Having too many options is not always a good thing. With numerous free and paid WordPress themes available, beginners can easily get overwhelmed, which usually results in picking a wrong theme or inaction. The numerous choices make it extremely hard to choose a WordPress theme that is perfect for your website.
Using the wrong theme could bring many potential troubles. For example, a badly coded or heavy theme makes your site load slowly, which leads to lower search engine rankings and less traffic. Besides, the customization options may cause difficulty in switching to another theme in the future.
If you want to make your WordPress site look great while keeping an easy life, then you must be careful in the selection of the theme. Spending hours in the selection will save you days of trouble in the future website management and customization.
In below, we will share the most important things that you have to consider when choosing a WordPress theme, so you know how to make the decision when faced with multiple choices.
1. Free or Paid WordPress Themes?
Many WordPress users struggle in the choice between free and paid themes because paid themes usually cost much, while free themes might be poorly coded. We cannot say which is the winner between the two options because they both have their own pros and cons.
Those paid premium WordPress themes come with more updates, a unique design, better support, and they do not include attribution links to the theme author. However, they are costly and usually include too many configuration options and unneeded features. A normal premium theme costs $30-$200.
In terms of free WordPress themes, the most obvious benefit of them is being free of charge. Besides, with the great contributions of the developers in WordPress community, most free themes can meet all the basic needs of WordPress sites, so there are many good themes to choose. The problems, however, are the hidden theme links, few customization options, and the low quality of some themes.
Considering these facts, you can make the final decision between free and paid WordPress themes by making clear of your budget. The quality of a theme is not always decided by its price.
2. Feature Rich Themes or Simple Ones?
Some WordPress themes are quite simple with several options only, while others are built with tons of features, such as built-in page builders, sliders and animations. The concern for the former type of themes is the lack of customization options, and that for the latter type is the site performance.
If you are making a choice, we would suggest you stay away from those heavy themes packed with numerous fancy features. Page builders and other features are good, but too many of them will not make you happy. Below are some of the reasons.
- In most cases, you do not need so many features to be built in a single theme. Even if you do not use the features, they still consume the server resources and slow down your site.
- If you depend heavily on the built-in features of your WordPress theme, you will probably get stuck with the theme because if you change another theme, you will lose the content and customizations unique to the previous theme, such as the custom post types, sliders, pricing tables, and pages.
For most WordPress users, we recommend using a light-weight WordPress theme which does not come with an excessive amount of unnecessary features. Less is sometimes better.
3. Simplicity and User Experience
You need to keep in mind that a good theme does not need to be flashy, however, it has to make your WordPress site look great without compromising the user experience. A lot of themes nowadays come with many animation effects, video backgrounds and a rich set of icons and fonts, but you in fact don’t need them in most cases.
Since the ultimate goal of using a good theme is to allow readers find the information they want easily and to help the website owners build their brands, you have to make sure the theme you use can deliver a good user experience. The navigation must be clear, too.
The best way to make sure the simplicity and user experience is to try the demo. Think yourself as a reader, and check whether the theme is easy-to-use. Then you will possibly know if the design is what you want.
4. Mobile Friendliness
The responsiveness of WordPress themes is not optional but necessary nowadays because for most websites, over 30% of the traffic comes from mobile devices.
Most modern WordPress themes are already mobile-friendly. They can adjust to different devices and screen sizes automatically to ensure the best possible browsing experience. However, there are still some themes designed with fixed width and layouts. Apparently, you need to avoid this type of choices.
It is easy to find a responsive WordPress theme, but if you are not certain whether a theme is mobile ready or not, you can find out the answer by using the Google mobile-friendly test tool. Just enter the URL of the theme’s demo and wait for an analysis from Google.
5. Compatibility with All Modern Browsers
There are so many browsers in use and your readers have their own preferences. The problem is, some themes look great in some browsers while the design breaks in others. The theme developer may mention the compatible browsers in the theme description, but some do not. In the latter case, you can test the demo in different browsers including the latest versions of IE, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox to make sure the compatibility.
6. SEO Friendliness
The theme you use has a large impact on the search engine rankings of your WordPress site. If it is light-weight and clean, it can help you gain better rankings, but if it is slow or contains code errors, Google will not like your site. Below are some suggestions for ensuring that a theme is SEO friendly.
- Check the code of the theme to make sure there is no SEO mistake. This sounds not easy for beginners, but you can get it done by installing a Chrome extension like MozBar to run SEO checks for the theme’s demo.
- Check the speed of the theme. Use Pingdom to test the theme’s demo to see the page loading speed and the number of HTTP requests that are made. Then avoid those themes making hundreds of HTTP requests.
7. Customization Options
Most WordPress themes come with a dashboard where you can change the layout, create widgets, and make other customizations you want without touching the stylesheets. The options included in the dashboard and the ease of use are crucial to the future customization.
Fortunately, some themes allow you to access the dashboard on a demo site, so you can try the customization options carefully to make sure the theme meets all your needs for website design.
8. Compatibility with WordPress Plugins
The power of WordPress lies much in the availability of various plugins, and it is probable that you have some must-have plugins installed on your WordPress site. However, there is a rare case that some WordPress themes might not be compatible with some plugins you use. Installing such a WordPress theme would cause conflicts and errors. Therefore, you have to make sure the theme supports all the popular WordPress plugins. If it is possible, ask the theme developer for the accurate information.
9. Support and Documentation
The support is a major downside of free WordPress themes. Although some kind theme developers offer support through email or forums, many others do not. The only support option you get, then, is to ask questions in the WordPress forums and wait for an answer from an experienced user. Or you have to figure out everything by yourself.
Comparatively, those premium themes sold on reliable WordPress theme marketplaces always come with free upgrades and guaranteed premium support.
No matter which theme you choose, make sure it has a reachable support option and detailed documentation which helps with the setup and common troubleshooting.
10. User Ratings and Reviews
One of the best and easiest ways to check the quality of a WordPress theme is to look at the user reviews and ratings. For both paid themes and free themes, you can easily find the reviews from their readers in the theme marketplace or WordPress theme directory.
It is common that a theme receives few complaints and bad reviews, but you need to avoid those with very low ratings and a lot of bad reviews. Besides, if possible, look at the bad reviews of the theme to get known of the shortages. Make sure that these disadvantages would not affect your use of the theme.