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With thousands of WordPress themes out there, how do you choose the right one for your website?

Choosing the right theme is obviously important. The best theme for your needs should highlight your content, make it responsive across devices, load in the blink of an eye, and more. With so many themes to choose from, it can be a formidible task to find the one that best meets your needs.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away

-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Before settling on a theme and investing the time and effort required to customize it, consider the following when choosing a WordPress Theme.

  • Industry Specific Theme: Themes are often created for specific purposes and business types. A theme created with your needs or business type can give your website a leg up. A WordPress theme should compliment the content of your website.
  • Built in Features: When evaluating themes consider the features and tools you'll need to meet your requirements. Themes suited to your specific needs will have built in tools and features you need. This will help avoid having to add additional plugins which can cause conflicts and slow down a website.
  • Color Palette and Fonts: Most of online marketing is based on visual appearance, and colors increase brand recognition as well. A set of color palletes provides flexibility to meet your particular needs.

    Like color options, a selection of fonts should be included. Fonts should be simple, sophisticated, and readable. Some of the most popular fonts are Open Sans, Josefin Slab, Arvo, Lato, and Vollkorn.
  • Choose a Responsive Theme: Responsive design simply means your site is easy to view and use on multiple devices like desktops, laptops, tablets and most importantly, on smart phones.
  • Browser Compatibility: Website visitors will use different browsers, so it’s important that your website looks and functions properly on all of them, including:

    • Google Chrome
    • Firefox
    • Safari
    • Internet Explorer
  • Pagebuilders and Editors: Page builders are WordPress plugins that allow you to create page layouts using a drag and drop user interface. Quality themes include a page builder/editor. In our experience this can be one of the most important factors in working with a theme, the process of creating and editing pages.
  • SEO Ready: A WordPress theme plays a role in a websites SEO effectiveness. Poorly coded HTML can affect a websites performance on search engines.
  • Updates: It’s important to choose a theme which is also actively maintained, and updated on a regular basis. If a theme was last modified 2 or more years ago, you’re better off avoiding it.
  • Ratings and Reviews: An indicator of a WordPress theme’s quality are the ratings and reviews provided by end users. Theme listed on third-party marketplaces will include customer reviews.
  • Release Notes and Changelogs: Release Notes and Changelogs provide a useful history of a themes development, feature additions and bug fixes. It can be an indicator of the theme authors thoroughness and dedication.
  • Support and Documentation: Look for WordPress themes that have good documentation and support options. Most premium WordPress themes offer detailed documentation and email based technical support.
  • Plugin Compatibility: For the most up-to-date plugin compatibility data, please visit individual plugin pages on the WordPress Plugin Directory and look for the Compatibility widget (see an example on the Hello Dolly plugin page).

Free and Premium Themes

When choosing a theme we recommend themes that are listed in the official WordPress.org Themes directory.

Free Themes

  • Pros
  • WordPress Themes Directory: All themes in the official WordPress.org Themes Directory are held to a high quality standard and go through a strict theme review process.
  • Features and Functionalities: Free themes tend to have a fairly minimalist design because they don’t have a lot of premium features and widgets. If your website does not employ the use of a lot of plugins, this could make for a speedy WordPress website (which can improve your technical SEO).
  • Cost: Free is always a good thing for new website owners, and ideal for those constantly experimenting or itching for a change every now and then.
  • Cons
  • Features and Functionalities: Limited Features and Functionality – Even though free themes support most standard WordPress features, many of them don’t offer extra features like creating buttons, using shortcodes, create landing pages, etc.
  • Support and Updates: Limited support options – Free WordPress theme developers offer support through WordPress forums, but they are not obliged to reply to support queries. Free themes are distributed with no warranties, so if something goes wrong, you are pretty much on your own. There are only a few theme clubs that provide updates for their free themes.
  • Unique Designs: Not so Unique – Free themes are used by a lot of websites and blogs, so your website will not have a unique design. Also there are usually limited options to customize the visual appearance of free themes.

Premium Themes

  • Pros
  • Features and Functionalities: The biggest advantage of a premium theme is that you get more features and customization options. Due to the competition in the premium theme industry, theme shops are always trying to offer more features at lower prices. As a customer, you get themes that contain options like drag and drop builders, shortcodes, multiple layouts and templates, and unlimited color choices.
  • Unique Designs: Because there’s a cost associated to premium themes, they’re less frequently used when compared to free themes.
  • Support and Updates: Premium WordPress themes come with regular updates and support. Since you’ve purchased the premium theme, the developers are obliged to reply your support queries. Priority tech support is one of the absolute benefits of buying a premium WordPress theme vs a free WordPress theme.
  • Ease of Use: Premium Themes Are User-Friendly.
  • SEO: Premium Themes Are SEO-Friendly
  • Cons
  • Features and Functionalities: Too many features – In order to sell more themes, theme developers can add too many unnecessary features into their themes that you may never use. These unnecessary features can bloat your website making it slow and downgrade the overall performance.
  • Standards and Quality: It is possible to buy a premium theme that looks pretty, but has poor coding standards which could make it incompatible with some plugins. Mainly because these themes don’t have to go through a strict review process.
  • Compatibility and Conversion: Some WordPress themes can be so proprietary, offering functionality that they are not supposed to offer making it difficult to swithch themes. For example, creating custom post types, shortcodes, and other things that would disappear as soon as you switch theme.
  • Cost: Premium WordPress Themes can be quite expensive.

Additional Considerations

When chosing a WordPress theme for your site you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you really need lots of features, custom theme admin options, sliders, and other features for your website?
  • Can you troubleshoot WordPress issues on your own or you need help with them?
  • Do you want a professional looking theme that’s not very common or you are fine with a basic layout?

Choose a Free WordPress Theme if:

  • If you want to start a personal/hobby blog.
  • You’re fine with minimal features.
  • It doesn’t bother you if your website looks pretty common.
  • You don’t need priority support and you can fix the problem if any.

Choose a Premium WordPress Theme if:

  • If you want to start a business blog or professional website.
  • You need a specific or advanced set of features.
  • You want to create a compelling design that looks unique.
  • If you need an exclusive line of access with theme developers in case something goes wrong.

If you're starting out with a personal blog or family website, a free WordPress theme may meet for your needs.

On the other hand, if you are a small business, we would recommend a Premium theme. It gives you extra customization features, functionality and options while giving you the peace of mind that support is available should you need it.

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