Today I will cover how to choose WordPress theme
I mean a suitable theme that keeps you satisfied till your year five of blogging
In previous posts, I covered the following topics
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- How to Install WordPress for Beginners?
- Steps to Follow After Installing WordPress
- Top Mistakes All WordPress Beginners Make
- How to Create Fancy Posts in WordPress?
Right now, all these steps fall under preparing your WordPress website like doing the setup e.g. installing WordPress followed by plugins, then completing the configuration process like changing your auto-generated administrator’s password..etc.For me, life and death are very important themes. There is no life without death. That's why it's very important to me. (Tite Kubo) Click To Tweet
Now it is time to start covering how to choose WordPress theme for your website
By selecting your WordPress theme which will determine how your entire WordPress website show up to visitors.
Remember I will not get biased on one choice over the others
But I will cover all options below to help you take your decision
Now it is time to cover all the above topics in details, so let me begin with
Common WordPress theme terms
Before I start I would like to establish the foundation of common WordPress terms when it comes to themes
If you don’t understand WordPress themes, no problem better to start defining that early before getting into details
WordPress theme is simply the skin that dictates how your website will look like
In other words, how your website will be laid out like having side bar or not and so on
Parent and child themes
All WordPress themes are parent themes by default
What does that mean? if there is an update, it will impact parent themes or files
Recently, Theme companies started creating what is called parent child themes
Child theme will extend or change the design of the parent theme
The reason for child theme is to add your own customization and it will not be reverted when your WordPress theme – typically Parent theme gets updated
A theme framework is another design of themes where you get the framework as separate theme where you have to download it
Then your theme will be installed as the active one
It looks like you have 2 themes but in fact it facilitates theme development where core updates go to the theme framework
It helps to keep your theme stable like Genesis framework inside StudioPress
Don’t be confused with WordPress plugins
Plugins are totally separate thing from themes
You install plugins to do actions in your WordPress website like sending emails from contact form
Some times features from plugins overlap with themes like slider on homepage
You can download a separate slider and some themes come with their own sliders
Some themes come with their own plugins
These plugins act as your page builders which are easy to use with a drag and drop features to help you build your web pages
I am not sure about that but I feel Page builders slow your website
I would rather go with Elementor plugins to build rich and easy drag and drop pages
Which theme to select free or premium?
Free themes are good if you really don’t need any kind of support
In case you face any issue there is no technical resource(s) to help you unless you ask for help from WordPress developers forums.
Also, free themes don’t get any updates to fix security vulnerabilities or to match WordPress version updates
Usually all premium themes get their updates regularly.
Sometimes free themes don’t work with all plugins
This means if we have the same WordPress version with the same free theme, it can work for few WordPress websites but not for all of them due to the installed plugins.
Even if it works today with the current WordPress version and all plugins are seamlessly working excellent
One day it may not work due to new version of WordPress update not working with your free theme.
Keep in mind when you choose WordPress theme that free WordPress themes don’t come loaded with all features.
Having said the above, if you decide to go for free themes
I would highly recommend to get WordPress.org Free Themes as I believe this is the safest route to consider.
I don’t recommend to download and install any themes from third-party vendors unless it is a well-known provider.
To recap, free WordPress themes lack the following
- No support, you are completely by yourself.
- They have no obligation, if it does not support any plugin(s), don’t blame the source where you downloaded from.
- No stability, it works today but may not work tomorrow due to WordPress version update.
- Limited features and/or functionalities.
Now my advice to you, if you plan to use a free WordPress theme, you should consider doing the following
- Find as many relevant free WordPress theme as you can so you can switch to other free WordPress themes if your current theme stops working for any reason.
- Consider to download your free themes from WordPress.org and always look for theme ratings from previous users.
- Test your free WordPress theme on all major browsers like Opera, Internet Explorer, FireFox (yes some people love it), Safari and Chrome
- Test functionality and plugins, I suggest to make a list of test cases in Notepad or excel file to go through all of them, you can write in the list something like
- Posts commenting (if you allow commenting on your posts)
- Search functionality
- Check the functionality of all widgets and plugins (newsletter sign-up, social media buttons to make sure they are still sharing..etc)
- Contact page and if it has a contact form test it too.
- 404 page not found and many more..
- It is highly recommended to put your website in maintenance mode, you can install the maintenance mode plugin to let you do this
- Testing of your new free theme can take sometime so it is better to inform your users
Tips before choosing premium WordPress themes
On the other side, before buying Premium theme always ask yourself the following:
- Is this design what I am really looking for? e.g. does this theme come with specific business pages like support of some contact forms plugins when you create your contact page, compatibility with the well-known plugins or at least the most essential plugins, if you are in doubt, ask support before you buy any theme.
