backup-How to choose a WordPress theme? (2020 Guide)
We’ve all been there.
We buy domain & hosting. Install WordPress. Browse thousands of WordPress themes. Go over hundreds of theme demos. And finally, select a premium or free WordPress theme that we feel will look good on our website.
Then a few weeks pass. Only for us to realize this is not the theme we’re looking for. Sometimes the theme doesn’t have the look. At other times, it doesn’t have the functionality.
Then we start the process all over again and start looking for a new theme. This can quickly get frustrating for experienced WordPress users, let alone beginners.
It’s a massive waste of time.
Would you rather not spend this time building your website? Driving traffic to it. Generating new leads from it?
Plus, all this chopping and changing hurts your existing audience as well.
Imagine going to a website that you’ve just started liking and seeing a drastically different design every few weeks.
Then there’s the jargon – parent themes, child themes, theme frameworks etc. If you’re new, it can quickly get confusing.
Thankfully, there’s a way you can minimize risks and choose a perfect WordPress theme for your blog or business.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- Common terms related to WordPress themes
- 20 questions you can ask to choose a WordPress theme
- And, the best places to find a theme
Common WordPress theme terms
While WordPress is incredibly simple to use, the terms used can quickly become confusing. If you’re new to WordPress, you’ll need to know these theme-related terms:
Themes are skins that decide how your WordPress website looks. The layout, colors and other design elements of your website are dictated by a theme. WordPress themes are of three types: parent themes, child themes, and theme frameworks.
Parent & child themes
Almost all WordPress themes are parent themes by default. You can create a child theme by extending or changing the design of the parent theme. Along with the child theme, you’ll also need the parent theme installed. For example, our theme Responsive Blog is a child theme of the popular Responsive theme.
A theme framework is a code library that facilitates theme development. Such a framework can either be a parent theme or a separate piece of code shipped with the parent theme. Genesis is one such popular theme framework.
A plugin is a piece of code that you install on your WordPress website to add new features or functionality. For example, a plugin can add a feature that allows you to share your blog posts on social sites.
Page builders are WordPress plugins. These plugins help you design pages using an easy to use, drag-and-drop interface. While there are many such plugins, Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, and Elementor are the most popular ones.
How to pick a WordPress theme
No theme is complete on its own.
You’ll need to customize it or extend it using a child theme. You may also need to add some functionality in the form of plugins.
Yet, picking the right theme can save you precious time and money. Here’s a 20 point checklist to help you select a perfect theme for your WordPress website.
#1. Does the theme match your website’s purpose?
Every website’s purpose is different. A website can be a simple blog or a complex ecommerce website. The theme you select must match this purpose.
For example, for a blog, you need a theme that comes with better readability and attractive typography. For a portfolio, you’ll need a theme that showcases images attractively. On the other hand, for an ecommerce site, you need a theme that makes buying easier.
You’ll also find some multi-purpose themes. But such themes are often bloated and can slow down your website.
#2. Does it match your website’s personality?
Every theme has a unique personality. And just like purpose, you want to select a theme that matches your website’s personality.
For example, if you’re building a casual and fun blog, you don’t want a corporate looking theme.
Or when building a website for your football team, you don’t want a theme with delicate design, more suited for feminine websites.
#3. Does the theme match your budget?
Like it or not, your budget will play an important role in choosing a theme.
Before you start looking for a theme, decide on a budget. Then find a theme that matches your budget.
#4. What’re the licensing options?
WordPress is an open source software, that comes with a GPL license. Most of the themes and plugins are under the GPL licensed too.
With a GPL license, you can modify the code to suit your requirements. This license also allows you to use a purchased theme on multiple websites.
You may want to go with a liberal or a restrictive license based on your future plans.
#5. Is the theme responsive?
According to Google, over half of the traffic, today comes from mobile devices. In 2018, Google made mobile site speed a factor for ranking search results.
It’s obvious that your website needs to look and work well across devices.
Like we discussed before, your theme dictates how your website looks. Choosing a responsive WordPress theme is critical if you want traffic to your website.
#6. Does the theme work across browsers?
Apart from devices, your website also needs to look and work well across browsers.
While you don’t need that supports browsers as old as Internet Explorer 6, you need to make sure the theme works well with all major browsers.
#7. Is the theme compatible with WordPress 5.0?
In late 2018, WordPress upgraded to 5.0.
The 5.0 version comes with a new editor experience (called the Gutenberg). Gutenberg brings a rich editing experience to your website. You get to see how your blog post or page will look right in the editor.
While you can get by using the classic editor till 2021, your theme must be WordPress 5.0 compatible to prevent website upgrade issues.
#8. Does the theme work with common plugins?
It’s very rare that your WordPress site will have no plugins.
