8 Things to Consider When Choosing a WordPress Theme
Choosing a WordPress theme is the all-important first step when it comes to building your WordPress website. With 33.6% of all sites on the internet built using the popular content management system, WordPress, it should come as no surprise that there is in excess of 11,000 themes available for you to choose from!
It’s fantastic that WordPress allows this much choice! If not, websites would look identical… and where’s the fun in that!? But this much choice can be a little overwhelming, especially if this is your first time choosing a theme. There are so many things to think about:
- Should you use a free theme or pay for a premium theme?
- What’s the best theme layout for your site’s goals?
- Is your chosen theme already mobile responsive?
- Does the theme come with supported plugins?
- What about load time and ongoing updates?
- What’s your budget for a theme?
This post contains affiliate links. I will earn a commission at no additional charge to you if you make a purchase using my links.
The list goes on, it’s enough to give even a seasoned web developer a headache! Keep reading as I address the eight things you should consider when choosing a WordPress theme. Getting your theme choice right, from the beginning, will save you a lot of time and money later down the line!
1. Free vs Paid WordPress Themes
The first two categories you can put WordPress themes into is FREE and PAID themes. But what’s the difference, aside from the cost?
A free theme usually has limited features. Meaning there aren’t many extras when it comes to functionality. Free themes can have millions of downloads! Not a lot of originality there! Free themes are free because they’re often not updated on a regular basis. This means any site built on them is more vulnerable to a malicious attack. Free themes are probably not going to be mobile responsive out of the box and could have serious ‘code-bloat’ which will slow your site down and make it less optimized for search engines.
Premium themes cost money. There aren’t any standard qualifications that would certify a theme as being premium. Anyone can build a theme, brand it as premium, and offer it for sale. The best premium themes will be regularly updated, secure, provide good foundations for your sites SEO and be mobile responsive out of the box.
2. Choose a WordPress Theme Layout That Compliments Your Goal
Before selecting your WordPress theme, you need to have a clear idea of what the goals are for your website. Some themes may be more optimized for one purpose than another. For example, if your goal is blogging, you want the fonts and typefaces to be easy to read.
When considering which theme to choose, think about:
- The sites primary purpose?
- Who will be using the site?
- What are the main actions someone will take on the site?
- Ease of navigation?
- Is the theme optimized for the functions you want on the site?
For instance, if you are a photographer or designer and you want to spotlight your work, you want a theme that does a great job of showcasing your images. You want your images to look just as good if your readers are viewing on a desktop, table, or mobile device.
If you are setting up a website to sell products, you want your customers to be able to quickly find what they are looking for with a quick search. In this example, you also want to have a seamless shopping experience.
3. WordPress Theme Responsiveness
Because there are so many different sizes of devices available to browse the web with these days, it’s vital that your theme is mobile responsive. Over half of Google’s search queries are generated with mobile devices.
A site that is mobile responsive will look good and be easy to use across all devices. Nowadays, if you come across a site on your mobile and have to ‘pinch-and-zoom’ a large percentage of people will navigate away from the site. Furthermore, if your theme is not already mobile responsive, you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time on media queries and breakpoints!
4. WordPress Theme Supported Plugins
When considering which theme is best for your site, you need to ensure the theme supports essential plugins. These would be:
- Updrafts Plus
- Google Analytics
- Ninja Forms
Your chosen theme should also support the plugins needed for your business to run successfully. For example, if you’re selling products from your site and need payment gateways, you’ll want to ensure that WooCommerce is compatible.
5. Access to Ongoing Updates and Support for Your WordPress Theme
Most FREE themes are free because no one is updating them. If you haven’t paid for the theme, it’s also going to be hard to pin down a support team, should you run into any trouble along the way.
Most good premium themes are regularly updated and maintained by the theme developers. If you have paid for their product, you should also be able to reach out to them for support if the product you paid for is not working.
6. WordPress Theme Load Time and Speed
The average time for a web page to fully load can be up to 22 seconds. I can tell you most of your readers will bounce if it takes your site more than 2-3 seconds to load. This is something that you want to keep in mind when you are choosing a theme. The load speed of your site is crucial if you want to retain visitors. Unclean code, or ‘code-bloat’, is one of the leading causes of slow load time on websites. Make sure you choose a theme with beautiful, clean code if you want your site’s speed to be optimal.
If you are having issues with your site load speed, the first place I always recommend that you look is your hosting provider. I use SiteGround for myself and my clients and I have not had any issues with any of the sites that I manage. A few other top mentions are WPEngine and WebHostingHub.
You also want to avoid using too many plugins. If you have a ton of plugins, do a quick audit. Do you have plugins that you no longer need? Can you find one plugin that will do multiple things? I go into more detail about plugins in this post.
7. Budget for a WordPress Theme
Obviously, you need to take your own personal budget into account when choosing a theme. You’ve heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ and it holds true for WordPress themes as well. If you don’t splash out on a premium theme, expect to spend a lot more of your own time adjusting the site to get it to match your vision.
Premium themes don’t need to break the bank. There are many reputable premium themes that can be purchased for $100-$200. Spending a little bit of money on a premium theme might just save you a lot of time.
If you don’t know a lot about customizing themes to create the look and feel that you want on your site there are some great drag and drop editors out there that make it really easy to build custom home pages, landing pages, etc. on your site. Two of my favorites are Elementor and Beaver Builder.
Elementor has a free version if you are a try before you buy DIY’er. You can find free themes up for offer that work excellent with Elementor. There are also templates, video tutorials, etc. that will help get you started. I will say with any free theme or template you use (from any source) make sure you check reviews, look at support options, and be aware that there are risks with any free themes, plugins, and templates. Just make sure you are choosing a reputable source. If you want access to premium bells and whistles you can opt for Elementor Pro.
Beaver Builder also has a free version, but their Pro version offers a lot more functionality, templates and more advanced design modules. In addition, there are lots of plugins built specifically for Beaver Builder to give you additional design options.
8. Choose a WordPress Theme That Helps You Stand Out
At the time of writing, there are 118 million active websites on the internet… That’s a pretty big pond! How are you going to make your WordPress site stand out from your competition? With an abundance of themes available to choose from, make sure to choose one that will give your site a unique look and feel that works best for your brand and message.
8 Things to Consider When Choosing a WordPress Theme
Who knew there was so much to consider when choosing a theme for your website?!! Taking the time to get this choice right will save you both time and money in the future. Do your research, compare the pros and cons of different themes, and always keep in mind the goals for your site. Websites have the ability to make or break a business, so don’t rush this all-important decision.