WordPress themes are the most flexible, accessible tool for designing your website. Even when you’re lacking in time or coding know-how, you can still build impressive websites.
However, with the incredible amount of free and premium WordPress themes available online, it’s difficult to know which one is right for your site.
We’ll show you how to save time and find the best theme for your website in these ten easy steps, as well as eight suggestions for common website styles.
10 Things to Consider When Choosing a WordPress Theme
In all honesty, it’s not that easy to find the Goldilocks of WordPress themes–the one that’s just right.
For starters, there are a lot to choose from and they’re not all available from the same website or marketplace. Secondly, themes are usually designed with specific businesses or purposes in mind. So, it can take a while to sift through all the features and determine if it’s right for your website.
1. How Much Does the Theme Cost?
The cost of a theme may factor into your decision.
WordPress themes come in two flavors when it comes to cost. Free WordPress themes are plentiful, but they tend to lack in quality, features, and customization.
More often than not, you’ll need to add custom CSS code or edit the theme files to make the site look and work the way you want it to. And that kind of defeats the purpose of using WordPress, doesn’t it?
Your WordPress theme should enable you to do more yourself, without spending hours learning code and chasing down bugs.
With premium WordPress themes, you get much more flexibility and better quality. Especially if you buy from a trusted, established theme developer.
And the cost? It’s pennies on the dollar for the functionality you get. Our top selling themes on MOJO Marketplace run just $59, and that’s a one-time fee that gets you the theme files, demos, and support.
So the question of cost is really more about time. Do you want to spend time fixing up a free theme that might not work at all, or save time and create a better site with a quality theme for a negligible cost?
2. Read the Reviews and Ratings
There’s always something comforting about seeing what previous customers had to say about products you’re interested in. It helps you figure out if it’s right for you, as well.
WordPress—and its community of users—has always been good in this regard. With reviews and ratings clearly published for each theme, it’s easy to get a sense for the quality of a theme and weed out any negative trends related to security, performance, or reliability.
On MOJO Marketplace, you can browse reviews for each theme on the item page, or leave a review for the theme’s you’ve bought. We want to keep each customer’s experience transparent so you can make the best choice.
Also, if you’re browsing themes on WordPress.org, you can look at how many active installs the theme has, as well as ratings. These are good indicators of theme quality and usability.
3. Check How Often the Theme is Updated
Because WordPress is the most popular content management system around the world, it’s also greater target for security breaches.
But WordPress isn’t the only one responsible for keeping users like yourself safe from hacking. Designers must keep their themes up-to-date at all times, and address any weaknesses.
If you’ve found a theme that you like, but see that it hasn’t been updated in the last six months or so, that’s a definite red flag right there. For example, on MOJO Marketplace and WordPress.org, you can find the date of the last update, and all previous updates.
On MOJO, you just click the Changelog tab on the item page to see the history of updates.
Generally, you want to see an update at least every few months or so. If the theme hasn’t been updated in over a year, that’s a bad sign and you should probably avoid it.
4. What Kind of Support is Offered with the Theme?
One of the biggest advantages to premium themes is the support.
Free theme authors generally don’t invest the time it takes to field questions and help you troubleshoot issues. All premium themes on MOJO come with support, and we include a support forum on each item page.
You can usually find support details and contact information at the bottom of the item page, like this example from the Daisy blog theme.
Having great support can make a big difference when you get stuck or have a problem, and prevent delays.
5. Check Site Speed
Site speed isn’t just convenient. It actually affects your site ranking on search engines–it’s a factor that Google checks to deliver the best user experience.
A good way to check site speed? Look at the theme demos, and look for speed optimizations in the feature list. And even better, if you can find a site built with the theme you’re interested in, plug it into a site performance checker, such as Pingdom.
If you have trouble finding a site to test, you can always reach out to the theme author. My new website is a real estate website so we always use Pingdom to check the loading time of all the heavier images.
Or, you can try searching for sites using the method in this article, where you search the web for theme files by typing in “wp-content/themes/themename” then testing the urls that come up.
You can always optimize your site for speed with plugins and refinements, but it’s good to start off with a lean, fast theme.
6. Does it Look Good on All Devices?
There was a time not so long ago when responsive web design was considered a “nice-to-have” and not a “must have.”
Nowadays, responsive websites are all but a requirement—this is what your visitors expect and it’s what search engines want to see. It doesn’t matter what type of site you have, it needs to have responsive design.
Almost all themes these days are responsive, so it’s a no-brainer if you find one that isn’t–don’t use it!
The question is, how does it actually perform on different devices?
On MOJO, you can test this by viewing a live demo of each theme. It really helps to see how the theme performs across devices.
Another option is to visit the theme demo website and resize your browser.
Some themes perform better than others, and you might have to make some CSS changes to get it just right once you customize the theme.
7. Is it Built with the User in Mind?
While it might seem fun to pick a theme that looks unlike anything else you’ve seen before, you have to remember that we’re all just creatures of habit.
If you force your visitors to work too hard to figure out where your navigation is, how to find the information they’re looking for, or how to progress past an animation to the actual content of your site, you could lose them.
Sometimes choosing a clean, modern design that follows user experience best practices is the safest and smartest choice.
8. How Much Customization and Flexibility Do You Have?
Even for sites that are simple by nature (like blogs), you still will want a certain degree of flexibility in what you can customize.
