By now you should have your website up and running on your web hosting service, if not then learn how to go live with the BEST in 6 simple steps. Your next major decision is which WordPress theme you should use. The theme selection dictates the look and feel of your website, along with the user experience, so it is imperative that you choose wisely.
If you do a Google search for “download WordPress theme”, you will literally come up with hundreds of thousands of results…so how in the world are you supposed to know which one you should choose?!?!
I struggled with that question for quite some time until it all sank in and began to make sense. I always found it all so confusing, and there are so many posts with so much technical stuff in it, when all I really wanted was a simple answer!
Fear not, this post is intended to simplify things….I want to help you make it easier to select the best WordPress themes for blogs.
Free Theme or Premium Theme?
After the question of which theme to use, the most often asked question is
Why would you pay for a theme when there are so many free ones available?
That is a great question, and in order to answer it lets talk about the differences between a paid theme and a free one.
Quality and Design
|Free themes are typically very simple in their designs and you will find that you are limited in how far you are able to take your website. Some free themes have certain features “turned off” until you upgrade to the pro version.
There’s another issue with some free themes that isn’t quite as obvious because it lives “under the hood”. Some of the free themes out there are poorly coded which can result in slow loading time or poor SEO functionality. They also, at some point, stop providing updates to the theme. The folks that develop free themes tend to do so as a way to learn how to do the development.
|Premium themes have a more complex design to them and this results in some visually stunning websites. Don’t be intimidated, though, the complex design refers to how the theme is coded by the developers….it doesn’t mean that it is difficult to use or customize for bloggers of any skill level.
As far as the “under the hood” stuff in premium themes, you can rest assured that it is done much better than the free ones. Premium themes are created by professional developers that work for these larger WordPress them companies (stick with me, more on them later!). Themes created by developers with this skill level are done the right way.
|Free themes are usually developed by people that are trying to sharpen their development skills. This means that they are likely using it as a sandbox for them to try new ideas, or perhaps learn a new programming methodology.
I’m not saying that they don’t still make a quality product, my greater point is that the developer likely has other intentions that surpass the theme they created, and as such, the support to users of their theme often lacks.
Even if you find a free theme where the developer provides support, there’s no telling at what point he or she will decide to move on to another project, leaving you high and dry.
|Premium themes are developed by professionals and are sold by big, reputable companies. When you spend the money on a theme, you are not only buying the rights to use the theme, but you are also buying support from the people that created it.
Since the developers all work under the umbrella of whichever company you bought it from, you don’t have to worry about the developer vanishing and leaving you with a website that doesn’t work.
I don’t know about you, but that is a big weight off my shoulders!
|Free themes can be changed and customized to get the look that you desire. Things like colors, headers, footers, fonts, and so much more can be tweaked so that they match the colors of your brand.
You will find that the amount of customizations you can do are limited with a free theme and the way to get more out of it is to add plugins. While plugins are usually a terrific way to get what you need, you’ve got to be very careful not to use too many plugins or else your website’s performance will suffer.
|Premium themes can also be completely customized in any way that you want. You will be able to do anything a free theme can do, and usually much much more.
One of the biggest benefits, from a customization standpoint, is that many of the premium themes have great features baked right in….things like social media share buttons, e-mail list sign ups, contact forms, etc.
You get these great tools without compromising performance, while those using a free theme would have to use plugins and have their performance suffer.
|Free themes are being created by developers that are trying to figure it all out for their own intentions and they work well (for now, at least). Remember that they can bolt at any given time and never look back at the theme that is running your business! The internet is ever changing, and if the developer has moved on, then that means that your theme is never going to get the updates that it may need to run smoothly. That’s a scary thought.|
|Premium themes, having been developed and sold by folks you can trust, have a vested interest in making sure that their customers are happy….and they do that successfully!
When things change, updates are provided. You don’t have to worry that your theme is missing the boat at any time.
|Free themes, obviously, cost nothing at all! Free themes can be great in the right situation, but at this point you have learned some of their shortcomings…just remember that you get what you pay for!|
|Premium themes are probably not nearly as expensive as you probably think that they are. Sure, there are some that cost hundreds of dollars and they probably are amazing, but the reality is that you can get a really awesome theme for only $60! In the grand scheme of things, that’s really not a lot of up front money to invest into your business!|
Framework vs Theme, What’s The Difference?
There is an important concept that I wanted to make sure you understand before we go any further.
When you want to change the look of your website, there are two routes you can take
- you can change your theme or
- you can install what’s called a framework and change the look of your site that way.
Seems confusing, I know. Lets discuss…
A theme is what you are probably thinking of when you think about the look of your website. It is created by a developer and allows you to change all of the settings so that your website looks the way that you want it to. Each time you change a theme, you just change all of the settings and you are good to go!
A framework, on the other hand, is actually made up of two parts….the parent and the child. The parent gets installed first and this is where you set everything up for your website.
Once that is done, you can then apply a child theme to it which will allow you to alter the look of everything. The beauty of this is that if one day you decide that you want to drastically change your look, all you have to do is replace the child theme and not have to worry about all of the settings that are stored in the parent! GENIUS!