- Does it have premium support? if it does then check the users’ reviews about their support (Google the name of the company creating the themes + support reviews) e.g. to look for the quality of support offered by StudioPress (as known as Genesis) type this on Google = StudioPress themes support reviews (or replace StudioPress with the word Genesis)
- Is this premium theme a responsive one? responsive means your Premium theme will work on mobile or tablet devices and you should expect to see different layouts on cell phones.
- Is this premium theme easy to use (does it come with documentation) and easy to customize?
- Does this premium theme support child theme? first child themes are a special kind of themes to be installed on parent themes (child themes don’t work by itself, you should install a parent theme first), it helps to protect you from losing your changes which happens by installing any parent themes updates, we mainly use child themes to make customization to your theme much easier, if anything goes wrong deactivate the child theme and activate back again the parent theme (StudioPress uses child themes a lot)
Go for a premium theme if you can
Beside all the mentioned above themes
There is a new plugin called Elementor that can work on any theme to enable fully create and customize your posts and pages using a post/page builder
I recommend you really try it and you will never regret it, I am using it here also in my WordPress blog site
How to Choose a WordPress Theme in 2021
If you are struggling on how to choose WordPress theme because of the hundreds of options to choose from
I can help you eliminate your options to filter few WordPress themes to choose from but I cannot help with your taste or design
Anyway you can filter these WordPress themes to only the following features
1- Light weight WordPress theme
Your theme will dictate a great part in your foundation
With the right light weighted theme, you are going to have a great site performance and fast speed load
Now question is, how would you know if this theme is light weight or not
Actually few WordPress themes are designed as light weight and flexible to design it to fit your niche
You can never go wrong with any of the above
2- Look for something with lot of customization or flexibility
What I mean by flexibility in your customization is the following
Well, every WordPress theme has a customize section where you are limited to add or remove the slider on the home page or increase or decrease your theme font..etc
That’s not a lot of customization
Theme like GeneratePress comes with tons of customization you can think of
Believe it or not, with GeneratePress you can create hundreds of WordPress layout that completely different from each other
That’s why GeneratePress don’t have themes for different niches
They only sell one theme and you take it from there
3- Don’t mix what themes and plugins can do for you
What I meant here is not to mix between what plugins and themes can do for you
Meaning, I see users not buying a specific theme because it is missing a slider or does not come with contact us form
These are plugins you can buy later and install
4- Responsive design
A responsive design is what you need to load your website properly on mobile
Unfortunately some themes don’t support responsive design which means if you load it on your mobile you will pinch in and out to move around
80% of users nowadays are on mobile browsing internet so if you don’t catch the wave you’re losing a lot
5- Support policy
I’ve seen the default support is 6 months but then you have to buy more time
Most probably add another 6 months
If you can find a theme that is lifetime support, why not?
You don’t want to keep paying for support
Remember you would need support as themes and plugins release new updates with every almost every WordPress code update which happens once every 4 months
6- Theme reviews
Let’s say you have done your homework and checked all of the above
What about checking customers’ reviews to see what they say about this particular theme
This is more important than all of the above, I meant don’t ignore the above points
But about what others rate this theme
7- Check last updated date
As I mentioned earlier, WordPress itself releases a new version every 4 months
You want your theme how good it is to stay up to date with every release
If you check when was the last time this theme was updated you should expect an update within the last 6 months
If not, you have to be suspicious about that
What are the top 10 things to consider when choosing a premium WordPress theme?
I don’t want to repeat myself in how to choose WordPress theme
I will only cover in details all the items which are not mentioned above
- Framework or Standalone WordPress themes, Framework is the parent theme, you can use it by itself or you can install a child theme if you want to do your customization (StudioPress will always list all child themes that work with your Framework or as known as parent theme) while Standalone is a single or regular theme by itself
- Responsive theme as it looks like it is a must now.
- Compatibility with all the essential plugins
- Compatibility with all browsers
- SEO Friendly, to make it simple, some themes contain poor coded HTML so it is better to check this with a tool called W3C Markup Validation
- Easy to use and customize (user-friendly)
- Check if your Premium theme gets updated frequently, if it is recently updated, this means that it is up to date with relevant WordPress updates, some premium themes were last updated more than 2 years ago (keep in mind to always ask the support if they tested your desired theme against the latest WordPress and may be their themes don’t require to be updated)
- Check the premium themes ratings and reviews
- Compatibility with eCommerce features like the famous WooCommerce plugin (Optional based on your requirements)
- Multilingual capability (Optional based on your requirements) if you design your WordPress for non-English website, make sure your premium theme supports multilingual functionality where you can use special plugins to do so like Loco translate plugin
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