Spoilt for Choice: 8 Tips On Finding the Right WordPress Theme

Jörg Fiedler Last updated on 21.10.2020
7 Min.
wordpress Themeselection tips
Last updated on 21.10.2020

Finding a suitable WordPress theme is not that easy. As you may know, there are a lot of free and paid WordPress themes available for you to choose from today. In order to keep things clear and to avoid any unpleasant surprises afterwards, you will find some helpful tips & tricks in this article.

Spoilt for choice: Alone in the theme directory of wordpress.org several thousand free themes ones are available for you to choose from. A first selection criterion is the filtering. Under "Popular", your WordPress themes "Twenty Nineteen" and "Twenty Seventeen" come first. Both themes offer a very good start, if you want to start with a simple blog, for example. To help you find the right WordPress theme for your own website or for a customer project - I would like to give you a few tips below.

WordPress.org theme directory
At official WordPress theme directory you can choose your favorite design from thousands of free themes.

Tip 1: Define the goals of your future website

It will help you in choosing the right WordPress theme enormously if you think about the goal and purpose of your website from the beginning. Do you want to start a blog with news and information or is your goal a more complex corporate website?

If you can already define the goal of your website, concentrate your selection on appropriate topics or industries.

Here is a small list of possible industries and applications:

  • Blog or news magazine
  • Company website / Association website
  • Artist portfolio, photographer, agency, designer
  • Website directory (WiKi)
  • Forums Website
  • online shop
  • Seminars
  • Bookings or reservations
  • Product presentation or landing page
  • Recipes blog
  • Travel blog or portal
  • Restaurants
  • Real estate agent
  • Doctors
  • Niche websites

Tip 2: Requirements. What should this theme be able to achieve?

Because there are so many possible applications in WordPress, limit the performance requirements to your future WordPress themes as precisely as possible. For example, if you want to start an online shop, make sure that the theme for WooCommerce is laid out.

I have also compiled a list of the requirements for a WordPress theme, to help you:

  • Slider: Should a slider be used and already be theme integrated in it?
  • Blog or magazine: What is the blog functionality (meta tags) and in which design?
  • Multilingualism: If one site is required in several languages, the Theme Plugin WPML?
  • Sidebar: How many sidebars are needed?
  • Ads: Should banners or ads be site placed on the, which widgets or shortcodes does it offer theme for this?
  • Forms: Should special forms or filters be used?
  • Mobile: Is it optimized theme for mobile views, keyword responsive design?
  • Navigation: Is an advanced navigation (mega menu) with many navigation points needed?
  • Formats: Are special post formats required e.g. recipes, portfolio, reservation?
  • Online shop: Is that theme designed forWooCommerce ?
  • Customizer

Tip 3: Do not let demosites dazzle

All developers of WordPress themes are of course extremely careful to present their product in the best light. So you should not let a thoroughly optimized demosite influence your decision too much. Because demo themes are perfectly tuned: pictures, colors and Typography usually result in a perfect interplay. Also the loading time is already optimized and can look completely different with your later setup.

So remember that you will use your own pictures later. On demo sites, high-quality stock images are often used for a fee in order to convey a coherent overall impression. Theme developers are not allowed to theme deliver licensed image material with the stock image (topic image licenses).

Tip 4: Test mobile view!

Also test the mobile view of the WordPress themes. This can be done, for example, via the developer tools of your browser. I'll show you how this works using Chrome and the RAIDBOXES website as examples:

Step one:

Go to "View"→ "Developer" → "Developer Tools

Alternatively, you can access the developer console by pressing Cmd + Option + I (Mac) or Ctrl + Shift + I (Windows).

mobile test chrome

Step two:

Move the developer tools a little bit down to make the web page visible and then click on the mobile icon on the left. The default setting is "responsive". This allows you to move the view as you wish and check directly how it changes.

mobile test chrome

Step three:

By clicking on "Responsive" you will see options for different devices and can test the corresponding view.

mobile test chrome

With the developer console of your browser you can also see how many scripts (in the head area) this WordPress theme loads. Many script files reduce the performance of the website.

