Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Lane Joplin


Choosing the Right WordPress Theme

Vector set of various notes paperA step-by-step guide to picking the perfect theme for your site.

By Lane Joplin | June 29, 2013

So you’ve decided to create a website. Congrats! After conducting a thorough Google search, seeking the advice of your friends and colleagues, and comparing your options, you’ve decided to go with WordPress. But you run into your first big decision: Choosing a theme.

With almost 10,000 different WordPress themes to choose from, picking best one for your specific needs may feel like a daunting task. But if you break it down into three simple steps, the right theme will become more clear, and the decision process can actually be fun.

1. What is your brand’s visual aesthetic?

The theme of your site should properly represent your brand in terms of tone and style. Let’s say you are the owner of a tattoo and piercing shop. A corporate-looking theme is probably not the way you want to go. But If you are a building a site for your uncle’s law practice, a conservative theme would be appropriate. Potential customers or clients will make judgements about a brand or company by the look and feel of their website. The colors, fonts, and layout are all going to say something about your brand, so you want to make sure they are saying the right things.

2. How flexible does your site need to be?

A simple theme can get you far on WordPress. But if you need a theme to grow with your business and website, you will want to make sure your chosen theme is dynamic enough to allow you to customize your site as you grow. One of the great things about WordPress is that it’s flexible and will allow you to build upon what is existing already. You will also be able to add plugins and widgets to create more user engagement.

3. What is your budget (if any) for your theme?

In the WordPress theme directory, there are about 1,800 free themes you can download. If you do have a budget, premium themes are also a great option. You can even find a designer to design a custom theme for you to fit your exact specifications. WP Engine has a list of vetted designers and developers to help those looking for greater customization.

Now that you know what to look for, you should also be aware of what you do not want in a theme. WordPress expert Chris Lema does a great job breaking down three things to stay away from when considering themes.

  • If a theme takes half an hour to download, move on.
  • If you have to decide between 6 sliders embedded in the theme, chuck it.
  • If it claims to be the only theme you’ll ever need, ever, it’s not the right theme.

If the theme you are looking at involves any of the above, move on to your next choice. These themes will most likely cause you more issues down the line with implementation and updating, and they are simply not worth the hassle.

Now that you are aware of things to look for and things to avoid, you can begin narrowing down your choices. Choosing a theme is kind of like choosing a new car. You know you need one, but you might not know exactly what you want. A sports car, family car, SUV, convertible…there are so many different types to choose from! Each serves a purpose, but which one will best serve your purpose?

One of the advantages of using WordPress is that is is surrounded by a big community. No matter what kind of site you are building, nine times out of ten there will already be a writeup about the most appropriate and useful theme choices. For example, a quick Google search for “best photography WordPress theme” returns multiple opinions. Researching what other people have to say will help point you in the right direction.

After narrowing down your choices, you can begin test driving the themes. You can preview the themes and see what they look like on other sites. And if you find your theme through the WordPress Theme directory, you can even see what your site will look like running the theme.

If you are thinking about choosing a premium theme, it’s wise to read the reviews others have written about the theme already. This will give you an idea of how easily it can be implemented and used. A theme that has a review riddled with negative comments should be avoided, as it could cause massive headaches for you down the road.

Last but not least, before you make your final decision, research the theme creators. Just as you would a car you are buying, you want to know the theme’s background. When you look up the creator, see how involved they are in the WordPress community. Do they have a Twitter account? If so, is it active? A good developer will be active in the WordPress community and will also be willing to answer your questions. Has the theme creator been active with local WordCamps? WordPress is a community of giving back. If a designer is involved in the community, it can be assumed that they care about helping others.

Because of all the thousands of options, choosing a theme can seem overwhelming and complicated at first. But if you take a step back and break it down into these simple steps, the process will become a lot simpler. Test drive the themes you like before you buy, and don’t forget to do your research. A little extra time spent now doing the proper legwork can—and will—save you a ton of time in the future.

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