How To Choose A WordPress Theme – A Buyers Guide!

How To Choose A WordPress Theme - A Buyers Guide

About This Lesson

If you’re new to WordPress, then finding the right WordPress theme can be tough. Especially when you consider there are over 10,000 themes to choose from.

In the last 7+ years of building websites with WordPress, I estimate I’ve brought over 50 WordPress themes. I also estimate that I regretted buying 40 of them!

Looking back, I can now see the reasons for me regretting them are because I didn’t really know what I needed or what I should have been looking for. And in some cases my expectations of WordPress themes were just wrong.

So in this lesson, I thought it would be useful if I gave you some tips, for what you should be thinking about when choosing a theme for your site. (So you can hopefully avoid making the same mistakes I have!)

In the next lesson I’ll give you some recommendations for where you can go, to search for themes, including all the places I use myself!

Disclosure

Please note: some of the links on this page are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. (It’s how I’m able to provide all the content on this site for free!) Having said that, I only link to products or services that I feel confident recommending. You can read the full disclosure here.

Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites for this lesson, but it’s worth noting, this is a part of a series of lessons, all to do with installing and setting up your WordPress theme.

You can see the other lessons in this series, by visiting the links below.

Course Navigation

How To Create A Website Course

This is Step 5 Part 1b – See the full course here!

How To Use WordPress Course

This is Step 5 Part 1b – See the full course here!

Read All About It

Choose A Mobile Responsive Theme

Because people will be viewing your website from multiple devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc, you should think about getting a theme that is “Mobile Responsive”.

A mobile responsive theme, is basically a theme that automatically adapts its layout so that it better fits the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.

So for instance, if a visitor views your site on a mobile phone, the theme will automatically adapt, so instead of viewing your site as it was made for a desktop, your visitors will see your site in a way that’s optimized for smaller screens.

With mobile responsive themes, this is all done automatically for you, so you don’t need to create multiple versions of your website for different devices.

With a theme that isn’t mobile responsive, your visitors will have to pinch and zoom.

If you take a look at the image below, you’ll see that as the screen gets smaller, the layout changes. And that’s because this theme is mobile responsive.

Mobile Responsive

Having a site that’s optimized for smaller screens is especially important when you consider,

  • Google favours sites that are “mobile friendly”, over sites that aren’t. They’ve even said as much themselves!
  • Mobile internet usage is actually bigger then desktop/laptop usage
  • 70% of mobile searchers connected with a business
  • 52% called the business or service

(Source For Stats: Smart Insights & Mobile Marketing Engine)

One way to check if your theme is “mobile friendly”, is to visit a themes demo, which I’ll show you how to do in a moment, then copy the web address of that demo and paste it into this tool from Google. They’ll then let you know if the theme is “mobile friendly”! (Like in the image below!)

Google Mobile Friendly Test

Look At The Theme Demo

All themes should come with a demo, which lets you see how the theme looks.

The theme demo is your chance to take the theme for a test ride!

Rather then just reading all the cool things the developer says their theme can do, take a look for yourself.

So for instance, when I chose the theme I wanted to use for this site, I went to “Live Theme Demo” like in the image below.

Look At The Theme Demo

I then spent 10-15 minutes just playing around with the theme demo, going to all the different pages, imagining what my site would look like if I used this theme, etc.

Which is something you’ll need to do with themes you’re interested in.

Go through the demo. See what it can do and what its limits are. (Because no theme is perfect.)

If a theme you’re looking at doesn’t come with a demo, don’t walk away from it, run! Don’t waste your time or money, find another theme instead.

See How The Theme Demo Looks On Different Devices And Browsers

If you only look at the theme demo on your computer and within the browser you use, you have no way of knowing if the theme has problems on other devices and browsers.

So the next thing I recommend, is testing how the theme demo looks on different devices, like a laptop, iPad, iPhone, etc and how it looks with different browsers, such as Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.

Now if you’re like me and you don’t own all of those devices, or have all of those browsers installed on your computer, you can go to browserstack.com/screenshots and take screenshots of the theme demo on different devices and browsers.

BrowserStack

You can then look through the different screenshots and see if there’re any problems.

(Click here to see a full tutorial on how to use BrowserStack.)

See What Customization Options The Theme Has

You’ll also need to check what customization options the theme has. This will vary greatly from theme to theme.

Some themes might only let you change between 2 or 3 different predefined skins. So for instance, you might only be able to make your site red, green or blue.

Whereas other themes might let you choose,

  • The colors for everything on your site
  • The font style and size that’s used
  • To have completely different layouts for different pages
  • The position of your sidebar
  • To create custom headers or backgrounds
  • This list is endless…

So when choosing your theme, you have to, 1) decide what customization options your theme needs to have and 2) look through the details of the theme and see if it gives you what you need.

