Finding a suitable WordPress theme is not that easy these days. As you may have seen for yourself, today there are a large number of free and paid WordPress themes to choose from. In order to keep an overview and not experience any nasty surprises later when choosing a WordPress theme, you will find some helpful tips & tricks in this article.
The agony of choice. There are thousands of free themes to choose from in the wordpress.org theme directory alone. Filtering offers you a first selection criterion. Under “Popular”, WordPress’ own themes “Twenty Nineteen” and “Twenty Seventeen” come first. Both themes offer a great place to start if you want to start with a simple blog, for example. To help you find the right WordPress theme for your own WordPress website or for a customer project, I would like to give you a few tips below.
Define the goals of your website
It will help you enormously when choosing the right WordPress theme if you think about the goal and purpose of your WordPress website right from the start. Do you want to start a blog with news and information or is your goal a more complex company website?
If you can already determine the goal of your WordPress website, focus your selection on relevant topics or industries.
Here is a small list of possible industries and applications:
- blog or magazine
- Company website / association website
- Artist portfolio, photographer, agency, designer
- Directory website (WiKi)
- forums site
- Online shop
- bookings or reservations
- Product presentation or landing page
- recipe blog
- Travel blog or portal
- real estate agent
- niche websites
What should the theme be able to do?
Since WordPress offers so many possible uses, limit the performance requirements for your future WordPress themes as precisely as possible. Do you want e.g. B. start an online shop, so make sure that the theme is designed for WooCommerce.
I have also put together a list to help you with the requirements for a WordPress theme:
- Sliders: Should a slider be used and already integrated in the theme?
- Blog or Magazine: How is the blog functionality (meta tags) and in which design?
- Multilingualism: If a page is required in several languages, the theme supports e.g. B. the plugin WPML?
- Sidebar: How many sidebars are needed?
- To sue: Should advertising banners or ads be placed on the page, which widgets or shortcodes does the theme offer for this?
- Forms: Should special forms or filtering be used?
- Mobile: Is the theme optimized for mobile views, keyword responsive design?
- Navigation: Is an extended navigation (mega menu) with many navigation points needed?
- Formats: If special mail formats are required, e.g. B. Recipes, portfolio, reservation?
- Online shop: Is the theme designed for WooCommerce?
- Customizers & Options: How to style the WordPress theme?
Don’t be blinded by demo websites
Of course, all WordPress theme developers are meticulous about presenting their product in the best possible light. You should not let your decision be influenced too much by an optimized demo website. Because demo themes are perfectly coordinated: Images, colors and typography usually result in a perfect interaction. The loading time is also already optimized and can look completely different with your later setup.
So keep in mind that you will use your own images later. High-quality and paid stock images are often used on demo websites to convey a coherent overall impression. Of course, theme developers are not allowed to deliver license-protected image material with the theme (topic image licenses).
Test mobile view
Also test the mobile view of the WordPress theme. This can be done, for example, using the developer tools in your browser. I’ll show you how this works using Chrome and the Raidboxes website as an example:
Go to “View”→ “Developer” → “Developer Tools”
Alternatively, you can bring up the developer console with the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Option + I (Mac) or Ctrl + Shift + I (Windows).
Move the developer tools down a bit so that the website is visible and then click on the mobile icon on the left. The default is Responsive. This allows you to move the view as you wish and check directly how it changes.
With a click on “Responsive” you will see options for different devices and can test the corresponding view.
With the developer console of your browser you can also see how many scripts (in the head area) the WordPress theme is loading. Many script files reduce the performance of the WordPress website.
If possible, test your selected WordPress theme on your mobile phone. This gives you a direct impression of the loading time and the responsive view of the theme.
YouTube is your friend
You will most likely find a review or comparison of one or more WordPress themes on YouTube. Often in English, but to take a look behind the scenes of a theme, this is usually a promising option.
Here are a few examples of theme comparisons and reviews on YouTube:
Video by WP Crafter:
Video from ThemeIsle:
Video by Ferdy Korpershoek:
Read Reviews & Search Forums
Ratings or reviews give you more insight into how the selected theme performs with other users. However, the ratings for the free themes on wordpress.org are usually not very meaningful.
Also look out for the “Last updated” display in the free themes on wordpress.org. If an update by the theme developers was more than half a year ago, it’s better to keep your hands off it.
You can find much more information on portals such as Themeforest for paid themes. Here you can often ask so-called “presale questions”, i.e. questions before the purchase. Themeforest’s paid theme reviews also give you information on how the theme developer responds to issues and requests. If the questions are not answered promptly, this indicates moderate support.
Good theme developers also have separate support forums for their themes. Here you will also find valuable information on common problems. If the questions are answered promptly here, too, this shows that the developers have a real interest in the users.
For example, try to find a so-called “change log” for a WordPress theme via Google. Here you can see the update history of a theme.
Checklist for reviews, questions, forums and tutorials:
- Study ratings – Google search for experiences (note topicality)
- Asking questions to the developer (Presell Questions)
- Find YouTube videos with reviews & tutorials
- How up-to-date is the theme kept, is there a change log?
- Is there a support forum? If so, what are the common problems?
- Can you submit support tickets to the theme developers?
Free Themes or Pro Themes?
When deciding whether to go with a free theme or a paid Pro Theme, you should think about your goals for the WordPress website. Your knowledge of how to use WordPress also plays an important role here, because pro themes usually offer a lot of setting options.
Paid WordPress Themes
Do you create e.g. B. a business WordPress website for you or a client, consider a Pro Theme. Paid themes offer you more design options, support guarantee, help and community forums and mostly their own tutorials. If you want to create an online shop with WordPress, pro themes such as B. “Flatsome” already has some additional functions for WooCommerce.
Pro themes often offer many presets for the overall design of the WordPress website, including their own page builder. You should already have some experience with WordPress and plan a training period. Many pro themes also offer complete demo content that you can import with one click.
Free WordPress Themes
Nevertheless, there are now free themes such as B. the “Astra Theme” or the “OceanWP Theme”, which even in the free version bring many great options for designing your WordPress website and offer support forums and tutorials. If the functions are not sufficient, there is also a Pro version to buy.
Create a playground for testing
From my own experience, I can say that you should definitely create a test environment for WordPress before you go live with your WordPress website. Changing a theme is easy, but it can also leave a big mess if e.g. B. the theme creates its own page builder content with shortcodes. This is especially annoying if your site is already online.
For WordPress there are a few ways to create a test environment, e.g. B. to install locally on your computer. Programs such as WampServer or Laragon create a local web server environment on your computer with which you can install unlimited WordPress instances. In the past I also wrote my own contribution to the Laragon program.
Raidboxes also allows you to create your own staging environment to test adjustments to your WordPress website at your leisure. If the changes (e.g. new plugin or theme) do not cause any problems in staging, you can put them live with one click and even set up a synchronization of the test environment to the live environment.
My conclusion on the choice of WordPress theme
Finding the right WordPress theme is not necessarily easy, but solvable. Essentially, your decision to choose a WordPress theme depends on your goals and requirements. The more precisely you define the purpose of the future WordPress website, the better you can narrow down a suitable WordPress theme.
Always view theme demos with a certain degree of skepticism, because your own content will shape the design of your WordPress website. If you have also researched ratings, forum entries, videos and posts on your favorite theme, nothing stands in the way of your final decision. All this is certainly a bit time-consuming, but the effort will be worth it in the end.
What do you pay most attention to when choosing a WordPress theme? Is there something missing from the list? Feel free to leave me your input and questions in the comments!
Your questions about the choice of WordPress theme
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