Choosing a WordPress theme for your website is a big decision. It determines the look, feel, and usability of your site for its visitors, which in turn means that it significantly influences your online branding, marketing, and sales. The theme also determines how much—and how easily—you can customize your site.
There’s certainly no shortage of options when you’re choosing a WordPress theme for your website. Countless themes are available, including free and paid premium ones, offered by practically endless developers. On one hand, it’s always great to have options to pick from; on the other, so many choices can make it time-consuming and difficult to choose.
Here’s a look at some of the main things you should consider when choosing a WordPress theme for your website. These criteria should help you quickly eliminate many of the possibilities and narrow the field down to a few top contenders to pick from.
Things to Consider when Choosing a WordPress Theme
- Price – There are plenty of free themes, but they tend to have more limited customization options, especially if you don’t know how to use computer languages like HTML, CSS, and PHP. They also usually come with little or no support from the developer. You may find a free theme that suits your needs, but it’s generally advisable to pay for a premium theme to get more customization and support (and do look at the support options when making your choice, including how long it’s offered and whether you can pay a small fee for continuing support after the initial period). Figure out how much you can budget for a theme.
- Customization – Different WordPress themes offer different levels of customization and different levels of user-friendliness when doing so. It’s unlikely you’ll find a theme that perfectly meets your needs and preferences, so you want one that gets close and allows you to make the right tweaks. Try the customizer demos on themes that offer them. Also, if you don’t want to be coding, look for themes that support a drag-and-drop page builder like Elementor.
- Appearance – The theme you select should be close to what you want. It should have the general look and feel you’re going for, and it should be easily navigable and user-friendly. If the theme doesn’t have the right bones, it will be difficult—if not impossible—to customize it enough to get it right. Plus, excessive customization slows your site down, which hurts the user experience, the ability of the site to achieve your goals, and its SEO.
- Mobile-responsiveness – It’s essential that you have a mobile-responsive website. Sites that don’t work well on phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are practically useless now. Most WordPress themes available today are basically responsive, but some do it much better than others. When evaluating a theme, bring up its demo on your phone or shrink the size of your browser window to see how the theme adapts. If you’re using the Chrome browser, you can use the Developer Tools to simulate various mobile screens on your computer or laptop.
- Browser compatibility – Speaking of browsers, you definitely want a website that looks right and works well in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and other browsers. Any popular contemporary WordPress theme should be reliable in this regard, but confirm that cross-browser compatibility is mentioned in the theme description. You can test it out by opening the theme demo in different browsers.
- Plug-in support – Plug-ins are the primary way of customizing your site and adding all sorts of functionality beyond the basic WordPress blogging platform, from simple contact forms to full e-commerce capabilities. All leading modern themes will offer the plug-in support you need, but do keep an eye out for this in the description if you’re really digging down into less popular theme options.
- Search engine optimization – Yes, the theme you choose has a significant effect on your site’s SEO and how well it will be able to rank in Google and other search engine results. Themes with sloppy code can seriously hurt your SEO. Every theme says that it’s optimized in its description these days, so it’s a good idea to check it for yourself. You can do this by pasting the demo URL in at Validator.
- Speed – Similarly, themes with clean code, fewer features, and smaller files load faster and therefore have better SEO and provide better user experiences. Steer clear of themes with lots of fancy features, most of which you’re unlikely to use anyway.
- Frequent updates – When choosing a WordPress theme for your website, look for one that shows it’s been updated within the last few months. Themes must regularly update to keep up with changing security needs, new features, fixes for bugs, etc. If you go with a theme that doesn’t keep pace, it will lead to problems on your website.
- Social proof – You can see how many active installations a theme has, and you can see user reviews and ratings. These can give you a good idea of how popular and user-friendly any theme is. Also, look for recurring comments about any specific shortcomings a theme has and consider whether they will negatively affect your site, or if they’re something you can work around if the theme otherwise seems just right for your needs.