So you want to create a WordPress website? Congratulation! The first big hurdle to pass over when building a website with WordPress is picking out a WordPress theme for your website.
One of the best things about WordPress is the wide variety of themes to choose from out there. It doesn’t matter whether you want to start a small personal blog or start an eCommerce empire, there are hundreds of WordPress themes available to match the needs of all sorts of projects.
There is only one problem with having a ton of options: how do you choose?
Often when individuals first start browsing through the huge amount of WordPress themes online, they get lost in the amount of choices. With so many large market and developers offering WordPress themes, it can be difficult to narrow it down to one choice. This is especially true to people who may be completely new to the world of web development and design.
Luckily for you, we’ve designed some guidelines to get you started that will help you select the WordPress theme without too much of a hassle. These tips are especially helpful for individuals with little to no experience picking out themes.
5 Tips for Choosing a WordPress Theme
#1 Are You Working with a Developer?
Are you working with a developer or team member to help design your website or going it alone?
SIDE NOTE: If you’re going it alone and are a beginner at WordPress, we totally recommend checking out this WordPress tutorial to get you started AFTER you’ve selected your theme. It’ll take you through the whole process of creating a WordPress website from start to finish. Trust us, check it out once you get your project started.
Back on topic, if you are working with a developer, it is a good idea to consult with them to see if they have any recommendations for your site.
Chances are they may have some recommendations for WordPress themes they think will match the purpose of your mission. It also may help expedite the process if they choose a theme they are familiar working with when developing your website. You can even see if there are certain themes they have deals with that will help lower your final bill.
However, even if they are trying to direct you towards a particular type of theme make sure that you let them know the aesthetic and functionality you are looking for in your website. It is a good idea even to send along some WordPress themes and websites that demonstrate exactly what you’re looking for then they can base their recommendation on what you want NOT on what it just easiest for them.
When going through the theme selection process developers can be a huge help just make sure your goals don’t get sidelined!
#2 What is the Purpose of your Website?
One of the best ways to narrow down theme selection is identifying the exact purpose of your project. It is hard to select a theme without knowing exactly what you need from your website.
Even worse, if you select a theme without keeping in mind your goals you may end up with a website that does not have the functionality and look you desire. This discrepancy can cost you tons of time and money, so make sure to stop and assess your project.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself about your project:
- What niche is my website for?
- Do I need to be able to easily customize the website?
- What functionality do I need from the website?
- Do I want a eCommerce store?
- Do I have third party services and/or plugins I need my WordPress theme to be compatible with?
By going through and answering all of those questions you also help establish a base plan for your project. You may not find a theme that can match your needs 100%, but finding one that has maximum compatibility without needing to seek outside services or modifying the theme yourself makes projects flow along a lot smoother.
#3 What is Your Budget
Everyone comes to WordPress with a different budget. Some companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for design, customer features and integration, but other individuals just need a basic website up and running as soon as possible.
The great thing about WordPress is that it can match the needs of any level of an individual. So whether you are looking for a free WordPress theme or willing to pay a little extra, you’ll find something to match your needs.
Figuring out where your budget falls can make a huge difference to help you decide exactly how much you can spend on a theme.
However, picking a theme just based on what you want to pay isn’t quite enough to help you decide. You need to look at how much time and outside advice, you may need to get when choosing a basic theme.
Some of the great things about premium WordPress themes is that they include customer support, builders, digital assets (icon, images, etc.), frequent updates, security, and thorough documentation. All of these features combined can save dozens if not hundreds of hours in the development process. In my opinion, it is sometimes better to pay $50+ for these conveniences, because otherwise, it could cost tons in extra headaches, tears, time and perhaps professional WordPress help to build up a free theme.
Be careful to choose a theme that offers you a mixture of value, support, and features to ensure you really pick out a theme to match your unique needs. Trust us, if you go with a free theme that causes tons of problems down the road, you’ll be happy you invested in a higher grade product.
#4 Does the Theme/Company Have Good Reviews + A Long History
WordPress is open source CMS so anyone and everyone out there can develop WordPress themes. That is part of the reason you see so many themes out there!
