These days, more and more small business owners are choosing to build their own websites. And it’s easy to see why.
If you use a popular content management system (CMS), you can quickly set up a website without spending a fortune or hiring an expensive design agency.
There are many content management systems that make the process of building a website a breeze. For this post I will focus mainly on WordPress, which by far is the most popular CMS available.
WordPress powers 33%, or one-third, of all websites in existence today. It’s also extremely user-friendly and the easiest CMS to master, even for users who have no technical skills.
Another reason why WordPress is so popular is due to the sheer number of themes and plugins available that were designed to extend its functionality.
What Is a WordPress Theme?
Themes, in the simplest form, are templates that allow you to quickly create a website. A WordPress theme is a collection of files that work together to generate the look of the site. Themes are easy to install and modify and can drastically change the way your website looks and functions.
To install them, all you need is a basic WordPress install. Then you simply upload the theme you purchased or get one from the large WordPress theme directory.
WordPress themes make it extremely easy for anyone—even without design or programming experience—to create beautiful, well-functioning websites. Whether it’s a website for a small business, online store, personal blog, or portfolio, using a WordPress theme can be a huge timesaver. WordPress is also budget-friendly, and will cost much less than what you would pay to hire an agency or freelancer to build your website.
So, how you find the perfect WordPress theme for your blog or website? This guide will walk you through and show how to select the best WordPress theme to use for building your website.
What is the difference between free and premium WordPress themes?
Typically, there are both free and paid WordPress themes available. You can find many free themes on various WordPress-related websites, including wordpress.org, from WordPress Theme Directory. You can even browse and install these free themes within WordPress itself.
There are also many free WordPress themes offered by companies that sell stripped down versions of their premium themes. They’re perfectly fine to use but may lack many advanced features you’ll have to pay for to unlock.
Be careful when selecting a free theme. Generally, free themes get updated much less frequently. They also lack the support that most premium themes offer. So if you get stuck customizing your theme, there is no one to help you and you might need to hire a WordPress developer to do it for you. This can be quite costly, depending on how much customization you require.
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Free themes are also more likely to have security bugs and other issues. Since developers who built them don’t make much money developing them, they are not as invested in updating them.
For these and many other reasons, I would advise sticking with premium themes. Most premium themes only cost around $50 -$60, but the money you spend will be well worth your investment.
7 Benefits of using a premium WordPress theme
So why use a premium theme? Take a look at some of the benefits of why you should go for a premium theme.
1. More Secure (premium themes are updated and fixed more frequently for any security threats)
2. They include many advanced features
3. Much better tech support
4. Better coded (more likely to be responsive and use child themes)
5. More likely to be SEO friendly
6. Much more user-friendly and easier to customize
7. They’re much more frequently updated
You can purchase premium themes from many popular WordPress theme foundries. Try to buy from established sites that have been around for a long time. Bigger players tend to have stricter acceptance guidelines and are more diligent at checking the code. As a result, the quality of the themes they accept and sell are generally higher than ones sold by the less reputable sites. Some of the popular sites where you can buy WordPress themes include ThemeForest , Themify, MOJO Marketplace, and TemplateMonster
So how do you find and choose the best WordPress theme for your website?
An attractive, professional and well-written theme will help you to create an impressive website, boost your business’s online presence and increase your site’s conversion rate. But how do you go about finding the best WordPress theme?
There are millions of different WordPress themes to choose from online but not all of them created equal. There are many features that you must take into consideration when selecting a theme.
Many premium themes look pretty; you might get easily overwhelmed with the sheer number of themes and options available. Keep in mind, though, that in addition to the thousands of themes, there are many that also include a variety of demos, making the selection process even more complicated.
To help find the best WordPress theme, follow these tips:
(Images below are from ThemeForest WordPress foundry, where I purchase most of my themes and can highly recommend them)
1. Go with what’s popular
Most popular themes can earn developers big bucks. So it’s in their interest to make sure their themes are well coded and easy to use.
