WordPress themes are simply a group of files, called templates, which determine the look and basic function of your site. Literally thousands upon thousands of free WordPress themes are available for you to choose from. WordPress has an official Themes Directory on its website you can browse. Economists have taught us that a lot of choice is not always a good thing. Having many options can lead to “analysis paralysis” and a feeling of being overwhelmed, due to the increased effort required and the level of uncertainty in making the right choice.
With a nearly unlimited pool of WordPress themes to choose from, it becomes so easy to feel overwhelmed and resort to inaction or choosing a low-quality theme. In cases where you have a lot of options, it pays to know exactly what you need. Picking a theme is a bit like picking a car: It’s easy to get distracted by the beauty and power of a beautiful product and end up with a convertible two-seater when what you really need is a reliable sedan with comfortable seating for five.
Put another way, how much easier is buying a book when you know that you prefer a certain author? This small amount of knowledge cuts a choice between 1000 in a store down to 10. Just like WordPress plugins, you can choose from over a thousand free themes from the WordPress Theme Directory
To start off, let’s answer one of the most common questions asked: Is it worth paying for a WordPress theme, or can you get away with a free one?
Price: Free Vs. Premium Themes Link
The benefits of using a premium theme provider versus a free theme are many. The most important reason why you shouldn’t use a free WordPress theme is its lack of support, documentation, and updates.
Think about it, if developer creates and releases theme for free, he doesn’t make any money from it. But he still needs to earn living some way. Free WordPress theme cannot be a long term choice, because developer doesn’t have the incentive to support theme for free, provide documentation and update it during the years. Would you do all this work for free?
You cannot expect training resources, documentation, free support and updates, when a developer isn’t making any money from it. Even if he is the kindest person on earth, earning his own livelihood will always be a priority. Moreover, free themes will almost always be of lower quality than a premium theme.
You get what you pay for.
Premium themes come with cleaner code and better functionality. All premium theme providers offer a high quality design, in-depth documentation, and world class support. Support is extremely important because something always goes wrong or doesn’t work as expected.
If you choose a free theme, you rely on other people’s goodwill to help you in forums. When you choose to buy premium WordPress themes, you pay for support and theme providers are liable to helping you. If you goal is to create a professional looking site do not waste your time working with a free theme when the average price of a good theme is less than $50.
What is a WordPress theme framework?
Before you start picking out a theme framework or using one at all, it is important to understand exactly what theme framework is and what it can do for you. Wordpress theme framework are basically a more advance theme that includes a builder that allows a developer or experience person to build the theme as if using building blocks piece by piece.
A WordPress theme framework allows you to build WordPress themes the same way Volkswagen builds its cars. They use only a handful of platforms, on which they can build dozens of different models for their four major brands. Each car model has a common set of components like engine, power train or suspension. But when it comes to designing the interior and exterior, each brand gives its own flavor to make it unique.
For example, if you replace ‘engines’ with theme options, ‘power train’ with documentation and ‘suspension’ with SEO, you get the idea of these shared components. Frameworks lay the foundations for a theme, so you can focus on designing rather than programming. With some frameworks, 80% of your work has already been done before you begin, so you only have to worry about using the remaining 20% to make your theme unique.
Frameworks do have one major drawback, which is also seen with automobile platforms. They limit flexibility and creativity and the themes based on frameworks have the tendency to all look the same. Also, as a developer, it may take some time before fully understanding the framework.
If you put in enough time you will see that it is possible to make your theme stand out from the crowd. Just like we all want a unique design, most of us would rather drive an Audi A3 than a Volkswagen Golf. If you learn your chosen framework, at least you can always be assured that your foundation is properly built.
WP framework basically is an advanced WordPress theme on drugs. Whenever you build a website, you often use the same components. You lay the foundation first, you pick the design and layout (header, footer, single column, 2-column). Next, you take major functionality into account – online store, sales page, membership, and blog. Lastly, you consider additional functionality, like contact forms, security, SEO optimization, and responsiveness. Theme frameworks offer a lot of built-in functionality and customization options, so you don’t need to code everything from scratch.
While mobile traffic varies between industries, most reports seem to agree that, on average, about 30% of all website visits now come from mobile and tablet devices.
Regardless of the exact ratios, there’s no excuse to use anything but a responsive theme.
Thankfully, virtually all reputable themes are mobile-friendly out of the box, so the lack of responsiveness in a theme is really a red flag. Most theme vendors allow you to filter out themes that are not responsive. Another good option is to look through a curated list of responsive themes.
One of the best ways to determine whether a responsive theme is good or not is to run the demo through Google’s new mobile-friendliness tool.
6. Ease Of Customization Link
A customization dashboard has become standard in a lot of themes. This saves you the hassle of having to make direct changes to style sheets.
In addition, plugins such as Visual Page Editor make it easy to build complex page structures without having to touch code. While some of these WYSIWYG editors are somewhat limiting, I find that overall they’re very beneficial to getting a website looking very nice with little effort. If a developer has a demo of their administration panel, I’d recommend playing around with it to make sure you can customize everything you need to.
7. Security Link
A lot affects the security of a website, including hosting, plugins and password strength. As when you’re buying a home, one of the best things you can do to gauge a theme’s security is to read what customers say about it. Unless a theme was created by a trustworthy developer, I avoid any theme that doesn’t have many downloads or reviews.
My advice is to evaluate themes on community websites like ThemeForest, where all customer reviews are displayed by default. This level of transparency tends to reveal the truth about themes, which you wouldn’t get directly from a developer’s website.
While buying a theme directly from its developer’s website is fine, do so only after evaluating it on a community website with transparent reviews.
If a theme has a security loophole, then customers have probably picked up on it and flagged it in their reviews for future customers. While the developer might have fixed such issues, the overall ratings from customers should give you an idea of a theme’s overall quality.
While ticking off all of these boxes might sound ambitious, the truth is that they’re interrelated, and they all come back to a single point: Themes should be built with quality in mind.
One of the best things you can do when choosing a theme is to learn about the person or company who made it. If they have a reputation to live up to, then their themes will undoubtedly be of a higher quality than developers who don’t.
Of course, no theme is perfect, and you’ll almost always have to make some compromises. That being said, with the recommendations in this post, you are hopefully now better informed to avoid the really bad themes and to choose one that is fast, well coded and SEO-friendly and that includes all of the features you need.