There are thousands of WordPress themes available on the market, both free and paid. It’s important to know that not all themes are created equal. Selecting a good theme will not only make your life easier during initial launch, but it also prevents the need for changing themes in the future. Here are some tips on selecting a reliable WordPress theme for your website.
1 – Author/Framework Reputation
The first thing you should look at is the author of the theme. Some themes are designed by individuals and others by formal theme companies. Additionally, there are theme infrastructures. For instance, Genesis is a parent theme built on a specific infrastructure by a company called StudioPress. There are many Genesis child themes, both directly from StudioPress and from third parties. We are a fan of Genesis because of its reputation, solid code base, and design flexibility. Some themes can have issues with faulty code, conflicts with popular plugins, etc. By selecting a theme from an author or framework with a good reputation, we are less likely to experience issues and/or more likely to get answers to questions when issues are encountered.
2 – Updates and Releases
As WordPress core and server-level (i.e. PHP) updates get released, themes and plugins must often adjust their code to adapt. Thus, it’s important to consider how often theme updates are provided. Some themes rarely update their code, while others routinely update and improve. If the author of your theme fails to issue updates, you may run into problems with website performance or compatibility. This could force the need for a theme change, which will cost you valuable time and money. Thus, availability of updates is essential for selecting a reliable WordPress theme.
3 – Paid versus Free
As we mentioned earlier, there are both paid and free themes. Paid themes tend to include more features, which can make them worthwhile, especially if it saves your developer time in custom-coding those same enhancements. Paid options can vary. Some include only a one-time fee. Others have a large up-front fee and a lower annual fee for future updates and support. A third option are subscription based services that grant access to all themes and plugins offered by a company. Also, fees can be specific to the number of websites. Some are single-site licenses and others include unlimited use. When selecting a theme, be sure to review their fee structure and include that in your budget.
4 – Options and Features
The last consideration for selecting a reliable WordPress theme are the options and features included. Some themes use the default WordPress editor, Gutenberg block editor, custom field plugins, short-code based layouts, common third-party page builders (such as WP Bakery), or their own page builder tool. Understanding how pages are built are important for several reasons:
- Ease of Use – Simple page editors are easier for first-timers, although options and features may be limited.
- Layout Options – Some themes have a custom home page layout and standard lower level page templates,… or a certain number of layout templates. Themes using page builders are often more open-ended and can achieve almost endless layouts.
- Future Website Development – How does the theme meet both your current and future needs? Having the flexibility to enhance your website in the future can save you the trouble of switching themes later on.
- Future Theme Changes – If you do need to switch themes later, how easy will it be to do so. For example, themes using page builders insert theme-specific shortcodes into the body of pages. It can adapt if your new theme also uses the same editor. If not, then you’ll need to edit each page and remove dead codes.
More Tips on Selecting a Reliable WordPress Theme
What could happen if you select a not-so-great theme? Initially, everything will probably be fine. However, a few things could happen over time. First, if there are glitches with the them due to plugin or WordPress core updates, you may have difficulty getting it resolved if the theme developer is unresponsive. It may cost extra to have that original developer or a different person evaluate and correct the problem. Some themes may fail to work altogether in the future if updates aren’t applied to comply with server software changes (i.e. PHP releases) or WordPress core updates. You may end up needing to swap to a different theme in the future if you are unable to resolve issues.
The above are just a few key considerations for selecting a reliable WordPress theme. There may be other critical factors depending on your business model and purpose of your website. If you are unsure about your theme selection, discuss your needs with a WordPress developer/consultant.