Setting up a WordPress website isn’t difficult. In fact, in part owing to it’s ease of usage, WordPress now accounts for 30 percent of the websites existing over the Internet. Credit for WordPress’ success is also due in part to the huge range of free and premium Themes and Plugins offered for the platform. Themes work to provide an aesthetic design to your WordPress website while plugins extend the functionalities that you would like on your website.
You choose plugins based on the functionalities that you need for your website. Choosing the right Theme (or design) is a much more subjective decision. This decision should take not only aesthetics into account, but also many other considerations that most first time WordPress users don’t stop to think about. In this blog post, we will help you with the checklist of requirements that you should consider before choosing a WordPress theme.
Clean and Uncluttered Design
This first point is kinda obvious…Website visitors totally appreciate a website that has a simple and clean layout, with sophisticated and smooth navigation. Clean and clear theme design is not only about the look and feel, but also a requirement to ensure your website visitors have a seamless user experience. Having a clean and clearly designed website will improve the conversion rate for your website. For this reason we always recommend you err towards the simple rather than the complex and avoid crazy new navigation paradigms which may look cool, but make life more difficult for your visitors.
The loading speed of your website matters. In these times, it is one of the most significant factors affecting the conversion rate. According to the research, if your website takes more than 2 seconds to load visitors are going to be very quick to abandon it. They expect your website to load almost instantly. Hence, choosing a speed optimized WordPress theme is a crucial step in your website designing pursuit.
Important to note that the website loading speed is not only based on the quality of your web host (see our recommendations for the fastest WordPress hosts). A cleanly coded theme is going to help your pages load faster too. We’d also recommend you minimize the number of plugins you use on your site as well…the more plugins generally the slower the website. To test a potential theme, you can run the theme demos through an online performance testing service such as GTmetrix and/or Google PageSpeed Insights.
Responsive and mobile-friendly Design
Mentioning the need for a mobile friendly website should not even be a thing in 2019. Regardless of your site’s topic and audience, all websites need to be responsive and fully mobile ready.
As reported by Statista in 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. Mobile currently accounts for half of all global web pages served. Hence, a responsive WordPress theme is an absolute must have. Based on flexible grids and CSS media queries, a responsive theme ensures your website will properly respond to different screen sizes and orientations.
Keep in mind too that lots of people are searching on their mobile devices. If your site is not mobile friendly Google will not rank you site in the mobile search results. Simple as that.
You can test a Theme for mobile readiness. Just copy the URL of the theme’s demo page and paste it in Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page.
This is one of those things that is difficult to judge if you are not an expert in technical SEO. Suffice to say that page speed and mobile friendliness are also ranking factors and we’ve already covered those. In addition you want to make sure that the theme plays nice with one of the popular SEO plugins, like Yoast, so that you can take total control of all the important on page SEO aspects of your site.
Ease of customization
For a lot of owners, the pre-packaged design features in a theme might not suit exactly what they want. Hence, having a WordPress Theme that can be easily customized is of great help. Being able to change the design of your website without the use of the code really makes life alot easier and can save you real money not having to hire a front end developer everytime you want to make a small change. Customizable themes let you tweak and personalize every single site element so you can craft a unique site that matches your vision.
Some themes also come bundled with, or support one of the popular page builder plugins like Beaver Builder or Elementor which add additional flexibility and no-code customization options for layouts not just colors and font sizes.
If you think about it there are literally dozens of operating system and browser combinations across all the visitors to your website and you want your website to load uniformly for all users. This is important because if your theme isn’t compatible with a certain browser, you will be missing out on the traffic from users who use this certain browser to access websites. Tools like Browsera are a good way to test this.
Translation + Multilingual Ready
Many websites want to cater to the local as well as the international audience so that they can grow their business far and wide, across several geographical locations. However, the limitation of language can be a hindrance in this purpose. If the international market is important to you then you’ll need a multilingual WordPress theme or one that supports one of the popular multi-language plugins like WPML or Polylang.
Customer Support Pre and Post Sales
This point in the checklist can be a game changer in the choice of a WordPress Theme. You can fall for a theme due to the many amazing features offered by it, but if the theme developer fails to provide you with the necessary customer support after you have made a purchase, the overall purpose will be defeated. Indeed this is a good reason alone to consider a premium theme, as free themes come with much less support (for obvious reasons).
Hence, before you invest in a paid theme, you need to make sure that this theme’s support window is available round the clock or at least offers speedy response times in case you were to have a technical issue with it. To make sure that your theme developers fit the expectations, you can check out their public support questions to see if their support system is well working and seem to reflect promptness.
Support for Plugins
There are so many plugins available in the WordPress repository that you can choose from and often we want to get a third party plugin that adds certain functionality to our website. This is where a compatible theme which is able to process and integrate with these third-party plugins is going to be of prime importance. For this reason it is a good idea to know ahead of time what plugins you want to include on your site. If there are some weird and wonderful functionalities you want to add with a 3rd party plugin you can reach out to the developer ahead of buying the theme to check if it will be compatible.
We should note however (as theme developers ourselves) that it is literally impossible for a developer to test every combination of all plugins with their themes and in most cases incompatibilities are not a theme issue, but rather a problem with different plugins not being compatible together.
Reliable Theme Store
This is a very crucial point in the theme selection checklist. We often look for themes that offer huge discounts and seem to fulfill our need for certain features. However, we need to be cautious before we invest our money. Choosing your theme from a popular and reliable theme store is a safer bet. Reliable stores feature themes from reputable developers who hold accountability for their product and provide proper service. Any money you might save on a cheaper theme from some random website won’t seem like such a good deal if you later find the theme to be poorly coded with bugs and (yes, sometimes!) viruses.
Before spending any of your money into a certain WordPress theme, you must go through several online reviews to make sure that the theme functions as promised in the sales pitch. Reading these reviews also makes you aware of the certain drawbacks or grey areas encountered by these theme customers, which will be a good heads up for you.
By following the checklist above, you can be very sure that the theme you have finally chosen is going to serve its purpose and not give you nightmares when it comes to working with its features, elements, the quality of support, and everything else.
8 thoughts on “How to Choose a WordPress Theme”
Amazing article Charles!
You have explained all the important factors, but I ask you to add another factor – AMP compliant.
When we buy a WordPress theme, we need to check if it is AMP compliant or not.
I had bought a theme called Timesnews and its AMP look was worse.
The points in this article are good and important to check before purchasing a theme.
But Charles, I have a question, that I also love your theme and your website also looks beautiful. And I want to know what theme you’re using on your website. Because I’m willing to get this one for myself.
It’s a custom theme Nickk.
This is a great article Charles!
In this article, you have included all the important factors but I think you have missed about the AMP friendliness. I mean to say one should also look at whether it is AMP friendly or not.
Some themes sent to us by clients are not up to mark especially when they come to cross-device versions. I am going to share this wonderful article with my team.
Great article Charles!
You included all of the important factors but I request you to add one more factor – that’s AMP friendly.
While buying a WordPress theme, we must verify if it is AMP friendly or not.
I had purchased a theme named FLEX Mag and its AMP appearance was worse.
Hi Ram, that’s a very good point. Thanks for raising it.
Thank you Charles we appreciate your support for the Beaver Builder plugin. Cheers!
thank you for this preview, it’s really helpful. some themes demo view always looks great but when installed to be customized, it look totally different. theme developer are doing a great job but they should help with tutorials how to customize just like the demo view…