WordPress is a free content management system that is great for powering your website or blog. I use WordPress on all of my current websites and I highly recommend it. It’s very easy to install and it can do everything that you’ll need for most types of websites. One of the great things about WordPress is that there are literally thousands of different templates (they are referred to as “themes”) that you can use for your blog or website. Some of these themes are free and some have to be purchased. Most premium themes cost less than $100 and can save you thousands of dollars compared to what you would pay for a custom design of equal quality.
The problem with having so many WordPress themes available is that it can be difficult to decide which one to use for your site. With that in mind, I wanted to give a few pointers that should help.
Free vs. Premium?
If you have a budget for your site and you’re willing to invest a little bit of money when getting started I would highly recommend that you use a premium theme instead of a free theme. For less than $100, and sometimes less than $50, you can buy a great-looking theme that will give your site a much more professional appearance. Free themes may not cost you any money, but they typically will not look or function as well as a premium theme. If you don’t have the money to purchase a premium theme when you are launching your website, I recommend that you start with a free theme and re-invest whatever you make from the site so that you can buy a premium theme when possible.
What Should You Look for in a Theme?
If you’re looking for the right theme, whether it is free or premium, here are some things that you should consider.
The Right Look and Style
There are all kinds of different types and styles of themes available. Think about the type of visitor that you want to attract, and find a theme design and style that will appeal to those people. For example, if you’re starting a fashion blog you will want something that looks sleek and elegant, not a cartoony-looking theme that would be a better fit for a children’s website.
One of the benefits of buying a theme as opposed to using a free one is that you should receive some type of service or support from the seller. If you have questions related to setting up the theme or how something works, there will be someone who can help. With free themes you typically will get no customer service.
Search Engine Optimization
The theme that you use will have a significant influence on how well your site is optimized for search engines. Some themes are coded extremely well and can help your site in terms of SEO, and other themes are coded poorly and can hurt your site’s rankings. Unfortunately, many free themes fall into the poorly coded category. However, just because you have to pay for a theme doesn’t mean it will be good for SEO. Even some premium themes are poorly coded. My advice here is to stick to theme developers who have a solid reputation for coding their themes to be search engine friendly. Two themes/frameworks that have excellent reputations for SEO are Genesis and Thesis. Here at ProfitBlitz I am using Genesis to power my site.
Most bloggers and website owners are looking for something specific in a theme. Are you looking for a theme that will give you a mobile-friendly responsive layout? Are you looking for a theme with a drag-and-drop editor so you can customize the look without needing to touch any code? Whatever your needs, make sure that they are being addressed by the theme of your choice. For many non-coders, getting a theme that allows for easy customization is important. If this is the case for you, check out Headway.
Price is, of course, a consideration as well. If you’re just getting started and you don’t have the money to invest you may be forced to go with a free theme for now. Another factor that is involved is the pricing model. Most premium theme shops sell their themes individually, but some sell them on a membership basis. For example, Elegant Themes offers more than 80 different themes and you can get access to all of them with a membership for $39 per year.
Do you have, or plan to have, multiple websites? If you’ll need themes for several different sites you may want to consider using the same theme or the same theme shop for several different websites. Some premium themes will only allow you to use them on 1 site unless you purchase an extended license. Other themes, like Genesis for example, can be used on unlimited sites even with the basic license. And if you have several websites a membership option like Elegant Themes can be a great value.
Theme Shops I Recommend
There are a lot of different places that you can buy WordPress themes. I primarily recommend StudioPress, the makers of the Genesis framework that I am using here at ProfitBlitz, because I use and love their product. I’ve also been a member at Elegant Themes for 2 years in the past when I needed themes for several different sites and I was very pleased with their themes and the value that the membership provided. Theme Trust is the other theme shop that I really like, but most of their themes are best used for portfolio websites. If you’re looking for free themes, WordPress has a theme directory that is a good starting point. By downloading themes directly from their marketplace you can trust that the themes are free of any malware or hidden links that are common in free themes.