But what about having to choose between literally thousands of themes? Like, there are more than 4,300 on WordPress.org alone.
No one has time to look through that many options but grabbing the first theme you see probably won’t work out, either. Hmmm.
We can’t tell you which WordPress theme is the best choice for your website, but as managed WordPress hosting experts, we can offer some tips to help you make your decision.
Here are our dos and don’ts for picking a WordPress theme that works for you.
1. DO choose a theme that supports the latest version of WordPress
Our top tip has nothing to do with layout or fonts—it’s about functionality and security. The theme you choose must work with the most current version of WordPress, for three very good reasons:
- Your WordPress site features may not work the way you want it to if your theme isn’t fully compatible with the latest WP release.
- If you choose a theme that doesn’t support new versions of WordPress, you may decide to stop updating WordPress, and that can create security vulnerabilities that lead to crashes, data breaches, site defacement, and other stuff you don’t want.
- If the plugins you use for your site require the latest version of WordPress and you can’t update because of your theme, your site functionality problems will grow.
The fix is simple: Look for themes that support the latest version (currently 5.8.2) or a recent version “and up.”
This theme’s info box shows clearly which versions of WordPress it works with.
2. DON’T choose a theme that’s no longer updated
Along the same lines as Tip 1, make sure the themes you consider have been updated some time in the past few months. Check out the “Last updated” line in the info box.
A theme that works with the current version of WordPress but hasn’t been updated in more than a year might not get any more updates—and that means sooner or later it won’t work with the newest version of WordPress.
3. DO choose a theme that works for your site goals
It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of looking at ALL THE THEMES, but that can lead you to get attached to a theme that looks awesome but doesn’t really do what you need your theme to do.
Stay focused by using WordPress.org’s filters to narrow the theme field a bit:
Don’t worry, you’ll still have lots of choices within your category. Maybe still too many. So…
4. DO choose a WordPress theme that works great on phones
Pretty much all modern themes are (or should be) responsive, meaning they display differently on different devices to factor in screen size and whether users click or tap to engage. But that doesn’t mean every theme looks equally good on a phone.
How can you tell? One way is to go to the theme’s homepage from its WordPress.org page and click on the live demo option.
If you’re using your phone, you should see the mobile version. On your desktop, if there’s not a mobile preview option, go to your browser’s tools menu and look for “responsive design mode.” You can also download the free trial version and preview it in WordPress on your phone. (Get the WordPress app if you don’t already have it.)
Why so much focus on phones? That’s where the most website traffic comes from—54.8% in the first three months of 2021, per Statista. Your site’s appearance on desktops still matters, but phone user experience matters a bit more now, and it may matter a lot more over the next few years.
5. DO choose a theme that has positive user reviews
Found a few themes in your niche that are current and look good on phones? Yay!
Now, check the reviews. On WordPress.org, you’ll find these below the info box on the theme’s page.
Click “See all” and you can search the reviews for keywords that matter to you and click on the titles of individual reviews to read more. The review page also links to support threads, active topics and unresolved topics so you can see what the theme’s issues are (if any) and how responsive the publisher is.
6. DON’T choose a theme from an unknown source
While we’re talking about reviews and publishers, don’t pick a theme from an unknown source. There are plenty of reliable publishers that list their themes one their own sites and on WordPress.org.
Stick to these sources—and check reviews!—to avoid the risk of downloading a theme that contains malware.
7. DO choose a WordPress theme that’s lightweight
What does lightweight mean here? It means the theme is built to use as few resources as possible so that it loads fast when people visit. For example, Astra, one of the most popular WordPress themes, loads in 400 milliseconds.
8. DO choose a theme that’s built for SEO
Using an SEO-friendly theme can save you a lot of time on behind-the-scenes site optimization, and it can help you do better in search results sooner.
How will you know if a theme is optimized for SEO? Often, theme developers will highlight the features they’ve included for SEO, like a URL structure that’s easy for search bots to crawl, fast load times and mobile-friendly design.
9. DO choose a WordPress theme based on quality, not just price
By now, you may have a handful of themes you’re seriously considering—including some that have free and paid versions. A completely free theme can be a great option if you’re on a super-tight budget.
However, a paid theme will give you features you may need to grow your business, and it may come with more customer support options than the free version. So, factor in your long-range website goals, your level of WordPress savvy and the value of your time as you make your decision.
Ready to set up your new WordPress site or migrate your existing one? Check out our managed WordPress hosting plans.
Casey is the Senior Director of Marketing for Hosting and has been in the web hosting space for 7 years. He loves the slopes and hanging out with his kids.