Commonly used plugins include plugins for SEO, backup, social sharing, contact forms and adding WordPress Privacy & Terms Generator Plugin – WP Legal Pages to your website.
The theme you pick, shouldn’t cause conflicts with these common plugins. Conflicts can occur when your theme defines or include the same code as these common plugins.
Most good themes will also come with default styling for these plugins. Your theme should too.
#9. Does the theme work with page builders?
Like we discussed earlier, a page builder helps you easily design a page using a drag-and-drop interface. You’ll need a page builder to create special pages on your website – such as a landing page.
Visual composer, Beaver Builder, and Elementor are the most popular page builders today.
Ensure that the theme has support for these page builder plugins.
#10. Is the theme lightweight & fast loading?
Site-speed is one of the most important searches ranking factors. According to a study, visitors leave websites that take more than 3 seconds to load.
You need a theme that loads fast and is light on the browser.
To achieve this feat, the theme that you pick needs to send a minimal number of server requests and make the most of browser caching by pre-connecting with server resources.
#11. Is it easy to customize and use?
Chances are you’ll need to customize your theme.
Most good themes come with enough customization options to help you make the theme your own. But there are also themes that come with too few or too many customization options.
You don’t want either too few or too many customization options.
Too few and you’ll feel helpless. Too many and you’ll feel like you need a degree in website design. Plus, websites with too many options tend to slow down the website.
Ideally, you want a theme that allows you to customize the branding, navigation, colors, and typography.
#12. Is it extendable?
Sometimes basic customization options are not enough. You need more than changing colors and typography.
In such situations, you need a theme that can be extended by creating a child theme. Child themes allow you to extend the design of your parent theme beyond basic customization.
#13. Is the theme from a reputed theme developer?
WordPress is an open source software. You’ll find themes that are developed by a range of developers – from fresh coders to reputed theme shops.
Not all themes coded by fresh coders are bad.
But it’s always safe to get your theme from a reputed theme developer to avoid security and support related issues.
#14. Is the theme updated frequently?
Like any open source software, WordPress is updated frequently.
You want your chosen theme to keep up with the updates. Or you may end up with a broken website. Check how often the theme developer updates the theme to fix issues or provide support for an upgraded WordPress version.
#15. Does it come with documentation?
Sometimes you’ll need to know how to configure specific theme options.
Requesting support can be time-consuming. That’s where theme documentation can come in handy. Ensure that the theme you pick comes with sufficient documentation about how to install and configure the theme.
#16. Does the theme developer provide support?
While documentation is enough in most cases, sometimes you’ll need to get in touch with the theme developer for help.
Most good theme developers provide either forum-based or ticket-based support. Go over the forums to look at how quickly the theme developer responds to support requests.
Choose a theme that comes with sufficient support, for times when you need it.
#17. Is the theme optimized for search?
On-page optimization is one of the pillars of SEO.
This includes outputting:
- Valid HTML
- Correct HTML5 structure tags for the header, footer, main, aside etc
- And, appropriate heading (h1, h2, h3 etc.) tags.
In addition, most good themes also come with basic schema support for web pages and blog posts.
#18. Is the theme accessible?
Accessibility means the ability of everyone regardless of their condition to have access to your website.
While 100% accessibility will need a compromise with design, your chosen theme should come with enough accessibility support to include people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with our website.
#19. Is the theme translatable?
This feature won’t matter for everyone.
But if you’re running a multilingual website you’ll need a theme with translation support.
#20. Does the theme come with a money back guarantee?
Sometimes after taking every care, your theme still doesn’t work for you. In such situations, you want to be able to return the theme and get your money back.
Check if the theme shop you buy the theme from has a money back guarantee.
Best places to find a perfect WordPress theme
Now that you know what to look for in a theme, let’s look at some places where you can find quality themes for your website.
WordPress.org theme repository
The WordPress.org theme repository is home to thousands of free WordPress themes. Some of these themes are also free versions of premium, feature-rich themes. Themes submitted to the repository go through a thorough theme check process and are 100% GPL compatible.
If you’re looking for a free theme or want to try out the free version of a premium theme, check out the WordPress.org repository.
WordPress.com has a selection of themes that are of even better quality. These are 100% GPL compatible as well. Some of these themes are premium themes and come at a price.
The free themes are available for download via the WordPress.org repository. And you can always buy the premium ones from the theme shops.
Reputed theme shops
Choosing a perfect theme for your website can be frustrating, particularly if you’re a beginner.
To help solve this problem, we looked at commonly used WordPress theme terms, learned about 20 questions you should ask before choosing a theme and looked at some of the best places to find a theme.
Have a question about choosing a theme? Ask us in the comments below. Like this article, share it with your friends on social sites.