Whether you’re new to WordPress themes or already familiar with them and just looking for a change, knowing the features you need in advance will save time and effort compared to simply hoping the right theme will appear in a search.
This how-to guide explores the common questions people ask — and what to avoid — when choosing a WordPress theme. It also provides recommendations for five top WordPress themes along with their specifications and the type of sites they suit best.
Common Questions When Choosing a WordPress Theme
What’s the Website’s Main Goal?
Understanding a website’s primary goal, or strategy, is an important first step when choosing a WordPress theme. Here are some guiding questions to consider in the planning stage:
- Will the website mainly focus on hosting a blog?
- Will the website sell a product or service?
- What’s the website’s target market or audience?
- Will the website operate as an online store that earns money or will it serve a charity or another organization?
The “Feature Filter” tool in the WordPress theme directory makes theme selection easier by filtering themes based on their layouts and subjects. The different layouts include grids, one to four columns, left or right sidebars, and wide blocks. The subjects range from blogging, ecommerce, and food and drink to education, entertainment, holidays, and news.
What Plug-Ins and Features Are Needed?
Customization refers to designing a website with a collection of features and plug-ins — software add-ons with specific functions that don’t require any coding experience — to suit its overall goal. These custom elements also can serve as the pieces that make a website coherent and interactive.
A website’s appearance relies on a combination of diverse visual elements, including the color scheme, headers and footers, logos, menus, fonts, columns, opt-in forms, images, written content, and much more.
Other useful customization tools include page builders. You can download these drag-and-drop visual editors — like Elementor, WPBakery, and Beaver Builder — as plug-ins. They allow you to build a website block by block with various templates, such as for landing pages and content pages, that make customization easier.
Beaver Builder comes with three different price options that all offer unlimited sites, a page builder plug-in, modules and templates, and customer support for one year.
Elementor, which costs between $49 and $199 based on how many sites you’ll need, comes with more than 50 add-on widgets, a form builder, a pop-up builder, an online store set up via WooCommerce, and many other features.
WPBakery works with any WordPress theme and includes various downloadable templates, more than 200 add-ons, WooCommerce and search engine optimization (SEO) compatibility, and many other features.
Recommended: WordPress developers from around the world already built plug-ins to solve many specific needs. Check out the Best Plug-Ins for a WordPress Site to see if they can address your customization needs.
Is the Theme SEO-Optimized?
Choosing an SEO-optimized WordPress theme will make your website’s content more noticeable on search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Using certain keywords within a blog post or web page can help improve that content’s ranking within search engine results, increasing web traffic to that content over time. To learn more, read our guides on How To Improve SEO and How To Drive Traffic To Your Website.
Is the Theme Responsive?
Responsive themes adjust their layouts according to screen size and resolution, making them suitable for viewing on any type of device. Mobile devices like smartphones generated 51.53 percent of web traffic in the second quarter of 2020, according to Statista.com. That makes choosing a responsive WordPress theme increasingly important.
Is It a Free or Paid/Premium Theme?
WordPress has hundreds of free themes from which to choose that may suffice for anyone just starting a website or blog. But, free themes often lack quality coding capabilities and available support for any queries. In addition, they may not receive regular updates and the theme creator could decide to discard them.
Premium themes, which you must purchase, can range from $10 to more than $100. They include more features than free themes, such as increased support from the theme creator, regular updates, and additional customization options.
Choosing between a free or premium theme will depend on your personal preferences because some free themes may have quality coding capabilities while others won’t. Carefully research each of your potential WordPress themes to ensure you choose the one that best meets your website’s needs.
What Are the Ratings and Reviews?
User ratings and reviews also can help inform your decision-making process because they provide insights on a theme’s quality and potential faults. Proceed with caution before installing a theme with no user ratings or reviews.
When Was the Last Update?
WordPress software changes on a regular basis, making it important to check a theme’s most recent update. If a theme’s last update occurred within the past six months, it should include all the latest plug-ins and security settings.
Is the Theme Secure?
Theme Check is a WordPress plug-in used to verify if a specific theme follows the latest WordPress theme specifications and security standards. It’s a helpful tool for theme developers as well as users looking to ensure they choose a secure theme.
What To Avoid When Choosing a WordPress Theme
Save yourself some time and effort by avoiding the following pitfalls when choosing a WordPress theme.
WordPress themes cluttered with many different features can look untidy and may even chase visitors away. Busy themes also can negatively impact website performance because some features may compromise the site’s security if they include code from the internet.
As such, choose a theme with just the features you need to enhance functionality and support your site’s overall goals while still maintaining strong security.
