It can easily be a time consuming and difficult job to find the best WordPress theme for a blog, site, web shop etc. There are tons of cool themes available for WordPress both free and premium. This is one of the main reasons for its dominating market share and new awesome themes are released all the time! The huge availability of both free and premium themes for WordPress may however make it a challenge to find the best theme for the site you are building.
A good place to start is to decide if you are willing to pay for the theme. In many cases this pays off long term when you need support. E.g. when WordPress needs to be upgraded. Most WordPress sites and blogs start op with a free or premium theme that have been altered a bit to make it distinctive. This can be by changing colors, header graphics etc. There are many websites dedicated to help you find the WordPress theme that is best for you. This is a good place to start.
The tips below was created as a checklist to ensure your theme selection process is as successful as possible.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you). I recommend that you do your own independent research before purchasing any product or service. This article is not a guideline, a recommendation or endorsement of specific products.
1. Is the website you are building going to be commercial? If so it is my advice that you look for a premium theme. First of all to get a supported set up and a professionally designed and coded website. A free WordPress theme is OK in case you are just going to play with a personal blog or try out WordPress for a simple website. If you make the wrong decision now you can always fix it later. WordPress will help you here but some work will be needed. WordPress has many different “talents” and is used for many different monetization purposes incl. job portals, e-commerce sites, membership sites etc.
2. How important is the design for your site to grow and become an online winner? Most personal websites or blogs build using WordPress start up using free themes. You should consider the same if your website will be used for personal purposes only. Websites or blogs build for a business are different and really need to be unique. This is not different from investing in design of company collaterals. It is all about online presence and positive brand building. In web design “less is more” and I personally prefer to use simple WordPress themes for most purposes. In some situations special requirements require themes with non-classical features e.g. WordPress e-commerce themes.
3. Does lots of blogs or sites use the same wordpress theme? It is worth noting that several of the more popular free themes are used by thousands of sites (check # of downloads if available). In case you use one of these it is not as simple as you may think to make a site that has it’s own unique design. However the model can show to have advantages. Popular themes are popular for a reason and in particular people go for a strong community, good support, regular updates and flexibility. Premium and custom themes will be more likely to be your own but there are no guarantees! The Thesis theme has more than 37000 purchases and it is still very popular. It is not a problem because the theme is more like a framework and it is not a specific design you are stuck with. Using a good theme as foundation for building a unique and custom design is the most common and best practice approach.
4. Is the theme search engine-friendly? When choosing among free themes you have no guarantees! It can be tough for people that are not both professional marketers and web developers to check out how well the theme has been designed for search engines. If so, it is recommended to select one of the popular and widely used free SEO-ready themes or a premium theme from one of the leading theme vendors. Filling up GAPs with SEO plugins is also possible and typically works quite well. Some advice and WordPress SEO guidelines is worth familiarizing yourself with.
5. Is the theme easy to manage and change? A good “Options page” is valuable for most of us and I would say even critical if you do not know PHP, HTML and CSS very well. Look for a good “Options page” to avoid the need for doing a lot of complex coding to do even simple stuff! It is also good to look for themes with page templates, multiple color schemes, tons of shortcodes etc. This will certainly improve your ability to create an outstanding site! Some premium theme vendors have created theme management tools that really stand out.
6. Will the theme work well with your logo and be suitable for your niche? From experience I know that when adding a logo to a free theme it may not always look good. Keep this in mind and choose the theme to match the logo you have – making sure that style, colors etc. fit together.
7. Is the theme widget-ready? With widgets added to the right locations in your theme it is very simple to add and manage non-post and non-page content like text in sidebar, footers etc. I recommend you look for themes with many widget zones as you will need the flexibility sooner or later. Using WordPress widget plugins to add more functionality is also possible and works well.
