How to Choose a WordPress Theme You’ll Love

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Ready to choose a WordPress theme?

Picking the right template can be a complex process.

Not only do you need to look at the design, but you also need to consider what features are available.

How much can you personalize it to match your brand?

Does it look good on mobile?

In this guide, I’ll take you through the four most important factors when comparing WordPress themes, as well as a handful of extra points.

By the end, you’ll know exactly how to choose a WordPress theme with confidence.

How to pick a WordPress theme

If you prefer watching a video, this walkthrough from my course on creating your first WordPress website will guide you through the theme selection process:

Before you can create a list of themes to consider for your site, you need to know where to look.

Here’s where you can find the best WordPress themes for your website.

Where to find WordPress themes

If you’re a content creator, you’ll love our free WordPress themes.

Every theme is fully responsive, loads fast, and has a content-oriented design.

Otherwise, we have a database of over 250+ collections of the best themes from around the web based on various niches like barber shops, restaurants, anything you can imagine.

View the theme collections →

Use these collections to pick out a few themes for your website.

Once you have a handful of templates to choose between, you can follow these four steps to pick out the best template.

1. Goal-oriented design

Here’s the first question you need to answer:

Why are you making a website? What’s your primary goal?

The theme you choose should have a design that helps you to reach your goal.

For instance, if your goal is to sell your products, you should look for a theme with an eCommerce design you think would make your products look great.

If you are going to start a blog, you’ll want to choose a theme that highlights your content since that’s the most important part of your site.

From your list of themes you’re considering, remove any that don’t have a design that will benefit your goals.

2. Fast load times

Website performance is extremely important. If your site doesn’t load fast, visitors will leave before they ever truly see your site.

The simplest way to test the speed of a theme is to visit the live demo. If the theme loads slowly there you shouldn’t expect it to be any faster on your site. Especially since every theme shop carefully optimizes their demos to load as quickly as possible.

Remove any themes from your list that don’t load quickly.

3. Mobile-friendly

Since 2017, mobile device pageviews have exceeded desktop pageviews. It’s extremely important now that your theme looks amazing on both laptops and smartphones.

When reviewing themes, pay attention to the demo bar that shows up at the top of the page. Most of the time, there will be buttons to quickly change the preview from desktop to tablet and phone screen sizes.

Challenger Live Demo
This is a tablet preview from the Challenger theme live demo.

While the majority of themes make an effort to be responsive and look good on mobile, some are more adaptive than others. The tablet screen size is often neglected by most designers, so make sure to give that a look too.

Remove any WP themes from your list that don’t adapt well to mobile devices.

4. Quick & easy to customize

You probably don’t want to spend days or weeks customizing your theme.

Ideally, you’ll pick a WordPress theme, import the demo data if your site is brand new, and make a handful of quick customizations. Free themes tend to have fewer customization options which can be good for getting your site up and running fast.

If you’ve never customized a WordPress site before, check out our basic customization guide to see how it’s done.

More tips to pick the best theme

Those are the four most important factors to consider when choosing a good WordPress theme for a blog or business.

You’ll be well on your way to selecting an awesome theme with the points above in mind.

That said, if you’re having a final choice, here are a few more points to consider before you pick a new WordPress theme.

Free VS paid

A lot of WordPress users are unsure whether they should use a free or premium WordPress theme. If you’re struggling with this choice, I think you’ll find this guide very helpful:

Free VS Premium WordPress Themes: Which is Best?

The differences might actually surprise you.

Test it out first

Trying a theme before you buy it can save you a lot of time and trouble.

If you’re looking at free themes, there’s no cost to download and try them out. Even better, WordPress has a built-in preview option so you don’t even need to activate the new theme on your site.

Previewing Startup Blog
The preview option is available via the Appearance menu

Read this tutorial if you want to learn more about previewing themes on your site:

How to Preview a Theme Before Activating It

This same option isn’t available for premium themes, but many theme developers offer extensive demo sites. If the demo site has an admin login, you can get a good feel for how to use it on your site before you pick a theme.

What features should it include?

Some themes include lots of features in them. Here’s the thing…

Most features included by themes can be added with a plugin. For instance, you shouldn’t choose one theme over another because it includes a contact form. You can simply install a free WordPress plugin like Contact Form 7 or WPForms to add contact forms to your site.

When reviewing a theme’s features, the ones that truly matter are the options that change the style of the website. Options like custom colors, fonts, and background images can be difficult to add with plugins.

Also, if you want some plugin recommendations, you should check out my list of the best WordPress tools:

My favorite WordPress tools →

You’ll find some great plugins there to add any features that your theme may be missing.

Also, if you want to get total control over your site’s design, you might want to use a theme framework or page builder plugin to make massive changes to your website.

Time to choose a great theme

Here’s a checklist you can use when evaluating themes for your site:

  • Will the design help me with my primary goal?
  • Does it load quickly?
  • Is it mobile-friendly?
  • Is it easy to customize?

You should be able to weed out all the low-quality themes by following these rules.

If you end up with a handful of themes meeting these requirements and you’re not sure which one to pick, try them all out on your site first. Often times, themes will look a lot different when they don’t have the same content and images as the demo.

If there are any features missing, search for some plugins that can help you meet your requirements.

Lastly, if you’re a content creator, check out our themes. We’ve got 19 different designs for bloggers, podcasters, and videographers (and they’re all 100% free to use).

View our free theme collection →

With these four elements in mind, you should be able to narrow down your search and choose a WordPress theme you love.

If you need help picking a WordPress theme or have any questions, please post your comments below.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.