These days there are normally three answers to the question, “Chris, which WordPress themes do you recommend?”
Genesis by StudioPress
For those who want a clean fresh look right out of the gate, I recommend the Genesis Framework and the use of a child theme.
You can get Genesis child themes directly from StudioPress.
You can get more Genesis child themes from Web Savvy Marketing.
And you can get custom Genesis child themes developed for you by Bourn Creative.
Of course, if you want to just customize the look of the baseline Genesis Framework, you can hire a developer or do it yourself with Design Palette Pro.
Array by Mike McAlister (and team)
An alternative, if you want a clean and fresh look right out of the gate are the themes by Mike McAlister and his team at Array.
Like Genesis themes, they're ready as soon as you buy them. They look good and will get you online quickly.
They're the model of themes that have their own strong opinions (which is a good thing). They're not trying to be everything to everyone.
Their recent theme, for example, is great as a portfolio theme.
Make by the Theme Foundry
Of course the one I'm using on this site, ChrisLema.com, and the one I used recently on a refresh project, is Make by the Theme Foundry.
It's perfect in so many ways:
- Your site looks clean with great white space and margins
- Your site works well on mobile phones right away
- You can configure the look of any page with their drag & drop interface
- The lack of shortcodes means a higher performing site
- The lack of shortcodes means you can change themes and you don't lose functionality
It's why I recommend Make to many of the folks that ask me which theme they should use.
And it's why I use it on this very site.
But here's an interesting alternative…
But last night I noticed a tweet that made me go check out a new site I'd never heard of.
And once I was there, I was a bit surprised. The approach they are taking to theme development (and sales) is pretty unique.
After all, we all only need one theme at a time. It's not like our site can hold several themes at once.
So to that end, those “every single option ever is included in this theme” themes are pretty much overkill.
Additionally, we all have our own taste – and we often have a hard time explaining it given our low level of design vocabulary.
So the guys at theme.works decided to let you make choices visually.
As you can see, you can pick from several headers. Several portfolios. Several testimonial sections. And more.
And when you're done, you pay a single fee and download your new theme.
Not a bloated theme that has everything. A pretty clean theme that has the code you need to get the look you want.
When they tell you that you can go in and tweak the files easily, they're not lying. The code is structured in a way that easily lets you know where to look and what to tweak.
I can easily imagine the kind of business and site owners who “know enough to be dangerous” really digging this approach. They get their custom look, and yet can go in and tweak things without destroying their site.
How big a market that is is still a question. But I think the folks at theme.works aim to find out.