How do you choose a WordPress theme?
November 23, 2015 8:49 AM   Subscribe

With so many choices of themes, how does one go about narrowing them down? I'm a bit overwhelmed by the myriad of choices. I understand that security, updates, and responsiveness are all important. I'm brand new to WordPress and want to get going on building my installation, but I'm really kind of stuck until I figure out this theme thing. Bonus Question: I do realize you get what you pay for when it comes to themes. Do you have any recommendations for reasonably priced ones?
posted by Bushmiller to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The core problem with 98% of existing commercial themes is bloat. If a theme offers you 27 layouts, a choice of 12 sliders and any kind of "builder" you are going to have a theme resulting in pages that are, like this (the most popular, best selling theme at Themeforest) over 3MB.

The secondary problem is that most of these themes come with their own SEO systems and they're bad or bloated or both. You want a theme where you can install Yoast.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:15 AM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I almost never pay for themes. Ever. Nine times out of ten I want to modify a theme to my liking anyway, so why pay for one?

Start by looking at other blogs you like and the features you like about them. Do you want two sidebars? Do you want a featured stories slider at the top? Once you have an idea of this, you can go to the Wordpress theme repository and start searching for those factors. You'll also want a theme that matches the tone of your blog. A blog about minimalism, for example, shouldn't look cluttered and busy.

I am also sort of obsessive about scouting themes of blogs I like. You can "view source" on pretty much any blog and then do a find for the word "theme" to see if they are using something custom-built or a readily-available theme you can download online.
posted by Brittanie at 9:34 AM on November 23, 2015

Here's how I decide:
- first, I want software that will be supported over the length of time I want to use it. So I check how big the company is, how long it's been creating themes, what its support looks like, what I find when I google the company/theme.
- Then I really dig deep into their support. I read their support forums. I see how many tickets are opened, how quickly they're closed, whether people seem to be happy with the theme.
- I'm on the techy side, so if possible, I peek under the cover. What tech are they using (bootstrap? Heavy JavaScript?)?
- are there compatibility issues-- will the theme work with plugins I need?
- how does it rate performance-wise? (And if it's not as awesome as I'd like, are there ways to work around it?) Run the demo pages through online performance testing websites and make sure they're fast loading.
- and honestly, I much prefer flexibility-- true flexibility, not "you can choose any one of these five color schemes." So I'd prefer either a simple theme I can flex myself, or a good quality builder theme.

My current favorite easy builder theme that hasn't shown common weaknesses of other builders I've checked out is Beaver Builder (theme plus plugin). A more popular one is Divi, but personally, I've had bad experiences with other themes from the same company, and I find Divi clunky and bug prone. (Though I admit I may not have stuck with it long enough to get past that.)
posted by instamatic at 9:34 AM on November 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

Beaver Builder
posted by instamatic at 9:41 AM on November 23, 2015

What are you trying to accomplish?

A blog full of words needs something different from a blog full of photos which can need something different from a web comic. Design is not just about being pretty to look at. Good design is easy on the eyes and "attractive" in much the same way that good engineering tends to have visual appeal. Being easy on the eyes is important. Being pretty in its own right, not so much.

You want good navigation. You want it it to support whatever thing you are trying to accomplish. You want the appearance to mesh well with the content, not just in terms of layout but also in terms of "personality." So, if the intent is a serious, conservative thing, you probably want plain it to look plain and conservative. I would start with looking at themes containing a combination of dark blue and white.

First, you need to define your goals for the space. Design choices need tp play well with those goals.

After that, some of the general info above about bloat, etc, is good to keep in mind. But, unlike
Lady Justice, good design is not "blind." It is specific to the niche you are trying to fill.
posted by Michele in California at 10:56 AM on November 23, 2015

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