This is great. It provides a wide variety for everyone to choose from, but it also means there is some risk involved when selecting in WordPress theme, plugin, service, developer, etc.
No worries though, there are ways to avoid some of the biggest problems. Some of it is logic you’d apply when purchasing any product service.
First off, you want to choose a theme that is well-established. Finding one showcased by a large company makes a difference in the quality you’ll run into when browsing.
You also want the theme to have tons of downloads indicating many people have downloaded and tested it. When newer themes are released the first people to download it often end up unknowingly serve as beta testers of theme, and this means inevitably running into glitches and errors.
After that, you’ll want to take a look at a few of the reviews. The reviews not only indicate the quality of the theme, but it also shows that a lot of people have implemented and tested the theme. Keep in mind like reviews of anything there are bound to be people with bad experiences, just try to focus on the general trend of reviews. It is also helpful to look at longer thorough reviews to give you an idea of some of the pros and cons of the theme.
If you want to dig even deeper, you can see if the user/theme developer has past themes they’ve developed or even check out their LinkedIn profile to see their work history. It depends on where you buy the theme on, but on Envato Market, you often can check to see if the developer also has released previous themes. This gives you a good gauge of the theme makers level of expertise.
Try to go with your gut always when selecting a theme. You don’t want to end up with a fly-by-night company who sells you a theme, never updates it, and doesn’t provide support! This may end up with you having to select a new theme and rebuild entirely way sooner than you ever planned to do.
#5 Take a Look at the Demo
Every good theme out there has a live/demo version for you to check out. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few themes, it is a good idea to go through and test out as much of the site as possible via these live demos.
There is usually a link to the demo page or live preview on the sales page. This will lead you to another window with a full sample of the site to browse through. Sometimes there is also a backend demo that will show you the user settings as well, and definitely check this out if you are going to be the one developing the website.
Demos are designed to showcase all of the features that the theme has to offer. This means even if you aren’t familiar with the long list of settings the sales page may offer, you can go through and see for yourself what the theme can do.
When going through the theme, here is a list of a few things to do:
- Make a list of questions to ask the sales team about the theme. Most theme sites have sales staff readily available to answer basic questions about functionality, features, etc.
- Test out every feature. This is especially important for features you need in order for your website to work as you wish it to. If something seems glitchy/off, it may be a good idea to consider a different theme or ask about the problem.
- Look at all the page layouts. Check out all of the pages and layouts provided by the theme including the blogs, products pages, landing pages, home pages, services pages, etc. Also, see if they provide different layout options for these pages. Decide if this is the general look and feel you want to go in your design.
- Note anything missing. If there are certain functionality/features missing take note. Explore plugins and third-party services you may need to add in order to get everything you need from the website.
- Visualize your website inside the demo. Picture your content, graphics, and images placed inside the demo. Do you have enough pictures, stock photos, and graphics to fill the needs of the website? If not, are you willing to gather them? If the answer is no, try to find a theme that doesn’t focus too heavily on images, content, or whatever you’re missing. There are plenty of layouts out there that are graphics heavy, content heavy, icon-heavy, etc. to choose from, so try to find a theme that matches those needs.
By following the list, you’ll make the most out of the demo. It can be easy to click through the demo without much thought, but really there is no better opportunity to thoroughly test out a theme than in this step.
Do not rush through when going through the demos when selecting a theme. It will really give you a sense of the theme before you make a purchase. Pro tip: don’t purchase themes that do not allow a live preview, because chances are the theme is not well-established enough to bother with developing.
Take Your Time When Selecting a WordPress Theme
It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by the crazy amount of themes out there. There are so many choices and all of them offer a little something unique.
The most important thing to do is just not to jump on the first theme that pops out as you as visually attractive in design. A lot of themes look amazing – often this is due to the amazing design and photography included to showcase the theme – but they may not offer everything you need to complete your project.
Follow our guide to find a theme that not only looks nice when you are finished, but also offers everything you need to have for functionality and design. Also, most importantly, make sure the theme is well-established and offers updates and support to help avoid running into technical problems.
Hopefully this guide will help you select the perfect theme for your project! Let us know how you select a theme with a comment below.