How to Pick a Theme in WordPress in 6 Easy Steps

With thousands of themes available for WordPress, how do you pick the best one for your needs?

First: Don’t worry!
Remember that choosing a theme is not set in stone. You are able to choose a new theme at anytime.

To add a new theme go to Appearance > Theme > Add new.

Tip

You can see how the new theme will work with your content and the other changes you have made with live preview. Just pick a theme, install it and select the live preview option, to see how it will look. Once you activate the new theme, it will be applied to your existing website and content automatically.

A note on Paid (premium) vs Free themes

WordPress offers many themes at no charge but you can also decide to purchase a theme. We recommend to first familiarize yourself with WordPress on a free theme to gain a better understanding of what you need.
If you find that free themes fall short in either features or functionality, then have a look at premium themes and see if their added benefits are worth the price.
As always, search out reviews of the premium theme before making your purchase.

6 Steps for Choosing the Right Theme

  1. Use the filter
    Start off by entering a key term in the search bar of the theme library. Could be something as simple as ‘blog’ or ‘services’ or something more specific like ‘plumber’ or ‘sports news’.
  2. Keep it simple
    When picking a theme make sure that the page is not too busy. Keeping it simple allows you to focus both your ideas on the page and and the visitor’s interest. Remember that just because a theme has a section that looks “cool” it doesn’t mean it will be useful for your specific needs. Often, fancy site components are difficult to customize and thus difficult to use.
  3. Verify the Theme
    Once you have picked a theme you like, you’ll want to check its security score. Choosing an insecure theme may cause problems down the line, so this is a useful precaution to take. To verify your there’s security score:
    1. Go to Themecheck.info.
    2. Type the name of the theme in the search bar and click Enter.
    3. If the theme has a green shield then you are good to go.
    4. If the theme has a red shield, then it is best to find another theme.
  4. Check responsiveness
    Any theme worth your time is going to be responsive, meaning the theme will change its structure to fit a computer screen, tablet or smartphone.
    1. Once you have chosen an theme, installed and activated it, under Appearance click Customization.
    2. A new display will appear. At the very bottom you will see icons indicating desktop, tablet and mobile views.
    3. Click each icon to see how the theme will look on different screens. The results should be easy to read and all images and text should fit correctly regardless of the view. If it does not, find another theme.
  5. To sidebar or not to sidebar
    Sidebars allow you to have extra information on the side (left or right) of a page. They can be a great help when navigating a site or they can just add clutter. If you do choose a theme with a sidebar it is recommended to choose one that is flexible.

    Check sidebar flexibility:
    1. Once the theme is installed and active click on either the posts or pages tab in the dashboard toolbar.
    2. Select a page or post and scroll down to see if there is a select layout section on the right hand side. When you click on layout it will show you layout options such as sidebars.
    With this you have more control over the layout of the page, allowing you a greater amount of flexibility and creativity. However, there are many excellent themes with static sidebars or none at all. If you find the perfect theme, then sidebar flexibility may not be an important consideration.
  6. Customization
    It is unlikely that the theme is exactly how you would like it when you first install it. Make sure to look into customization so you can at minimum change:
    • Color: Modify the main colors of the theme.
    • Font: Change the font to fit your style.
    • Menus: Add, delete and rearrange menu items.
    • Background image: Not on all themes but if there is a background image you should make sure you can replace.
    • Widgets: Widgets are drag and drop programs that add functionality to the theme, usually implemented in the sidebar. Adding elements such as recent comments, calendar, rss feeds or audio files to the sidebar can provide a better user experience if used correctly.
    • These customizations are more advanced but can make a great addition for those with website design skills.
    • Design: If a customization contains this field, then it can allow for certain design changes to be done easily. However, make sure that the changeable elements in Design are useful for your purposes as theme creators can implement a customization design field with very little in it.
    • Additional CSS: CSS is a coding language that focuses primarily on the style of a website. If you know how to use CSS, then this customization can add almost unlimited flexibility to the creation process.
    • Extra tip: When you are within customization, some themes will show edit icons on the page itself. This addition can make manipulating the theme easier and it can also provide an idea of what elements are customizable at a glance.

With these 6 points covered, you should be well on your way to finding the perfect theme.

Tip

Looking to start a new WordPress project and want to take the work out of picking a theme? Our Managed WordPress Hosting comes pre-installed with a secure, responsive theme that you can easily work with and add in your own content in no time.
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