Beginner's Guide for WordPress / Start your WordPress Blog in minutes

Selecting the Perfect WordPress Theme – 9 Things You Should Consider

Most beginners feel overwhelmed when it comes to selecting a theme for their WordPress site.

There are thousands of free and paid options. Each theme looks better than the other. How do you choose the best theme for WordPress?

In this article, we will share the 9 things you should consider, so you can choose the best WordPress theme for your site.

Selecting the perfect theme for Your WordPress site

Why You Should be Careful When Choosing a WordPress Theme?

WordPress is used to create all kind of websites. That’s why each theme caters to a different market.

Your WordPress theme should complement the content of your website. For example, if you are starting a blog on politics or social issues, then you would want a theme that improves readability.

Readability

Many WordPress themes come with tons of customization options. If not coded properly, these options can make it difficult for you to change themes or use other WordPress plugins. You will be locked into that theme or will have to pay a developer to help you switch.

On the other hand, some WordPress themes that look really great can actually make your website incredibly slow. No one likes slow websites, particularly Google, which prefers to rank faster websites higher.

Your theme is the face of your WordPress site and plays an important role in how users as well as search engines perceive it.

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘All that glitters is not gold’.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the steps you can take to make sure that you select the best theme for your WordPress site.

1. Strive for Simplicity

Simplicity is the best rule in design

Many WordPress themes come with lots of colors, complex layouts, flashy animations, etc. Sometimes you may need those things, but in most cases you don’t really need all that.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Look for a theme that has a design layout that helps you support your goal. It needs to look good but without compromising on usability and simplicity.

Make sure that the theme’s presentation style is not overly complicated. The purpose of web design is to help users find information they need and to help site owners achieve their goals at the same time.

If a theme looks great but does not help you get new business or subscribers, then it is not a good theme. It is also not a good theme when your users can’t really find their way around your website.

Take a look at these 37 simple WordPress themes for some inspiration.

2. Responsive is Not Optional Anymore

Choose a Responsive WordPress Theme

Responsive themes adjust their layout across different screen sizes and devices.

A significant number of web traffic is generated from mobile and other handheld devices. Depending on your website’s topics, this number could go even higher than 50% of your traffic.

Google shows mobile friendly websites on top in their mobile search results. Regardless of your site’s topics and demographics, all websites need to be responsive and fully mobile ready.

Most WordPress themes are already responsive by default. But there are still sellers who are selling fixed width layouts that are not mobile friendly at all. Make sure that the theme you are choosing for your website is mobile friendly.

Testing a Theme for Mobile Readiness

The easiest way to test whether a theme is responsive or not is by resizing your browser screen. As you resize your browser screen, you will notice that the theme’s layout will adjust itself to the screen width.

For more thorough testing you can copy the URL of theme’s demo page and paste it in Google’s Mobile Friendly Test page.

Testing a responsive theme against Google Mobile Friendly Test

Please note that this test will show some warnings, regardless of how good a theme is. Lookout for any red flags like text too small, content wider than screen, etc.

3. Browser Compatibility

Browser compatability testing

Your users will be using different browsers. Your theme may look perfect on the browser you use, but there might be something broken in other browsers.

This is where browser compatibility comes in. Most WordPress theme developers test their themes rigorously by using sophisticated browser compatibility testing tools.

They may clearly mention this on their website. But if they don’t, then you can always run some basic tests to check the theme on different browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.

Don’t forget to test on different browsers on mobile as well.

4. Supported Plugins

Supported plugins

The real power of WordPress comes with WordPress plugins. These plugins make it possible for you to do anything with your WordPress site.

While there are plenty of WordPress plugins, some are must-have WordPress plugins for every websites. Like Gravity Forms, Yoast SEO, W3 Total Cache, etc.

Make sure that your WordPress theme supports all popular plugins. If you are unsure, ask theme developer about it.

5. Translation + Multilingual Ready

Multilingual and translation ready WordPress themes

A large number of WordPress sites are not in the English language. You may be creating a website in a language other than English. Maybe you have plans to create a multilingual WordPress site in the future.

Make sure that your WordPress theme is translation ready and supports multilingual WordPress plugins.

6. Page Builders

Drag and drop page builders for WordPress themes

Page builders are WordPress plugins that allow you to create page layouts using drag and drop user interface.

Many premium WordPress themes come with page builders pre-installed. Some of these page builders are used by that theme developer only.

