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If you’ve decided to build your website on the WordPress platform – congratulations! You will be joining a community of millions of users, supported by thousands of developers who continuously work to improve and develop new features for the platform. 

Because of this continuous support and development, you will have plenty of options when it comes to picking a theme for your website. This is a blessing, but it can also be somewhat of a mini headache since there are so many options.  

How to choose a WordPress theme? What is the right pick for you? There are certain things you need to understand before you can make an informed decision.

In this post, we will cover topics such as understanding your website’s needs for high quality themes, what elements to consider when choosing a theme, evaluating and shortlisting themes, exploring different sources for themes, and conducting in-depth theme analysis.

You will learn all about WordPress themes so you can build a website according to your vision. 

What is a WordPress theme?

A theme is one of the most essential components of a WordPress website. It dictates how your website looks like and how visitors interact with your website content

Your website’s design is the first impression visitors have of your brand, and a well-chosen theme can make a significant impact. It sets the tone, reflects your professionalism, and captures the attention of your target audience.

Simply put, a WordPress theme is a group of files that work together to create the design of your site. These include template files, fonts, stylesheets, images, theme files, and possibly JavaScript files. All those files change how your posts and pages are displayed. Themes can control something as large as your site’s layout, or as small as the colors of your hyperlinks.

Picking the right WordPress theme by understanding your website needs

When it comes to choosing the perfect WordPress theme for your blog, portfolio, or small business website, understanding your specific needs is paramount. 

This involves delving into the purpose and goals of your website, identifying your target audience, and determining the essential features and functionality required.

1: Define the purpose of your website. 

Ask yourself, what do you aim to achieve? Is it to share valuable content, sell products or services, or establish your brand identity? Clearly outlining your website’s purpose will help guide your theme selection process.

2: Identify your target audience and their preferences. 

Who are you trying to reach with your website? Consider factors such as age, gender, location, and interests. Understanding your audience’s preferences will help you choose a theme that resonates with them, ensuring an engaging user experience.

3: Determine the essential features and functionality your website requires. 

Will you need an e-commerce platform, a portfolio showcase, or a booking system? Make a list of the key functionalities you need to support your business objectives. This will narrow down your options and prevent you from choosing a theme that lacks the necessary tools.

By understanding your blog or small business needs, you lay the foundation for selecting a WordPress theme that aligns with your goals, appeals to your target audience, and provides the features and functionality essential for your website’s success.

For instance, a news website will look completely different from an e-Commerce website, simply because their purposes are different. A news website may prioritize a page layout that enhances readability, while an e-Commerce website may have pages with many columns to properly display products.

To know whether a theme fits with your site’s purpose or not, you can add a filter when searching for themes directly on your site’s WordPress or on

Let’s say you’ve selected the e-Commerce filter, these are some of the options you will see. If you select education instead, the options you get will certainly be different.

Factors to consider when choosing a WordPress theme

When selecting a WordPress theme for your blog or small business website, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Let’s dive into each one:

1: Responsive Design and Mobile Friendliness

In today’s mobile-driven world, it’s crucial to choose a theme that is responsive and displays well on different devices. Ensure that the theme is mobile-friendly and offers a seamless browsing experience for your visitors on smartphones and tablets.

Mobile Users Dominate
Did you know that over 90% of the global internet population uses a mobile device to go online? Statistically speaking, that means more than 9 out of 10 people use their mobile devices to browse the internet. Next to that, Google tends to show mobile-friendly websites on top in their mobile search results.

Responsive Themes Take Priority

For somebody looking to build a website, this means that your website’s theme must be optimized for mobile users. Responsive themes (once called mobile responsive themes) can automatically adjust their layout for the best presentation on screens of all sizes.  

Nowadays, most themes on the market are responsive by default due to the emphasis on mobile devices. But you should always check your theme description to be sure your theme is mobile-friendly. 

