There’s more to knowing how to choose a WordPress theme than appearance. All WordPress themes aren’t created equally. You don’t want to install a theme only to realize it:
- Hasn’t been updated in years
- Doesn’t work with your plugins
- Locks important features behind a paid subscription
To avoid such pitfalls, read on below to learn more about how to choose a theme on WordPress.org/themes.
- How to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Brand
- Use Case
- User Experience (UX)
- How to Analyze Future WordPress Theme Development
- Active Development and Support
- Free Versus Premium WordPress Themes
How to Choose a WordPress Theme for Your Brand
The best WordPress themes will have basic advantages for search engine optimization (SEO): correct HTML markup for core stability and meta tags for search engine crawlers. Both require testing with tools like Validator.W3.org. But you can look at a theme preview to quickly sense whether it meets your needs as a brand and your user’s needs.
What’s the purpose of your public-facing WordPress site? That means excluding internal project or customer relationship management (CRM) functions. Is it a blog, online store, or portfolio of your work? This greatly affects your needs.
A blog theme must accommodate all search options native to WordPress (category, tag, etc.). It also needs to show snippets of multiple posts with their featured image in an elegant manner. This theme style is also popular for musicians and podcasters.
For eCommerce sites, the theme needs to integrate seamlessly with WooCommerce, or other eCommerce plugins.
A theme exclusively for online portfolios should be versatile enough to show multiple projects and important contact in a responsive design for desktop and mobile viewers.
User Experience (UX)
We’ve touched on responsive design and conflicts with plugins already. To dive deeper, theme columns should convert nicely between large and small screens. You can search for themes by how many columns they use (up to four), which can be great for emphasizing:
- Important news
- Help center links
It should always look good in web browsers. Privacy-conscious users are using speciality browsers and anti-tracking extensions for popular browsers that shouldn’t disrupt functions so much that users can’t do anything.
Color psychology can influence how viewers perceive your brand. If you can’t customize theme colors in your WordPress dashboard, you’ll have to add custom CSS code. For some that isn’t an issue. But it will be an issue if this requires extensive work because the theme isn’t coded well and assistance from the theme developer is unavailable.
Sometimes, a beautiful website is a bloated site. But you must find a balance between fashion and functionality to mitigate performance issues. And it’s better if you don’t need optimization plugins to get respectable speed. It helps if the theme doesn’t have features that should be left to WordPress core or plugins. When you download a new WordPress theme, test its speed with GTmetrix.com and Google PageSpeed Insights. If it has good performance alone, then you have something worth optimizing with caching integrations like the W3 Total Cache (W3TC) plugin and Cloudflare content delivery network (CDN).
WordPress security plugins like Cerber Security and Wordfence defend your data. That doesn’t mean you should install a poorly coded theme that’s continually used in cyber attacks, though. Don’t worry, WPScan.com makes it easy to research security issues by theme.
Pro tip! If your website doesn’t have dynamic features such as comments or a contact form, static site generation (SSG) would greatly improve performance and security.
There are general things to keep in mind. Businesses with an international customer base need a theme that supports multilingual variations. Companies affiliated with the US government may need accessibility features for Section 508 compliance. WP Accessibility handles most of this but must be able to integrate well with the theme for advanced configurations.
Again, ensure you test how well a theme compliments your plugins.
How to Analyze Future WordPress Theme Development
Active Development and Support
Don’t download an abandoned theme that hasn’t been updated in over a year. Check the development log from the WordPress theme page to see if it receives regular updates. Also, check for tangible changes per version:
- Improving compatibility with WordPress core features
- Adding theme customization features
- Addressing security vulnerabilities
WordPress.org theme reviews can provide a wealth of information as well. Maybe the theme doesn’t work as advertised or there’s a history of reported issues being ignored. Reviews and download numbers can help you spot these patterns.
If you want to do something not possible from the WordPress dashboard, it helps to be able to contact WordPress developers via forums, internet relay chat (IRC), GitHub, or email. If you see a bunch of questions for a theme in the WordPress support forum left unanswered by the developer, that’s a red flag.
Free Versus Premium WordPress Themes
Many of the best WordPress themes are free.
|Free and open source code||May not have developer support|
|Undergoes strict review for approval||Likely generic looking and commonly used|
|Features don’t overlap into plugin territory||May have minimal unique features|
Free themes are best for shorter projects and users willing to manually build an one-of-a-kind design.
Premium (paid) themes shine in the realm of originality.
|More customization within the dashboard||Paid|
|Usually guaranteed developer assistance||May have excessive plugin-like features|
|More likely to look unique from the start||May be coded poorly since there’s no review process|
Premium themes are ideal for businesses that plan to be on WordPress for a long time and want to ensure they stand out from the competition.
We hope this helps you select the best WordPress theme for your project.