Ok, you’ve created your WordPress website and you’re ready to change the way everything looks and feels.
Enter the ‘WordPress Theme’.
If you’re not sure what a WordPress Theme is, it’s basically the software that decides what your website is going to look like to visitors. WordPress by itself (if you remove the default theme), will not display anything without a theme.So you need to find the right theme and layout for your website.
So, how to do you pick the right Theme for your WordPress Website?
There’s a few things to consider, so let’s get started!
Note: I will recommend some themes throughout this post so to save a heap of time. Some of these links are affiliate links I earn a commission from – this comes at no cost to you but I would recommend them with or without the commission :)
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If you want to check out Divi / Elegant Themes, you can visit their website here.
First, the Essentials
There’s a few things we need to mention up front about picking a WordPress Theme. Without these features, your theme is destined to under-perform and let you down. Naturally, I’m sure that’s the opposite of what you’re after in a website ;)
1. It must be responsive
Mobile / Smart Phone usage is overtaking desktop for internet media consumption. This means if your website isn’t ready to be viewed on a small phone screen then you will turn away visitors.
In 2018, 52.2% of global web traffic was via mobile phone (source).
When picking a Theme you need to make sure it is responsive. If it’s a Premium Theme they’ll let you know in the product information, if it’s a free theme then just install it and test it out on a phone. Nice and Easy.
2. It needs to be simple and easy to navigate.
If you’re website is too complicated, people will get fed up and look elsewhere, it’s a simple fact. So always preview any themes to make sure they are easy to navigate.
Some things to look out for are:
- Minimal Clutter
- White background behind black text (for legibility)
- Clear Logo & Navigation at the top of the page
- Any page information starts “above the fold” (appears without you having to scroll)
- Clear fonts, easy to read
- No unnecessary Widgets or elements on the page
3. It must appeal to your customers / visitors
You may like a particular look, but will your visitors respond the same way?
Keep this in mind when looking for a theme. If you’re 18 and love bright, complex designs with moving objects and animation then don’t use those elements if your website targets 60 year olds baby boomers. Consider your target audience and how you can adapt the design and functionality to their needs for the best results.
Think about your audience first and your personal taste second (or not at all!)
Free vs Premium WordPress Themes
What’s your Budget?
When it comes to WordPress Themes you can search for Free ones using the WordPress dashboard or buy a premium theme you upload throufh the dashboard or via FTP. Both are easy to implement, however one path costs money and one doesn’t.
What’s my opinion? If you can afford it you should always go for a solid Premium Theme.
1. Free WordPress Theme – Pros & Cons
The Pro’s – A free theme costs nothing and you can easily try a bunch of them out to make sure you’re happy with them. There’s a slight possibility you’ll find one that suits you perfectly so you can give it a shot.
So Free themes are:
- Disposable, you can switch between themes rapidly at no cost (although you can get Premium Theme bundles).
- Perfect for learning WordPress and discovering your taste
- Officially Approved by WordPress (if installed form the Theme repository)
- They cost nothing!
The Con’s – Ok, Here goes:
- Little no support offered. No money makes it difficult for people to justify being available to help you when you need it.
- Chance of little or no updates. You theme will need regular updating to keep your security up to date (and avoid being hacked). With no incentive to keep updating, many themes never get updated.
- You’ll look like everyone else. There are tonnes of websites out there working on Free Themes, chances are your website will look just like a whole bunch of other websites.
- Can look cheap, plain and nasty. Free quite often comes at the cost of quality. Add a simple monetary incentive and theme creators become more competitive to create well designed products so they can outsell their competition.
- Can be slow loading. A slow website can turn a visitor away quite quickly.
- Limited Features. Less options to customize and create the website you want.
- Many are not responsive, so forget about appealing to phone users!
2. Premium WordPress Theme – Pros & Cons
The Pro’s – Due to the competitive nature of business and incentive of financial gain, premium theme creators work quite hard to create something better than their competition. This is the main reason I recommend Premium Themes for a reputable supplier.
- More likely to have good support – if you have issues, you have a better chance of getting some help from the staff
- Regular Theme Updates – good for security and staying up to date.
- A lot more features, so you can achieve more with your website.
- Easier to Customize – Because premium themes generally have more options, they’re easier to customize (especially with a fully customizable theme)
- More stable, less likely to crash.
- Load Faster
- Far better Security – a premium theme is less likely to create a vulnerability for your website that hackers can use. They are generally pretty tight.
The Cons – There are a few that may be worth considering.
- First, they cost money (duh).
- Annual Fees – You may need to pay for it every 12 months for continued updates and support. Generally you can keep it installed as long as you want.
