When you first install WordPress, you will likely want to look for a theme to replace the default theme already in use. However, there are thousands of themes available, so finding the perfect theme can seem daunting, especially when new themes are being released each day. Here is a checklist that should help single out the theme best suited for your website.
1. Make Sure Your WordPress Theme Is Responsive and Fast
No matter what your WordPress website is designed to be i.e. blog, gallery, e-commerce etc, you need to make sure that your theme works on mobile and tablet as well as on desktop. As more and more people are using mobile to navigate the internet, your website is going to need to look the part when mobile users find it.
My first recommendation for finding a responsive WordPress theme is to find one which was either built or updated recently. Usually, themes built in 2017 are likely to be responsive, whereas some themes built years ago e.g. 2011, may only work on desktop.
My second recommendation is when you have found a theme you want to use, make sure there is a demo of the theme available and that you can test the demo on a mobile device. The demo should be responsive so that it works well on mobiles and tablets.
Additionally, you should check whether the theme has a good score in Google PageSpeed. If the theme does have a demo, try testing it in Google’s PageSpeed tester. However, the demo may not accurately reflect the PageSpeed for your finished website depending on whether you have optimised your images and the plugins you have used, but it should give you a good idea on whether the theme is optimised for speed.
2. If You’re Downloading a Free Theme, Get It From the WordPress Directory
If you do not have the budget to get a premium theme, there are plenty of themes available from the WordPress theme directory. Each theme has to go through a rigorous process to ensure that they’re up to standard and that they aren’t going to cause users problems. The directory can also be categorised by subject, so if you’re looking for a particular type of theme, such as a theme for e-commerce, then you can easily find lots of themes suited for this function.
You may find other websites offering free themes, but I recommend that you only download themes from the WordPress directory, as themes from other websites may not have gone through a vetting process and may not work well, or may even be packaged with a virus.
3. If You’re Buying a Premium WordPress Theme, Make Sure You’re Buying From a Reputable Seller and It Comes With Support
Although the WordPress directory itself doesn’t offer premium themes, it does recommend some websites that do on https://en-gb.wordpress.org/themes/commercial/. These suppliers may charge for access to the themes they offer, and some of them may offer the theme for free and charge for support.
Also, external websites such as ThemeForest offer trustworthy themes, but you need to make sure that the theme you choose gets updated regularly, offers support, and has good reviews. There are some themes where the developer has reskinned a popular theme and called it their own, so support may not be reliable and the theme may not work as intended.
As with websites offering free themes, there are also websites that offer premium themes bundled with viruses, usually sold very cheaply, so you need to ensure that the website you are buying from is reliable. I have written more on this subject here: https://www.bowlerhat.co.uk/pros-cons-small-business-using-wordpress/.
4. Ensure That the WordPress Theme Actually Does What You Need It to Do
Often, you’ll find a theme which looks like it does what you need. If your website has a simple objective such as to bring in sales, then many themes will offer this without a problem. However, if your website has a complex objective e.g. it is a blog where people need to enrol as a member to view your content, and you offer different levels of membership, some themes may struggle to perform this task.
There are plugins available that will add extra functionality to your WordPress website, but depending on the functionality needed, you may need to pay for these plugins. Sometimes, a theme and a plugin may not work well together, so you may need to ask the seller whether the plugin can work with their theme. If the theme offered is popular and the seller is reputable, they should be able to tell you that the plugin does work with their theme.
Although there are a lot of themes performing different functions, this list should help you find the one that gets your website to stand out from the crowd. Download our website guide below for everything you need to know about building a website using WordPress.