How To Choose A Theme For WordPress
This blog post is not focused on how to download a theme in WordPress as that is a relatively easy thing to do.
I'm talking about the much harder task of choosing a WordPress theme for your website.
To choose a theme for WordPress essentially comes down to whether you want a FREE theme or a purchased theme. A free them will work well enough for individuals or a simple blog post website and a purchased theme will generally provide all the necessary layers, updates, and support needed to grow an online business to pretty much any level.
That said, not all Free or Purchased themes are created equal.
How To Pick A WordPress Theme:
- Decide what features you will need for your website
- Compare Free versus buying a Premium Theme
- Choose a theme that has your required features
- Pick a theme with flexible customization but not cluttered
- Make sure you choose a responsive theme
- Choose a theme that allows custom fonts and colors
- Preview the theme with your content
- Test your chosen theme exhaustively
- See details below for each step
I remember back when I started on my first website.
It took me hours, sifting through dozens of themes before I finally decided to stick with one for which I'm still not completely satisfied.
You would think choosing a theme would be easy!
You'd think to just pick one that had the basic features you needed and then customize as you needed with some plugins.
Well, it turned out being a little more complicated than that.
There were many themes that claimed they can perform certain things only to find out that those features didn't work or you had to buy their Pro version to access them.
So as a beginner in WordPress, how do you find the best theme for your website without having to spend hours searching or switching a dozen or more times?
That is where this guide on how to choose a theme for WordPress should help you save hours of time and headaches.
In this guide I will start by explaining what is a WordPress theme, when to use a Free theme or buy a theme, what is a theme framework, what is the difference between a child theme and a parent theme, what type of theme you need, where to get your theme, and how to install a theme in WordPress.
What Is A WordPress Theme?
A WordPress theme is a bunch of templates and styles to designate a design appearance to your WordPress Website. Each theme will have different designs, structures, and highlights.
Essentially, it is a Pre-Packaged WordPress Website Kit where the theme designer has created all the code for your site to have designated appearance so you can start adding content and customizing it within the theme creators set limits.
In the past, WordPress themes were less than impressive and had bugs when you tried to use all the available features.
Nowadays, most themes are quite robust and work as advertised.
Which begs the question of whether you should use a Free theme or pay for a Premium theme.
Is there a difference between a Free or Purchased Theme?
When To Use A Free Or Purchased Theme?
Many people starting out to create a website worry about spending money on digital stuff that they may no little about.
That is a valid reason to be questioning whether they should spend money on something that they are not even sure they really need.
So let's start by listing the traits of a FREE theme compared to a Premium/Purchased theme.
Free WordPress Themes
Premium WordPress Themes
So what type is right for you?
If you are not planning to create a long term online business or just want a simple blog post website then a free WordPress theme will probably work out just fine.
It is still important to try and get a free theme that is easy as possible to use and is updated frequently to ensure optimum security.
Tip: A purchased theme is recommended if you are planning to have a long term and growing online business.
You will need access to as many easy to use features as possible with good support if something does not work properly.
Now that doesn't mean you need to pour out cash like no tomorrow for a premium theme.
Most Premium themes go for around $50-$60.
It may sound like an added expense but before these themes were created you would have had to hire a programmer for $50+/hour to write code to create a specific theme for your website. Then pay that programmer to come back anytime you needed to make changes.
There are options to pay for a package deal that not only provides Premium themes but also a number of applications that are designed to run on those themes.
So I believe that getting a Premium theme right from the beginning is the best investment you'll ever make for your online business.
I'll be providing details further down of where you can get FREE WordPress Themes and where you can buy Premium themes form marketplaces or individual developers.
What Are Frameworks, Parent, Child Themes?
No, I'm not talking about building a daycare using a framework, parent, and child theme.
This is an area that can sound a little more complicated compared to just using a standalone theme.
If you are only interested in creating a simple, straight forward website with a blog roll then a standalone theme will suit you fine.
On the other hand, if you plan to create a booming online business, with e-commerce, membership spaces, chat rooms, and so on then you may want to learn a little more about using theme frameworks.
Now one disadvantage about theme frameworks is that they will generally cost you much more.
Without getting too technical for the purpose of this post I'll just give the summary version but you can take a look at a more profound explanation here.
What are Theme Frameworks Explained with Paul's Terminology
You know it's going to be good when I present myself in the third person but remember that I'm not a theme developer, so please take the following explanation with a grain of salt!
Essentially theme frameworks are used by theme developers.
They are tools and standards that have already been created and are placed inside the main theme.
That main theme is called a Parent Theme.
The code within the parent theme is like the main engine that runs all the essential bits for your theme.