Using such a page builder to create landing pages can produce a lot of unwanted code. If you ever switch the theme, then those pages will require a lot of cleaning up.

You should choose themes that are shipping with one of the most used page builder plugins. You can also purchase these page-builders separately to use with other themes as well.

7. Support Options for When You Need Help

Support for your WordPress theme

One downside of using a free WordPress theme is that there is no guaranteed support. While some developers provide excellent support for their free themes, many free themes have no support option.

If you mess up your WordPress theme, then you will have to figure it out on your own. You can also end up paying a third-party developer to solve the tiniest problems.

Make sure that you select a WordPress theme that has good documentation and support option. Most premium WordPress themes offer detailed documentation with 1 year of email based support.

8. SEO Friendliness

Check your theme for SEO friendliness

Your WordPress theme plays a crucial role in your site’s SEO friendliness. A good looking theme can still generate poorly coded HTML, this could affect your site’s performance on search engines.

It could be difficult for beginners to analyze a theme’s source code on their own. This is why many premium WordPress theme developers will let you know that their pages are optimized for SEO.

You can also take a look to see if the page generates proper HTML5 by checking it with W3C Markup Validation service. However, please note that the W3C tool will generate many warnings which are nothing to be worried about.

9. Ratings and Reviews

Check ratings and reviews for a WordPress theme

Another solid indicator of a WordPress theme’s quality is ratings and reviews provided by their users. If the theme is sold on a third-party marketplace, then you will see customer reviews.

For free WordPress themes, you will find the ratings section just below the download button. It will show the number of reviews and stars given by users. If you click on 5 stars, then it will show you all the reviews that gave the theme 5 stars.

Read theme reviews and ratings by other users

Almost all WordPress themes can get a few bad reviews. but if the number of bad reviews is unusually high, then you should read them carefully.

Our Recommendations

There are plenty of free WordPress themes available with new ones being released on a daily basis. That’s why we regularly publish the list of our favorite free themes in our showcase section.

Some of the popular items in our theme showcase are:

However, as we have mentioned above that support is one of the most important factor to consider when selecting a theme. Free WordPress themes do not come with guaranteed support and updates.

Most premium WordPress themes offer 1 year of support and updates. Here are some of the theme shops that we highly recommend.

How to Install a Theme in WordPress

Installing a WordPress theme is really simple. First you need to download the theme’s zip file to your computer.

After that login to your WordPress admin area and go to Appearance » Themes page.

Themes page in WordPress admin area

On top of the themes page, you need to click on the Add New link.

This will take you to the add new theme page. You can use this page to look for free themes to install. But since we have already downloaded the theme, you need to just click on Upload theme link at the top.

Upload a theme

You will now see the theme upload box. Click on choose file button to select the theme zip file you downloaded to your computer earlier and then click on the Install now button.

Upload and install theme zip file

WordPress will now upload the theme from your computer to your website and install it for you. Once it is done, you will see a success message with links to preview or activate the theme.

Theme installation successful

If you do not want to use a theme right away, then you can click on the live preview button to test out the theme without activating it.

Please note that you will have to activate a theme in order to use it on your website.

For more detailed instructions, see our beginner’s guide on how to install a WordPress theme.

How to Safely Change WordPress Themes

For new WordPress sites, you can just select the perfect theme and install it on your site. However, if you have a established WordPress site, then you need to properly switch your theme to avoid any effect on your site’s performance and SEO.

First you need to understand what happens to a WordPress site when you switch themes. Here is our guide on what happens when you switch your WordPress theme.

Some settings on your WordPress site will disappear and will not automatically apply to your new theme. You need to understand these things, and how you can put them back on your new theme.

We have compiled a handy checklist of things you must do before changing WordPress themes.

After that you need to follow the instructions in our tutorial on how to properly switch WordPress themes on your site.

We hope this article helped you select the perfect theme for your WordPress site. You may also want to see our list of must have WordPress plugins for business websites.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. See how WPBeginner is funded, why it matters, and how you can support us.

The Ultimate WordPress Toolkit

Get FREE access to our toolkit – a collection of WordPress related products and resources that every professional should have!

Reader Interactions

89 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. There are so numerous themes available that almost everybody can get the best one to meet their requirements with a slight customization. I usually like to choose the simple and clean themes but with a sophisticated and smooth navigation. I’m one of those readers who loves when a website content is pretty clear to read. I am always looking for those themes where I can apply large headers on the first page, so I then prefer go to chose the design I use for my site.

