When choosing a WordPress theme, one thing you will not find is a lack of options. That in itself makes it quite a time-consuming process and determining how to choose the best WordPress theme can be quite challenging in some aspects.
It is important to point out that although all theme providers claim to have the newest and greatest themes, there is a huge variance in styles, customization capabilities, and performance. The problem is that you usually find that out after you’ve purchased and installed your theme, and in some instances, after you’ve already created lots of content. Avoiding this mistake will save you a great deal of time and possible headaches.
The difference between a new and a seasoned WordPress user
When shopping for a new WordPress theme, there is a big difference in whether you are just starting out or whether you are familiar with website or blog design.
If you are accustomed to WordPress, you know why you are looking for a new theme. You understand the limitations of the one you already have, what’s working and what’s not. You’ve actually had time to experience the shortcomings of your site, and it’s possible that you may have lost some of your visitors because of it.
If you are a new user, the process is not the same. You are like a kid who just received his/her first driver’s license and is walking into a car dealership to buy a brand new car. The sales team is determined to sell you your dream car!
In either case, it is best to use a step-by-step method to make sure you end up with the best theme that does everything you want and need it to do.
Identifying your needs
First, it is important to identify your needs. This will shorten the list of possibilities. You should not be afraid to write down technical necessities, even though you might not be able to verify them yet.
Here is a good way to start
For example, I need a theme that:
- has a sticky navigation bar (a menu bar that stays visible all the time)
- has the flexibility of having the content displayed across the entire page, or maybe a content area and a sidebar, etc.
- is fast so that my readers have a good experience
- appeals to my audience. For example, if your audience is mostly women you may want a more feminine look.
- will resonate with travelers, or gardeners, or stay-at-home mums – whatever audience you are targeting.
- is easy to customize
- has a built-in slider on the front page or any other feature you may want
- has a provider with great technical support
The difficult thing is that you know your needs today, but do you know how your site, your blog, your business is going to evolve?
What will your needs be in the future?
I always recommend the use of themes that leave the door open for future possibilities.
Criteria for a great WordPress theme
Let’s simplify greatness!
In an ideal world, you would like to have a site that:
- looks beautiful and is appealing to your audience
- is versatile so that you can customize it to your liking whenever you need or want to make changes
- is super easy to configure and use
- is fast – meaning pages take absolutely no time to load
- is compatible with any plugins you might need
Let’s add to this list, a theme provider with wonderful customer support, just in case, and you have a GREAT WORDPRESS THEME.
How to determine if a theme is actually a great theme
When considering a theme, here are a few steps that will easily help you make sure you end up with the most suitable one. In order to do that, let’s take the criteria we’ve just listed above:
- Looks beautiful and is appealing to your audience
It will be easy to narrow down this list. All themes have a demo. Eliminate all the ones you don’t feel are suitable for your end goal.
- Is versatile so that you can customize it to your liking whenever you need or want to make changes
Here again, if a theme is easy to customize, for example, if it has a site builder function built in, the theme provider will highlight those features and present them on the demo. This should give you a very good idea of what you can expect.
- Is super easy to configure and use
This one is not always obvious. Theme providers highlight all their themes’ features that they claim make it easy to use, but when you actually get your hands on it you may run into questions or problems that weren’t obvious in the explanation or on the demo. I would definitely recommend looking at their support forum and read what other users have experienced. Be sure to do this research!
- Is fast – meaning pages take absolutely no time to load
This is actually very simple. Again, research what others have experienced in terms of speed and then, run tests yourself. You can do this by opening a browser window and going to gtmetrix.com. Enter the URL of the demo site and run a test. You can run as many tests as you wish for as many URLs as you wish.Note: Research shows that two seconds seems to be a benchmark for 1) Google to crawl (index) your site properly, and 2) the time it takes before users may start leaving a site. I would not take the two-second rule as a hard and fast rule but would definitely eliminate any demo site with a loading speed of over 4 seconds. The bottom line here is that you should stay away from slow themes, as they will end up doing more harm than good.
- Is compatible with any plugins you might need
If you are a WordPress beginner, that might be difficult to evaluate. I always caution users about installing too many plugins because the more you install the more you increase the chance that your site will respond more slowly.
- Has a provider with wonderful customer support
This is not difficult to determine. Read reviews online and see what other users have experienced when trouble-shooting problems with their themes and what kind of support they received.
Two of the best values in WordPress themes
There are hundreds of possibilities for themes. In my opinion, during your research process, there are most likely two theme providers that will stand out amongst all the others. They are StudioPress and GeneratePress.
- StudioPress is the provider of the Genesis Framework, which is the foundation of many fantastic themes. Their themes are fast, optimized for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and relatively easy to use. This is the reason why StudioPress has been the first choice for many professional web designers. The only drawback is the cost, which can be intimidating for some users.
- GeneratePress offers a free theme that is fast, powerful and easy to use. The theme is free, and they offer a premium package that is very affordable. In my opinion, the premium package is a must because it gives all the customization options to fully take advantage of the theme. They have an amazing demo site with videos that showcase all the wonderful features of their theme.
My experience with both Genesis and GeneratePress
I had the opportunity to design sites with the StudioPress’ Genesis Framework before I discovered GeneratePress. Here is what I like about GeneratePress that I think gives it an advantage:
To reiterate our criteria as previously discussed:
- It is super easy to configure and use, which is great for beginners and more seasoned WordPress users alike.
- It is versatile and can be customized in many ways, which allows you to make your site look beautiful and appealing to your audience.
- It is fast! I’m amazed by how fast it is!
- You don’t need lots of extra plugins to customize it, which again makes it very appealing.
- How is their customer support? I don’t know, and I can’t comment, as I have not had any problems or issues to address, which is a big plus!
5 easy steps to help you choose the best WordPress theme
- Write down your needs and wants – both visually and technically.
- Research the themes you like and retain the ones that meet your criteria (keep in mind that versatility might help you in the future)
- Test demo sites for speed using gtmetrix and keep the ones that perform well.
- Finally, do thorough online researches to find out what others’ experiences have been with the themes you have selected.
- Do not be afraid of purchasing a theme. Sometimes free themes can be very limiting.
A final word on how to choose the best WordPress theme
Finding the best WordPress theme for your needs is a serious consideration. You want your users to have a wonderful experience when visiting your blog or your website and your WordPress theme weighs heavily into that success. It is the foundation of your site and I hope that this article will help you choose the WordPress theme that is best for you.
Please leave a comment and share your experience