Testing Responsiveness

You can easily test whether a theme is responsive or not by resizing your browser screen. Your layout and content should adjust themselves to the screen width as you’re resizing. Next to that, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test for a more thorough test. Just copy the URL of a theme’s demo page and paste it into the page. 

2: Customization Options and Flexibility

Every business is unique, and your website theme should reflect that. Look for a theme that provides ample customization options, allowing you to personalize colors, fonts, layouts, and more. Flexibility is key, as it enables you to adapt and modify your website as your business evolves.

3: SEO-Friendly Structure and Code

A theme with clean and optimized code can positively impact your website’s search engine rankings. Look for themes that follow SEO best practices, such as proper HTML structure, optimized meta tags, and support for schema markup.

The theme you choose plays an important role in your website’s SEO performance. You can have an amazing-looking site, but your SEO efforts may suffer if it’s poorly coded in the back. It’s a tough job to analyze your theme’s source code to determine if it’s well-written, especially for beginners who lack the knowledge and experience.

Instead, look for customer reviews to see if there’s any issue with SEO performance. Next to that, premium theme makers often state their paid themes are well-coded and optimized for SEO.

4: Speed and Performance Optimization

Website loading speed is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings. Choose a theme that prioritizes performance optimization, with efficient coding, image optimization, and built-in caching options.

Many free and premium WordPress themes come with a wide range of flashy layouts, animation and eye-catching, fancy fonts. They may look exciting but can end up being off-putting to users. More often than not, simplicity is your best friend when it comes to website design. This is especially true if you’re just starting out with website building and don’t have a ton of experience.

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 with enough customization ability.

A clean and simple theme usually corresponds with a lightweight theme. While themes packed with high-quality images and effects are nice to look at, they are often very heavy. High-quality images often mean large file size, and fancy effects require a lot of code to work, both of which slow down your page performance. 

Simple themes are lighter, allowing your website to load much faster. And fast-loading sites are what Google really likes. If you really want, you can always add more design elements later by using plugins (or custom CSS if you know how that works).

5: Compatibility with Essential Plugins

Plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress website. Ensure that the theme is compatible with essential plugins you may need, such as contact forms, e-commerce platforms, or social media integration.

As we mentioned above, a combination of themes and plugins allows you to customize your site’s appearance and add specialized functions. Whatever theme you select, your site will almost certainly need plugins in order to add all the features you want. Now, you don’t have to use plugins, but they are such powerful and easy-to-use tools that they will make your life a lot easier. 

Some themes come with certain plugin features already installed. For example, e-Commerce themes might include product pages and shopping cart features. But you might find that you want more customization options or more elaborate features. If so, you can look for dedicated e-Commerce plugins such as WooCommerce , which will surely provide more features than a theme ever could.

Next to that, make sure that your theme is compatible with key WordPress plugins for things like site security, comment management, and e-Commerce. 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.

6: Support and Documentation (or be prepared to support it on your own)

A reliable theme should come with adequate support and documentation. Check if the theme developer offers timely assistance and has an active support system. Additionally, comprehensive documentation will make it easier for you to set up and customize your website.

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/theme builder. 

A theme builder lets you replace all or some of your WordPress themes with your custom designs. You will have a lot more customization options compared to the default Gutenberg editor. If a theme has a builder, then you will see it being mentioned in the theme’s description.

Considering these factors will guide you toward selecting a WordPress theme that not only meets your aesthetic preferences but also provides the necessary functionality, performance, and support for your blog or small business website.

Exploring different WordPress theme sources

When searching for the perfect WordPress theme, it’s essential to explore various sources to find the right fit for your blog or small business website. Let’s take a look at different theme sources you can consider:

  • Theme Directory: This is a great starting point, offering a wide range of free themes that have undergone a review process. The directory provides themes that are secure, regularly updated, and compatible with the latest WordPress version. You can search and filter themes based on categories, features, and ratings.
  • Premium Theme Marketplaces: Websites like ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, and StudioPress offer a vast selection of premium themes. These themes often come with advanced features, dedicated support, and more customization options. Premium themes are designed by professional developers and can provide a more polished and feature-rich experience.
  • Theme Developer Websites: Many theme developers have their own websites where they sell and showcase their themes. Visiting the websites of reputable theme developers allows you to explore their specific offerings, view demos, and assess their design and functionality. This is a great option if you have specific requirements or want to support independent developers.
  • Theme Frameworks and Builders: Theme frameworks such as Genesis, Divi, and Beaver Builder provide a solid foundation for building your website. They offer powerful customization options, drag-and-drop builders, and extensive pre-designed templates. These frameworks allow you to create highly customized and unique websites without needing advanced coding skills.

