I just answered a question about choosing a WordPress theme in a forum that I belong to and thought you could benefit from the thread as well. We discuss free vs. paid themes and the daunting task of choosing among thousands of themes. The questions were:
What factors should I consider when choosing a WordPress theme, other than the way it looks?
What differentiates a free theme from a paid theme?
There are thousands to choose from and it’s very confusing. Is it safe to assume that newer themes have more capabilities?
Is there a trusted source that rates the themes? I read it is somewhat easy to change themes, but I don’t want to work hard to set up a blog and find out the theme requires lots of technical adjustments that I am not able to do.
Also – 2 or 3 column – is there a recommended best choice?
And my answers about choosing a WordPress theme are:
Besides how the theme looks some considerations are:
- Layout choices (being able to choose a different layout per page i.e. sidebars, full width)
- SEO (some themes allow customizing title tags, keywords, etc)
- CSS customization ( being able to easily change font styles, font sizes, link colors, etc without touching the CSS editor)
- Landing page customization (being able to remove or change the header image on a landing or sales page)
The main differences between good paid themes and good free themes is the ability to make these customizations without having to dig deep into the code as well as the SEO benefits. As there are buggy free themes there are also buggy paid themes.
If you buy a theme, it is extremely helpful if they have a support forum and are regularly updating the theme to handle changing versions of WordPress. Also updates of the theme should not overwrite customizations you’ve made.
Newer themes may have more capabilities but good themes keep up to date. If you go to the WordPress themes directory at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ you’ll be able to search for themes by a wide variety of characteristics and when you click on the title of a theme, you can see ratings as well as a description and comments.
It is very easy to change themes in WordPress, so you might want to install a few and then see what each one looks like on the inside before deciding on the one you want.
Personally, I like the 2 column format with the sidebar on the right side. I find that 3-column formats get a little busy…but that’s just me. But I like the option of removing the sidebar for certain pages, so I like that option in a theme.
If you want to check out a premium theme, one that I’ve used on a couple of sites (including author Cindy Bradford’s blog) is the Studio Press Prose Theme using the Genesis Framework. Click Here to see a demo. Unlike some of the other Studio Press themes, this one has an easy to use admin panel to change fonts, colors, etc. and also uses the WordPress header image uploader so it’s easy to install a good looking header image.
What is your favorite theme? Put your favorite(s) in the comment section.