Too much choice can be paralyzing.
Take blog themes for example. There are thousands. No wonder beginner bloggers want to know how to pick a WordPress theme.
Sound like you? Here’s the help you’ve been looking for.
What do WordPress Themes and Bread Have in Common?
When I first had to choose a blog theme, it reminded me of a totally different experience from my past.
As I kid I grew up in Africa. Buying bread was very simple then. There was brown or white bread and that was that.
Then I moved to London. The first time I went to buy a loaf of bread in the local supermarket was an ordeal I still recall vividly.
The bread section took up one side of entire aisle. That may seem very normal to you but considering where I had come from, it was mind boggling.
There were countless brands and many types of bread I had never heard of on display. And then there was thick sliced, thin sliced, un-sliced…
Horrors! It seemed endless. How was I meant to make a choice? I felt totally unprepared.
I remember walking up and down the aisle for ages in a dazed state of shock. In the end I left the store with no bread.
Of course, I soon learned how to deal with bread choices which is fortunate as it meant I didn’t end up going hungry or mad!
I’ve also learned a thing or two about how to choose a WordPress theme. You have to be prepared for the task and I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it with ease.
Follow my simple process and you won’t get stuck at this step for longer than necessary.
Create a Shortlist of Possible Themes
Don’t even hope to evaluate very WordPress theme available. It’s just not possible. I suggest you create a shortlist of no more than ten themes to consider.
Free versus Premium
Start by deciding whether you want to pay for a premium theme or use a free one. Personally I don’t think it’s necessary to pay for a theme until you’re sure that blogging for a living is going to work out for you.
The advantage of premium themes over free ones mostly has to do with functionality. Paid themes have more built into their structure so there is less need to use plugins. These are additional mini applications which extend your blog’s capability. When you use too many plugins it can often create problems for your website as some of them don’t work well together with certain themes.
Paid themes are also usually more flexible, so you can do more with them. They are updated regularly and offer a better level of support should something go wrong.
However, there are plenty of very suitable free themes which are totally fine to use as long as you check on few things which I will cover in a followng section.
Premium themes, with all their bells and whistles, can also confuse you when you’re starting out, since you may not need all the heavyweight features they offer.
Choose themes you like and which are suitable for your niche
Having an idea for ‘the look’ of your site beforehand is helpful but not absolutely necessary since I’m going to cover two ways you can use to help you find out.
Not only must you like the theme you choose but it must also suit your niche. For example, food and travel blogs are heavily dependent on images so you would want to choose themes that are best suited for this type of content.
The best way to find blogs you like and which are suitable, is to spend time looking at other successful websites in your niche. Use Google to search for the name of your niche + blogs to get a list of possible sites to consider.
When you’ve had look at enough of these you will start to get an idea of what you like and don’t like which will help you to formulate a vision for your own website. One word of warning, don’t copy another site exactly. This will lead to the death of your own website before you’ve even started. It’s fine to include features, layouts, fonts and colors you like, but always aim to find your own point of difference when it comes to the final design.
When you find a blog design you definitely like, make a note of the URL and also the theme they’re using. Sometimes you can find this by going to the bottom of the blog where you’ll find it stated in small print.
If you don’t see the name of the theme anywhere I suggest using an online tool to help you find the name. There are a few of these available and some work better than others. The one I suggest you use Is It WordPress?
Just enter the URL of the website and if it’s a WordPress theme, that’s freely available, the tool will present your with the name along with other useful information like the plugins used.
A second way to look for themes is by going to the WordPress Theme Directory
Here you can search for themes using their pre-defined search terms or you can search via your niche as I have below. Once again when you find a theme you like add it to your shortlist.
Use Evaluation Criteria
Now that you have shortlist of themes, it’s time to evaluate them using some meaningful criteria. You will either have to go to the theme website itself or use the WordPress theme directory to help you find answers to these questions.
1. Does this theme suit my niche?
If you’ve followed the above instructions then you should only have themes on your list that feel right for your niche.
2. Is the theme mobile responsive?
More and more people use mobile media to view the Internet so it’s critical that the theme you choose will display your content on mobile devices. Most of the newer themes do but it’s stil a a good idea to check that it’s an included feature.
3. Was the theme recently updated?
WordPress is continually changing and improving. This means that developers must update their themes to ensure they work optimally on the platform. Stay away from themes that are not maintained as they are likely to cause you problems down the track.
When looking at themes in the WordPress Directory it’s easy to find the information you need.
In the screenshot below of the ‘Twenty Seventeen’ theme, you can see that it was last updated this month. Perfect.
4. Is the theme popular?
It’s important that the theme is popular as this means a lot of people have tried it and are happy with it.
It also means there are plenty of others you can consult when you have question. In the above screesnshot you will see that the theme has had 1+ million downloads so that tells you it’s very popular.
It’s also worth looking at the downloads graph provided. If the trend is downwards over time then you might ask why fewer people are downloading the theme than before.
It might be that it’s no longer popular for a good reason. Also, check for reviews, both on the WordPress site and using Google.
5. Is the theme easy to use?
This is not always simple to determine until you start using the theme, but a good rule of thumb is to choose simple looking themes that don’t sound complicated. You do however want the theme to be suitable for your needs.
6. Can you easily add a reader comments module to pages?
Usually readers can add comments to posts you write, but it’s a good idea that this is possible on pages which you will also create on your website. When people leave comments it increases engagement on your content and Google likes this. Comments also extends the length of your pages which Google favors.
7. Is there support?
Can you contact someone if a problem arises? Look for names and contact details of the developers.
Once you’ve put your shortlist of themes through the above criteria you will be ready to choose any of them that made the grade.
Here’s a Quick Note For You To KEEP
I often use Post-it notes so here’s the Blogging map version for you to download. Simply save the image below to your computer and print for a handy reminder of what to look for when evaluating a theme.
Make it Easy For Yourself
Don’t make choosing a theme harder than it needs to be. Apply the process I’ve shared with you above and choose any of the themes that you like best.
Very often you don’t really know how suitable a theme is until you start using it. If you find it’s not giving you what you want, change it.
Knowing how to choose a WordPress theme is only one aspect of learning how to blog for a living. There is a lot to know and get right if you want to be successful.
For me it all became a lot easier when I found the right training, tools and mentoring community. In fact I still regularly turn to this community for help when I need it.
Before writng this post I consulted wiht someof them to find out whay they chose the WordPress themes they did. I got 66 replies within hours. Check out their reponses.
Over to You
Do you think I’ve shown you how to pick a WordPress theme the easy way? Hopefully the above process will work for you too.
Maybe you chose your theme completely differently? If so I’d love to hear how you made your decision?
What’s important to you when it comes to a WordPress theme?
Do you have a great recomendation for a theme perhaps?
If you have a question or something to add to the conversation, please do so in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you.
As usual if you think others might benefit from reading this post, please share it with your social networks. Thank you.