6 Important Tips When Picking A Theme
By now, you probably have an idea of which way you might be leaning for your theme. There are some things you should consider so here are 5 important tips when picking a theme.
This is an ABSOLUTE MUST! I cannot stress to you just how important it is for your website to be responsive. For those that might not know, a responsive website is one that renders
correctly for any device no matter the size of the screen….it “responds” to the different sizes by rearranging, get it?!?
In this day and age, more and more website traffic is coming from mobile devices, and with technology always evolving, there’s no telling what devices are on the horizon. It’s crucial that your readers are able to read your content in all kinds of situations, so you NEED to make sure your website is responsive.
If you listen to nothing else in this post, listen to this….YOUR WEBSITE MUST BE RESPONSIVE!
Ok ok, I think you get the point! 🙂
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it is the process of making your website optimized for Google’s search crawl process by using the proper keywords. There’s no doubt about the importance of this because what good is your content if no one is reading it?!?
There are several tips and tricks that theme developers can use behind the scenes to make sure that your website is getting picked up by Google as best as possible, which will in turn help you to get better rankings.
Be sure to check out the details of a theme to make sure that the description mentions that the theme is optimized for SEO.
3. Browser Compatibility
One of the major considerations that you must be aware of is the theme’s browser compatibility. There are so many different browsers available so it is important that your website theme renders correctly on as many as possible. The most popular browsers are
- Internet Explorer
- Edge (Microsoft has renamed Internet Explorer after version 11)
4. Avoid The Shiny Object
A common trap that some website owners fall into is that they get starstruck by all of the bells and whistles of a theme. It’s very tempting to be impressed by some of the special effects that these themes come with….floating boxes, fading in and out, flashing banners or text, and so on.
If your theme does have all those features then you need to make sure you use them responsibly because, often times, they can be more of a nuisance than anything.
Take a moment and imagine yourself as a visitor coming to your website. Would you stay on a website that faded in and out with every click, and then after every page loads you see flashing banners all over the place? I know I probably wouldn’t!
I would urge you to try and look past all of the fancy finishings, and make sure that the theme has the core functionality that you want. After all, that is the most important thing about a theme.
5. Built In Features To Avoid Plugins
Many website owners use plugins to give their website some sort of functionality that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Some common examples are social share buttons, related posts, and so on. Plugins are great, they are usually free to use and they work really well, however there’s always a downside.
While plugins may give your website some great features, they will slow your website down too….and if you have too many of them, you will find that your performance takes a drastic hit.
It would be best if you were able to find a theme that has a lot of these features baked right into it so that you wouldn’t need the plugin. Try making a list of 3-5 things that you think you would need a plugin for, in order of importance and then try to find a theme that has these features.
If you can’t find one that has all of your list, that’s ok, you can still use a plugin or two. The goal here is to minimize them!
Price is something that should always be a factor when making a decision. If you’re going the free theme route, then there’s really not much to consider!
For those that are going to look into a premium theme, I am happy to say that they don’t cost what you probably think they do. You can get a really awesome theme for around $60, sometimes even less that that. That’s not too shabby!
The startup costs for creating a website are pretty low, so if you’ve gotten to this point with your business, a premium theme is a very solid investment to make. You’ll be happy with it in the long run!
Where To Get The Best Themes
There are many websites that sell WordPress themes, but it is important that you get yours from a reputable one. The reason for this is that the big companies will have the developers with the proper skills working for them, and that means that the themes are developed correctly.
Here are the places that I recommend you get your themes from.
If you are looking for just a theme then this is the place to go! ThemeForest has over ten thousand themes for you to choose from. There are plenty of filters for you to use in your searching, and they have even categorized the themes. With categories such as Blog/Magazine, eCommerce, Education, Real Estate, and so on, you should have no trouble finding the right theme for you!
In addition to themes, you can find useful content from one of ThemeForest’s sister sites.
- CodeCanyon – Find over 22,000 code scripts and plugins
- VideoHive – Find over 480,000 video effects and stock footage
- AudioJungle – Find over 550,000 royalty free music and audio tracks
- GraphicRiver – Find over 580,000 fonts, logos, and icons
- PhotoDune – Find thousands of stock photos
- 3DOcean – Find over 40,000 3D images
This is THE PLACE to go for the amazingly awesome Genesis Framework. As a reminder, the Genesis Framework consists of a parent theme and a child theme. The parent theme holds all of the main settings while the child theme only holds some basic styling settings, so if you want to change the look of your website, you can just get a new child theme without having to worry about losing all of your main settings!
In addition to the Genesis Framework, StudioPress also provides website creation. Use the incredible tools at StudioPress to create and host your website. Take advantage of their advanced SEO functionality, the awesome Genesis Framework, and rock solid support. You can even try it because they offer a 30 day, no questions asked, refund policy!
If you are looking for a fantastic theme at a lesser price then you should definitely check out MyThemeShop!
This is a great place to get a theme or premium plugin because you can save some money and still get a theme that is developed well!