No matter if you just started blogging or a seasoned blogger picking a theme can be a daunting choice. When you choose the right theme for your blog, it builds your brand and leads to blogging success!
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One of the first things you do after installing WordPress is to choose a theme. Sometimes that’s easy, and sometimes you sit there and wonder which one should you pick. Should you go for a free theme? Should you buy a theme from Themeforest? Maybe you should hire a designer?
Let’s explore the options for how to choose the right theme for your blog!
Should You Choose a Free or a Paid Theme?
There is an ongoing debate whether or not you should choose a free or a premium theme.
What’s the difference?
Advocates of premium themes (the ones you pay for) will tell you that you get what you pay for. In other words, if you purchase a theme, you will get dedicated support whenever you run into problems. Some theme developers even include small customizations in the theme price.
With free themes, you pay nothing for a theme, but you are basically on your own if something goes wrong. Usually, there is a documentation file guiding you through installation and setup process, but when it comes to customizing it or adding extra to it, you either have to become best friends with Google, seek help on WordPress.org forums or hire someone to customize the theme for you.
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Most of the time, small changes CAN be done by you. Those small changes include changing the background, or the header, uploading your logo or changing the primary colors. More often than not, those changes can be done without ever touching a single line of code. They are usually hidden in a separate Theme Options section under Appearance or WordPress’s native Customize section under Appearance.
Most of the themes in the official repository are free, and there is plenty to choose from. If you are just starting out on your blogging journey, there is nothing wrong with starting out with a free theme.
Theme or a Framework?
Most of the people are confused when developers start throwing out words like theme and framework. What is the difference?
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The simplest explanation is a theme is what your blog looks like on the outside. When you install WordPress, you already have a theme installed, Twenty Fifteen.
In simple terms, a framework is a starting point for developers that they use when developing themes. It has necessary files in a place that are needed to develop themes based on that framework. Two most commonly used frameworks are Genesis and Thesis.
Another difference is between parent and child themes. Any theme can be a parent theme. A child theme is simply a theme created with a single file; style.css that imports the parent theme’s styles.
Tip: When you are doing any customizations to any theme, the best practice is to create a child theme for it and do all the modifications in there. Otherwise, when your theme updates, you will lose all the changes you have made.
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Things to Keep in Mind When You Choose the Right Theme for Your Blog
One trap that is easy to fall into is to pick the theme based solely on the way the theme looks. And let’s face, most of us pick the theme exactly like that. However, just because it looks nice doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
So how do you choose the right theme for your blog? If you are downloading a free theme:
- review the number of stars next to its name (assuming you are using trusted sources to download your theme) – if it has less than 4 (I would even go so far to suggest sticking to themes that have 4.5 stars) stay away from it
- look at the number of support threads (those are listed on the right-hand side next to the theme) – if there is a large number of unresolved threads stay away
- check the date it was last updated- if the last update was over a month ago – again, stay away
- read the reviews and see what others are saying – how easy it is to use, common issues they encountered – I realize this sounds like a lot of work but trust me, it pays off to do your research before getting stuck with a theme that you have no idea how to use
Design and Functionality
From a design point of view, that one is hard to answer, because everyone is different and not all people will like the same theme as you. However, the design is an important aspect of your blog.
- Pick a theme that has the features you need, instead of choosing a theme that advertisers a whole slew of extras that you probably won’t use.
- Pick colors that look pleasant together and the text is still legible on a colored background
- When you choose a background, your best bet is to go with a pattern that will repeat. Good place to find patterns is SubtlePatterns
Should You Purchase a Theme or Hire a Developer?
There are a lot of places where you can purchase a theme. Often, same developers who release free themes for the official repository have their website with some premium themes as well, or premium versions of free themes.
One of the reasons why I would recommend them is because themes released into the WordPress.org repository have to pass a review, which makes sure the theme is coded up to the latest standards. So those developers can usually be trusted.
Creative Market is a great place to go hunting for a theme. It is slightly cheaper than Themeforest, and they even offer fonts, .psd files, textures and a few other goodies.
Elegant themes offer a lot of bang for your buck. For $89 you get access to all of their themes and updates for a whole year. Currently, they have 87 themes and three different plans available. For most bloggers, a personal license is enough to start you off with a beautiful theme that is well coded and supported.
Genesis Framework is one of the most recommended frameworks when it comes to WordPress. It is lightweight; SEO is pretty decent, and their themes are both good-looking, functional and responsive.
Hiring a developer
Hiring a developer to design a custom theme for you gives you a slight advantage over everyone else. Ideally, the theme will be custom made just for you, and nobody else will have the same theme. It will make you stand out.
However, that option is also the most expensive one. Some developers start out at $2000+, and some developers will make you a theme for as low as $450, which is still more expensive than purchasing a theme, be it one from CreativeMarket, Elegant Themes or Genesis.
Choosing a WordPress theme is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. A WordPress theme plays a crucial role in your overall brand, whether you sell a product, a service or simply want to have your voice heard.
Hopefully, these tips will make the decision process easier and help you choose the right WordPress theme for your website.
How do you choose a WordPress theme?
What’s the most important thing for you when it comes to selecting a WordPress them?
Let’s talk in the comments below about how you choose the right theme for your blog!