How to Pick a WordPress Theme

How to Pick a WordPress Theme

How to Pick a WordPress Theme

A carefully chosen and well-thought out WordPress Theme can have a significant impact on your audience as first impressions do matter. Yet how do you decide on what a theme to go with? How do you pick a WordPress theme when there are literally thousands to choose from?

Have you spent a full day looking at themes at Theme Forest? – I know I have. It can be very frustrating. The worst part is you might not even be sure you know what you’re looking for to begin with. How do you narrow your search when there is so many types of styles and options to choose from.

Relax. I think this article can help.

As much as I hate how it’s become a cliche, there’s no arguing that “quality content” remains to be the backbone in driving traffic to your website or blog. However, choosing the right look for your website is equally important.

Picking the best WordPress Theme that fits your needs as a business or blogger is no easy task, yet the rewards of finally tracking the one that works for you can be worth the search. At the same time, picking a theme that is too busy, complicated, or does not meet your goals as a business can equally hurt your traffic and/or conversion rate. The following are 10 tips to help you narrow down the perfect WordPress Theme for your business or blog.


1. Your Site Must Be Responsive

Responsive WordPress themes adapt to different browser sizes, so you do not require a mobile site or mobile plugin. The content is automatically resized and rearranged to fit smaller screens.

One of the first things I look at now when deciding on a new WordPress theme is how well the mobile layout of a website looks on my smartphone. For years I hoped responsive WordPress themes would be a fad and just go away. I hated building beautiful websites and then having to adjust them for mobile devices. As the industry changed, designers quickly learned styling techniques to help make the mobile theme look sexy and user-friendly. I have had a complete change of heart towards the mobile theme, but do hold a designer to a high level of execution when picking out a theme. I critique mobile themes throughout my everyday browsing.

In the off chance, you do find a WordPress theme today that isn’t mobile friendly, avoid it. Responsive websites are not just a smart move for your customers and readers; it’s an intelligent SEO upgrade too. Google has been encouraging designers to make mobile friendly websites for at least a year now, but it wasn’t until more recently that SEO’s started to take notice. Google made an announcement back in November of 2014 that was aimed at twisting the arm of website owners. Mobile-ThemeGoogle announced that they would be rolling out ‘tags’ in search results that marked sites as ‘mobile-friendly’ to help people determine which websites will look the best on their smartphones. I’m not convinced that a person would choose one site over another solely based on this new Mobile-friendly tag that appears in search terms. Nevertheless Google doesn’t usually make these sorts of changes for the fun of it. SEO’s are expecting this to become a ranking factor moving forward.


2. Don’t Fall In Love With The Demo or the Home Page

deceiving-advertising-examplesThe biggest problem with shopping for a new WordPress theme is thinking the demo and layout will look exactly the same way on your website. Web Designers aren’t stupid; they use beautiful stock images to help showcase their design to help you pick their theme over the hundreds, if not thousands of other themes to choose from. WordPress developers present their demos in a way much like how homeowners stage homes. Everything may look move in ready, but it’s your job to picture where all your stuff is going to go once the theme is empty.

For example, do you plan to blog? If you’re too busy to blog, or don’t have the budget to hire a blogger or someone who can manage your blog, then ignore all themes with “featured article sliders.” Many Designers will create a smooth scrolling sliders that feature images and the title of the latest article from the blog. Yet, people browsing these themes often don’t think about what content they’ll have to place in the slider to fill that element, they then feel their website looks empty once set up and installed.

Falling in love with the homepage is also a bad idea. Often people will find an articles or pages on your site from Google Search or social media that skips over your the homepage. Focus a lot of your time looking at the post layout or the Page layout. That’s far more important than the homepage.


  • Make a list of all the aspects that you would like and stick to them when browsing
  • Business owners should focus on conversion funnels
  • Try to avoid looking at the images on a theme and view the website’s bare bones instead

3. Avoid Busy Design: Less Is More


Look how busy this site is! Uhm…..where do I click?

So often in life, we are told to stand out amongst the crowd, but in the world of web design often less is more.