By exploring different theme sources, you’ll have a wider range of options to choose from. Whether you opt for the free themes in the Theme Directory, premium themes from marketplaces, other theme shops, developer websites, or theme frameworks and builders, consider your specific needs and preferences to find the ideal WordPress theme for your blog or small business website.

Evaluating and shortlisting WordPress themes

Now that you have a clear understanding of your blog or small business needs, it’s time to evaluate and shortlist potential WordPress themes. This step is crucial in finding a theme that meets your requirements and delivers an optimal user experience. Here are some key factors to consider:

Assess the theme’s demo and live preview

Take advantage of the theme’s demo or live preview to get a feel for its overall design, layout, and functionality. Pay attention to the visual appeal, ease of navigation, and organization of content. Ensure that the theme’s style aligns with your brand image and resonates with your target audience.

Review user ratings and reviews

User feedback provides valuable insights into the theme’s performance and reliability. Look for themes with positive ratings and favorable reviews, as this indicates user satisfaction. 

Tip 1: Relevant Aspects in Reviews: Consider reading reviews that specifically mention aspects relevant to your needs, such as customization options, customer support, and compatibility with plugins.

Tip 2: Leveraging the WordPress Community: WordPress currently powers more than 75 million websites worldwide, so take advantage of this huge community when choosing a theme for your website. A solid indicator of a theme’s quality is ratings and reviews provided by users themselves.

Tip 3: Quality Indicators: You can check a theme’s rating and reviews on by clicking “more info” in the theme directory. You should choose a theme with high active installation, many 4 or 5-star ratings and good reviews. It’s the same if you get your theme from a third-party marketplace, customer reviews will tell you if a theme is good or not. 

Tip 4: Negative Reviews: There are always some low ratings or bad reviews here and there for any themes, even the best-rated ones. But if the number of bad reviews/ratings is unusually high, then you should really take precautions by reading the reviews or considering other free themes based elsewhere.

Check theme updates and active support

Regular updates are essential for theme security, bug fixes, and compatibility with the latest WordPress version. Ensure that the theme has a history of updates and ongoing support from the developer or theme provider. Active support ensures that you can seek assistance or resolve issues promptly.

Verify cross-browser and multi-device compatibility

With users accessing websites from various devices and using different web browsers, it’s vital to choose a theme that offers seamless compatibility. Test the theme on different browsers and devices to ensure a consistent and user-friendly experience across platforms.

By carefully evaluating different themes, based on their demo, user ratings, update frequency, and compatibility, you can shortlist a few top contenders that meet your requirements. This process helps you make an informed decision and narrows down your options, bringing you one step closer to finding the perfect WordPress theme for your blog or small business.,

Conducting in-depth WP theme analysis

If you want to know how to choose a WordPress theme, you need to conduct an in-depth analysis. Once you have shortlisted a few potential WordPress themes for your blog or small business website, it’s time to conduct a thorough analysis to make an informed decision. Here are some key steps to follow:

Reviewing Theme Documentation and Features List: Start by delving into the theme documentation provided by the developer. This documentation typically includes instructions, guidelines, and details about the theme’s features. 

Understanding the available features and how they align with your requirements is crucial in selecting the right theme.
Examining Demo Content Import and Customization Options: Take a closer look at the theme’s demo content import process. Does it provide pre-designed templates or layouts that suit your needs? 

