WordPress consists of a few major components. There is the main part that is actually WordPress. The theme gives your site its look and feel. In some cases, the theme also adds some functionality. Then there are plug-ins that add functionality to your site. So, naturally, this means that one of your early decisions is to decide which WordPress theme you should use.
You want a theme that is fast and gives you as much functionality as possible. Before we give specific recommendations, here are some general thoughts to get you started.
Considerations When Choosing Which WordPress Theme To Use
Does the Developer Support Your WordPress Theme
Most themes will list their updates on their site. They do this to let you know what has changed. You want to take a quick look through these to get an idea of how well supported the theme is.
How often Does the Developer Update the Theme?
You want a WordPress theme that that is regularly updated. The developer should have updated it in the last few months. It should also support the most recent version of WordPress. WordPress is pretty good about letting the community know about upcoming changes and allowing them to test them. A good theme shouldn’t be without supporting the most recent version of WordPress for very long, if ever.
Is the theme well documented?
Ideally, you should be able to view the documentation before buying a theme. If not, contact the company and ask for a copy of the documentation. Review the documentation. Make sure it gives you enough information to run and customize the theme.
Good documentation for the theme should be well laid out and should spell out how to do things like installing the theme, customize the theme and creating a child theme. It should have common troubleshooting information. You should be able to search it.
Is support good?
Ideally, there should be a community, message board, Facebook group or something similar you can use to get help when you need it. Ideally it should be searchable, clear, and intuitive. Facebook groups are tough for this because the search functionality isn’t all that robust. Many themes and plug-ins live on another site like WordPress.org and ThemeForest which have message boards for support for each plug-in and theme.
That shouldn’t be it though. A good theme should have good chat, phone or email support. You may have to wait a day or two for a response but your response should be clear and it should answer your question. You should think of a logical question (not something silly) and try submitting it for support before you buy. Figure out how difficult it is to get support and the qualities of the response (and the speed).
Are there Good Reviews?
Reviews aren’t perfect and can be faked. So, this isn’t the only test but bad reviews are probably legitimate. Also, though, read through some of the views. If there are several reviews telling you that it’s a great theme unless you want purple text and you had planned on purple text, maybe it’s not the WordPress theme for you.
Check a mix of good and bad reviews. Ideally, these should be customer reviews. Even if they are reviews on a site they can be helpful but actual customer reviews are often better.
How many Customers Does It Have?
It costs money to keep a theme up to date. It’s tough for a company to invest those resources if they aren’t making any money. There’s no perfect science to this. Often you can see the number of downloads that a theme has had. This could be free versions if it has one but even that is promising. Sometimes you can get an idea from how active the support board is. You want other people to help push the company to keep investing.
What do you want it to do
If you have specific functions you’re looking for, make sure your theme can have them.
Often, ThemeForest will have specialized themes for different purposes like rentals or job boards, or the like. These can be great, but there are things to be aware of. Often these themes aren’t very flexible and if you have any requirements that fall out of what the theme author had planned you could be in for a very expensive development bill to find ways around the way the theme is built. Many of these themes don’t have a fast site speed which hurts your SEO.
Your WordPress Theme Should Be Flexible enough
A good theme should be flexible. Some themes have specialized functions which can be really great. Unfortunately, many of them aren’t very configurable. We’ve seen several users install these themes because they thought that the theme is set up just for what they want but then they realize it’s not quite right.
For example, they create a job listing site with a theme that specializes in showing listing, like jobs. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the search screen or the search results aren’t quite what they want and they’re not very configurable. So then they spend several hundred dollars on customizing the theme.
A better solution is a fast, flexible theme. Then get a plugin that does what you want. Plugins often specialize in their area of expertise. They’re more likely to be more flexible than a theme that has sold a few hundred copies.
Custom WordPress Themes
Many developers and designers will custom build a theme for your look and feel. That’s amazing because it gives you the exact look you want. The downside is that when you go to make changes or update your theme, often you can’t without a developer because it breaks your theme.
This becomes a big problem when a hacker attacks your custom theme because there isn’t a developer to provide security updates for the theme. This also presents a problem when PHP or WordPress needs to be updated.
You’re better off going with a supported off the shelf theme and getting pages custom designed for you. Done right, that can be easily supported and more easily changed later on.
Many paid themes will offer a money back guarantee. Take advantage of this. If you think you want the theme, purchase it and try to run it through its paces before the trial period ends. This will allow you to not lose money if you don’t like it.
Test out support for Your WordPress Theme
For any theme you’re considering, you should test out their support both before buying and during and money back guarantee. Ideally, find a difficult problem or question. Figure out how to submit it. See how long it takes to respond, the quality of the response and if they answer the question. When something goes wrong, support is key and if they take two weeks to respond, that isn’t helpful at all.
Which WordPress Theme
The theme is a very personal choice based on your needs. We would recommend one of three themes for most sites.
Astra is a great theme. The free version is good and fast but the pro version adds a lot of features.
Divi isn’t as fast but it has a wonderful page builder that is very easy to use. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use on some hosts because it takes a lot of resources.
Genesis is a robust, lightweight theme with good features.
Any of these themes have good support and are robust enough to do almost anything you could want as you decide which WordPress theme to use for your site.