How to pick a WordPress theme in 5 easy steps

The question of how to pick the right theme comes up quite often with clients who would like to keep down web design and development costs. It may seem somewhat overwhelming considering the amazing variety of themes out there in the interwebs. Usually, I don’t leave this task entirely to the client and either provide advice along the way or narrow down the initial candidates to 3-4 themes based on the needs and interests of a particular client. But there are also those clients who’ve already purchased a theme of their own. It’s always a good idea to take advantage of all your available resources, like the expertise of a WordPress professional *wink wink nudge nudge* But let’s say that hiring a web designer isn’t in your budget, the following easy steps will help you pick the right WordPress theme for your website.

1. Website Type & Business Industry

The first things to keep in mind when searching for a WordPress theme is the type of website you are going to build and your industry. Bigger online theme stores will organize themes by category, take advantage of this feature to narrow down your choices from the get-go. So, before starting your search make sure you are very clear on the type of website you’d like. Here are a few examples:

  • Business/Corporate
  • Blog
  • eCommerce/Store
  • Landing Page/Sales Site
  • Portfolio

It’s best to start with a theme that’s already geared towards the kind of website you’re building, even if you’re working with a web designer. This will cut down of the amount of customizations will need to be performed to end-up with a website you actually like, and that works to your advantage.

2. Features & Functionality

Along with figuring out the type of website you’d like, you should also come up with a list of features and functionalities that are necessary for your website. You want a theme that comes stock with as many of these features as possible. Here, the time needed to incorporate any missing features isn’t the only consideration. Some themes are less flexible than others and what may seem like a simple theme extension to add a standard feature may actually be much more complicated of a procedure. Let’s not give ourselves any unnecessary headaches!

Some examples of features and functionalities:

  • Custom header/logo
  • Slider/Slideshow
  • Various/Different layout options
  • Built-in Colour-schemer
  • SEO Optimization
  • Responsive/Mobile layout
  • Video integration
  • Multilingual/Bilingual
  • Form Builder
  • Portfolio Section
  • Blog Section
  • Shortcodes (essentially shortcuts for various styles of buttons, tabs, columns etc. to use within your posts and pages)
  • eCommerce integration

If, for some reason, you can’t find a theme that satisfies all of your requirements give less priority to those features that are purely aesthetic. Having a user-friendly website, with well organized content is much more important that having a pretty website (think Craigslist).

3. General layout & Aesthetics

Now that you’ve narrowed down your theme choices by defining the type of website you want and its pertinent features, it’s time to talk about looks. If you intend on hiring a web designer for other customizations then the majority of customizations that fall under this category are simple enough, these include:

  • borders
  • colours
  • textures
  • fonts
  • icons
  • image sizes
  • layout adjustments

If at all possible do pick a theme with a layout that won’t need any major structural revisions, it’s worth the time (and money) saved on digging through and re-writing this type of code. However, layout changes aren’t impossible to accomplish, so if you just can’t seem to find a theme that fits your desired layout consult with your web designer about the precise changes you’d like to see made and the themes you are considering purchasing, (s)he will be able to advise you on the theme that should be easiest to customize to your liking. I say “should” because it is quite difficult to tell how any given theme is built and coded, so your web designer’s advice will be based on his/her experience working with themes and assumptions about certain conventions within the web design community.

If you’re not working with a web designer, try to pick a theme that is either closest to your desired layout and look from the get go, or that has a layout you like and a built-in colour-schemer that will allow you to easily customize the colour scheme of your site (and sometimes textures and fonts as well).

4. Reviews, Support & Documentation

Before you get trigger happy with the “buy” button, it’s extremely important to make sure that the theme you are buying isn’t riddled with issues. It might look pretty and promise lots of things, but does it work?! Make sure to read customer reviews and comments. Does the theme author answer questions in a timely manner? Are there are lot of negative comments? Does the theme come with extensive documentation so you don’t end up scratching your head at how to set up a content slider? Make sure that what you’re buying is a quality product, you would do it for most other items you buy online, and in some cases even items you buy at an actual store. Surely you ought to consider the reputation and quality of a theme you’ll be using on your website!

5. License & Update details

Lastly, make sure that you can use the theme the way you’d like to. If you’re considering using a free theme, make sure that there aren’t a slew of stipulations on adding backlinks to the original theme developer. If  you’re purchasing a theme, make sure you know whether the price you’re paying is a one time fee or a yearly licensing fee? Generally speaking, most themes are purchased with a one time payment and don’t cost extra for periodic updates.

You’re Ready!

Now, that wasn’t too bad was it? Your theme fits your needs and wants, go ahead and press “buy”! Your theme’s documentation should tell you how to install your new theme and where to go from there.


So, you might ask, where does one get to buy WordPress themes? Here are a few online stores of interest:

Over To You

Have you ever had to pick a WordPress theme? How was your experience? Did I miss any important points? Let me know!