Finding a suitable WordPress theme is not that easy these days. As you may have already seen, there are many free and paid WordPress themes to choose from. In order to keep an overview and avoid unpleasant surprises when choosing a WordPress theme theme, you will find some helpful tips and tricks in this article.
Spoilt for choice. In the themedirectory of wordpress.org alone, you can choose from several thousand free themes. The filtering offers you a first selection criterion. Under "Popular", the WordPress themes "Twenty Nineteen" and "Twenty Seventeen" are in first place. Both themes offer an excellent start, for example, if you want to start with a simple blog. To help you find the right WordPress themefor your own WordPress website or for a client project, I would like to give you a few tips below.
Define the goals of your website
It will help you enormously in choosing the right WordPress theme if you think about the goal and purpose of your WordPress website from the beginning. Do you want to start a blog with news and information or is your goal a more complex company website?
If you can already determine the goal of your WordPress website, focus your selection on corresponding themes or industries.
Here is a small list of possible industries and applications:
- Blog or magazine
- Company website / Association website
- Artist portfolio, photographer, agency, designer
- Website directory (WiKi)
- Forums website
- online shop
- Bookings or reservations
- Product presentation or landing page
- Recipe blog
- Travel blog or portal
- Real estate agent
- Niche websites
What should the theme be able to do?
Since WordPress offers so many possible uses, limit the performance requirements for your future WordPress theme as precisely as possible. For example, if you want to start an online shop, make sure that the themeis designed for WooCommerce.
I have also compiled a list to help you with the requirements for a WordPress theme:
- Slider: Should a slider be used and already integrated in Theme ?
- Blog or magazine: What is the blog functionality (meta tags) and in which design?
- Multilingualism: If a site is needed in several languages, does the theme support e.g. the plugin WPML?
- Sidebar: How many sidebars are needed?
- Ads: If banners or ads are to be placed on site , which widgets or shortcodes does Theme offer for this purpose?
- Forms: Should special forms or filtering be used?
- Mobile: Is the theme optimised for mobile views, keyword Responsive Design?
- Navigation: Is an extended navigation (mega menu) with many navigation points needed?
- Formats: Are special post formats needed e.g. recipes, portfolio, reservation?
- Online Shop: Is the Theme designed for WooCommerce ?
- Customizer & Options: How can the WordPress theme be styled?
Don't be dazzled by demo websites
Of course, all WordPress theme developers are scrupulous about presenting their product in the best possible light. So you shouldn't let an optimised demo website influence your decision too much. Because demo themes are perfectly coordinated: Images, colours and typography usually work together perfectly. The loading time is also already optimised and can look completely different with your later setup.
So remember that you will be using your own images later. Demo websites often use high-quality stock images for which a fee is charged in order to convey a coherent overall impression. Of course, theme developers are not allowed to deliver licence-protected images with theme (topic: image licences).
Test mobile view
Also test the mobile view of the WordPress theme. You can do this, for example, via the developer tools of your browser. I'll show you how this works using Chrome and the Raidboxes website as examples:
Go to "View"→ "Developer" → "Developer Tools
Alternatively, you can open the developer console with the key combination Cmd + Option + I (Mac) or Ctrl + Shift + I (Windows).
Move the developer tools down a little so that the website is visible and then click on the mobile icon on the left. The default setting is "Responsive". This allows you to move the view to your liking and check directly how it changes.
With a click on "Responsive" you get options for different devices and can test the appropriate view.
With the developer console of your browser you can also see how many scripts (in the head area) the WordPress theme is loading. Many script files reduce the performance of the WordPress website.
If possible, test your chosen WordPress theme on your mobile phone. This will give you a direct impression of the loading time and the responsive view of the theme.
YouTube is your friend
On YouTube, you are likely to find a review or comparison of one or more WordPress themes. Often in English, but to take a look behind the scenes of a theme, this is usually a promising option.
Here are a few examples from theme comparisons and reviews on YouTube:
Video from WP Crafter:
Video from ThemeIsle:
Video by Ferdy Korpershoek:
Read Reviews & Search Forums
Ratings or reviews give you further insight into how the selected theme performs with other users. But the ratings of the free themes on WordPress.org are usually not very meaningful.
Even with free themes, look at wordpress.org for the "Last updated" display. If an update by the themedevelopers is more than half a year old, it is better to leave it alone.
You can find much more information on portals like Themeforest for paid themes. Here you can often ask so-called "presale questions", i.e. questions before the purchase. The reviews of paid themes on Themeforest also give you information about how the theme developer reacts to problems and enquiries. If the questions are not answered promptly, this indicates that the support is mediocre.
Good theme developers also run extra support forums for their themes. Here, too, you will find valuable information on common problems. If questions are answered promptly here, too, it shows that the developers are genuinely interested in the users.
For example, try to find a so-called "change log" for a WordPress theme via Google. Here you can see the update history of a theme.
Checklist on reviews, questions, forums and tutorials:
- Study reviews - Google search for experience (note timeliness)
- Ask questions to the developer (Presell Questions)
- Find YouTube Videos with Reviews & Tutorials
- How up-to-date is this theme, is there a changlog?
- Is there a support forum? If so, where do common problems occur?
- Can you submit support tickets to the theme developers?
Free Themes or Pro Themes?
When deciding whether to go for a free theme or a paid Pro theme , you should keep your goals for the WordPress website in mind. The knowledge you have already acquired with WordPress also plays an important role here, because Pro Themes usually offer a lot of setting options.
Paid WordPress Themes
For example, if you are creating a business WordPress website for yourself or a client, consider a Pro theme. Paid themes offer you more design options, support guarantee, help and community forums and usually their own tutorials. If you want to create an online shop with WordPress, Pro Themes such as "Flatsome" already offer some additional features for WooCommerce.
Pro themes often offer many presets for the entire design of the WordPress website, including custom page builders. For this, you should already have a little experience with WordPress and plan a training period. Many Pro Themes also offer complete demo content that you can import with one click.
Free WordPress Themes
Nevertheless, there are now free themes such as "Astra theme"or "OceanWP theme", which even in the free version offer many great options for designing your WordPress website as well as support forums and tutorials. If the functions are not enough, you can also buy a Pro version.
Create a playground for testing
From my own experience, I can say that you should definitely create a test environment for WordPress before you go live with your WordPress website. Changing a theme is easy, but it can also leave a big mess if, for example, theme 's own page builder creates content with shortcodes. This is especially annoying if your site is already online.
For WordPress, there are several ways to install a test environment, e.g. locally on your computer. Programmes such as WampServer or Laragon create a local web server environment on your computer with which you can install unlimited WordPress instances. I have written a separate article on the Laragon programme in the past.
Also Raidboxes allows you to create your own staging environment to test adjustments to your WordPress website in peace. If the changes (e.g. new plugin or theme) do not cause any problems in the staging, you can make them live with one click and even set up a synchronisation from the test environment to the live environment.
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My conclusion on the WordPress theme choice
Finding the right WordPress theme is not necessarily easy, but it can be done. Essentially, your decision to choose WordPress theme depends on your objectives and requirements. The more precisely you define the purpose of the future WordPress website, the better you can narrow down a suitable WordPress theme .
Always view theme demos with a certain amount of scepticism, because your own content will shape the design of your WordPress website. If you have also researched reviews, forum entries, videos and postsfor your favourite theme, there is nothing standing in the way of your final decision. All this is certainly a bit time-consuming, but the effort will be worth it in the end.
What do you look for most when choosing WordPress theme ? Is there anything missing from the list? Feel free to leave your input and questions in the comments!