In order to add a number of features or expansions without compromising the loading speed or damaging the parent theme users can create a "Child Theme."
So you are basically using two themes for your website.
The child theme will hold all of the customization features.
That way when there is an update for your theme it only affects the parent theme so you don't lose all the changes or customizations you've made.
If you are wanting to go the route of creating a child theme you can check out the training for setting one up by Clicking Here.
What Type Of Theme Do You Need?
So you now know that you can get free themes or premium themes. You can create a child theme so you won't lose all your customizations when your theme gets major updates.
Now you need to start choosing a theme, whether free or premium that will meet the needs of your online business.
Here is a short list of the different features you may need to consider when choosing a WordPress theme:
1-Is It Responsive?
The term responsive theme means having a theme or website that will adjust automatically to different size screens from a desktop screen all the way down to a smartphone.
Today, it's no longer an option whether you should have a theme that is responsive.
The number of searches online by smartphones has outnumbered that of desktops and laptops.
So if you want your audience to see your content, make sure it is responsive.
Nowadays it is pretty difficult to find one that isn't responsive but if you do find one, keep far away from it, as it must be quite old and likely hasn't been updated in ages.
If you buy a premium theme that claims to be responsive, test it out.
See for yourself how it looks on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop. If it doesn't respond as advertised get your money back. There is no reason for it not to work in today's market.
2-Social Media Built-in?
Having social media features built-in isn't a deal breaker but it will help you avoid having to add a social media plugin.
If it doesn't have one built in there are hundreds of available plugins that you can use but just remember that every plugin you add will tend to slow your website loading speed.
The least amount of plugins you need to add the better.
3-Will The Theme Work On All Browsers?
Similar to the responsive features concerns, the issue of a theme not working on a specific browser today is very rare today.
It's always good practice to test it out on different browsers to ensure it can be viewed as advertised.
Try it out on Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. You want it to run smoothly on each type of browser.
4-Can Your Theme Integrate Well With Membership Plugins?
This type of plugin may be well down the line should your online business require a membership site to your website.
I figured it is best to check if it is compliant as you don't want to work for months or years creating your site in hopes to have a membership site only to find out that it will not work.
A membership plugin will basically allow access to members only to parts of the website that is password protected.
Once the member logs in they can have access to a number of tools and features like chat, forum, blogging, purchasing extras, or download member products to name a few features possible.
So it would be important to think about what exactly you are expecting your membership website before you start choosing a theme.
How many features do you want? Which features do you want?
Then start checking which ones have the features your site may need further down your online business path.
5-Will You Need eCommerce Plugins?
If you are planning to sell products directly from your website then your theme will need to have a look that works well for e-commerce and be able to work well with plugins like WooCommerce.
E-Commerce themes are usually quite a bit more complex as they do need to integrate a variety of features such as showing products on a storefront type display on the webpage.
You will need to have a place product in cart system, various size product images that are responsive, shipping details, SKUs, coupons, return policies, email integration with sales, and review options.
There can be many more features you may want but be sure that they at least have the basics available.
The basics would be that you can add unlimited amount of products, a person can find and view various products on your site, place them in a shopping cart, choose shipping options, then pay for the product, receive a confirmation of payment, and provide product return system.
With all those features you will want it to be easy to use as well with all the tools easily accessible and a breeze to update.
Shopify has eCommerce all wrapped up.
I've tried some themes that had a really bad and limited amount of fonts that could be used on a website and it was not fun.
I tried using code to update to some other fonts only to have problems when the theme was updated.
So be sure that you the theme you choose has lots of font and color options so you can customize it to build your brand.
A B C
7-Will People Be Able to Add Comments Easily?
To help with search engine ranking it is important to show that you are interactive with your readers.
Having an easy to use comment section is important to encourage your readers to leave a comment.
Your theme should allow for easy commenting and as a bonus let you customize the look and flow of the comments.
8-Does It Work Well With Chat Plugins?
You may end up wanting to have a chatbot or you, yourself may want to answer your reader's questions live.
Look for themes that may have increased integration with chat plugins so that the chat boxes don't appear out of place.
9-Check The Reviews About Support
Like any software, it doesn't matter how good it was designed there always seems to be some glitches found with whatever set up you may have.
You'll want to check how well the theme developers support responds to issues. Check to see if they respond within a few hours or days.
There is nothing worse than having your site down while waiting for tech support.
10-Can It Integrate Well With SEO?
After all, you want to have your site seen.
So Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key feature to ensure that your metadata is found properly by the search engines and that your posts can be shared easily to all the social media platforms.
I use the All-in-One SEO and I haven't any issues with any of the themes I've used but it is still a good thing to check that there aren't any conflicts.