For example, when I was choosing a theme for this site, I knew I wasn’t really look for a “premade” design, instead I was looking for something that would give me a lot of customization options.

See What Customization Options The Theme Has

I probably looked through 100+ themes, (and in fact brought 2-3 themes that didn’t work out), before I settled on Divi. Which I picked because of their “Divi Builder”, which gives me the ability to build pages in sections, which is the feature I most wanted.

(If you haven’t already, make sure you go through my basics of WordPress themes lesson, so you know the difference between premade themes, customizable themes and made for you themes.)

See What Setup Help They Offer

How you setup your theme is going to be different from theme to theme.

Most themes are actually pretty easy to setup, but when looking at potential themes you still need to be looking at,

  1. Does the theme come with documentation showing you how to get started?
  2. Do they offer any tutorials?
  3. What support do they offer? (See below)

See What Support Options The Theme Has

While you’re hopefully getting something that you don’t have any problems with, just like when you buy anything, you may (re: probably will) run into problems along the way. (I still do, especially when I start using a new theme.)

Which is why it’s important to get a theme from a company that provides support to its users. (Free themes are normally bad at this).

When it comes to support, you need to look at the company/developer behind the theme and be looking at,

  1. Do they have a forum, contact form or a support area, that you can go to if you have any problems? (If they have a forum, how responsive are they in there?)
  2. Do they have a time period for how long they offer support for?
  3. Do they have a time period for how long they offer updates for?

Most themes offer support/updates for 1 year and you then need to renew your “licence” to continue getting support/updates, so this is something else you need to factor in.

If Possible, Look At The Company Behind The Theme

You should also do some research on the developer or company who are selling the theme.

So look for recommendations from other people and do some googling on the company behind the theme!

In fact, one of the reasons I recommend Elegant Themes and StudioPress in the next lesson, is because I own all of their themes, I know they provide great support and they offer tutorials to help you get started!

Finally – Accept That No Theme Is Perfect

I talked about this a lot more in my basics of WordPress themes lesson, where I talked about what you can expect from themes and some of their limitations.

No theme is perfect.

If you buy a premade design, you’re probably not going to find a theme that has everything you want and there will be some minor things that you don’t like about a particular theme.

If you buy a “customizable theme”, you’re only getting the customization options that the developer chooses to put into the theme.

And if you’re paying someone to build a theme for you, that’s obviously going to cost a lot more. (Although your theme will be built to your specific requirements!)

It’s a choice you have to make, do you want a premade or customizable theme for anywhere from $0 – $299, which might give you 80% of what you want.

Or do you want to pay a developer for something that will cost anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000, but will be built to your exact requirements.

I’ve never personally paid for a “made for you” theme, as I’ve always been happy with what I’ve been able to create with a customizable theme.

This has meant that at times I’ve had to compromise on my design and accept that it’s not perfect. In fact in most cases it only does about 80% of what I want it to do. And I’m O.K. with that, because the other 20% is lots of small features I would like it to have, but that aren’t really vital to the site!

That’s why in my “What is WordPress” lesson, I say,

If you need a highly custom design, which has to meet very specific requirements, that you can’t compromise on, then creating a website with WordPress and using a premade/pre-coded theme, isn’t the way to go.

I’m not trying to scare you when I say no theme is perfect, but just trying to set realistic and honest expectations.

In Summary

Because there are so many themes you could choose for your site, picking a theme can be a bit overwhelming.

However you now have some ideas for what you should be looking at, when choosing a WordPress theme for your site.

But remember, like I said at the end, no theme is perfect, so don’t spend forever looking for a theme.

Also, if you need a highly custom design, because you have very specific requirements, then hire a WordPress developer to build a theme to your exact needs. (But be ready to pay for it!)

Next Steps

This lesson is a part of Step 5 in creating your website and learning how to use WordPress. Step 5 is all about installing and setting up your WordPress theme.

I’ve broken this step into two parts.

In the first part, we cover the basics of WordPress themes, which you can see in these four lessons,

Then we move on to the second part, setting up your theme.

Now because there are 10,000+ different themes, all with different options, it’s impossible for me to show you how to set them all up!

However I can show you how to setup the following,

  • WordPress Menus: – See how to change the links within your navigation menu and also see how to create a drop down menu
  • WordPress Widgets: – Learn how to use widgets to customize what gets displayed in your widget areas, such as your sidebar and footer
  • WordPress Plugins: – See how to add extra features and functionality to your site, such as a contact form, a slideshow, a coming soon page, etc