When you’re getting started with WordPress one of the first things you’ll need to do is pick a theme, it comes with a few defaults, but you’ll likely want something that fits more closely with what you’re trying to create.
While it’s tempting to pick the first theme that looks good, there’s some common pitfalls, and issues, that may cause you a ton of work, and even more frustration. It can also feel a little overwhelming, with hundreds of thousands of themes out there, browsing for the right theme can feel like an impossible task.
Don’t worry though, we’re here to help. This short guide will help you pick a theme that willbe the base of your website’s design for years to come, and hopefully won’t cause much heartache.
Theme vs Frameworks
Before we get started I wanted to point out that there are two major subsets in the WordPress theme space. When you first start looking at a theme for your website you’ll likely come across some of the major frameworks that allow you to build a fully customized wordpress site. While this is great, you’ll often be doing a ton of work (Even with their included themes) to get the site looking how you want. WHile these are designed to make it relatively easy, you’ll still need some coding knowledge, and you’ll be building a lot of the site by scratch. These frameworks include Divi, Elementor, and Avada to name a few.
If you want something that’s plug and play, make sure you are looking at theemes, with these you’ll only be configuring basic content, and visual styles such as colors and fonts. While this is great for people who just want a plug and play solution, it lacks customizability, and can cause issues later on if you want to change major aspects of the theme, so amke sure you pick one that has everything you need!
usPicking the Right WordPress Theme
Before we get started on picking the right WordPress theme, there’s one important factor you MUST consider. As the web evolves you need to make sure the developers are updating their themes regularly to fix issues, update compatability, and more important, security vulnerabilities that may be discovered with WordPress and your theme.
When you’re looking at themees check when they were last updated (a lot of the theme market places will show this) and look for development companies that have been around awhile, continuing to launch new themes, and maintain their old themes.
Once you’ve got this covered, here’s the guide on picking the right WordPress theme for your site.
Fully Aligned with your Needs
Look at the the theme demo, make sure it contains everything you need. You will likely be able to remove elements you don’t need, but any additions may need custom coding or plugins. Picking a theme where all you need to do is change the copy and images is teh ideal situation, so get as close as you possibly can to that
In most cases you’ll want to include a few plugins on your site. Look for WordPress themes that come with inbuilt modules and integrations to support this. A common example would be Email newsletter plugins. It goes without saying you should always be building a list, so make sure you can simply connect a mailing provider such as MailChimp or Aweber with the theme.
Double Check the Aesthetics
I couldn’t tell you how many times people I know have purchased a theme and then want to make aesthetic changes afterwards.
There are hundreds of thousands of themes out there, so make sure you ick a theme that already has all your aesthetic needs included, since changes are likely to require a developer, and may cause issues with future issues with theme updates from the creator.
Speed and Performance
Not all themes are created equally. Run demo sites for the theme you are looking at through performance checkers to ensure they run fast, and check the theme’s Core Web Vitals score to make sure it has a decent grade.
While this should be a given, there’s a ton of themes out there that just don’t look good on mobile. Once again, it’s well worth manually checking the theme’s demo site on your phone to make sure it looks good on mobile. Mobile traffic is only growing stronger as more and more website traffic comes from mobile devices.
Websites must now be compliant with ADA regulations if you serve traffic to the US, there are also European, and international guidelines. Run the demo site through an ADA checker (More info on ADA Compliance) to make sure the theme design won’t land you in legal hot water.
More and more companies are being targeted by lawsuits due to poor ADA compliance, so make sure you are protected.
When you purchase themes you’ll notice that some are highly customizable, others are relatively static. While more customization seems like a good thing, every aspect of customization can make the site more complicated to get live.
When you’re looking for the best theme for you, consider just how much of that customization you are comfortable with. For many users a plug and play theme is really what you need, for more advanced users a more customizable solution may be a better fit.
Reviews and Ratings
Last but not least, check the reviews. In todays age you’ll want to be skeptical when you see reviews, read through them, and gut check whether or not they are real. When you’re looking at reviews you want to look for volume of reviews, positive reviews, and keep an eye on things like updates breaking sites an ensuring updates are regular.
I’d also recommend you look for reviews from people like yourself, was the theme too complicated, or hard to customize. Was it broken, or did it have speed issues?
Looking through the review can be a good way to ensure you’re making a good choice.
Picking the right WordPress theme might leave you feeling overwhelmed. If the worst comes to the worst, you can always switch the theme later, but remember it’s far easier to get the theme right first.
My advice to people has always been to enjoy the process, you’re getting to make a lot of fun choices, from design, to structure, and performance. It might feel like a chore, but if you frame it right, picking the look and feel of the new home for your content can be a really fun experience.
Keep the above guidance in mind, but always dial it back to looking for the theme that has everything you need for what you want to do.