For some, this means having access to your preferred type of content creation tool: a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, a drag-and-drop editor, or the Visual Composer page builder plugin.
For others, this may mean having a variety of pre-built menu layouts or page templates available. I think it’s safe to say, however, that everyone wants to be able to control the individual elements that make up a site: font choices, logos and other imagery, sizing and spacing of content, color palette, and so on.
Here’s an example of what you can do with a more flexible theme.
This is a big factor in choosing your WordPress theme because it affects the potential of what you can build with it. It’s a matter of preference and a matter of capability, so be sure you understand how to manage your website with the theme’s tools.
9. Are the Plugins You Need Compatible?
This one is especially important for specialized sites.
If you know that you’ll build your store with WooCommerce or if you know that your site requires multilingual support, you’ll need to look for themes that are compatible with the plugins you intend on using.
A good practice is searching for plugins that are best for accomplishing your goals. Then, check to make sure those plugins are either included or supported and ask the theme developer if necessary.
10. Show Me the Features!!
Finally, you don’t want to buy a theme without knowing the features! Just like any product you research, this is an easy way to narrow down your choices.
Theme features are really any sort of special element you wouldn’t find in the most basic of themes. Things like:
- RTL language support
- Image slider
- Image gallery
- Video background
- Menu alignment
- Layout and column options
- Footer widgets
- Full width design
- Payment gateway
But here’s the thing: a theme is not a plugin. A theme needs to be a cleanly coded, modern design that you can work from. While it’s nice to have certain features automatically included within it, a theme that goes overboard and tries to include too many unnecessary elements is usually one to stay away from.
Specialized themes created for a specific purpose or business model is where you want to focus your attention.
Here are some examples of highly targeted MOJO Marketplace themes for WordPress that hit the nail on the head:
Best Multipurpose Theme and Page Builder: StartUp
The StartUp WordPress theme is a new theme on MOJO Marketplace that changes the way you customize your site and create pages. It allows you to customize everything visually from the built-in WordPress customizer, similar to what you’d experience with a page builder like Wix or Squarespace, but better and more flexible. This is perfect for anyone who needs something totally custom, and can be great for blogs, businesses, and portfolios in particular.
Here are some features this theme includes that make it stand out as a multipurpose theme:
- One-click demo import and great templates to start from
- Tons of customizer widgets to create better page designs
- Translation and WooCommerce ready, search engine optimized, and quality support offered
Best for Blogs: Freyja
The Freyja theme comes with three different template options. 1 and 2 would work perfectly for bloggers of all types: lifestyle, food, family, travel, etc.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for blogs:
- Variety of blog layouts from simple column to Pinterest-style masonry grid
- Different post types depending on the style of blog: video, content, photo gallery, etc.
- Simplified page options for the home, blog, about, and contact
Best for Business: Highend
The Highend theme is what’s known as a multi-purpose theme, which means that it comes with an extensive library of theme options to choose from. These sorts of themes tend to be ideal for businesses since they won’t pigeonhole you into using one style, especially if your business crosses a number of industries.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for businesses:
- Over a dozen theme templates to choose from with new ones always being added
- Includes a live visual page builder which means even the least tech-savvy business owner can create a new site in no time
- Comes with lifetime support, which is important for the busy business owner
Best for eCommerce: Kaching
Ideally, if you’re building an e-commerce store, you’ll want to use a plugin to create your inventory and set up your payment gateway. However, you’ll still need a theme to host it all from and Kaching is a good one to start with.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for ecommerce:
- Page templates like Help & Support, Terms & Conditions, and Track Your Order
- Modified header designs that include shopping cart and search functionality
- Discount and coupon code notification bars
Best for Food & Drink: Food
Despite labeling itself as a “multi-purpose” theme, the Food theme is indeed a great choice for food and drink establishments. It’s modernly designed and puts the focus on what matters most to foodies.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for food and drink establishments:
- Page template for Menu
- A variety of image gallery options to show off food and drink
- Full-width, retina-ready header design that works with image and video backgrounds
Best for News: Observer
Unlike other multi-purpose themes that cross into different sectors, it is clear that the Observer theme is meant specifically for online news publications. With clean lines and a highly organized interface, this theme would work well for any news-heavy site.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for news outlets:
- Retina ready so every post or article looks crisp and clean
- Over a dozen widgets available to create a variety of news sections
- Page options for posts, video, categories, TV, and reviews
Best for Non-profit: Maisha
The unfortunate thing about many non-profit websites for charities, churches, and other organizations is that they don’t always look professionally-made because of the lack of funds to hire someone to do so. This theme will change that.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for non-profits:
- Integrates with plugins like WooCommerce, The Events Calendar, and Contact Form 7
- The theme is translation-ready
- Page templates include those for Donations, Causes, Stories, and Projects
Best for Portfolio: Portfolio
Portfolio sites aren’t just for photographers. This Portfolio theme would work great for any creative professional who wants to show off their photos, illustrations, web designs, coded apps, event setup, hand-crafted goods, and more.
Here are some features this theme includes that are perfect for creative portfolios:
- Responsive design so high-res images can be viewed in full-screen from any device
- Gallery LightBox feature included
- Variety of blog post and project layouts available
WordPress is a truly awesome platform to work on, but it doesn’t always make our work easier or quicker when there are so many high-quality themes to choose from.
Rather than take a gamble on a theme that by all outward appearances looks good, use these tips to find the right WordPress theme for your site the first time.