Not all Premium WordPress Themes are Equal

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Of all the Premium WordPress Themes, which one is for me?

There are a lot of great premium WordPress themes out there and the lines between theme frameworks, themes built on frameworks, themes with tons of exposed hooks and child theme options, and advanced themes with tons of settings and integrated plugins are getting more and more blurred. So how do you choose between all the potential great options?

To help you, I’ve created (you guessed it) a theme selection framework. In other words, here are five questions that may help you.

How many sites are  you planning on developing? [one|many]

If you are only going to be developing one site then most of the premium themes are going to be just fine – though some have a higher learning curve than others. But if you plan on working on more than one site, them some theme frameworks are worth learning. My favorite of the theme frameworks that really let you create a variety of sites on WordPress is the Genesis Framework. A brief look at all the child themes show you all the different kinds of sites you could get up and running quickly. Again, this is a big plus if you plan to learn one framework so that you can create a lot of sites. Nothing suggests you can’t use it for one site, but other approaches may be easier/faster.

Who are you designing for? [you | clients]

Why is this so important? It comes down to trade-offs. I don’t know who is more picky – you or your clients – but invariably, one of you has a higher value for specific design elements (and don’t care what it costs). Knowing who you’re trying to please will help you pick the right WordPress premium theme. I have many clients who want a clean design quickly, at a low cost, with little customizations, but high in features (and many want business and/or portfolio sites). In that case, WooThemes almost always works.

But if you want to create really nuanced designs, because either you or that client are really picky, then you may want to look at something that gives you tons of control over every single page. The easiest, in my opinion, is Headway, with it’s drag and drop GUI control – over every single page.

What is your Experience with Themes? [use them | design them]

If you don’t have a lot of experience with WordPress themes, then you want something simple that will let you add your own flare in a fast and easy way. Nothing will get you going faster than the Catalyst.

Of course, if you are comfortable with themes, child themes, style design and more, then you probably want to look at iThemes Builder, which gives you incredible control over the look of your pages by letting you design styles and page layouts that you can assign to the different parts of your site.

How customized is your layout? [standard blog | cool funky jam]

If you are designing a blog, it’s likely you want a nice header, some great stuff in the side bar, and a nice background image. That’s not hard to do, so just about any of the options listed above will work. But now you may be thinking about price, in which case WooThemes (for a single theme like Canvas) would be great.

On the other hand, if  you’re going for a cool, funky design, then WordPress theme frameworks like Builder and Headway (see above) are great options. But don’t forget about Pagelines – which I haven’t written about yet. Some people swear by it.

How fast do you need your site up? [minutes|days]

Everyone will eventually get comfortable with their own tools, so there’s a lot to be said for experience. That said, I’ve written it above already, but when it comes to speed, if there’s a baseline theme from WooThemes that’s close, I can get one of those sites up in minutes.

On the other hand, if I have time, and I really want to design a variety of elements, I’ve enjoyed Builder and Headway.

How do you Decide?

Do you have another approach to picking a theme or theme framework for your next WordPress site? I’d love to hear it!

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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