11-Will Your Theme Work With Your Brand?
To build your brand you want consistency and flexibility to customize your site to look the way you want it.
Sometimes the free themes will not provide the amount of flexibility to create a look unique to your brand.
Most free themes are a constraint with there flexibility which of course will suggest that you purchase their premium or pro level to have that flexibility.
That doesn't mean you can't build your brand but you may have to settle with a basic looking site and try to use your logo as the main means of promoting your brand.
Where To Get A WordPress Theme?
Alright! I really think I should have some smoke and music for this reveal but I digress.
We'll start by looking at FREE themes first.
The easiest way to find Free WordPress Themes is directly on your WordPress dashboard.
Oh...wait a minute, do you have a WordPress website setup already?
If you don't, then you can go to my blog called "Easiest Way To Start Affiliate Marketing" and it will explain how to get your website up and going to become an affiliate marketer.
You hover over the appearance name on the left column, then click on themes.
Then you will have two places that you can click on to add a new theme to your favorite page as shown below.
Once you are on the theme page on WordPress you can click on "Add New Theme" and do a search with related words to your niche.
Now when I say related to the niche I'm talking about topics but more of what you intend to do with your niche website.
For example, if you want to have storefront type of website then you can search the term "Store" and you will probably get hundreds of choices.
Another way to sift through is by using the tabs that show the popular, latest, and those you chose as favorites.
THE best way to search for your theme is by using the "Feature Filter" tab.
This way you will only see the ones that have the features you are looking for in a free theme.
Now that you've narrowed down your choices it is a matter of clicking on view and description. Check to see if anybody has rated them, how many rated it, and see if they describe all of its advantages.
If it sounds like a reasonable choice then you can "Install" it.
Now don't worry, this doesn't mean you are stuck with that theme forever at this point.
It will only download into your WordPress Theme Library.
If you already have a live website in WordPress using a basic theme, you will be able to preview your content with the new theme.
Now, will the PREVIEW look exactly like they showed in the demo? Absolutely not!
If you have no content on your site the preview will usually look quite empty, possible with some generic images, but not at all what the demo view showed you.
It can look like the demo site with some tweaking and adding content but it will take some work.
The goal of previewing is to see the number of tools and customization is available in the customize column on the left.
You want to see as many tabs and subtabs as possible in that column but your don't want the overall feel of the theme look to cluttered.
Many of these free themes will always show a tab that will direct you to buy their Pro/Premium level to access all of their features...don't buy them!
I don't suggest that you buy into any of the Pro or Premium themes through these free themes.
If you are going to pay for a theme then it will be better to buy one that is worth buying.
The Pro versions of these free themes are usually not much more than a few extra features where you will still be limited to what you can do compared to a full-fledged paid theme like Genesis.
Once you've chosen your free theme, installed it to your WordPress theme library, previewed, and reviewed it then you can go ahead and install it,
The how to install instructions are shown further down or click here.
Now Time For Where To BUY a Premium Theme Framework
You can buy quality and trusted themes from any of these listed places:
- Studio Press Genesis
- Shopify (Ideal for Online Stores)
- Thrive Themes (I use this one)
- Elegant Themes
Which now brings us to our last step of installing a theme.
How To Install A WordPress Theme
Installing a FREE Theme:
If you are wanting to install one of the free themes then if you've already followed the steps above on how to choose a free theme then there is only one more step left to do.
Hover over your chosen theme image in the library and Click the "Activate" button.
Your WordPress website is now ready for tweaking and customization!
Installing a Premium Theme:
Before you can install a Premium theme to your WordPress website you will need to download the theme file to your computer from the website you purchased it from.
Then go to your WordPress dashboard, hover over appearance, open the themes library.
Click on "Add New Theme", then click on the "Upload Theme" button near the top of the page, "Choose File" and "Install Now".
Once your premium theme is uploaded to the theme library you can follow the same steps as done with the free theme, hover over your chosen theme image in the library and Click the "Activate" button.
Your Premium WordPress website is now ready for tweaking and customization.
Some of the premium themes will add a number of other tools on your WordPress dashboard in the left column.
Here is an example of features added to my WordPress by using the purchased services from Thrive Themes.
I hope that the information on how to choose a theme provided here will help you find a WordPress theme that will work for you website.
Remember, should you start with a Free theme and it doesn't work out you can always switch themes at any point.
Although I'll tell you right now it does get harder to adjust all the settings and look of your website the more content you add.
Whatever you do, don't panic!
It can all be fixed some way, somehow.
Most hosting sites, like the one I use and recommend here, do daily backups of your website. So if you do mess up your website you can always ask them to switch back to a date in history when it was working.
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