First of all – what is a theme? A theme is required when you have a WordPress website. It’s what determines how your website LOOKS. iThemes has a great explanation video on what a theme is here – check it out.
There are so many themes available for WordPress websites I don’t even know how to estimate them — in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions… It’s overwhelming regardless. There are too many options to feel truly confident in your choice of a theme for your WordPress website with no guidance. So, GUIDANCE:
Some general pieces of advice are to:
- Do some Googling specific to your industry & free vs. premium
- Use your WordPress dashboard to find popular free themes
- Join a theme club for flexibility even after you pick a theme
- Use a theme with a drag and drop builder for layout control
Google Can Help
One of the quickest ways to find a narrowed down list of themes to choose from is to search in Google for your industry + free/premium WordPress themes. Example: “best free WordPress themes for lawyers”.
This method is a bit hit or miss, because oftentimes what you’re presented with are curated lists written by theme companies featuring their own themes.It’s still worth a shot because you’re being presented with a limited number of options which makes it easier to find something you like.
Your WordPress Dashboard Has Good, Free Themes
Once you’ve installed WordPress core, you can log into your WordPress dashboard (always at yoursite.com/wp-admin), then visit the Themes page under Appearance. If you click the Add New button at the top of that page you’re presented with a huge array of free themes you can easily install on your site.
Click the ‘Popular’ link near the top to filter by most popular themes, and then click on each that you like one by one to see a description and its star rating. While this route does present a HUGE amount of options, it works well for visual people because you’re presented with a mosaic of the themes you can actually get a preview of as you browse.
Join A Theme Club
A WordPress theme club is a company that produces WordPress themes and sells membership to their entire collection of themes. The real beauty of finding a theme you like within a theme club is the ability to join and have access to all of their themes.
This can be an absolute lifesaver if you pick a theme and start working on it, only to realize it isn’t what you want. Most themes have limitations in how they can look and be configured. It’s just part of the deal — you are intentionally using something that has been designed for you to save you time and help your site look professional, but someone else still designed it for you, so it’s likely not going to meet your every desire.
Therefore, having access to an entire catalogue of themes for one price is freeing, because the realization that you picked the wrong theme doesn’t lead you to a frustrating dead end — it just leads you to selecting a different theme you’ve already paid for!
I’m a member of ThemeFuse, Elegant Themes, ThemeZilla, and probably 17 more I can’t remember, honestly. I’ve joined at different times for different projects because of one theme I liked, and then had the entire collection in my library for future use. iThemes is a great theme company that I haven’t joined yet, but it’s next on my list for sure.
Drag & Drop Builders Give You Control Over Layout
Continuing with the topic of how themes can often limit you in terms of appearance, page layout is another aspect that is frequently limited by themes.
By using a theme that has a drag and drop builder, you are no longer limited to certain pre-designed page layouts, but have the flexibility to create your own. This is a must have for me — having a drag & drop builder lets me say ‘yes’ so much more often than ‘no’ when I get a request from a client to adjust something, move something, add something, etc.
Drag & drop builders can come in plugin form, too. So, if you find a theme that really speaks to you but it doesn’t have a drag and drop visual builder, you could install one as a plugin and VIOLA!, you have a visual builder for all your pages! I believe that themes bought through ThemeForest.net come with their standard Visual Builder. The Divi Builder is a plugin that can be downloaded independently and added to any theme, as well.
My Favorite Theme: Divi
My favorite theme is Divi by Elegant Themes — it’s simple with tons of configuration options, plus they offer a lifetime license option which isn’t something all theme companies offer. I think it’s worth the investment to not have to purchase a new license every year. They use a drag and drop builder that has a backend and frontend version, meaning if you’re a visual person and want to see what you’re doing as you go, the frontend builder is an amazing option.
Picking the right theme can be overwhelming, and it’s important to understand that themes have limitations. However, choosing a theme within a theme club, with good reviews, and that has a drag & drop builder are good tactics to head in the right direction.
P.S. If you want to build a WordPress website but aren’t sure where to start, get my free website creation checklist here: hookedoncode.com/website-creation-checklist
This article also posted on Medium, here.