How to choose a WordPress theme

How to choose a WordPress theme for your blog from a plethora of themes available. How to sieve, filter and select a theme when so many are grabbing your attention out there.

Good or bad, abundance is a big problem of today.

But having many choices can lead you overwhelmed because you need to apply increased energy and effort to reach a conclusion.

There are unlimited numbers of themes available with an uncountable number of theme makers.

Not only there is a fear of choosing the wrong theme, the abundance of low-quality themes is another concern. And that applies to paid themes as well.

We come back to our basic question – how to choose a WordPress theme for the blog.

Ultimately, you will take a shot but it is important to consider the following factors.

Free Versus Paid WordPress Themes

This question is asked so often but still does not have a straight answer to it. There was a time when paid themes or premium themes were considered at par with quality when compared to free themes.

But today, there are many great free themes as well and the answer to that question becomes even more difficult.

Though there is no conclusive winner and while the ultimate choice and decision are personal, I still tilt towards Premium themes because they offer the following advantages.

  • Premium themes are updated often and faster. WordPress has evolved a lot and it keeps evolving at a rapid pace. You need to adjust your themes as well for faster adaptation. This would happen only if your theme maker is keeping in sync with WordPress changes.
  • As they are paid designs, they would become across less commonly and thus unique site design as compared to free which would be more recognizable.
  • If you are in business and use free themes, it is not perceived as a professional approach
  • Paid themes are better supported from the beginning. From installation to customization, there are plenty of pdf and videos to help you get the best of your theme purchase.
  • There is a better ongoing support system through a public forum, live chat, and an email ticketing system. Free themes usually just have a public forum for support and promptness of the response is often missing.
  • Many of free themes require attribution link, a feature not required in premium themes.

Even if you choose a free theme, make sure about the quality of the theme and the past reputation of the makers, the user reviews etc.

If a theme has a public support forum, read how well the customers are taken care of. Note the kind of issues people are having, and how easy it is to understand the responses given.

Speed of Load

Fast page loading is not a premium feature anymore, it is essential. With Google penalizing the sites with slower loading, it is must to have a site that loads faster.

Fast loading offers a better user experience of a website, improve search engine rankings which leads to more traffic and better conversion rate.

Why does a theme become slow?

  • It is too rich in features
    No one requires 10 different sliders, many preinstalled plugins and a lot of JavaScript animation.
  • The theme uses large file sizes

A theme with a lot of images that take time to load is NO NO

  • The theme is not well coded
    This generally happens with themes which are not updated frequently. So do check when was last update done.

One of the problems with themes is that they need to be installed before they could be tested.  But there is a trick!

You can check the demo site of the theme.

Go to the Pingdom Website Speed Test, enter the URL of a theme’s demo. It will show you how long the page takes to load and how many HTTP requests are made.

Avoid themes that make hundreds of HTTP requests before showing any content. It is bad for your site

Looks, Design and User Experience

It goes without saying that your site has to look good. But beware of extra makeup!

The choice of looks is subjective and vary from person to person. That is how we become so diverse in our choices and create unique sites.

But when it comes to choosing a WordPress theme for your blog, functionality, ease of use both for admin and user are to be considered first.

Themes who compromise on ease of use for looks are not good themes, how attractive they may appear.

Start with a demo of theme and look for answers to following questions.

  • Is the website feel easy to use? Is there enough white space
  • Do colors and images used gel well or stand out
  • How is typography and layout – soothing or troubling
  • Is the theme cross-browser compatible. Does it look as similar on all browsers or breaks in some

Responsiveness is not Optional Anymore

With continued use of mobile gadgets, tablets, and notebooks of all sizes, a responsive theme is a must for your site.

A responsive theme is the one which adjusts its layout according to screen size.

Regardless of the exact ratios, there’s no excuse to use anything but a responsive theme.

The lack of responsiveness in a theme is a big red flag.

If you are not sure about the responsiveness of the theme, Google’s mobile-friendliness tool would help.

Theme SEO

WordPress is damn SEO friendly but if your theme is not, it would spoil the party.

Small coding errors could cost you SEO efforts.  For example, an absence of header and alt tags, URL errors.

Most of the themes do come with SEO ready” label but do not trust them for that. Instead, subject them to SEO check.

This can be done by adding browser extensions like SEO Quake or Moz bar. When you open the demo site of the theme in your browser, you would come to know about various SEO parameters of the theme.

You would need to get an idea what to look for.

Ease Of Customization

Gone are the times when you were expected to have an idea of theme files, HTML, and other CSS stuff to make changes in your theme.

Almost all good themes, some more than others, offer dashboard based customization. Make sure your theme does that too.

Theme Security

Security is a big issue for online blogs. Though various plugins are available for securing your site, security consideration should be done at the time of theme selection as well.

Avoid any theme which is not created by a trustworthy developer.

Read other customer’s reviews. Is there an issue raised. Has it been fixed!

Genesis and MyThemeShop have one of the secure themes for your blog.

The thumb rule is to check the reputation of a person or company. If they have a reputation to keep, they would make top quality themes.

Your Requirements

Your choice of theme looks would vary with the industry you are in, the focus of your blog, desired column width, menu and navigation choices and so on.

Unless you have ability and desire to do the code edits, it’s always best to select a theme that has got the major features you want right there.

Make a list of the main features that are most important and search for themes that meet as many requirements as possible.

If you wish to collect email addresses, then a theme focused on that may be the right choice.

Some themes allow you to change the width of your theme or various sections of the site in the control panel. If you want that, make a note and look for that.

Plugin Support

Plugins make it possible for you to do anything with your WordPress site.

Make sure that your WordPress theme supports all popular plugins. If you are unsure, ask theme developer about it.

Multilingual Ready

You would require this feature if your site is in a language other than English or you might have plans for creating a multilingual Website.

 Support Options

Make sure that you select a WordPress theme that has good documentation and support option. Most premium WordPress themes offer detailed documentation with 1 year of email-based support.

Recommended Premium Themes

Genesis from StudioPress

My Theme Shop

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