WordPress For Beginners: Picking The Right Theme For You

WordPress For Beginners: Picking The Right Theme For You

10 Tips For Choosing The Best WordPress Theme

A beautiful WordPress Theme with a well-thought-out design can have a significant impact on your audience. It’s true what they say, first impressions do matter, yet how do you decide on which theme to go with? How do you pick a WordPress theme when there are literally thousands to choose from? In this article, I break down some helpful tips to finding the best WordPress themes for your business or blog.

As much as I hate how it’s become a cliche, there’s really 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. There are dozens of list articles on the web that claim they have found the best WordPress themes, but with new themes being created every week, how can you be sure what was the best theme hasn’t already been improved on.

Picking the perfect look goes beyond just falling in love with the demo. You need to run through a checklist to see that you’re not going to force a square peg into a round hole, so to speak. The following is a criteria list to help you narrow down the best WordPress Theme for your business or blog.

Picking The best WordPress Theme For You

1. Mobile: Don’t Settle for a Sub-par Responsive Theme

Responsive WordPress themes adapt to different browser sizes, so you don’t require a mobile site or mobile plugin. The content is automatically resized and rearranged to fit smaller screens. This is the standard in all WordPress themes nowadays, however, not every designer does the best job with re-creating their beautiful theme into a mobile website.

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 has 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 one out. I critique mobile themes throughout my everyday browsing, and there should be no settling for a subpar responsive layout. The best WordPress themes have a smooth, fast-loading style that can do everything the desktop theme can do, if not more.

Tip: When browsing Theme Forest for themes, have your phone handy to test the mobile theme right away. Use your desktop as the starting off point, but don’t waste too much time before picking up your mobile device and testing the theme’s mobile layout. Try to envision your content on the mobile site. Test the mobile navigation menu, be critical too, as it’s likely 50% (or more) of your traffic will be viewing your site from the mobile look.

2. Look Beyond the Demo

The 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 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 slider that features 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.

The same can be said for bloggers who at WordPress themes that have a large homepage layout. If you have access to large images and know how to compress image file sizes, then you’ll be okay, but if you’re not great with cropping pictures and always forget to compress your pics, your homepage image will not only look stretched but could load slowly. I would suggest Bloggers stick to magazine-style themes when browsing for the best WP Theme.


  • For Bloggers, focus a lot of your time looking at the post layout as that’s far more important than the homepage as that’s where most people will find your site through search or social media.
  • Make a list of all the aspects that you would like, and stick with them when browsing
  • Business owners should focus on conversion funnel options  buttons, selling features, Lead boxes)
  • Try to avoid looking at the images on a theme and view the website’s bare-bones instead

3. Avoid Busy Themes

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.

“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” – The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

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.
  • Keep your navigation menu to six to seven links.
  • Remember first impressions matter so focus on answering simple questions like “What does this company/site do or specialize in?”
  • The more you add to the homepage, the more the page needs time to load. Try to simplify the experience and work on delivering a clear message.

4. Homepage Design: Less is More But for Options The More, The Better

Most of the WordPress themes that I love give me many options on how the Homepage layout can look. If you browse any themes at Theme Forest, you’ll see in the navigation bar of the demo all the possible looks the Homepage can have. Test them all out on desktop and mobile. If you find a few looks you like, you’re off to a good start, as you know that you can always make design changes down the road without having to change themes. The more options, the better when it comes to a homepage.

Business Homepage Feature Images

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 picture and don’t have one already picked out, you’re in for a world of hurt. Choosing the perfect homepage 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 almost the same as a new Premium WordPress theme.

WordPress Theme options

5. Heavy Customizable Theme Options Page

Even though WordPress themes are pre-built to save you time in building something from scratch, there is always time needed to customize it and set up things to your preference. Choose a theme that will allow you to change everything and anything with one easy click.

A good sign of a robust WordPress theme is the amount of detail the designer put into the theme options page. For anyone of you who has looked at a massive theme options page and thought “Ugh, look at all this stuff I have to set up” I feel for you, as it can be time-consuming. But glass half full, it’s far better to have a choice than to be limited in site’s options.

I am pushing for WordPress Designers to create walk-through videos to help customers.

One of my favorite theme designers is Meks Themes.

6. Avoid One Hit Wonders

Not everyone is going to like this suggestion, but I find it does work.