Additionally, evaluate the customization options available within the theme. Ensure that it offers enough flexibility to make your website unique and tailored to your brand.

Checking Theme Performance with Speed Testing Tools: Website loading speed is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings. Utilize speed testing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to assess the theme’s performance. Look for themes that demonstrate fast loading times and efficient code optimization.

Evaluating Code Quality and Security Measures: It’s important to prioritize the security and stability of your website. Review the quality of the theme’s code by checking for coding standards adherence and best practices. 

Additionally, research the theme developer’s reputation and track record for providing updates and addressing security vulnerabilities promptly.

By conducting an in-depth analysis of the theme’s documentation, features, demo content, customization options, performance, code quality, and security measures, you can confidently select a WordPress theme that not only meets your design preferences but also offers a stable, secure, and high-performing foundation for your blog or small business website.

Consider free vs. premium WordPress themes

There are thousands of free WordPress plugins, available both from the WordPress theme directory and numerous outside sources. 

1. Benefits of Free WordPress Themes

  • Cost-effective Solution: Providing essential functionality and plugin compatibility without added expenses.
  • Quality Assurance: Themes undergo a rigorous approval process for the official theme directory.
  • Beginner-Friendly: Designed with beginners in mind, ensuring simplicity and ease of use.
  • User Testing: Themes are tested to ensure usability for beginners.

2. Limitations of Free Themes

  • Limited Customization: Lack of extensive customization options for design and functionality.
  • Lack of Uniqueness: Commonality due to limited customization and widespread availability.
  • Reduced Functionality: Generally offer fewer additional features compared to premium themes.
  • Lack of Support and Upgrades: Developers may not provide upgrades or extensive user support.

All the limitations mentioned above can somewhat be resolved by purchasing premium themes. 

Benefits of Premium Themes

  • Get tons and tons of customization options and added functionality. 
  • Premium themes typically do include regular updates, as well as other useful features. 
  • Developers are more willing to provide personal support tailored to the problem you encounter. 
  • The support cycle for a premium theme tends to run for 1-2 years. 

Prices typically range from under $25 to more than $100 for a completely unique custom theme, with the average price being $57.74. Websites such as Mojo Marketplace offer a good selection of premium themes for you to choose from.

To summarize 

For most beginners who are looking to build a website, we recommend sticking with the free themes first. They’re simple to use so you can take the first few steps into the world of website building. 

At the same time, it’s not as simple as eating candy. You still need to spend a lot of time exploring the various tools and options within the free theme. 

Once you’ve got enough experience and know what you’re doing, know what features you absolutely want for your site, then it might be a good time to think of buying a premium theme.

Related: In-depth evaluation of free vs. paid WordPress themes.

Finalizing your WordPress theme selection

As you near the end of your WordPress theme selection process, it’s important to finalize your decision by considering a few key factors. Let’s explore these steps:

  • Making a Shortlist of Top Contenders: From your initial evaluation and in-depth analysis, create a shortlist of the top themes that best meet your requirements. Narrowing down your choices allows for a more focused decision-making process.
  • Considering Your Budget and Pricing Options: Take into account your budgetary constraints and consider the pricing options of the shortlisted themes. While premium themes often offer additional features and support, free themes from reputable sources can also be a great choice for those on a tight budget.
  • Seeking Recommendations and Expert Opinions: Don’t hesitate to seek recommendations and opinions from other WordPress users or experts in the field. Reach out to colleagues, join online communities, or consult with web developers to gather insights and feedback on the themes you are considering. Their experiences and perspectives can provide valuable guidance in making your final decision.
  • Making an Informed Decision Based on Your Research: Armed with your shortlist, budget considerations, and expert opinions, make an informed decision. Revisit your initial goals and requirements for your blog or small business website. 

Choose the theme that aligns most closely with your vision, offers the necessary features, fits your budget, and has positive feedback from users and experts.

By following these steps and considering various factors, you can confidently finalize your WordPress theme selection. 

Remember, choosing the right theme is a critical step toward creating an engaging, functional, and visually appealing website that represents your blog or small business effectively.

