Choosing a WordPress Theme

If you trying to build your own WordPress site, trying to choose a theme can feel like an enormous task. How do you know if it is the right one? There are a lot of free and premium themes out there. It’s hard to know where the best place to start is.

If you check out the themes on the WordPress.org site you’ll see a lot of options: https://wordpress.org/themes/commercial/

You can get overwhelmed very easily searching through those themes without any background information – and most of the time, you would probably have more questions than answers.

Where do you to start?

I first recommend that you find 5-10 websites that you like. Look at similar competitor websites or just some local sites in you area that you have admired. Identify what you like and what you don’t like about each site. Getting clear on what you want and even what you do not want before you choose a theme can help guide you. You should pay attention to the overall design, the look and feel, fonts, colors, imagery, etc.

You should also identify all the features that are most important to your site. One thing to keep in mind is not just the features you want now, but what are the features that you may want in the future. An example of that might include adding a store or maybe a membership site down the road. Having an idea of short and long-term plans will be helpful in choosing the best option for you.

Free vs Premium WordPress Themes

You might find a free theme out there and be tempted to just use that. While there are some good free themes out there I strongly recommend you look into getting a premium theme instead. Developers of free themes often abandon their projects and no longer update or maintain it – which can pose security risks or compatibility issues down the road.

Premium themes are generally affordable around $40-$70 for a license. With premium themes you often have 6-12 months of support included if anything should go wrong. It is really nice to even just have a place to ask a simple question like “how do I center my logo”.

Premium themes usually are licensed by an annual or a one-time fee. Most licensees will only include a license for one domain. If you want to use the same theme on another domain, you’d need to purchase a second license. Using the same license for two sites could get you into legal trouble.

When you are looking for the best premium themes you want to check out these things:

  • Is it a one time / annual fee
  • How much support do I get
  • Are lifetime updates included
  • How do I get updates
  • Check out online reviews
  • What plugins are licensed as part of the theme

Genesis Framework

I’ve been using the Genesis Framework to build client’s websites almost since it was first introduced. I have followed the developer for a long time and I’m a big fan of this framework. I like how simple and clean the code is on their themes. The theme loads fast because it is not bogged down with unnecessary features. There is a bit of a learning curve especially for novice users.

Unlike many of the other themes out there, Genesis does not have a page builder built into the theme. You would need an external plugin if you wanted to have a page builder. One of the reasons Genesis loads faster however is because it does not have that feature.

Builder Themes

If you are looking for a little bit more of a plug and play website you might be better suited for a theme that has a drag and drop builder built into it. Without doing a lot of extra coding, you might want to look into a theme that comes with these standard items. Themes like these might include plugins such as the Visual Composer or WPBakery Page Builder.

If you are looking for a more robust theme I would check out themes on themeforest.net. Just keep in mind these more robust themes often load a little slower and have many items that might not be necessary for your site built in. If you are checking out themes on themeforest.net be on the lookout for this badge:

That indicates a higher quality developer on themeforest.net! There are many filters built into your search and you should be able to find a theme that fits your needs.

Bonus tip

Be sure you ALWAYS set up your theme on a child theme. The parent theme will receive updates and will not over-post any design work or changes to the settings you have made.

This should help you at least get started on the path to choosing a WordPress theme. If you need help with your website design, please schedule a consultation here.

Rachel Muraca
Virtual Design, LLC
WordPress Web Design
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