When I’m considering a WordPress theme at Theme Forest, I click on the designer’s portfolio. What I’m looking for is the companies other WordPress themes. Constructing a professional WordPress theme is no easy task, so the more themes the company has completed, the better I feel about them handling updates.

The best WordPress theme designers do updates on their themes a few times a year. This is one of the perks to buying a premium WP theme. However, I have bought themes that have been discontinued. Ethier, there was a design error that the company never bothered to update, or there was a security issue that the company didn’t update and Theme Forest took them down. Regardless, it’s not a great feeling buying a theme that is discontinued. You pretty much have to make an update at that point as you’re left in the dark using an unsupported theme that is longer available to be sold. I have read about groups of designers that team up and work on a theme for an entire year, and then sell it on Theme Forest for a huge payoff. You’d be amazed at what some of the top WordPress theme designers have made on Theme Forest.

My point is, you want a company that’s in it for the long haul. You want a company or a team of designers that do updates on their theme often and continue to create beautiful themes for people. This is a perfect time to mention my favorite company. I have been extremely loyal to the company Meks, they tend to do more themes for bloggers opposed to businesses, but over the years of trying out many different themes, I have grown to love how they construct their themes.

7. Need For Speed

If you ever click on a WordPress theme demo and a loading icon appears, just close the page and go back to the list of choices. There is no reason in this day and age that a “loading” gif icon is needed. Even if you’re looking at a photography gallery theme, that is built for large images, it shouldn’t need extra time to load.

Read over the description page for the WordPress theme designer; often you’ll get the same cliche sales pitch on every WordPress theme but look for any acknowledgment about building the site for speed. If the designer has made it his or her personal goal to create a fast-loading theme, then you’re in good hands. I understand that a lot of what slows down your site are the things you add to it such as images, advertisements, heavy javascript, etc, but I have seen designers build clunky themes that don’t take the time (pun intended) to make their WordPress theme lightning fast.

8. Make Subtle Changes To Your New Look

This suggestion is more for those who are about to change their Website look. Most WordPress webmasters try a few different looks when first getting started. Some updated their theme once a year. Often people make too bold of a change to their site layout or design that has a reverse effect on their traffic or readership with their readers.

In my opinion, one of the worst things you can do is to install a new WordPress theme and slowly set it up over a lengthy period. Unless you’re setting up a new website, you’re just going to annoy your website visitors. People hate change and don’t want to see a different version of your site every few days. Some plugins allow you to install tester themes that only users that are logged in can see, however, it often still requires re-arranging all your widgets. Personally, I take a different route. I own a baby account at HostGator where I just install themes as demos for clients or for personal use. I get everything set up for the client, give them access to the demo site so they can play around and adjust things without making any changes to their main site. This is peace of mind and nearly all of my clients have loved this process. It’s a lot like getting the keys to the new home you bought early and going in and adding a fresh coat of paint or measuring for furniture to make sure things fit. Once the site is just the way they like it, I install the theme on their main site and make all the changes in one afternoon.

Branding Change Tips

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. 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.

Helpful Questions to Ask:

  • Should I build a new website or rebrand my business?
  • Why do I need to make a website change?

WordPress ShortCodes

9. Short Codes

Short Codes are very helpful and add a lot of creative style to your post and pages. The best WordPress Themes will go beyond the cookie-cutter tabs and buttons and offer really cool design features that can enhance every page or post you create.

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. Of course, getting a WordPress theme without a lot of Short Codes isn’t a deal-breaker, but if you’re going to get a premium WordPress theme, which I suggest, you might as well get all the features that come along with the best WP Themes.

Helpful Tip:

  • Switching WordPress themes from one designer to the next will mean an entirely different set of ShortCode tags. Be prepared to make updates.
  • To avoid having to update old Shortcodes from your old theme to your new theme check out what the designer of your current theme has built in the form or new themes.

10. User-Friendly Interface

With 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 shortlist 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 site, there are either too many buttons or it’s too complicated of a design

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

  1. What did you notice first?
  2. What draws your eyes in?
  3. Do you notice the menu of links?
  4. What do you think of the color scheme?

If you have suggestions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below.

About author View all posts

Mike Patch

Mike is an SEO and Digital Marketer of 10+ years. He currently works remotely in Vancouver Canada as an SEO and Content Manager for a Sports Data company based in Philadelphia. Mike also owns and operates a number of affiliate marketing and authority websites.

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