In WordPress, a theme controls how your website looks and feels. It determines the styling and branding of your website – everything from fonts and colours to whether or not things line up correctly. You can only have one theme active at a time on your WordPress website, so it’s important that you have the right one for you.
There are a huge number of ready-made WordPress themes available for download. The free ones come as they are and you’ll probably get no support from the developer if you find something that doesn’t quite work correctly. If you want free, then I’d recommend sticking with the default themes that come with WordPress – Twenty Thirteen and Twenty Fourteen.
The paid-for themes are still very cost effective, but choosing the right one can be a very difficult task. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help:
- What is the subject matter of your website? For example, if you have a media-rich website, you’ll want a theme which allows you showcase your pictures and videos in a great way.
- What is your website going to do? For example, if you plan to sell through it you will need e-commerce, so the theme you select needs to support this.
- Do you want different page templates? These allow you to have slightly different layouts on each page, for example you can choose if a page is full-width or has a sidebar on the left or right.
- Do you want the theme to be mobile friendly? Even some of the paid-for themes still aren’t fully mobile responsive, so remember to check this if it’s important to you.
- Is the theme up to date? Will it support the latest version of WordPress and is it likely to support future updates?
- Can you try the theme before you buy? Be sure to try out the theme demo to check that it’s a good fit for you.
- Have you considered the overall structure of the theme? Changing fonts and colours within a theme is usually pretty easy, but changing the overall structure is more difficult. Bear this in mind when you select your theme.
- Is the theme developer reputable? Do your research to check that there aren’t likely to be any security issues and that the code is compliant to W3 standards.
Most of the paid-for, or premium themes are feature rich and have to appeal to lots of people – after all they want to sell a lot of them. Unfortunately this means that these themes will contain many features you don’t want. Ready-made themes are usually more complicated than they need to be and it will slow your website down.
It might sound like a good idea to have portfolio items, news articles, testimonials or other functionality built into your theme – it certainly makes for a nice all-in-one solution. However, if you add content in this way it becomes tied to your theme. If you decide later on to change your theme, you will lose your content! Anything that adds content to your website that you will want to keep should be part of a plugin, not a theme.
You’ll probably never find a ready-made theme that is perfect and will have to customise something. If you are willing to get your hands dirty with a bit of code then you’ll be able to customise your theme a little. In reality, if you want to change a lot of parts of the theme then you might be best having a bespoke theme developed especially for you. This is the only way to get something truly unique that reflects your branding.