    The primary thing I check for is the color structure. I favor a crafty color, white or somewhat ivory colored texture for me. I’m still squeezing things, but I prefer the Magazine theme most. I like the appearance of Magazine themes; the fonts are impressive, and the entire arrangement seems very fine with basics – lists, widgets, and the combination of black+gray+white. Then after implementing the theme, I examine its simplicity.

    No matters, currently I am looking for an excellent theme, so this article is helpful and suitable for me now. Habitually, I like to design my own themes and want to tweak and customize it in the way I wish to have a custom look. I’m a newbie in the blogging industry, but I’m getting lots of new info more & more every day.

  2. I was just confused what to do with the theme problem on my site

    after reading all your steps given in article

    I have followed all your steps
    and now I have a good and attractive site

    thnx a lot

  3. I, like others, am having a difficult time deciding which theme to use as far as simplicity, reliability and support. I need a basic Staffing Agency (or Multiuse) platform. Just when I think I have found one I come across reviews of it being too complex or bad support or needing tons of additional plugins. How can I truly find a trusting theme that is simple to use, without additional plugins and good support if needed. I don’t mind paying for a premium theme if that is what is necessary.

  4. Hello WPbegginer,
    I am diving into my first website/blog and my last experience with web design was changing colors on myspace 12 years ago. I have already decided to go with a self hosted Word Press site but got caught up when I arrived at picking a theme. I quickly found Genesis and all its glory and understand the benefits. My question stems from the fact that a portion of my motivation behind starting a website/blog, is learning the new skill (web design, basic coding, marketing, etc). So my question is, am I hindering myself, and my educational process long term by not starting with simply WordPress, a free theme, and adding plugins to learn that side of it? I am afraid that by jumping straight to Genesis I am skipping some steps? Let me know your thoughts

    • Hi Luke,

      When you are self-learning online you have the freedom to set your own pace, choose your own goals, and learn based on your own preferences. If you feel comfortable that you will be able to learn more by starting with a framework, then feel free to give it a try. You can always study other themes by installing them locally on your computer. Hope this helps :)

      Admin

  5. Hi guys,

    I am intending to use wordpress for an e-learning portal I am going to build. Can anybody suggest which free wordpress theme with learning management system that includes membership plug-in?

  6. hi,

    thanks for a great website… I’m a bit overwhelmed here, theme-wise…
    I have been a web developer for many years.. have always hand-coded…
    learning WP is hard when you’ve been hand-coding for about 20 years!!! :-o

    it’s hard to decide on a theme if you can’t test it beforehand… (& make sure it’s responsive… & find out what important plugins it supports (I will need cc processing for my site…))

    the site I have to build is for a wholesale jewelry seller… a one-person business….
    as mentioned, it will need credit card processing, which scares me….. I have never implemented this functionality all on my own..

    if you could in any way recommend some themes (free) I would appreciate it very much….

    thank you…..

    • Hi Francisca,

      All standard compliant WordPress themes use best practices that allow them to work with any WordPress plugin. You can preview a WordPress theme with your site’s content by simply installing it and then clicking on the preview button without activating the theme.

      As for payments, there are a number of solutions that you can use. You can use PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, 2Checkout, and countless others.

      Admin

  7. I have checked the demo page of the theme I am looking at with the W3C Validation page. It gives a handful of errors. I know I don’t need to worry about warnings, but what about errors?

  8. I am trying to find theme or plugin for the following need. So please help in directing me towards right them. I will really appreciate that.

    I am developing my own website. I am trying to develop collaborative website for my community of potters. And In that, I want to add following functionality.
    I want to be able to create unique link which I can send to a member of my group for participation. S/he can open the link and write his/her view on that particular topic with pictures and videos and audios. Once she complete, she can hit the Submit or Complete option below. Then, as admin I will get notification for approval and once approved, it will be seen on website.

  9. Actually you’re pro that’s why i love to follow your all articles, I love to read selecting the perfect theme for WordPress

    Cheers,
    Hashim Nisar

  10. To whom it may concern,
    I am building my first website.
    I am searching for the best free theme for wordpress.
    My goals are as follows;
    1. call to action.
    2. fill out form.
    3. ask for a quote.
    4. ask for advice.
    5. ask for explanation of the process

  11. I would like to thank you for the article, it is a bit helpful. But at the same time, its hard not to get frustrated. I have no background in HTML or the like and its been hard trying to get my site to look the way it looks the past few days. I am new to WordPress.org and I have heard every speech about how it is the way to go. But I am frustrated because I feel like I can’t make my blog look the way I desire it to. I am doing a sports blog and it seems like nothing will come together. And I am trying to find what theme suites my content best. It is a bit intimidating but I am going to try to hang in there. Any suggestions?

