Choosing your first WordPress theme can be a challenging and frustrating process. It’s also the part of the process that many people choose to quickly move past so they can start working on other parts of their website.
However, your theme affects so many aspects of your website. It not only sets limits on what you can and can’t do, but it helps showcase the work you’ve put into the other aspects of your website. Choosing your first WordPress theme is indeed important. The question is, “How do you even get started with that process?”
That’s the question we’re going to help you answer today. Here are 20 tips that will help you choose your first WordPress theme and be on your way to success.
Don’t Overthink Your WordPress Theme
Yes, it’s important to find the right WordPress theme. No, it’s not important to find the perfect WordPress theme.
The perfect WordPress theme doesn’t exist. What does exist are great websites. The more time you spend trying to look for the perfect WordPress theme means less time actually building your great website. The best thing to do is find a theme that checks as many of the boxes that we’re about to outline below. After that, it’s best to get started on what matters most.
Make Sure Your WordPress Theme Passes the Eye Test
They say you eat first with your eyes, and it’s absolutely true. Your website may be functional and loaded with great content, but if it doesn’t look good, you’re going to have a harder time drawing people to it.
Choosing the right theme in this regard goes along with not overthinking things. Does your WordPress theme look pleasing when you first set your eyes on it? Do you continue to enjoy the design as you scroll? That’s probably a pretty good indication that’s it’s a worthwhile candidate from a visual perspective.
Choose a WordPress Theme Based on Your Content
What are you starting a website for? There are plenty of reasons to have a WordPress website, but at the end of the day, you’re featuring content. From online portfolios to breaking news, most websites are defined by the content they feature.
It’s important, then, to choose your WordPress theme based on the content that you’ll be featuring. If you’re running an online magazine, choose a magazine theme. If you are hosting fan art, choose a theme designed around art. Understanding the nature of your content will help you narrow your search for a theme.
Looks matter, but the best WordPress themes are defined by their functionality. If the best-looking WordPress theme in the world isn’t responsive, then it’s not a theme you should consider.
In fact, you should overvalue functionality even if it means sacrificing visuals. You shouldn’t have to make that choice outright but always go with the theme that performs better if you’re torn between similar choices. Functionality bests everything else.
Over the last decade or so, there’s been a bigger push for emphasizing the value of a mobile website. We’re now at a point where your mobile website likely matters more than your desktop client.
That last observation is a bit debatable, but the point remains that any WordPress theme that doesn’t look great on mobile isn’t the theme for you. In fact, we could honestly recommend searching for the best mobile WordPress themes first in order to narrow down your selection options.
Give Yourself Room to Grow
Looking for a WordPress theme is one of the first things that people do whenever they’re building a new website. As such, many people go into the process with a kind of “starter” mentality. There are benefits to that approach, but there are considerable downsides as well.
Namely, it’s important to realize that you’ll likely need to grow as you build your website. That means that it’s often important to choose a theme that is maybe more feature-rich than you think you’ll need. You may not need those features right now, but you’ll probably need them later.
Don’t Overlook Plugins
Plugins are another one of those things that are easy to ignore if you don’t think you need them right away. It’s hard enough to choose a WordPress theme based on what you think you will need right now.
However, a WordPress theme that supports as many plugins as possible is usually a good sign. Plugins not only add functionality to your website, but a theme that supports them makes it that much easier to fix problems as they may appear and keep your site as up-to-date as possible.
Consider Community Support
One of the things that many people overlook when choosing a WordPress theme is the value of a theme’s community. By community, we mean the people who not only use that theme but actively talk about it and contribute to its development.
If you see a WordPress theme that has an active community of users, that’s usually a good indication that there’s something engaging about the theme from an admin perspective. It also makes it that much easier to find the help and updates you need.
Know Your SEO Rules
The fact of the matter is that search engine optimization will often define the success of your website. If more people are able to easily find your site, more people are going to visit it. It’s really that simple.
Unfortunately, proper SEO optimization is rarely simple. You can make the process a lot easier on yourself, though, by choosing a WordPress theme that emphasizes SEO via its design. Just know that with the ever-changing world of SEO rules that an optimized WordPress theme is really just the start.
Choose a WordPress Theme That Supports Stores
Not every website needs a store. However, there’s a misconception that stores on websites are only for sites that primarily focus on…well…selling things.
Choosing a WordPress theme that easily supports stores, though, is often ideal. The option of using a store at some point is often more ideal than having to add a store to a WordPress theme that doesn’t optimally support one. Again, it’s better to have proper store functionality and not need it than need it and not have it.