Consider these WordPress themes

Below are some of our picks for amazing free WordPress themes. They do have paid versions, but their free counterparts offer more than enough for you to work with. If you’re looking for a WooCommerce WordPress theme, check out our related post.


Astra is one of the most installed, top-rated free themes in the WordPress theme directory. You can’t go wrong with choosing such a highly-rated free theme options here. It is also multipurpose, so you can build your website with this theme regardless of your website’s purpose. Next to that, it has excellent third-party support due to it being so popular.


OceanWP is another top-rated WordPress theme with a high number of installs. It is also a multipurpose, lightweight and highly extendable theme. The difference between OceanWP and Astra is that OceanWP has a deep and tight WooCommerce integration, even on its free version. This makes OceanWP a great option for e-Commerce website, especially those with WooCommerce.


Chique is a free theme with a focus on fashion, particularly fashion blogs and fashion businesses. Visual attractiveness is definitely one of the strong points of this new theme. It is light, responsive, and provides numerous layouts and customization options geared toward the fashion industry.

Quick guide on installing your WordPress theme

Installing a WordPress theme is a relatively straightforward process, regardless of whether you purchased it from the WordPress Plugin Store, a paid marketplace, or a theme website. Here’s a general guide on how to install a WordPress theme:

  1. Access your WordPress Dashboard: Log in to your WordPress website and navigate to the admin dashboard.
  2. Go to the “Appearance” Section: In the sidebar menu, locate and click on the “Appearance” tab. This will open a submenu with various options.
  3. Choose “Themes”: From the submenu, select the “Themes” option. This will take you to the themes management page.
  4. Click on “Add New”: On the themes page, you will see an “Add New” button. Click on it to proceed.
  5. Upload or Search for the Theme: Depending on where you obtained the theme, you have different options:
  • WordPress Plugin Store: Use the search bar to find the theme by name or browse the available options. Once you find the desired theme, click on “Install” and then “Activate.”
  • Paid Marketplace or Theme Website: If you have a theme file (.zip) downloaded from a paid marketplace or theme website, click on the “Upload Theme” button, select the file from your computer, and click on “Install Now.” After installation, click on “Activate” to activate the theme.
  1. Customize the Theme (Optional): Once the theme is activated, you can customize its settings, appearance, and layout by accessing the “Customize” option under the “Appearance” tab.

Remember to always refer to the specific instructions provided by the theme developer for any additional installation or setup requirements. Installing a WordPress theme is a user-friendly process, allowing you to quickly transform the look and feel of your website to match your desired design and functionality.

Common questions about choosing a WordPress theme

Why is choosing the right WordPress theme important when creating a new website?

Selecting the right theme is crucial for user experience, website speed, and SEO. A poorly chosen theme can hinder site performance and affect your search engine rankings negatively.

Should I opt for a free or premium WordPress theme?

Free themes are budget-friendly but may lack features and support. Premium themes offer more functionalities and come with professional support. Consider your needs and budget when making a choice.

How important is SEO in a WordPress theme?

Search Engine Optimization is crucial for visibility on search engines. Choose a theme coded with SEO best practices in mind to help your website rank higher in search results

What are WordPress child themes?

A child theme is a sub-theme that inherits all features from a parent theme. It allows you to make changes without affecting the original theme, making it easier to update.

How often should I update my WordPress theme?

Regular updates are essential for security and performance. Always use the latest version of your theme to ensure compatibility with the newest WordPress updates.

Final thoughts on choosing a WordPress theme

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. 

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can navigate the theme selection process with confidence. Understand your website needs, evaluate themes thoroughly, explore different sources, and make an informed decision based on research and expert opinions.

Remember, a well-chosen theme has a significant impact on your website’s visual appeal, functionality, and overall success. It enhances user engagement, boosts credibility, and contributes to a positive online reputation. So take the time to choose wisely, and let your carefully selected WordPress theme be the foundation for your blog or small business’s growth and achievement.

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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