With tens of thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available online, how are you supposed to select one that best fits your website needs? The thing with WordPress themes is that they can look so similar until you actually start working with them.
In this post, I’ll share tips on choosing the best WordPress theme for your site. Choosing a subpar theme can be a costly mistake in the long run so take note of these tips – in no particular order; they all matter.
Features: Choose Only Those You Need
Most commercial themes are loaded with a whole lot of features that you won’t be using. Without a clear list of critical features, you’ll easily be overwhelmed and therefore likely to make a wrong choice.
Keep in mind that most of those features contribute to bloat, which ultimately slows down your website when installed.
So here’s how to avoid being overwhelmed by features:
- Make a list of absolute must-have features that you cannot compromise on.
- Search for themes that have all or most of those features.
- Rank the selected themes based on developer (reputable or not) or other criteria such as support, user reviews, etc. You’ll wind up with a few themes that best match your needs. At this point, UX design or cost may be the deciding factor.
A quick way to find out whether a theme is bloated with features is to measure page load speed using a speed test tool such as Pingdom. Simply paste the theme’s demo URL into the space and analyze. A theme that makes less than 50 HTTP requests before displaying content is good enough. Avoid those that make 100 requests and more.
I just tested out a random theme from Themeforest and it clocked 102 requests (see picture above), which is a bit high. So to choose such a theme, be sure to trim some of the fat.
Layout and Design: Should Communicate Your Brand
In addition to various other uses, a website can greatly maximize your brand identity. So you want to choose a theme that looks great but also communicates your brand in the best possible way. Most decent themes are easy to customize without touching any code so you can easily achieve a desired layout.
However, since design is highly subjective, follow these tips to boost your chances of selecting a properly designed theme:
- Browse a variety of themes on the biggest theme markets. The best and biggest theme designers sell their themes on popular markets such as Themeforest. Pick designs that are closer to what you want. Use the demo to test out how features work. Look at the various layouts and test every claim made by the developer.
- Visit demo pages for your selected themes. The demo shows you a true likeness of what your live site might look like.
- Select a theme whose design lives up to your preferences in the demo.
Cost: Premium or Free
Cost is the last major consideration when selecting a theme. When two themes seem to be evenly matched on features and design, cost is usually the differentiator.
Let’s start with free themes: by and large these are decent even for a basic business website. However, free themes come with their issues. These are the top issues you’ll commonly encounter with them:
- Usually have a reputation of breaking whenever WordPress is upgraded.
- They usually have sloppy code that can make customization a nightmare.
- Some standard WordPress features may not work.
That being said, there are many decent free themes that don’t have any of the aforementioned issues. They still lack support and upgrades though, so you’d have to think twice before going the free route.
For all intents and purposes, a premium theme is the way to go if you’re planning a serious business website, especially one from which you expect to earn money. Besides additional features, premium themes come with support and access to future updates. They also have clean code and generally work well.
And that’s about it regarding how to choose a theme for your site. These are the basic considerations and with them, you can’t go wrong.
Over to you now: how do you go about selecting WordPress themes for your website? Have you ever used a problematic theme, free or premium? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!