What is a WordPress theme?
In this guide, we will discuss what WordPress themes are and how you can use them to customize your website. Then we’ll go over where you can find themes for your website’s niche and how to install them.
As a new WordPress user, you might be excited about customizing your website. You may even already have an idea of what your finished website will look like. However, if you have neither design nor programming experience, realizing your vision can be a daunting task.
Luckily, themes are one of the more inherent and useful features of WordPress – they allow you to customize the look of your website and even integrate additional features. With the right theme, you can tailor your website to your exact needs without (in many cases) having any coding or design skills.
An introduction to WordPress themes
A WordPress theme is a set of files (graphics, style sheets, and code) that determine the overall look and feel of your blog or website. Themes can control something as big as your site’s layout, or something as tiny as the colors of your hyperlinks. It’s easy to think of a theme as a “skin” for your website, but they are much more powerful than that.
A theme not only gives your blog a specific look, but allows you to control the presentation of your website. For example, let’s say you blog about groceries but also have an online store. With the right theme, you can display your blog posts one way while having a completely different layout for your store’s pages.
Themes are an integral part of WordPress. The platform even comes with a number of themes that come bundled with it. However, there are a few reasons why you should choose and install a new theme for your website:
To improve the visual appeal of your website. If you have a specific idea about your website, you can choose a suitable theme and customize it to suit your needs. To allow for more design customization. If you don’t have any design or coding experience, many themes offer a wealth of customization options to help you create the right theme. To implement additional functions. Depending on your needs, a theme may include features related to your niche that cannot be found elsewhere.
While the standard or a customized version of a theme will work for many websites, there are actually thousands of themes to choose from for specific niches and purposes. Now let’s discuss that in more detail.
Multipurpose Themes vs. Niche Themes
In short, there are two categories of themes. Firstly, a multipurpose theme caters to a number of different niches and website types. They usually come with multiple types of pages, extensions, code, widgets, and tools to provide more options for customizing your site, whatever its focus.
Niche-specific themes, while also customizable, are often tailored to a specific topic or industry. They don’t offer as much room for customization as general-purpose themes, but the more refined features tend to cater to the exact needs you have of your site.
Broadly speaking, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing your WordPress theme. However, it’s important to be clear about your needs before making a choice – and your budget is one of those elements.
Free vs Premium WordPress Themes
Before we talk about spending money, it’s important to know that there are many high-quality WordPress themes that don’t cost a penny. You’ll learn where to find these later, but the themes found in the WordPress.org Theme Directory must go through a rigorous vetting process to be included. This ensures quality and lets you choose a theme based on design, functionality, and user reviews alone.
However, free themes also have their disadvantages. First of all, support is usually minimal. Many themes offer support via special forums, so you usually have to find a solution yourself. In addition, updates can be more “ad hoc” depending on the developer’s priorities.
While they are developed in the same way as free WordPress themes, premium solutions are something different. You’ll often find that the support and updates are significantly better, along with more features and functionality. However, depending on the developer, this requires a regular subscription. Of course, those costs are justified if you think you’ll need regular support and updates – and we recommend that you always keep your theme up to date to ensure it’s safe and secure.
Ultimately, the decision to go with a free or premium theme always comes down to your unique needs. If you have the time, expertise, and are on a tight budget, a free theme could be ideal. However, in most cases, a premium theme is the best choice as there are a large number of themes out there.
Quality places to find WordPress themes
As we briefly alluded to, there are a variety of WordPress theme providers out there, catering to all sorts of budgets and niches. Let’s discuss two of them, starting with one we mentioned earlier.
1. The WordPress.org theme directory
The WordPress Theme Directory is the official repository for free WordPress themes. You can access it over the web or alternatively view it from your WordPress dashboard. All themes have been manually reviewed through a rigorous review process before being included in the directory. Therefore, we recommend that you start here if you are looking for a cheap new theme.
For each theme, you can access information to help you make an informed decision. For example, you can see how many active installs a theme has, when it was last updated, read customer reviews and ratings, and access the theme’s support forum.
Also, you can preview the theme directly from the listing with the default data (and also with your site’s content if you’re browsing in WordPress). For a more detailed live demo, you can often find a link to the developer’s website. This gives you a chance to see the theme in action, although installing a theme on your own test site poses little risk.
Finally, downloading and installing themes is a breeze, especially if you’re doing it directly in WordPress.
2. Direct from WordPress theme developers
If you find the prospect of trawling through a large directory daunting, you can always go directly to the source. Many WordPress theme developers sell their work directly, although you have to do quality control yourself. Here are two we recommend:
- StudioPress is the developer of the Genesis Framework. They offer a wide range of premium child theme options that cover a range of niches and designs.
- Theme Hybrid offers a variety of free and premium themes. This is a membership site that offers different support and theme options depending on the subscription you choose.
While both of these platforms offer a variety of theme options, there are other sources to consider. For example, WooCommerce offers the Storefront theme. This is a dedicated ecommerce theme that works fully with the WooCommerce plugin. When you search the web for a theme for your particular niche, you can usually find a plethora of options to choose from.
If you’ve been looking for the right theme for a long time but haven’t found one that suits your needs, you can hire a developer directly to create an individual theme. Of course, developing a custom theme is more expensive than going for a “pre-built” premium theme.
Changing the look of your new WordPress website without any coding or design experience is an integral part of using the WordPress platform. WordPress doesn’t just come with one default theme, but there are thousands of options for different niches and price ranges.