If you are using WordPress for your blog or business, choosing the right WordPress theme can be a daunting task. With tens of thousands of themes to search through and pick from, how do you make sure you install the one which will keep the interest of your visitors, and will convert those visitors into customers?
There are many things to consider when deciding on a WordPress theme for your website, so to make it easier for you we have created this guide to help you make the right theme decision.
- 1 Free vs. Premium themes – Which is right for you?
- 2 Check Customer Support Options
- 3 Is the Theme Responsive?
- 4 Test the Speed
- 5 Do you need a Page Builder?
- 6 Read The Reviews
- 7 Recommended Companies
- 8 Conclusion
Free vs. Premium themes – Which is right for you?
When looking at WordPress themes, you will notice that there are free ones and paid or “premium” ones which come at a cost. Although you may think that if you can get it for free there’s no point in paying for it, you need to be aware of the certain features which some with premium themes that are lacking from the free ones.
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Making the right decision on whether to pay for a theme can impact your whole website, and will influence your business and the online goals you want to achieve. There are pros and cons for free and premium WordPress themes, and all are dependent on the context and accomplishments attached to the motivation for your website.
Free Themes Pros
- You don’t have to spend any money on them
- Simple designs if you don’t want anything too complicated
- Will give you what you need if you are an individual blogger just starting out
Free Themes Cons
- Less freedom when it comes to customizing your website beyond the theme restrictions
- Lack of support from the developers behind them, so if you have a problem you will probably have to try and fix it yourself
- Some free themes are poorly coded, which will affect the overall performance and SEO of your site
- Limited theme updates from the developer, which may cause a security risk for your site
Premium Themes Pros
- The cost of a premium theme is still relatively low
- Higher quality website design and coding
- Ability to customise your site further in the HTML and CSS
Premium Themes Cons
- Some premium themes will have additional features built in which you may not use, but could slow your site down.
- Premium themes don’t have to do through a strict review process, so you could still get one which is poorly coded and incompatible with some plugins
- Added features in certain premium themes may cause you to lose content if you decide to switch themes later on
Check Customer Support Options
It is easy to assume that you won’t need customer support for your new theme, as you will install it and nothing will ever go wrong. However, sometimes you may need some help. If you start searching through your settings, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in the CSS of your WordPress theme with no coding knowledge, and the need for something to be fixed before you know it.
When you choose a WordPress theme, it’s important to check how willing the developers are to help should anything go wrong, as a major website issue with no support will either leave you frustrated while you trawl through forums looking for a solution, or it can create an added cost should you need a programmer to come in and fix it for you.
You can see if there is customer support for a theme by checking how often they respond to queries on their forum, or you could even send them an email before you purchase or install to test out their support service for yourself.
Is the Theme Responsive?
The most important thing to check on any free or premium WordPress theme, is whether it is responsive. Put simply, a responsive website is one which will work perfectly on any device, be that computer, tablet, or mobile, giving the end user the best experience so they don’t click off when they can’t find what they’re looking for.
The quickest way to test whether a theme is responsive, is to open it in demo mode and move the size of the screen. A responsive theme will move to fit the width of the page as you resize the area. Another way to test it, is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool as it will tell you how well your theme will work for mobile visitors.
With the surge in Google searches being from mobile devices, it is very important that your website is responsive. Google also ranks mobile-friendly sites higher than those that aren’t, so if you want to be doing everything you can to create a website which is accessible and SEO-friendly, making sure it’s mobile-friendly is the first place to start.
Test the Speed
A good theme will be well coded, as it will make your load times low and your SEO value high. For the best user experience, you want a theme which is going to load quickly as a slow site will leave a visitor feeling annoyed and impatient, and will make them quickly click off your site if they aren’t being given the information they’re looking for immediately.
You can test the speed of your WordPress theme before you install it, by using different tools. Pingdom allows you to enter the demo URL of a theme and will test the load time of the page, analyse it, and find bottlenecks.
WP Speedster is another tool which you can use to check the speed of any free WordPress themes you may be considering. They have tested over 2500 free themes for speed, on the Home pages and a sample post pages, and have checked them on both desktop and mobile. It is a comprehensive tool for speed testing free WordPress themes, and will help you to pick the right one.
