How to Choose a WordPress Theme

WordPress runs more than 75 million websites worldwide. Although these sites are all built from the core WordPress code, they look and perform very differently, thanks to the seemingly endless array of themes that control the appearance and features of a self-hosted WordPress site. Your site’s theme presents your brand’s message to the world, so it’s important to choose a theme that reflects your site’s goals and tone. More than 20,000 free and premium WordPress themes are available, so choosing the right one for your site can be a challenge. This article will provide a few pointers on how to choose a WordPress theme that fits best for your new website. 

How do WordPress Themes Work?

WordPress websites need three essential elements: the WordPress core code, plugins, and themes. The free and open source WordPress core provides a framework with essential features for creating a basic WordPress website, but customizing that site depends on a user’s choices of themes and plugins to control a site’s appearance and specialized functions. Different combinations of these elements account for the vast variation in WordPress sites, from small personal blogs to the complex sites of large corporations.

WordPress themes are sets of additional code that are installed on the WordPress core. Every WordPress site needs a theme in order to function. The theme dictates essentials, such as the appearance and layout of a WordPress site. It also provides you with a variety of customization options so that you can create your perfect WordPress website. Some themes also come with additional features designed to support specific niches, such as photography or eCommerce.

Themes can be installed directly from your site’s admin dashboard from the WordPress Theme Directory that comes with every WordPress installation. The Directory includes a long list of free themes, as well as premium options, and also allows users to search for themes by name or by specific features, such as color palettes or layouts.

Themes can be purchased or downloaded for free from a global community of WordPress users and developers from around the world. Since WordPress is free and open source software, anyone can design themes and plugins and offer them through online marketplaces, independent design sites, or individual websites.

Themes can be installed directly to your site’s code files with tools on the admin dashboard. To install a theme from the WordPress Theme Directory, simply select the theme you want and click “Install.” Once the theme files have been installed, activate the theme and begin customizing its features. To install a theme purchased or downloaded elsewhere, simply upload the file to the installer on your dashboard and follow the same instructions. 

If you want to change your theme, you can install and activate another one at any time—but that could pose some problems. A new theme may not display your content in the same way, and it may not integrate well with previously installed plugins or other features of the previous theme.

Choosing the Right WordPress Theme

The right WordPress theme for your website depends on factors like the site’s goals, your skill level, and your budget. Make a list of the features your site needs in order to work the way you want. Do you want a mobile responsive theme that looks good on all screens? Does your theme offer plenty of templates and customization options to work with? These are some common questions you should be asking yourself. Decide whether you want to pay for a premium theme. Then start shopping for your ideal theme.

Consider Your Site’s Purpose

Look for a theme option that reflects the essence of your brand and message. Consider colors, layouts, and fonts that reflect your niche and attract your audience. Some themes might be eye-catching, but hard to read—a particular problem with “dark” themes. Others might not convey the right message for your brand. Make sure your theme complements other aspects of your branding and the tone you want to convey.

Pick a Responsive Theme

Responsive themes (once called mobile responsive themes) are optimized for the best presentation on screens of all sizes. And since more people than ever are using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for all kinds of online tasks, a responsive design theme provides a better user experience and encourages users to interact with your site and develop a connection with your brand.

Choose a Theme That Supports Popular Plugins

Whatever theme you select, your site will almost certainly need plugins in order to add all the features you want. Some themes come with certain plugin features already installed. For example, eCommerce themes might include product pages and shopping cart features. Make sure that your theme will be compatible with key WordPress plugins for things like site security, comment management, and eCommerce. Popular, high-quality WordPress plugins are frequently updated, so it’s important that your theme is compatible with the latest version and can accommodate updates as they appear.

Choose a Theme That Fits Your WordPress Skills

WordPress themes are available for users of all skill levels, so it’s important to select a theme that is appropriate for your abilities. If you’re not a designer or developer, look for theme features and tools that allow you to customize and manage your site without editing its code. One of these tools is the page builder. A page builder can help you create unique and attractive pages with drag-and-drop ease. For more control over the look of your site without coding, check potential themes for page builder functionality, or for compatibility with popular page builder plugins like Elementor. 

Consider the Pros and Cons of Free and Premium Themes

There are thousands of free WordPress plugins, available both from the WordPress Theme Directory and numerous outside sources.  If you’re on a budget, a free WordPress theme can provide essential functionality and compatibility with key WordPress plugins without additional cost.  But free themes typically aren’t very customizable, and developers likely won’t offer upgrades or user support. Premium themes typically do include support and updates, as well as other useful features. Prices range from under $25 to more than $100 for a completely unique custom theme.

Keep Your Theme Simple

Many free and premium WordPress themes come with a wide range of flashy options and eye-catching, fancy fonts. Make sure your theme options and templates are clean and simple, so that it’s easy for you to maintain and easy for your visitors to use. Look for plenty of white space on post pages and room for visually striking images that don’t distract from your content. Choose themes with easy to read fonts and customization ability.

Choosing a theme is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your website. The right theme presents your brand and message in the best light. It should be easy for you to use and maintain, and it needs to welcome visitors with intuitive navigation and attractive content. By keeping your site’s goals and your own priorities in mind, you’ll be able to find the theme that’s right for your WordPress site.

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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