    • Hey John,

      We can totally understand. Many of our users start out as absolute beginners. It can be a bit overwhelming for beginners at first, but you will soon get past this phase with a sense of accomplishment :)

      Admin

  12. Hello. Thanks for the wonderful post. I have bought several themes thru Theme Forest. But I am getting frustrated. Prices have gone up significantly. Tech support is an additional fee. And worse of all, in order to sell units, the authors have added so many bells and whistles, and continue to do so, WordPress now has a new learning curve, even for experienced users. I wish you would list a few of the most user friendly and secure themes. Thanks again! Dave

  13. I am looking for a suitable theme with simple features, tried many but could not find suitable one, please suggest me right theme for me.

    1. It should be free theme (if it is successful, I can look at buy option also)
    2. I will use PAGES only, (Posts – will not be used)
    3. Want to disable side bar, if any (left / right)
    4. Comments at the bottom of each PAGE (I enabled comments from Settings / Discussion, but most of the themes not showing any box to post comments). Login not required for comments.
    5. Search bar required.

  14. What is the reason for the obvious blaring omission that the Automattic backed WooThemes is not listed among your recommended premium theme development shops?

  15. Hello,

    You mention in the beginning of this article that some WP themes are fast, some are slow :
    “On the other hand, some WordPress themes that look really great can actually make your website incredibly slow.”

    How can one test – before choosing a theme – whether it will be slow or fast ?

    Thanks for all the great information. L.

    • Hey Lauren,

      The only way to do this is to install the theme on a staging environment and run the tests. This way you will get to see exactly how slow or fast the theme will work on your website.

      Another thing you can try is to test the theme demo with page speed tools like Pingdom or Google Page Insights. Results will not be able to accurately predict the performance impact of the theme on your website but you will be able to see some useful information.

      Admin

  16. Librarian looking to curate,
    I know is it’s dangerous to choose the wrong theme. I know what I want the page to do: using it for an online history exhibit so I will need a timeline that will take pictures, a way to have other contribute to the timeline, search, etc. I have searched across the web for similar sites I want to do (can’t find one). Search terms: site:. edu and anniversary, memory book, etc. Can you request something? Or I am hoping you know of a databases where I can filter by features so I can hone in on possible themes…
    Thank you

  17. Hi,
    Thanks for the articles on pagebuilders and how to choosea WP theme.
    Thing that I wonder is this: My experience until sofar is that once you have a WP Theme you are stuck to use the typefonts that the theme delivers. Would a pagebuilder solve that problem (that I can use more fonts/does it come with additional fonts?)thanks for the answer,
    Jan

    • Hey Jan,

      Yes you can use Google Fonts with some page builders. You can also load additional fonts if you need. Please see your preferred page builder plugin’s documentation on how to change fonts.

      Admin

  18. Hi … thanks a lot for the tutorial and links, really excellent. I’m totally new with WP, we’ve bougth the service from GoDaddy to build a website for our small company (automation and industrial robotics programming) . We have only industrial clients, our website only shows information about our services, no sales, no blog, chat or lot of pictures… we only need good SEO.
    Any suggestion about a institutional, clean and a little techno theme for us (free or not).
    Thanks one more time!

  19. Great page! I’m a newby and a bit of an IT phobe, but want to ttry WordPress. I need a themw which is easy to set up and change. I am a 1 person business, but I offer different courses and services. I need to change course dates regularly. I need an easy to read theme- which is a good one? Woud Iidly do?
    Thanks :)

  20. We need a theme that accomplishes the following goals:

    1. Is W3C compliant
    2. Enables us to export our website to another hosting service
    3. Enables semantic language markup
    4. May support multiple language (bonus feature)
    5. Can accommodate a chat feature for support or pre-sales
    6. Supports google analytics and other SEO plug ins

    Any thoughts on how to find that?

  21. A simple question:

    May one use, for example, BeaverBuilder, to do your OWN theme from scratch, assuming that you just don’t like anything “pre-baked?” Or does one need to start with an existing “canned” theme as a starting point and THEN use a page builder to make any wanted adjustments? Just not clear on that.