It is also a good idea to test your new WordPress theme for browser compatibility, to ensure it will work perfectly for everyone who views it. Most developers do check their themes for browser compatibility, but it is still a good idea to check it yourself for peace of mind. Try the demo site in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and on different mobile browsers to be safe.
If you have found a theme which looks great and will serve the purpose of your website, you must also check that it will work well from a technical perspective as it will be these results which determine your outcomes and conversions.
You can speed up your WordPress website, so check through our guide for tips to do so.
Do you need a Page Builder?
If you don’t know how to code, having a page builder will allow you to drag and drop items on your website without you having to become an expert developer to make any changes to your WordPress theme.
Some premium themes come with a page builder built in, but be aware that these page builders will likely have only been developed for that specific theme so you may run into trouble should you choose to install a new one in the future.
There are many page builder plugins which you can add to your WordPress site to give you full customising control over what the interface will look like without having to write a single line of code.
Most of the best page builder plugins will come at an added cost, but there are some out there which are free. Make sure you check the reviews of these plugins before installing them so you can see if other users have had a positive experience. You can also find comprehensive reviews of the best page builder plugins by doing your research online.
Read The Reviews
The easiest way to see how well a WordPress theme works, is by checking the reviews from other users. Here you will find whether other people have used the theme and experienced any problems, and if the developers have responded with a solution.
The best thing about WordPress is that as one of the most popular content management systems out there, you can quickly assess whether a theme is the right one for you as there will already be a lot of people who have used it.
If there is a premium theme you are interested in, chances are it it’s sold on a third-party marketplace and so you will be able to see the reviews from other customers there. Free WordPress themes also have reviews available for you to read, and are found in the ratings section underneath the download button.
It is likely that most themes will have at least one bad review, but if the one and two stars are minimal then look into what that person’s experience was before writing it off as a possibility completely. If there are a lot of bad reviews, you may want to re-evaluate whether that theme is a good choice.
Doing your research on any product is important, and checking out the reviews for WordPress themes is no different. Remember, the theme you choose will be the one which will represent your blog or business online, so you must pick one which works well as well as looks good.
There are companies out there which develop free and premium WordPress themes who come highly recommended by their customers. We have rounded up some of the best ones, so you have a starting point for where to look when choosing your new theme.
Our WordPress themes have been downloaded over two million times since 2011. We have lots of free themes to suit a range of customers and requirements, including business websites, personal blogs, ecommerce sites, portfolios, and multi-purpose websites.
A popular choice among WordPress users everywhere, Array Themes use safe and secure, SEO-optimised code, only develop responsive sites, and have a great customer support team should you need any assistance.
StudioPress create themes and also offer managed WordPress hosting and were awarded ‘Fastest WordPress Hosting’ of 2017 in the latest independent speed test performed by WebMatros, and they have industry leading design framework for WordPress sites. Their Genesis Framework is highly rated in the blogging community, and already powers over 50,000 sites.
They have been developing some of the most popular WordPress themes for over ten years, and are the creators of the most popular premium theme in the world. Divi is a website building framework which makes it possible to build amazing sites without ever having to code.
Creating fast and easy to install responsive sites is what Themify do, and their 70,000 customers all agree. Every theme has a drag and drop page builder feature so they are perfect for people who want a great site without needing a developer to lend a hand.
Deciding on which WordPress theme to use for your blog or business is a big task, as the look you go for will be representing your online presence for a long time. Make sure you pick the right theme for your needs by checking the responsiveness, testing the speed, and ensuring that the design features fit your skills and requirements.
Whether you are looking for a free and simple WordPress theme, or a premium theme with the ability to customize to your heart’s content, there is something out there which works well for everyone.
Make sure you know what you want your website to achieve at the beginning of your theme hunt, so that you know what features are essential. Try not to be too overwhelmed by choosing a WordPress theme, and keep these tips in mind when it comes to making the decision on the right one.
How do you go about choosing a new WordPress theme? Have you got any extra tips to add to the list? Have you used any of our recommended theme developers? Let us know your experiences below!