Choosing a WordPress theme is one of the first and most important tasks you face when you have a new WordPress site. Your site design will have a lot of weight in achieving or not attracting the audience you want.
So in this post, I will guide you step by step through a series of criteria that will help you choose your WordPress template wisely, really suitable for your needs.
You need to answer 2 basic questions before choosing your template.
What type of website do you have or want to create?
The first thing you should be clear about is what type of content you want to publish on your website because this has a high impact on the type of design that will be most suitable for that content.
A simple blog, without significant demands, where text often prevails over images is not the same as an online store that will be much more visual.
Therefore, the first thing is to be very clear about the nature of your site and its contents.
Look for examples of similar existing sites and try to identify the characteristic elements of the designs of these sites, particularly those they have in common.
Multipurpose versus pre-designed templates. What do you prefer?
Within WordPress themes, we can notice two major categories: pre-designed templates and multipurpose templates that are thought to create any type of website.
First, the idea is that they give you a design that is what it is and where you can only touch some basic things: the color scheme, fonts for titles and text, and other small things.
The idea is that you choose among many options, the one closest to the one you are looking for to use it more or less as-is.
This limitation in options is not necessarily a bad thing; if the design fits you, why not use it? It is a practical and straightforward philosophy.
The other philosophy is to seek maximum customization capacity.
This is achieved, above all, by the themes that make up a visual layout artist. With such a theme, the freedom to design what you want is practically 100%, but in return, these themes have their learning curve.
Among all of them, Divi stands out right now, is recommended as a universal professional theme suitable for any WordPress site, and that includes the Divi Builder layout.
It’s a particular case because when you buy Divi, you also access the rest of the themes of Elegant Themes, which is the company behind Divi and its plugins. Therefore, with Divi, you access the advantages of both philosophies (pre-designed themes + maximum personalization).
GeneratePress and Ocean WP are also excellent options in combination with the Elementor visual layout artist.
Criteria and Essential Tips for Choosing Your WordPress Theme Right
Don’t be fooled by commercial photos.
A lot of people, when they try a free template from the WordPress repository or, even when they buy a professional one, they get a big disappointment with the result they see after installing it.
This is not because the template is terrible, but because they had really high expectations.
For example, looking for a new theme for my blog, I’ve found Carrino, and I instantly told myself that this is the perfect theme for Blackellis.eu. It was modern, not too flashy but enough to make a significant impact, SEO friendly, various layouts and styles, and quite a few theme options that would keep you busy a while:
As you can see, it is an attractive theme, in this case, specially designed for bloggers.
However, after I’ve installed, activate it, and spend some time playing with the settings, my enthusiasm water down a bit. I didn’t think anymore that this is a perfect choice.
This is how I’ve ended up using GeneratePress, and I’m delighted with the results. It looks fantastic if you’re into minimalistic styles, lightweight, optimized for SEO, and vital for me, especially with the new Google algorithm, SPEED. Before this, I was using Zita. Every time I tested my site using Lighthouse, my performance was not that good, I don’t remember exactly the numbers. Still, it was surely orange. Now, as you can see from the screenshot below I’ve managed a considerable improvement with GeneratePress:
Free themes versus free and paid WordPress themes
In the WordPress theme repository, you can find a lot of free themes.
But beware: many of them have been made by small freelance developers or small companies that have then closed or simply stop updating.
My advice is to make sure that it is a theme up to date, with recent update dates, and that it has a strong community.
Sometimes the best support is the community itself, so if the topic forum is active, for example, it’s a very good sign.
On the other hand, also examine the documentation. Nowadays, the best WordPress themes usually come with videos of at least the most important functionalities.
Video is the best format for learning this type of thing and a rich collection of training video-tutorials to learn how to make changes to your theme.
Logically, the paid themes will have, generally, more functionality, be better updated, and also have better documentation.
But luckily, each time these brands go “freemium,” offering a free “lite” version of their product, which is sometimes surprisingly complete. This is the case of GeneratePress and the Elementor visual layout, for example.
Is it a responsive WordPress template?
In recent years, the rise in mobile device traffic has been simply skyrocketed.
So much so that statistics show that it has already taken the lead in desktop and laptop computers:
“Responsive” refers to the WordPress template as an adaptive design capable of adapting as best as possible to the device on which it is viewed.
This will often mean that you have different content layout when viewed on a mobile device with a reduced screen than on a personal computer.
Today, practically all topics are responsive. However, make sure it is and check it out on a specialized site like Responsive Design Checker.
Is it well designed? Is it fast?
One of the biggest reasons for users abandoning your blog is your website loading speed. Most users will quit within seconds if your pages don’t load reasonably fast.
Apart from your hosting, your WordPress theme is going to be a decisive factor.