    Love the site, by the way. GREAT resource for newbies or the veteran.

    • Hi H.G.T,

      BeaverBuilder is a page builder plugin, which means you will still need a WordPress theme to build your layouts. BeaverBuilder is compatible with most popular WordPress themes and even has their own basic theme that you can use as an starting point.

      Admin

  22. Great article
    Please how to “Make sure that your WordPress theme is translation ready and supports multilingual WordPress plugins.”?
    Thanks in advance for replying.

  23. please, i can i edit the footer of my wordpress theme. i am using woocommerce storefront theme and i want to change the phrase “storefront theme designed by woocommerce” to my own specification. my site is

  24. I am a total beginner and everything I read makes me more confused. I bought BlueHost and I also bought a theme called Lotus and even had it “made to look like demo” but now I have absolutely no idea what to do. I can’t figure out how to customize it and since I bought it I’ve been told I should have bought something on the Genesis framework. I don’t even know what that means. I could really use some help.

    • Hi Carla,

      Your theme developer should have documentation on how to customize your theme. Remember customizing a theme is different than adding content to your theme. The theme only controls appearance of your website.

      Admin

  25. Could you please give your opinion of which wordpress theme you recommend for my site which is half done and my url is. Im using theme but it seem complicated and Im just a beginner, thanks.

    regards

    Anthony hearing impaired

  26. Nice article specially for newbies! I’m looking for a template that has a video instead of a header banner (or a way to this!) and I cannot find it. If you guys know something like this please get in contact :)

  27. Undoubtedly it is very difficult to find a theme that suits your niche. This article is very helpful to select the best theme.

  28. Great article and very help, I have just started a new website and this has helped me in picking my intended theme.

  29. Awesome !! Thank you for your tips. With it, I found for myself a beautiful theme:

    Thank you again and could I share your post on my social?. I thnk it will be helpful for more people

  30. I’m totally new to wp. I’m using siteground as my host. In wordpress, I selected a theme (iThemes Paige) and have begun using it for my site. If I go to the iThemes website the theme I chose has a price to download it.

    Is this a free theme or not? WP let me apply it without notifying me it had a cost.

    Under wp settings menu, I see that it says that “Builder Paige” is not licensed.

    How does this all work? Thank you!

    • I have been finding the same thing. Even when purchasing from the host site, a price of say $49 shows up, then I get a message that I will have pay… I am also wondering how all of this works!

  31. It would help your credibility if your own site passed Google’s mobile friendly test. It doesn’t.

  32. Very good tips for a theme shopper. Installed a free theme on my site and have developed it as far as I care to having seen the limitations. Now that I have a good “basic” understanding of word press I am ready to find and pay for a theme.

    This article has very good points to consider and I new feel I can go shopping with a much better understanding of what to look for.

    Thank you.

  33. best ever tutorial !
    I am an absolute beginner ,saw all other sites about word press and they do not compare ! many thanks.

  34. Hi. I am using customizr at my site from last 5 years, I’m not web developer by profession but i keep updating site after reading tutorials. I have installed many plugins like Yoast SEO, wemaster tools, I also added meta tags, i have social share options and many other works. Presently, i am having an issue that my custom made menu is not up to my satisfaction. Menu Item 1 is ok and if there is 1.1 – 1.5 the next 1.1 doesn’t go exactly at right side. Someone suggested that it is builtin in theme. I thought of changing theme. If i change theme, will all my existing work stay with site? like current menu, added social links, removed breadcrumbs etc.

  35. All the tips you have given may help blogger to choose those themes for website.
    Thank you for sharing these tips us..

  36. Thanks Syed,
    Planning a theme change and this article along with the linked resources is everything I need.
    Stay well
    Ian

  37. Can you recommend W3C compliant themes that have been validated both CSS and HTML?
    they are very hard to find, most of the theme developers don’t validate the themes and tell you they are up to the W3C standards and they do not pass the test.

  38. You forgot about accessibility – a very, very important component of websites – it is required like with responsive design. Accessibility is also required by disability laws and WCAG.

  39. Thanks for the link to “Things you should do before changing” themes. It came at the right time. I’m always fearful of changing. BTW… the saying is, “All that glitters is not gold.”

Leave A Reply

Thanks for choosing to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our comment policy, and your email address will NOT be published. Please Do NOT use keywords in the name field. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.