Look At Premium and Free Options
There are a couple of misconceptions you need to get over when you’re choosing between Premium and Free options.
Some people think that premium options are inherently better than free themes. That’s not necessarily true, but there are great premium WordPress themes. Others think that free WordPress themes tend to just be good enough. That’s not necessarily true, but there are great free themes.
The point is that it’s worth considering both options. Don’t feel like you’re taking too much of a loss with the right premium theme, and don’t think you’re settling by choosing a free theme.
As hard as it is to believe in 2019, there are still some WordPress themes that don’t work well with certain browsers. Most people discover that sad fact when it’s already too late.
The point is that you need to do your homework when it comes to compatibility. That not only means researching a theme’s compatibility functionality, but it might mean using test sites or even just checking the compatibility effectiveness of a website already using your desired theme.
Don’t Choose a Dead WordPress Theme
When it comes to technology, there’s rarely such a thing as being wonderfully retro. As such, there’s really no such thing as a cool retro WordPress theme.
Simply put, you need to be very careful when choosing themes that haven’t been released fairly recently. You also need to be careful to not choose a theme that is fairly recent but has been left behind by its users and developers.
Read Lots of Reviews
This could also be called “Research, research, research,” but that’s kind of vague. Instead, we’re going to focus on one of the most important elements of researching a theme: reading user reviews.
When you’re reading reviews of a WordPress theme, be sure to read both the highest-rated reviews as well as the lowest-rated reviews. Individual takeaways aside, you should be able to form a general consensus of what works (and what doesn’t) about a theme based on the collective thoughts of those reviews.
When In Doubt, Look At Updates
If you just can’t choose between a few themes you like, there’s actually a very simple way to decide between them. You just have to look at the updates.
If you find a WordPress theme that is constantly updated, that is the theme for you. It not only indicates that the theme is being actively supported, but it means that the developers are aware there are no perfect themes and they need to be constantly improving their theme.
Consider A Specialized Theme
What’s a specialized WordPress theme? Well, appropriately enough, it’s a theme designed for a specific purpose.
A specialized theme if often designed to meet a specific set of needs. For instance, podcast themes are great for podcasts. Blog themes are great for blogs. It sounds fairly simple, and it is most of the time. The trick is to be able to identify the speciality that works best for you. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to shop around a bit to see what your options are in that field. Of course, if you want to save a little time, we can recommend some of the following options:
Stencil – Blog Theme
VideoCloud – Video Theme
Keyword – SEO Theme
Consider A Drag and Drop Builder
When you’re looking for your first WordPress theme, you’re usually looking to make things as simple as possible. If that’s the case for you, then you may want to consider a drag-and-drop builder.
A drag-and-drop builder lets you easily construct a website using visuals. You can easily get your website to look how you want it to look because you’re building it to look that way. It should be noted that some drag-and-drop builders don’t offer quite as much functionality as code-based options. However, advancements in that technology mean that they’re not far behind in terms of capabilities. In any case, they’re a tremendous starter option.
Don’t be Too Obsessed With Beginner Themes
You may find some WordPress themes out there that advertise themselves as being ideal for “beginners.” While some of those themes do emphasize the qualities that we recommend in a first theme, we have to share a few words of caution regarding them.
Sometimes, “Beginner Themes” is a term that’s incorrectly used. The truth is that most WordPress themes are beginner-friendly. WordPress is a generally friendly platform made all the more friendly thanks to community support. There are a lot of themes that will work well for new users. If you find a beginner-friendly theme that fits your needs, that’s great. We’re just saying that you shouldn’t limit your search to that term.
Understand the Meaning of a Multipurpose Theme
When you’re first looking at WordPress themes, you may be especially tempted by the idea of a multipurpose theme. After all, who wouldn’t want a theme that can do anything?
However, it’s important to understand what multipurpose really means. A multipurpose theme is really just a theme that isn’t designed for a specific purpose. It’s less about how they can do anything and more about how they aren’t limited to a certain function. Along with sometimes being more difficult to work with, such themes can be too generic for your desired functionality. Just know what you’re really getting into when you try to fit a general purpose.
Don’t Just Choose The Most Popular WordPress Theme
This has to be the most tempting solution for new WordPress users. If you find a theme that has been downloaded millions of times, why wouldn’t you download it?
There are a few reasons why. First off, many of the most popular themes are multipurpose themes, and we’ve discussed some of the potential issues with them. Second, the popularity of such themes often has a momentum of its own and isn’t always reflective of quality. Finally, the value of a theme can sometimes go down based on how popular it is. If a theme is used by everyone, that also means that your website may not stand out if you also choose to use it.