If it works, test your chosen WordPress theme even once via your mobile phone. This will give you a direct impression of the loading time and the responsive view of the themes.

Tip 5: YouTube is your friend

On YouTube you will most likely find a review or comparison to one or more WordPress themes. Often in English, but to take a look behind the scenes of themes, his is usually a good option.

Here are a few examples of theme comparisons and reviews on YouTube:

Video from WP Crafter:

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Video from ThemeIsle:

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Video from Ferdy Korpershoek:

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Tip 6: Read reviews, ask questions, 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.

Also pay attention to the "last updated" display for free themes on WordPress.org. If an update by the theme developers is more than half a year in the past, better leave it alone.

You can find much more information at portals as ThemeForest for paid Themes. Here you can often ask so-called "presale questions", i.e. questions before the purchase. The ratings of paid themes portals also ThemeForest give you information about how the theme developer reacts to problems and requests. If the questions are not answered promptly, this indicates that the support is moderate.

Good theme developers also have extra support forums at their themes. Here you can also find valuable information about common problems. If the questions are answered promptly here as well, this shows that the developers have a real interest in the users.

changelog WordPress theme

For example, also try to find a so-called "change log" for a WordPress theme via Google. Here you can view the update history of themes .

Checklist for ratings, questions, forums and tutorials:

  • Study ratings - Google search for experiences (check up-to-dateness)
  • 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 frequent problems arise?
  • Can you submit support tickets to theme developers?

Tip 7: Free themes or Pro themes?

Whether you can count on a free theme or a fee-based Pro theme you should consider your goals for the website. Also your acquired WordPress skills are important considering this because pro themes offer mostly a lot of adjustment possibilities.

Chargeable WordPress themes

For example, if you are creating a business website for yourself or a client, consider a Pro theme. Chargeable themes offer you more design options, support guarantee, help and community forums and mostly own tutorials. If you want to create an online shop with WordPress, pro themes such as "Flatsome" already provides some additional functions for WooCommerce.

Pro themes often offer many presets for the entire design of the website, including custom pagebuilders. You should already have some experience with WordPress this 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 ones such as the "Astra theme" or that "OceanWP theme", which already in the free version offer many great possibilities for designing your website as well as support forums and tutorials. If the functions should not be sufficient, there is also a Pro version to buy.

Tip 8: Create a playground for testing

From my own experience I can say that you should definitely create a test environment for WordPress before your website goes live. Switching one theme to another is easy, but it can also leave a big mess - e.g. if your theme creates its own pagebuilder content with shortcodes. This especially is annoying if your site is already online.

For WordPress there are several possibilities to install a test environment e.g. locally on your computer. Programs such as WampServer , Laragon create a local web server environment on your computer with which you can install unlimited WordPress sites. In the past I have also written my own article to the program Laragon.

Also RAIDBOXES gives you the opportunity to create your own staging to test adjustments to your website. If the changes (e.g. new plugin or theme) don't cause any problems in staging, you can put them live with one click and even set up a synchronization of the test environment to the live environment.

Final thoughts

Finding the right WordPress theme is not necessarily easy, but solvable. Essentially, your decision depends on your objectives and requirements. The more precisely you define the purpose of the future website, the better you can choose a suitable WordPress theme.

Always look at theme demos in a sceptical way - because your own content will shape the design of your website. If you have also researched reviews, discussion board posts, videos, and posts about your favorite theme, nothing stands 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 pay the most attention to when choosing your themes ? Are you still missing an aspect in the list? Feel free to leave your input and questions in the comments!

Starting out as a trained layout & final artwork artist in the late 80s, Jörg Fiedler initially worked in various agencies, publishing houses and production offices as a classic media designer. In 2009 he went into business for himself and since then has been working as a freelance web & media designer in Hamburg. In 2012, he specialized in CMS WordPress and since then he has been creating websites & online shops for small & medium-sized companies all over Germany.

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