To stay ahead of the competition, they have to constantly improve their themes. As a result, the most popular themes are much better coded and get more frequent updates. They’re popular for a reason. They’re also more likely to have many more features and are easier to customize making them big sellers.
2. Check ratings and reviews
Popular themes get more sales and more reviews, so it’s easier to find what others think of the theme you’re interested in. With newer and less popular themes you get fewer ratings, which makes it harder to determine how good they really are. If there are thousands of sales and the theme gets many five-star reviews, it’s a safe bet.
3. Frequency of updates
Check the date of when the theme was last updated. If it’s been longer than a few months, you might want to skip it. To keep up with core WordPress updates, themes should be updated frequently as well.
4. Go for one time payment
Go for the theme that requires a one-time purchase rather than a recurring payment. There are premium themes that you have to pay annually to get the necessary updates. For example, Divi theme might require you to pay each year to keep it running smoothly.
Other foundries, like ThemeForest, only require you to purchase a license for a single site. Once you get the license, you’ll get automatic updates without having to pay each year.
5. Make sure it’s mobile friendly
These days, almost every premium theme will be mobile friendly. But you should verify that the theme is designed to look good on all the devices.
You can use tools such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tools to determine whether Google recognizes that it is mobile ready (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/)
6. Check the speed
Many premium themes can get quite bloated. They can be fairly complex, have lots of plugins, and not properly coded for speed.
As a result, such themes might be slow and will get penalized by Google. Speed is an important factor in ranking, so you want to make sure your theme loads fast. Use tools such as PageSpeed Insights to check how quickly the pages using specific themes load.
7. Verify plugin compatibility
The availability of plugins is what makes WordPress so attractive to use. Before purchasing a theme, make sure your it can support popular plugins like Woocommerce and Yoast, and others. This will help you scale your website, and add e-commerce and other capabilities without resorting to outside help.
8. Does it use Page Builders?
If you don’t know how to code, this might be a huge perk for you. Page Builders make it easy for anyone to easily build and design pages without knowing the code. Instead of writing html and css, you can use the drag and drop interface to add various elements to your web pages.
9. How good is tech support
Great tech support is another great benefit you get with premium themes. Top premium themes will usually include 6 months of free tech support to help answer questions and troubleshoot if anything goes wrong. So if you get stuck customizing your website, you can ask theme developers for help and likely get a reply within a day or two.
Check the pre-sale support forums to make sure the theme developers actively help users who have questions. If tech support is non responsive or takes forever to reply to questions, it might be a sign that support is lackluster and you might want to consider another theme.
The opposite is also true. If developers quickly respond to inquiries and offer detailed explanations and are helpful, it’s a good sign they will respond when you need help with the theme you buy.
10. Style that fits your goals
Finally, carefully check the theme and the demos. You’ll find many themes with multiple demos for different types of industries. Browse the demos to see if there is a particular theme that suits your needs, as each theme and demo caters to a different niche. For example, if you’re a health professional make sure the theme has health-related demos. Do they match the style you envisioned for your website?
Check the colors, fonts, layout, headers, and footers. Try to find the demo that’s closest to the functionality and the aesthetic you’re looking for.
The closer the theme matches what you envision for your website, the less customization you will need after it’s been installed.
Once you select the theme and the demo you want to use, you can try to install it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. Many WordPress theme websites offer installation for a small fee, typically $50-$100.
Keep in mind that the installation will not cover anything beyond that, so if any customization is needed you’ll have to do so on your own or find someone to help you. Most premium themes include documentation that explains how to install the theme and make the necessary changes. So if you plan to do everything yourself, definitely spend some time reading this document and learning about your theme.
You can also hire a freelance WordPress developer to install the theme for you and make any necessary changes, including switching the logo, updating the colors, and setting up new pages.
Hiring someone after you install the theme can be a cost-effective strategy, since paying someone to make small changes will cost much less than paying others to design an entire website.
By following these tips and doing the research outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to save yourself hours of frustration while choosing the best theme for your website.
Below are my favorite themes I have used on many projects I’m happy to recommend: