The Ultimate Guide for Choosing a New WordPress Theme

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If you’re running an online business, than there are ton of important things you have to focus on like getting ahead of competition, improving site rankings, getting more leads, etc. By choosing a self hosted WordPress platform, you’re already miles ahead of the competition. Now, the next step is choosing a WordPress theme that fits your style & need.

There are plenty of WordPress themes available, but unfortunately they aren’t all created with keeping WordPress standards in mind.

One of the main reasons why I use Genesis Theme Framework is because it look stunning right out of the box.

You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for getting a custom design, you can easily customize the theme for a unique look with just $100-200.

Free or Premium WordPress Theme

Now the question is which one to choose – free or premium? Premium theme is the one which comes with quality design & world class support. If you’re ready to invest in your business, than you should be going with a premium theme.

Free themes aren’t bad, but the thing is that most of the free WordPress themes include some kind of strange code in their structures, usually in the footer section. The code is encrypted, and, often, the theme stops working if you try to remove it.

Though, there are still many bloggers who release themes for free without any encrypted code or whatsoever.

Choosing A WordPress Theme

  • Pick a theme that relates to your industry.
  • Ignore fonts and colors – These two elements can be modified very easily.
  • Images on the demo page can make your blog look better or worse. Depends on the images, most of the theme authors use sexy images to make the demo page look awesome.
  • Stick to reputable companies – The most important thing to consider while a choosing theme, always go with a reputable theme shop. The easiest way to measure their reputation is to look at their support forum. I am going to make a list of premium theme companies at the end of this post.

Things to Consider While Choosing a WordPress Theme

Premium themes comes with a lot of fantastic features, but let’s just focus on the essential one – the things you will need on a daily basis.

Price of the theme

I know you aren’t spending thousands of dollars, but the price of the theme still plays a major role. There were times when you had to pay 1000+ dollars for a custom design, but today with just $50-100 you will get a quality design with premium support.

Themes vs Frameworks

  • WordPress Themes – A WordPress theme is basically designed to take the advantage of WordPress core technology. Basically, it’s a theme that can’t be customized much and thousands of people can install it; so it’s still not as unique as it could be. Elegant Themes, MyThemesShop and ThemeForest are some examples of individual WordPress themes.
  • Theme Frameworks – A theme framework is designed keep developers & beginner users in mind. Theme Frameworks are basic themes which offer the ability to customize the design from the front-end without touching a piece of code. Some of the most popular theme frameworks are Genesis (the one I am using here at WordPress Kube), Thesis, Headway, iThemes, Pagelines, etc.

Look Stunning Right Out of the Box

Every theme has one element that makes it look stunning right out of the box.

If the theme don’t look have that stunning effect, than don’t go for it. When I had to choose a 2 column theme for one of my niche sites, I ended up spending 20 minutes browsing ThemeForest and in the end, purchased the lightly theme.

So, search for the theme that looks stunning right out of the box. Of course, you can make the changes later to make it unique to fit your suit. Now, don’t just go with a theme that looks stunning and doesn’t follow the default WordPress functions. Luckily, big theme shops like Elegant Themes or StudioPress doesn’t have this problem.

SEO Friendly

No matter what theme you choose, it should be SEO friendly.

If you really want to get more leads and increase conversations than having a SEO friendly theme is very essential. The theme needs to have basic SEO structure and should support all major WordPress SEO plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in one SEO.

Almost all major themes (except thesis theme) support external SEO plugins. This is also the reason why more people prefer to use themes from StudioPress & WooThemes.

To check or analyze a theme, here’s what you should do:

  • Checkout the demo and see if the theme has <h> tags.
  • Does the theme supports external SEO plugins.
  • Is the theme loads properly without any issues.

A good developer or theme author knows the power of allowing users to customize the theme. A premium theme shouldn’t force you to stick to the default layout.

Good themes comes with an option to switch between different layouts like 1 column or 2 column layout.

