? Listen to a podcast or watch a video? Contribute to a forum or community? Or just read your blog posts with a great, clean experience?
Once you’ve thought about those key “must have” items then it will make choosing a WordPress theme for your site much easier.
Does it support page builders?
As great as many premium WordPress themes are these days the fact is that you likely will want to pair your next theme with some kind of page builder. We have used them all and really like Elementor for a variety of reasons.
But whichever page builder you choose you’ll need to consult the theme documentation to see whether the theme you’re considering is compatible with page builders.
What are the Technical Support differences between paid and free?
Hopefully, the theme you choose has great support documentation and getting the theme set up on your site is really easy. But, if it’s not then you’ll want to consult the setup docs to help you get started.
If the theme you’re looking at doesn’t have extensive documentation on how to set up the theme, customize it, and change settings within WordPress then stop your search right there and start looking elsewhere.
Ratings and Reviews in WordPress.org
The social proof and accountability that comes from the WordPress community is excellent. And when choosing a WordPress theme for your site you should take advantage of this social accountability in the form of ratings and reviews if you’re looking for a free theme on WordPress.org.
Look for a theme that has been updated in the last few months, is compatible with the latest major version of WordPress, and where the theme author has replied (and closed out) any open support threads.
When you’re starting a new site and trying to figure out how to choose the right WordPress theme for your new project follow the 6 decision points laid out above. With these parameters, you’ll be sure to pick a winning theme for your next project.