WordPress — it’s the leading free content management system beloved by so many.
It allows us to create beautiful websites and blogs of all varieties and niches without breaking the bank. But when it comes to theme selection… there’s just so many choices!
In WordPress, your theme sets the tone (and overall look and feel) of your site within seconds of that first user impression.
That’s why it’s essential to pick a theme that’s right for you, your site, and one that delivers.
Here are some things to consider to help you pick that perfect WordPress theme!
Is the theme regularly updated?
This first question — whether the theme you’re looking at provides regular updates — is actually a must-ask question and a good indicator of a theme’s quality.
Don’t make the mistake of selecting a theme that hasn’t been updated in years because you’ll have absolutely no way of fixing problems if you encounter a bug, or if one of the features no longer work.
A good rule of thumb: a theme that’s been updated in the last 6 or so months is generally regarded as a safe bet and safe choice.
And this brings us to the number one question for any Webmaster just starting to get his or her feet wet in the WordPress scene...
FREE vs. PREMIUM?!
The million dollar question is:
- do you go with a free WordPress theme, or a paid one?
Really, it all comes down to where you’re at with your marketing and what your budget is.
Will a free theme suffice for the average Webmaster just starting out?
Sure, you bet! There’s some pretty decent themes out there at no cost.
But here are some of the common issues you run into with free WordPress themes:
- Themes frequently end up abandoned.
- Support can be non-existent.
- Theme creators may be nowhere to be found.
- And the coding can be quite amateur-ish and crummy.
For the obvious reasons above, that’s why many Webmasters find themselves going the premium theme route.
Sure, it may cost you some money, but as the old saying goes: you get what you pay for.
Other questions to ask:
What’s its rating?
Whether you’re going for a free or a premium theme, the theme’s overall user rating is another good indicator of how a theme holds up.
Obviously, the more ratings a theme has, the better you’ll be able to gauge how good or bad it is.
Shooting for themes rated 5 stars never hurt nobody.
But don’t judge a theme too quickly if that theme you’re gravitating towards only has a 3 star rating after a few user reviews.
Remember, people who are disappointed are two-times more likely to rate a theme than the people who really enjoyed it.
So see what the general consensus is and use your best judgment and go from there.
If you want to avoid being inconvenienced or burned — stick with highly rated themes with many user reviews.
Does the theme provide support?
OK, maybe you’re a WordPress Jedi and you know you could rewrite the entire theme’s source code with your eyes closed if you really wanted to—but that doesn’t change anything we’re about to say.
Theme support is paramount.
And good theme support... on the other hand… is essential.
The difference between lackluster and awesome support means all the difference in time you could be saving, especially when it comes to working on other projects.
To the less seasoned WordPresser—reliable support is a lifesaver. Support can help ensure you’re getting the most out of that WP theme.
With that said, it’s no secret the premium themes (aka the ones that cost money) are the ones that have the best support track record. But that’s not to say all free ones fail in this department.
Believe it or not, some authors put their blood, sweat, and tears into a theme before releasing it. In many ways, it becomes their baby.
If you’re lucky enough to find a free WordPress theme with this kind of integrity and history behind it — it’s usually smooth sailing from there.
Authors who fall into this category usually have a tremendous track record when it comes to providing above and beyond dedicated support.
So while doing your theme research, check out if a theme lists any information about its author, and if it does, see if this person has went to great efforts answering other people’s questions.
You can also get a good idea of the average response / answer time by checking out the associated themes’ support pages via the Support forums and “Support” tab on a theme’s presentation page.
Is the theme Responsive?
OK, we know, this one might seem like a no brainer in the age of smartphones and tablets — but a theme’s Responsiveness should still be an essential deciding factor before pulling the trigger.
In fact, it’s very easy to find out.
To ensure a WordPress theme is responsive and a contender for your needs, simply preview it through ResponsiveTest.net (it’s a very nifty tool).
Don’t just trust the theme’s description — put it to the test!
And while we’re on the topic of responsive WP themes—you may recall we featured some of our favorite ones.
Is the theme easily customizable?
And last but not least…
How customizable is the WordPress theme you’re considering?
- Do you need a theme that you can modify a bit and tailor to your needs?
- Or does a one-size fits all approach work just fine for you?
Sure, themes may be really well designed these days, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to tweak a thing or two at some point in the near future.
At CrakRevenue, it’s worth noting we’ve never used a theme exactly the way it originally came.
Indeed, customizing a few things - even just things of subtle nature - is what makes your site or blog stand out from all the rest.
If you are an experienced WordPress Webmaster, you may want to look for a theme with a simple and comprehensible StyleSheet to save time on theme customization. Indeed, sometimes theme creators deliberately protect their design by making their StyleSheet clunky without notes, filled with unnecessary code, so it isn’t easy for the average user to modify. You’ll find this especially true with the free themes.
If you are unfamiliar with WordPress, you may want to search for themes with customization features already included and integrated. This way, you’ll be able to work on the theme and add your brand signature without having to struggle with the code (but it’s always good to start familiarizing yourself with the code sooner rather than later because it will open up more opportunities in the long run!).
The Search is ON for the Perfect Theme!
Depending on the exact type of theme you’re on the hunt for, you may need to ask yourself some additional questions and check a few more things off your checklist before making up your mind.
(e.g., if you know for a fact you’ll be using your site to sell something — like sex toys, for instance — you would want your WordPress themed site to be able to handle the task and perhaps suited for plugins such as WooCommerce -- which has been self-described as the best eCommerce platform for WP).
But regardless of the type of site you plan on running, the questions we highlighted above are ones worth asking when it comes to theme selection.
With that said: let the hunt for the perfect WordPress theme begin!
Let us know in the comments what your favorite theme is and why you chose a particular theme over all the others!