It is true that optimizing your blog well with a good cache plugin, optimizing images, and applying advanced measures such as a CDN will diminish some issues, but even so, there can be important differences between one and the other issues.
So if possible, try Pingdom speed benchmark, for example.
The speed with the optimization options activated should remain, in any case, below 2 seconds, and if you manage to drop below 1 second, we are already talking about excellent times.
Does it integrate well for online stores?
To create online stores with WordPress, the WooCommerce plugin is the recommendation.
Many themes have been specially designed for the creation of online stores and many of them, given the position of WooCommerce, with this specific plugin in mind.
So, if you plan to create an online store on WordPress (which you will almost certainly implement with WooCommerce), especially examine the themes whose design has been considered for use with WooCommerce.
Price / license
The vast majority of themes are usually quite affordable.
The price range of WordPress themes on themeforest.net is between $19 to $250.
So if you didn’t find a free template that you like and fitted your needs, I recommend saving some money and start browsing themeforest.net.
And remember: be very careful with free themes when they are not from a trusted source.
What type of template to choose according to the type of website
Since you probably don’t have much experience with the WordPress template yet, if you’re reading this article, I’m going to end it with a few examples sorted by site types.
I don’t consider the themes mentioned here the best in their respective categories. This is already something for specialized posts that have carried out the necessary in-depth analysis.
The WordPress theme repository feature filter may come in handy.
You should also be clear that themes serve not only for one type of website, they usually serve for many different kinds of sites.
It’s more about seeing what type of elements of a theme are the most important, according to what type of website. And, within this, then there are always designs that “stick” some types of websites better than others.
And also, remember that any of these templates can be recreated with a visual layout artist like Divi Builder or Elementor.
Let’s start with generalist examples for some basic types of websites:
WordPress blog templates
Blogs are still the type of websites most frequently created with WordPress.
What you need for a blog is brought by practically any topic without major pretensions: new posts, comments, some basic static pages (contact, etc.). It would also include the possibility of using only one column (such as Citizen 2.0).
Indite is an example of a modern theme that fits very well with this:
WordPress templates for companies
If you want to create a website for your company, they will be especially having the main page with an attractive design that transmits professionalism and a series of elements that help to present your company, its activities, and the value that it brings to the best of your customers.
Rogan is an example of a business-oriented design.
You can find specific things like graphic elements to represent the areas of activity of the company, statistics widgets, widgets for product portfolios, customer testimonials, etc.
If you go to one of the demo pages of the theme, there are several of these elements on the main page.
WordPress templates for eCommerce (online stores)
If you want to create an online store with WordPress, it is almost 100% safe (and recommended) that you use WooCommerce.
Example of an online store using The Shop Isle WordPress theme.
WooCommerce already brings the necessary tools and widgets to create an online store with practically any WordPress template.
However, there are already plenty of themes that have been designed explicitly with WooCommerce in mind.
This offers you a wide range of designs and styles that will make it much easier for you.
WordPress portfolio templates
There are many websites where images are the most important thing.
We are discussing sites such as art, photography, architecture, fashion blogs, a company’s product catalog, etc.
WordPress templates designed explicitly in this regard are often called “portfolio” themes. Like the Phlox template :
But here I also want to warn you of a danger that these templates have. This type of web-based images is so aesthetic that many people practically no longer think about the text.
The problem is that, to position yourself in Google, you need text.
Therefore, my recommendation is that if you have an art portfolio or any kind of portfolio, also create a blog with valuable content to the public.
Minimalist WordPress templates
As the name itself indicates, a minimalist WordPress template aims to focus attention on the essential by eliminating all the “noise” (non-essential elements that distract the reader).
There are templates like Pure which can be applied for blogs but also for a minimalist-oriented portfolio.
One page WordPress templates
WordPress One Page templates, such as Sydney, are templates specifically designed to include all the relevant information on your website on a single page.
Examples of this may be, a company website, or a personal, professional page where you introduce yourself and your career path.
Conclusions and advice for your final decision
Around WordPress, a giant ecosystem has been created that ranges from small developers to large companies offering WordPress templates.
This is great because you have almost infinite templates to choose from. After reading this post, I think you really have everything you need to decide about choosing the right theme for your WordPress site.
So my most important tip is this: simplify things as much as possible, be practical, and don’t seek perfection from day one.
The most important thing is still the content of your website, therefore, do not spend countless hours finding the perfect design.
For the first version of your website, a theme that fits “reasonably well” will be the perfect option. With more definite ideas and more judgment, there will be time to evolve that initial design.
Remember that in this selection process, the two key questions you have to answer are going to be these:
- What is your website like, and what specific elements does it require?
- Do you prefer a pre-designed theme where you only change details or use a visual layout tool to have 100% freedom in creating your design?