If you're just getting started with WordPress, one of the first challenges you'll have is picking a theme for your site. I want you to love WordPress. But what I know is that if you grab the wrong theme, you could end up hating it. So how can I help you pick the right one?
Well, before we get to that, let me ask us all a single question: is there such a thing as a right or wrong WordPress theme?
I think the answer varies on the “is there a right theme” part of the question because right is a function of your purpose. And since we all have different agendas, it can be hard to say what the “right” theme is for you.
But from the “is there a wrong theme” part of the question, I can assure you that there are wrong themes.
So before I get into recommending some themes to you, let me suggest a quick rule of thumb for how to know if a theme is a wrong one. [Note: these are my rules of thumb, so others may disagree.]
- If it takes 30 minutes to download the theme, it's the wrong one.
- If you have to decide between 6 sliders embedded in the theme, it's the wrong one.
- If it tells you that this is the only theme you'll need forever, it's the wrong one.
I'm sure there are other guides, but these three will protect you from the worst themes out there that will absolutely ruin your day. Maybe not at first, but trust me, it'll come.
Choosing a Theme starts with Picking a Theme Creator
When you buy a theme, you're buying the code and artistic stylings of a theme creator. It's their work product.
Why is that important? Because the person (or company) behind the product is what really counts! If they're good, you'll be able to trust a lot of what they produce. If they're not, even a pretty theme won't be worth your time.
So if you're brand new to WordPress, and if you don't write any code, and if you don't want to learn to write code, that's where you start.
I like to say that the way you know if a theme provider is great or not is pretty simple – even without looking at their code. Check out how they interact with the WordPress community.
- Are they engaged in the community via Twitter? Interacting with other well known WP twitter folks?
- Are they engaged via WordCamps? Check out WordPress.tv and see if they've spoken at a camp. Or see if they've sponsored one.
- Are they engaged via their own site with support forums? See how they're engaging end users.
These things help me know if they're looking to give back, or only looking to take – and in this case, it would mean taking your money.
Are there folks I really like in the community? Who provide themes for beginners? Sure. Check out iThemes (with great support).
Choosing a Theme is also about picking a “look”
Know this – you won't get everything you want from a theme when you're not going to be tweaking it via CSS, HTML or PHP. So you need to start managing those expectations.
But once you do that, you'll likely move to what it looks like. It doesn't matter how often we tell you not to worry about the look, it's the only thing you can see. And since you won't have developers customizing it for you, then the look is something worth evaluating.
Are there a few theme providers who create really good looking themes that are great for beginners who don't want to code or hire a developer? Yes.
Just Remember This
You may be choosing a theme to solve all your current needs, but your needs will change over time. You may discover new needs as you go along. So just know that if your needs change, your site's theme may need to change too. And if that's the case, there's one thing you're going to want to stay clear of.
There are a great number of themes on ThemeForest that offer tons of features. Absolutely tons. They even embed some plugins into the theme so you don't need to use plugins. But in that case, you'll be putting all your content into a theme's set of “features.”
Themes should have “looks” not “features.” Plugins should have “features.” So when you still all that great content into a theme's features, you need to remember that changing themes may cause a lot of that content to disappear.
It's not gone forever. But you'll need help to get it back out. That's why you'd want to use plugins more than you'd want to use a theme that embeds a bunch of plugins into it.
I hope this helps you. If you want to see more about this topic, check out our latest WPwatercooler show where we covered the same stuff.