- No WordPress Review Process – WordPress doesn’t review premium themes sold outside of their repository.
To be honest, the cons are easy to absorb. You get what you pay for and if you’re making money with your website or blog then some fees here and there can be justified. Most Premium Theme companies are still less likely to have bugs and security issues despite the lack of an official WordPress review process.
My recommendation – Go Premium (even it’s eventually).
I recommend Elegant Themes for beginners
Whenever someone is starting out, I always tell them about Divi and Elegant Themes. You get access to over 85 themes including the fully customizable Divi Theme for only $89. So you can start out with a pre-designed theme and redesign the site at a later date using Divi.
All of my websites are now built on Divi or some other Elegant Theme, including this one you’re looking at right now.
What is your skill set?
Are you someone who picks up coding and technology easily? Maybe you’re a wizard with Adobe Photoshop or perhaps you’re a complete beginner and have barely touched a computer in your lifetime.
Well, I have a few theme types below you should consider….
1. Pre-designed Themes
Best for beginners
With a Pre-designed theme you don’t have to build the website itself, you can load the layout, pop in your logo, images and get right into typing up your content.
It’s quick, simple and quite easy in most cases. If you have little time or expertise, I’d recommend a pre designed theme, especially from a WordPress Theme bundle as you have a lot of options to choose from.
Check out My Recommended WordPress Theme Bundles & Packages – complete with pre-designed Themes
2. Customizable WordPress Themes
Best for Computer Savvy People and Designers
You can easily build a website from the ground up with a customizable theme or Page Builder. With some solid imagery and a bit of imagination you can create a website pretty much exactly how you want it to look.
So if you’re pretty savvy, I recommend you check out our list of customizable WordPress Themes.
A customizable theme will take a lot of the hassle or finding a theme designed to meet your specific need or tastes, as you simply design what you want, most have Drag’n’Drop visual builders that make the job dead easy.
This approach does take longer than using a pre-designed website however. But if you want something specially tailored to your taste then this is your first option, or you could consider….
Professional Web Design
Time poor/ business owners
If you don’t have the time or skill to design up your WordPress website, then you should consider hiring a Web Designer. You’ll get by far the best result you could ask for.
But remember, you get what you pay for! A good designer will not only be able to implement what you want more effectively, but will also have valuable insight into making it work better to achieve your goals.
I created a video discussing this very topic, it’s called ‘Free DIY vs a Professional Website Design’:
This isn’t a “WordPress Theme” specifically, but it could be the solution to your problem. At time of writing I offer a web design service over at wademcmaster.com.
This may cost you a few thousand dollars though. So weigh it all up and make your choice from there.
There is something to consider regarding your skill set….
If you’re savvy and going to build yourself, that’s cool. But if you’re super busy then you may still want to consider going for a fast option like pre-designed or a web designer. You need to assess your situation to figure out what’s best. Skill set is just a factor.
Which leads to the other end of the spectrum…
If you are not skilled and simply want to hand the job to someone else, then you will not learn how to run your website. You may end up stuck in a situation where you are always having to pay someone to update your website – even for the simple stuff.
I always recommend learning the basics so you’re never stuck in a situation where you’re forced to pay, wait or try to figure out how to do basic 2 minute change.
Nothing is set in stone
If you choose a free WP Theme – you can change it for another. You can also switch to a Premium Theme.
If you go for premium Theme – they often have money back guarantees so you can change.
You can even go back to a free theme if you want!
Websites can always be changed as long as you have access to the hosting or WordPress login. So don’t be a victim of “paralysis by analysis” or you’ll never get your website or blog up and running.
It is wise to get things up and track them with Google Analytics and test things out over time so you can see what’s working well and what isn’t. So changes in the future are inevitable.
So, you’ve picked a theme – how do you install it?
It’s dead simple.
In your WordPress Dashboard down in the left menu, click on ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Themes’:
Then once the next page has loaded, click the ‘Add New’ Button.
From there, you can start looking for Free Themes and even search in the search bar. If you have a premium theme, just click the ‘Upload Theme’ button, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can upload your .zip file.
If you can’t upload your theme and get errors, you can unzip the theme and upload via FTP. Here’s how to video that may help.
Then go into your Themes page and activate the uploaded Theme!
Now you know all you need to know.
So pick your WordPress Theme, install it and start to customize.
The more you tinker around with WordPress the quicker you’ll get used to it and be able to get what you want in much less time. Don’t get too put off by any doubts you may have, because ultimately this is a cheap process, free theme or not.
If you’re still unsure, leave a comment or ask me a question, I’d love to help in any way I can.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this all useful and I’ll be back with more in the near future. Have an awesome day!
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