It should also allow you to change the change color scheme.

Social Media Integration

Every free or premium theme comes with some form of social media integration. The most popular ones are social media buttons (Follow or Like buttons, Twitter follow button, Google+, etc ) in sidebar or sharing buttons next to the content area.

Popular themes even come with their own social media plugin that lets you add social buttons in the form a widget.

Of course, if you’re a blogger publishing articles on a regular basis, then by all means you should install a social media plugin like Digg Digg or Sharebar. However, if you have small business site, you’re probably better off with the default social media option.

Responsive design

With more and more people accessing the web from mobile devices such as phones and tablets, making sure your WordPress website is mobile-friendly or has responsive design is important.

Most of the premium themes come with the responsive design. The easiest way to find out whether the theme you’re interested in has a responsive design or not is by looking for the information in the theme’s sales page.

Check for Browser Compatibility

When choosing a theme, you need to make sure it’s compatible and is accessible from different devices & browsers.

You, as the blog owner need to make sure that the site looks the same in all the popular browsers.Most of the premium themes come with cross browser compatibility.

Premium Support

Gone are the days, when quality design was enough to sell a theme. Now a theme author needs to provide world class support. Serious developers or theme authors understand the important of support.

You shouldn’t choose a theme that doesn’t have a good support. This might be okay when you’re getting a theme for free, but when you’re paying money, it’s not acceptable.

While looking for premium support is great, one should also look for the documentation. These days, most of the premium theme comes with video or PDF documentation.

Take Thesis 2.0 theme for example, it launched without any documentation and the theme shop ended up loosing a few hundred or may be thousands customers.

Theme Recommendations:

There are ton of free themes available to download, but I would recommend you to go with premium ones as they provide premium support.

Genesis Theme by StudioPress

If you have been following this blog for a while, than you know I am a big fan of Brain’s work.

Genesis is a premium theme framework that comes with robust code for just $59.95. Whether you’re a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Plus, it supports external SEO plugins like WordPress SEO and All in one SEO.

Price: $59.95

Get the Genesis Framework

Thesis 2.0

Thesis theme is mostly used by developers & advanced users. Thesis theme was launched when there weren’t as many theme frameworks as now. The theme has been used by a lot of people including Pat Flynn, Neil Patel, Matt Cutts and Corbett barr.

If you’re looking for a robust drag & drop theme framework, than Thesis theme is for you. I even did a detailed review of Thesis 2.0.

FYI, there are two versions of thesis – 1.8 & 2.0.

Thesis 1.8 comes with a lot of great options, custom functions, hooks and complete documentation.

Thesis 2.0 is completely different from the 1.8 version and there are not much resources or tutorials available for the version 2.0.

Price: $87

Get the Thesis theme framework

WooThemes

Woo Themes provides high quality WordPress themes and plugins. They have wide variety of themes or products to choose from. The backend theme options allow you to style your pages in any way you like without using coding.

All the themes released by WooThemes comes with solid theme framework. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering just where you could find high quality premium WordPress themes, WooThemes was created just for you.

Visit WooThemes

ElegantThemes

Elegant Themes is a WordPress theme club owned by Nick Roach. For $39.95, you get unlimited access to 76 premium WordPress themes, and every theme he brings out during that year.

They have a fantastic collection of high quality WordPress themes for different niche with great quality & fresh designs. They have at least one (sometimes 2 or 3) premium theme in almost every niche.

Most of the Elegant Themes come with widgets such as Social Influence and Personal Image that you won’t find in other themes.

This one is the most affordable, just for $39.95 you can use the theme on unlimited sites.

Price: $39.95

Get the ElegantThemes

ThemeForest

ThemeForest is the most popular and established theme company. The premium themes marketplace is run by the Envato network and is specifically for WordPress Themes and HTML Templates.

They have an endless number of themes to choose from and it isn’t hard to set yourself apart from the rest with a quality theme.