Choosing the right font can seem almost as confusing as choosing a WordPress theme because there are thousands available. As a best practice, choose a font that’s easy to read for anyone visiting your website. If you use a “fancy” font, it might discourage visitors or make your website appear less professional.
Recommended fonts include Open Sans, Vollkorn, Lato, and Arvo. While you can use more popular fonts like Arial and Helvetica, their design, functionality, and readability don’t work as well online as they do in print. The best approach for choosing the right font is to keep it simple, professional, and easy-to-read.
Themes From Outside Sources or Untrusted Sites
When choosing a free WordPress theme, download it from WordPress.org to protect your site’s security. Other trusted sites from which you can safely download WordPress themes include Elegant Themes and WooThemes. Avoid themes from outside sources and untrusted sites because they can potentially expose your website to attack.
5 Popular WordPress Themes
Below is an overview of five popular WordPress themes, including both subject-specific and multi-purpose options.
Astra is a multipurpose theme suitable for most websites that doesn’t require any coding experience to set up. It comes with downloadable, pre-built website templates that allow users to build a website in minutes and then customize it, as desired.
Astra’s other features include an option to turn off page titles and sidebars, integration with other customization and SEO tools like WooCommerce and Yoast SEO, and integration with other page builders like Elementor and Beaver Builder. It also uses less than 50 KB of storage space.
While you can download Astra for free, you may instead want to purchase the Astra Pro theme if you need more customization options or the Astra Agency Bundle if you plan to expand your business website.
Rated the No. 1 premium theme on the market, Avada offers extensive ease of use when it comes to building a website quickly. It includes a drag-and-drop builder, 69 pre-built website templates, more than 70 design elements, and more than 40 website builder features from SEO plug-ins like Yoast SEO to online commerce plug-ins like WooCommerce.
Both beginners and professionals can use Avada, and its wide variety of customization tools will suit the needs of any website.
You can purchase Avada from ThemeForest.net with options to extend the standard six months of support — which includes assistance with bugs or issues plus queries answered by the author — to 12 months. That extended support option also comes with a theme-hosting offer and regular updates.
Divi is a multipurpose WordPress theme created by Elegant Themes, a WordPress theme shop. It has an accessible visual builder that freelancers, website owners, and agencies can use. It also comes with more than 800 premade website layouts, royalty-free illustrations, and a set of included icons and photos.
The Divi theme also offers numerous customization and marketing tools as well as more than 40 website-building elements. With this theme’s responsive design features, you can customize the appearance of your site to suit all major devices like smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.
Divi’s other key features — including email opt-ins, form builders, and ecommerce plug-ins like WooCommerce — enable users to build an online shop and engage with customers.
Exponent is a high-performance, business website theme with a one-click importer tool. It comes with more than 20 premium, premade website templates and more than 200 page layout options.
It uses a visual interface, which allows users to replace images and text with whatever they prefer. This includes color management tools like palettes, gradient swatches, and various Google or Adobe fonts.
Compatible with multilingual features, the Exponent theme can translate website content into any language needed. Users also may create blogs or online stores with the WooCommerce plug-in and remain in compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines.
Soledad is a multi-concept WordPress theme designed for blogs and magazines. With more than 1,000 blog/magazine layouts and multiple, single-post templates, it’s ideal for anyone starting a blog or online magazine. It comes with six portfolio templates as well as three different size options — square, horizontal, or vertical — for added images.
It’s compatible with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which can load four times faster than standard web pages. Soledad’s SEO features, including compatibility with plug-ins like Yoast SEO, also enable you to increase your website’s visibility and traffic flow.
Soledad also supports several other plug-ins, including:
- WPBakery (a drag-and-drop editor suitable for both the front end and back end of a WordPress website)
- Gutenberg (a WordPress 5.0 block editor)
- Toolset Types (a content customization tool that enables the definition of custom post types, fields, and taxonomies)
Additional features of this theme include compatibility with multilingual plug-ins like the WordPress Multilingual Plug-In (WPML) and Polylang. WPML allows users to translate content manually or automatically. Polylang allows manual translation from inside the WordPress dashboard and also integrates with other translation plug-ins like Lingotek, which will enable automatic translations.
WordPress powers most of the world’s websites, and you can find hundreds of free and premium themes on WordPress.org and several marketplaces. But, choosing the most suitable WordPress theme for your website will depend on your site’s overall goal. Once you select your theme, you can then download the necessary plug-ins and features to customize it to meet your specific needs.
For more information, check out our guide to the Best WordPress Themes.