WordPress is a vastly popular content management system, it currently powers more than 29% of all the websites on the Internet, and this number continues to grow rapidly.
This popularity, though, comes with a price. And you get the meaning behind these words when you get to choose a WordPress theme for your upcoming project. There are millions upon millions of both premium and free themes, provided by hundreds of marketplaces, design agencies and individual designers.
How do you choose just one and don’t end up with a theme that doesn’t fit your needs, or just doesn’t work as you imagined it would? In other words – how do you choose the best theme that provides value for the money?
This article is going to be a simple, yet comprehensive guide to help you with the task of choosing the best WordPress theme.
Free or premium?
This is probably the first question that comes to your mind. It is true that there are some amazing free themes out there. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a free WordPress theme if you can find one that perfectly suits your needs and is developed by a reliable provider.
There are, of course, major drawbacks in free themes. The main ones being the lack of tech support and regular updates if they offer updates at all. Free themes also rarely come with full and detailed documentation which is a pain if you are new to WordPress and don’t have much experience in installation and customization of WordPress themes.
Another thing you need to always check with free themes is the license. Many of these themes come with limited rights, so you might end up violating the law if you are not careful and don’t check the license before installing and customizing the theme.
But if you need something lightweight with minimum features and plan to change the design frequently, a free theme might be a better option for you. Premium themes are often overloaded with features that you might not need; they might eat up the server space and make your website load longer.
On the other hand, premium themes are more secure, harder to hack into and are rarely a source of malicious code. So if you need a WordPress theme to build an online business, not just for fun or to experiment with, we do recommend budgeting for a premium theme.
Choose the provider carefully
As we’ve already mentioned above, there’s a huge number of places where you can get a WordPress theme, beginning with WordPress.org itself and ending with freelance web designers you can hire on Upwork or some other freelance marketplace.
It doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious when it comes to the security and quality of your future website, so we recommend checking the provider. At the very least look for some customer reviews. But checking the themes, you like with tools like Themecheck.org is more desirable of course.
Big marketplaces like Themeforest quality check every theme they offer for sale, so looking for a premium WP theme on one of the marketplaces is a safer and easier option.
Credibility, security, validity
Choosing a theme by its looks is, of course, an option, but you need to understand that you are not buying a nice picture, you are buying the code. And it has to be safe, secure, credible and valid. Otherwise, you will end up with a nightmare instead of the perfect website you imagined.
So before you make any purchase, and especially if you want to go with a free theme, make sure to check the code for being in line with the WordPress coding standard, CSS accessibility and specificity, HTML validity. These are the tools that can help you with this: W3 HTML Validator, CSS Revenge, CSS Specificity Graph Generator, Query Monitor.
Design and user experience
Aesthetic preferences are usually very subjective. But when it comes to web design there are best practices, standards and trends that are better kept in mind if you do not want to end up with a website that looks unprofessional and out of date.
If you are looking for a WordPress theme to build a business website, then opt for a simple design with fewer elements and visual clutter. This approach is also suitable for personal blogs and even ecommerce. Clean, uncluttered and simple designs are very much in trend. They look professional and are easier to deal with in the long run.
Always check the theme description for responsiveness. Or better yet if the theme design is mobile-first. The mobile traffic continues to grow so rapidly that responsiveness is not an option anymore, it is an unproclaimed standard. And if you launch an unresponsive website in 2018 you will never reach your business goals.
Google will ban you in their mobile search results, and any customers that land on it while on their smartphones will simply leave. People don’t have time for websites that do not provide a positive user experience. This is the simple truth of life now.