Browse ThemeForest Themes

There’s been a lot of talk about choosing a quality WordPress theme, but it comes down to one thing – you. Selecting a theme is same as selecting a digital product. You just need to look what you’re looking for.

Which theme do you use for your blog? How did you go about selecting your current WordPress theme? Please let us know in the comments below.

About the Author: Devesh Sharma is a WordPress fanatic and loves experimenting with WordPress themes & plugins. Get more from Devesh on  and Twitter.
15 comments… add one
  1. Keith Davis says

    Great article Devesh
    You have really done your research for this one and I think it will become another of your classics.

    Getting a lot of retweets on #genesiswp.

  2. Paul says

    If you have a serious website I think you should always get at least a premium theme, but you didn’t mention custom made themes. A custom made theme will always be better than a premium theme, mainly because you don’t have to bloat it with as many features as a premium theme.

  3. WPStuffs says

    WOnderful guide for choosing the WordPress Theme…I prefer Genesis for all my blogs due to its flexibility and easy deployment.

  4. Matt McKenna says

    I am glad you mentioned:
    1. that SEO is pretty native to WordPress
    2. Social Media
    3. Responsive
    4. Browser Compatibility
    If it is not a widely used theme these all have to be checked.

    I disagree with a few parts of this article:
    1. Ignoring color and fonts is a mistake. They both may be “easily” changed but it can be very time consuming.
    2. It is important to considering the precise use of the website. If you need to show off photos, the way the theme plans out the galleries is very important. If you are selling products, the design of the product page and which cart it integrates with well is important.
    3. The goal of a theme is to have the least programming and design possible but still create a website that works very well, and accomplishes its primary goals.

  5. Misao says

    I use Genesis & Thesis & Elegant Themes for my sites but i think Genesis Framework is the best. Not only it looks great but their support and community are top-notch.

    Thesis 2.0 is hard to use. Only Market Delight 3 skin looks good, the others look just boring.

    Elegant Themes are great but slow and sometime hard to modify. And their themes load way slower compare to Genesis and Thesis.

    • Devesh says

      Yeah, Genesis is best, almost all my sites are powered by Genesis..!! I don’t use Thesis anymore, but it’s a great for developers & designers.

      Elegant Themes can be slow sometimes plus I’m hearing a lot complaints about their customer support.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insights, Misao.

  6. Alphonso says

    I have been looking at ThemeForest for a while now. and I really like their themes, particularly the Karma WordPress theme, seems easy to deal with, and it also seem to have what you are talking about, what do you think about this theme?
    Unfortunately as I search on Google, I am seeing some negative press regarding ThemeForest, what can you tell me about that?
    Thanks

    • Devesh says

      Karma theme looks great. It is one of the most popular themes out there.

      That’s because themeforest has a ton of authors and most of the time, people who’re looking to make quick money submit their themes that aren’t well coded.

      Previously, it had a lot of ugly themes but in last few months, the marketplace has improved a lot and now there are a ton of great themes available.

      I think karma is a great theme, because 1) it’s developed by an elite author. 2) it has sold more than 17+ copies and 3)it has a 4.5 star rating.

      Thanks for stopping by, Alphonso. Make sure to share your experience about ThemeForest, once you make the purchase =).

      -Dev

  7. Alphonso says

    Thanks for replying so quickly, one more question.
    I hear a lot about Encrypted code and Base64 used to hide malicious code, even backdoors, is that something that one needs to worry about when we buy a theme of this sort?
    Interestingly I email the author twice, and I have yet to hear back from him, to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe I did not email the right place. :)
    I think that I will take a chance and buy the Karma theme.
    I made the last couple of websites myself, but I just wanted something that was more professionally looking, plus I wanted to be better placed for Google, so one only needs to try, right. :)
    Thanks again, and I will tell you about my experiences when get everything going, it will take awhile though.

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