Be consistent with the industry you’re in. When choosing a Wordpress theme, you should determine the primary purpose of your website. The theme should not compliment your goals; it should simplify them. The layout of your theme should not confuse your readers; it should clearly deliver the purpose of your business to your target audience.

I am not suggesting you should look like all the rest; I’m suggesting you should look at how other sites in your niche present themselves and improve on it. By meticulously knowing what your market is looking for in a website, you can narrow down the theme that will work for you and enhance it.

I recently wrote an article about how I changed my word environment going the minimalist home office route; the results were amazing. The same rules apply: Less is more, clutter gets in the way.

Helpful Tip: 

Put yourself in the customers’ shoes. Completely forget about the website you own and begin to search your niche for the product or service you’re in. Compare as if you’re looking to purchase a product or buy a service. Compare everything and use your findings to decide on the business look you need.

4. Avoid a Theme with a Massive Homepage Image

The latest design trends often feature simple layouts based on a beautiful homepage image. This is great if you have an image that captivates your audience, but if you buy a theme that requires a huge homepage image and don’t have a large image already picked out, you’re in for a world of hurt. Picking the perfect home page image is extremely difficult and frustrating. It can be harder than picking out the actual Business WordPress theme itself. My advice is to spend a little time beforehand looking at stock image websites like iStock before you decide. A large stock image can cost you $50-$60, almost the same as a new Premium WordPress theme.

5. Colors Do Matter

Wesbite-ColorsThe color of your website can have a huge impact on what people buy or signup for.

In fact, 85% of shoppers state color as the primary factor in their decision to buy a product.

There are of course some common sense examples that most of us won’t screw up, like using too many dark colors or heavy fonts. Interestingly enough, certain colors may create an adverse effect on your readers, which could hurt the “Trust Factor” you hope to convey to your customers/users.

The following is a breakdown of some colors and their apparent meaning:

  • Yellow: Youthful and optimistic. Use it to grab attention. Usually not good as a background or primary site color.
  • Red: Energy. Creates urgency and increases heart rate. Good for appealing to impulse shoppers.
  • Blue: Creates feelings of trust and security. This is why many banks use it in their logos or marketing. Navy or dark blue is used to market to the budget-conscious.
  • Green: Gives the impression of wealth. Relaxing and easy-going. Teal can be used to appeal to people on a budget.
  • Orange: Aggressive and excitement. Good for calls to action and impulse buying.
  • Pink: Feminine and romantic. Used to market to women and girls and traditional buyers.
  • Black: Powerful and sleek. Use it to market luxury products and appeal to impulse buyers.
  • Purple: Soothing and calming. Often used to market anti-aging products.

Design Tip: 

With today’s easy customization through WordPress’s theme options pages, a business owner or webmaster can get carried away with “over styling” a theme. Just because you have the choice of adding a background image, picking out a million different fonts, or adding a ton of color, doesn’t mean you should. Remember, you need to win them over with who you are or what services you offer, not how flashy your website is.

6. Should Be Easy To Customize

Though WordPress themes are pre-made to save you time in building something from scratch, there is always room to customize it. Choose a theme that will allow you to change the color palette, or easily let you place your company’s logo and name in the header. Though there are themes that will do this for free, highly customizable themes with more advanced features usually come with a price. I am really pushing for WordPress Designers to create walkthrough videos to help customers. Although, most customization theme options pages are getting so advanced that people are getting by with ease.

7. Go Easy On Change

Tropicana Pure PremiumThe start of the new year always creates a sense of fresh starts with people, which usually can call for a rebranding or facelift of a website. Tread lightly when making such major decisions, as people hate change and the downfalls can cause more damage than what it’s worth.

The new Tropicana Pure Premium packaging debacle had been on the market less than two months before the company scrapped the redesign back in 2009. According to Information Resources Inc., unit sales dropped 20%, while dollar sales decreased 19%, or roughly $33 million, to $137 million between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22.

