I am often asked for advice on choosing theme for WordPress.
The typical questions are:
– What do I need a theme for?
– Can I settle for a free theme, or should I spend money on a paid theme?
– What should I be aware of, when choosing a theme?
– How many sites am I allowed to use a purchased theme on?
– What type of support is included, and what type of questions can I except the support teams to answer?
– What happens if I change the theme?
In this article, I’ve collected the answers to the above questions to make it easier for you to choose the right theme and get started on your site.
What is a theme?
A WordPress theme is the design of your website. The theme determines how your website looks, what colors are on the site, how the header and footer look, and how the entire structure is.
You can compare the theme to a layer of makeup. Everything underneath is the same (text and images), but how it appears on the site depends on your theme.
When you install WordPress, a default theme is automatically enabled. With this theme, you can start posting content and creating pages. However, you will quickly discover that you have very few customization options regarding design in a default theme.
And this is where theme considerations start.
Free Theme or Paid Theme?
Looking at the catalog of free themes, which can be downloaded via your control panel in WordPress, will show that there actually is a large selection of free themes. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find a design you like among the free themes.
But it’s my experience that if you use a free theme, it won’t be long before you get irritated at the lack of flexibility and the inability to customize the colors and designs as you see fit.
What you should keep in mind is that free themes are … well yes, free themes.
That means a developer has developed the theme and made it available – without receiving any payment. Therefore, such themes will often be quite simple in structure – and one obviously cannot expect limitless perfection, when we’re talking about unpaid work.
If you on the other hand look at some of the more popular paid themes, there is often a large team of developers behind it – who maintain the theme and develop new features for it.
They do this, because we – the users – pay for the theme, and therefore, it’s worth the effort having developers work on improving the theme to constantly make better. Doing so brings more new buyers and keeps old users loyal to that specific theme.
In addition, there are also support teams connected to paid themes, so you can ask questions and get help with the installation or problems along the way.
During the years, I’ve worked with free themes as well as a large number of paid themes – and there really is no doubt at all: It’s worth the cost to spend money on a paid theme!
Typically, a theme will be priced at around $ 59 and for that amount you will get a lot of features and flexibility as well as support. Depending on the choice of theme, of course.
What to Be Aware of When Selecting a Theme
When I buy a theme, I typically do it via www.themeforest.net.
It is an online marketplace for themes, and this is where the world’s most popular WordPress themes can be purchased and downloaded.
It’s a marketplace where literally anyone can upload themes, so there are some things to keep in mind, when choosing a theme:
1. Theme Design and Function
You should, of course, look at whether you like the design.
But in addition, it is also important to check whether the theme is mobile-friendly and if it has the features you are looking for. Before buying a theme, you should also check whether there is an easy ‘page builder’ included, making it easy to build great pages with multiple columns and items.
If your site needs the option of switching language (via, for example, the WPML plugin), you should also check that the theme supports WPML.
2. Number of Sales
Look at how many have previously purchased the theme you have fallen for. If 100,000 copies have been sold, it is safe to assume that it is quite good.
If only 3 copies have been sold, it is probably a very new theme. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad theme, but there may be some ‘launch bugs’ you could avoid in older, and more thoroughly tested, themes.
3. Latest update
For each theme you can see, when it was last updated. If the latest update was 1 year ago, this indicates that it is not regularly maintained, and then you should keep away from it. What you need to do instead is select a theme that has been updated recently.
Check what other users of the theme comment about user-friendliness and errors before purchasing.
For each ThemeForest theme, there is a page where you can get answers to questions. If the theme developer generally gives quick replies to the questions, it’s a good indicator that the theme is well supported.
Support, license and update of purchased theme
If you buy a theme on ThemeForest, you buy 1 license, which means you are allowed to install the theme on 1 site.
Beyond that, all future updates are usually included, along with 6 months of support.
In other words, you have access to all updates in the future, but you will only be able to ask questions to the developer for 6 months after your purchase. Should you need further support, you will then have to buy a new license.
What you may need theme support for is, for instance, if a theme function suddenly does not work, even though the theme, as well as the plugin, is updated to the latest version. In such a case, you can contact the support team and have them look at the problem.
However, it should be noted that I rarely experience the need for support after the first 6 months, where the initial problems arise. And with the most popular themes, there are also large user groups who help each other – for example via forums, groups on Facebook, etc.
There is, for instance, a Danish user group for the Avada theme, which is the best-selling theme on ThemeForest.
Updating Your Theme
In the case of most themes, you will receive a license key that you enter on your site, and you will then be able to update the theme from there.
In some cases, you may need to download the latest version of your theme via ThemeForest and manually upload it to your site, just like you did the first time you installed your paid theme.
When there is an update for your theme, it’s important that you take it seriously and get it updated. Oftentimes, such updates help shut down security loopholes and reduce the risk of your site being hacked.
After a while, you may want to change theme and you would like to be able to play with the new theme, while your site is still online with the old theme. However, this is not possible as you have to activate the new theme in order to work with it.
A solution would therefore be to create a subdomain with an exact copy of the site – and then change the theme on this copy. Once you are satisfied with the new look, you can copy the customized subdomain to your real domain. If you do not know how to do this, your web agency can undoubtedly help you.
Does the Content Disappear When Changing Theme?
No, your content remains on the site, even if you change the theme.
Your texts and images are stored in the database, and even if you change the theme, the content will remain on the site.
However, the way it appears may have changed and it is therefore necessary that you browse through your pages to see if everything is ok, once you’ve changed the theme.
If your previous theme has built the pages using a page builder, and you change the theme to another page builder, you may find that some code lines appear in the text. Those you must remove manually, before you can start building the pages design again with the new page builder. So, this is where you need to be extra aware.
If you have a lot of blog posts that consist of plain text, they will still be displayed correctly.
After having worked with a lot of themes over the years, it’s no doubt my recommendation that you choose a good and reliable paid theme from ThemeForest. It is money well-spent in terms of features and flexibility – and thus there is a basis for building a nice and professional side.