8. When was the last version released and will you be able to get support if needed? Support is critical if you are not a technical genius yourself. Any upgrade of WordPress may require updates in the theme and trust me – keeping WordPress updated is so important for security reasons. Further if you want to do something smart and can’t figure it out support can be very useful. If you can afford it buying a premium theme typically entitles you to get good support. Some free theme designers will provide limited support and others (vast majority) will provide none. Carefully consider if saving a bit now is worth the trouble it may give you later. However if you know WordPress theme development, PHP, HTML, CSS etc. yourself you may not worry about it too much
9. If you have monetization plans for the site will the theme make it easy to implement? You should carefully consider monetization capabilities in the WordPress theme if you have an income goal. Adding AdSense ads, text link ads or selling banners is quite normal and an easy way to earn some money but unless you can edit the theme code you need a theme with preplaced ad spots and a solution to edit it. It is also good if the theme have reserved space for ads as changing the design to squeeze in the ads may not be simple.
10. Is the theme code good quality and does it validate? Having a website that validate is highly recommended, but most people don’t know about this. Valid code e.g that follow the HTML specification, will give you the best chance of giving your visitors a problem-free visit. A great-looking, valid theme may also rank better in search engines as their indexing of the content is not disturbed by the code errors. There many free tools available for testing and validating a website.
Recently Google updated their ranking logic and now it actually take a lot more factors into consideration and adding some keywords is far from enough any more.
11. Has the theme been created with good intentions? Does the theme contain hidden links, bad code (backdors, file uploaders etc.)? You might be surprised how many free themes include some form of hidden links to build backlinks to sneaky marketers sites. If you are not sure how to look for hidden link then consider using one of the more popular free themes or even premium theme.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in a comment and I will consider adding it!
A few of my favourite and best WordPress themes for sites
First of all I would like to say that our WordPress category is loaded with theme reviews and collections for various purposes.
Webly Premium WordPress CMS Theme comes with different color variations where also the hand-drawn illustration change e.g. blue, black, green and purple. The hand-drawn landscape on the homepage is a fun way to catch the interest of your visitors, but the theme also give the options to toggle the drawing off if it does not suite you. There is a simple and quite standard dropdown menu at the top. This is for sure one of the best premuim WordPress themes. See full review here
TouchSense – one of the great themes for WordPress CMS – carefully designed and coded to fit any corporate website or a stylish blog. It offers lots of shortcodes, skins, galleries and even a custom image slider built specially for this theme is what make TouchSense a truly premium WordPress cms theme. TouchSense also offers big flexibility, you have complete control over the theme from it’s Admin Panel.
Now you can turn your WordPress blog into a fully functional online photo gallery while still maintaining all of the features of a normal blog. Along with the gallery layout, DeepFocus comes with a robust blog and CMS-style homepage as well, making it an amazing solution for artists/photographers looking to build an online presence. This is a great pick among the many WordPress CMS Themes available.
Striking is one of the most in-demand business WordPress theme existing now. It has tons of extraordinary features which are not found in ordinary WordPress themes. It is the theme you buy when you want to create a website in every way you imagined possible. One of the features that this super theme has is its Cross Browser Compatible including IE 9 and and latest, Firefox 4. It also boasts of 4 Different Sliders! Nivo slider! Anything Slider! 3d flash Image Rotator! Accordion slider! Each has a complete control set. With Striking sliders you can display images, video, text, captions, iframes, and more. These are just few of the features that this theme has in its long list of features and capabilities.
LeanBiz best WordPress theme is a lean, mean, business theme. Its layout is simple and professional and the homepage is sleek and to-the-point. The beautiful homepage slider creates a clear call to action and allows for countless slide variations. ElegantThemes has a goal with this theme to remove as much fluff from the homepage as possible. The result is a clean, slider-based design that presents your visitors with a few select pieces of information. For most small businesses, this is an ideal structure. For more info, be sure to check out the Live Preview as well as the Features Page or read on bleow.
Nova is a sharp, simplistic design that makes for an intuitive user experience. Nova’s biggest strength is its homepage, which allows you to organize your content into two areas. The Featured Slider is perhaps the most versatile slider we have built, and comes with multiple slider variations that breath new life into the design.
ElegantEstate – one of the great themes for WordPress CMS – is a full-feature WordPress CMS theme for real estate websites. The theme makes browsing your listings easy, and adds special integration features for property info, photos, Google Maps and more. Help increase sales by establishing an elegant and professional online presence today.