At first glance, you can see how a person would mistake their favorite orange juice in a super crowded market. Repetition and patterns when shopping for repeat items like food become almost automatic. To disrupt the pattern causes confusion and frustration. Now think about a reader that comes to your website and always knows where to click on a category or link; if you change that feature will that annoy the reader to the point of not returning? Probably not. But why take the chance? My point is if you are going to “change my Orange Juice” make it look like the Orange Juice I was already so familiar with.

A theme that strongly adheres to your product or the service that you are offering is a branding strategy that can effectively boost not just your online presence, but also the identity of your business. Notice that the largest brand names that we have now are consistent with the color palette, font, and even the way links and buttons are mapped out on their website. Should you build a new website or rebrand your business, keep in mind that you should choose a theme that lets you incorporate your brand attributes, and that eventually will allow your customers to identify you among your competitors.

A great book I recommend that goes into substantial detail about how people shop and how people avoid background clutter to help them make choices is The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less written by Barry Schwartz. 


Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc. He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was 30 years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions on how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness.

WordPress Short Codes

8. Get a Theme With Short Codes

Short Codes are very helpful and add a lot of creative style to your post and pages. Short Codes give a website owner the option of creating columns, putting content in tabs, using Dropcaps to kick off an article in style or add cool icons with ease. Short Codes can help bring your articles to life. Of course, this tip isn’t a deal breaker like picking a theme that isn’t responsive, but that being said, having a theme with shortcodes is a pretty nice bonus. Adding Short Codes after the fact is not easy to install unless you use a plugin, and as I’ve stated in previous articles, the fewer plugins you use, the faster your website will run.

The following are a few of my favorite themes and designers for creating shortcodes

9. Test User-Friendly Interface

Testing-an-imageWith so many WordPress themes to choose from at Theme Forest, you may find yourself at a loss for which one to choose. When narrowing down your selection, bookmark the demos of the themes you’re interested in. Use your family and friends as guinea pigs for testing the interface and flow of the WordPress themes. Ask them to navigate around each of the website demos on your short list and get real feedback.

When I used to create custom themes for clients, I always asked myself if my mother would be able to figure out the design. With no disrespect to my mom, she isn’t tech savvy and struggles when navigating through a website. If a person checking out your business or blog has a hard time navigating throughout your website, there are either too many buttons, too complicated of a design or confusion about where to click.

Great questions to ask people while they are testing a website:

  1. What did you notice first?
  2. Where did your eyes move to after you first arrived on this page?
  3. Do you notice the menu of links?

10. Always Buy Premium WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme at Theme Forest can cost anywhere from $40 to $60. While I understand we’re not all made of money, this is a very smart investment. The advantages of buying a premium WordPress theme over using a free theme is massive.

Back in the day, companies would create free WordPress themes only to get people to use them as a link building tactic, as the footer would have their business link back to the designer’s portfolio. 90% of free WordPress themes are out of date, and can’t compete with a premium theme. In the big scale of things, $50 isn’t very much if it means the difference between a great first impression with a potential client, or a swing and miss.

Bonus Tips
  • When browsing WordPress themes at ThemeForest make sure you take your time and pick the correct category for your niche or business. It’s unlikely you’ll find a great business theme looking in the magazine or news section.
  • Before you buy a premium WordPress theme check for any problems, people are having. There is a list of comments and total number of sales of all WordPress themes at ThemeForest listed in the right sidebar below the buy now button. You can scroll through all the comments. Some companies will even answer any questions you may have about the theme, although you should be able to learn everything about a particular theme from the information provided.
  • Bookmark the demos and sleep on it. There are too many themes to choose from, so take your time and bookmark the ones you like. Then, use the steps in this article to help narrow down the winner.

Good luck! I hope this article had some tips to help you narrow down your search and allow you to pick the best WordPress Theme. Please follow and share this article, and don’t forget to signup for my newsletter.

Share This Article!

About author View all posts

Mike Patch

Optimize Dude was started with the intention of creating a fun down to earth practical blog to help WordPress users with improving their website. Mike Patch is a long time blogger, SEO and Web Designer.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Thanks for the article! I’m just getting into designing the website for my business and will be using this advice WOOHOO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *