Most people feel overwhelmed when it comes to finding that perfect WordPress theme. The reason for this is due to the 1000’s of selections that are available for both free and paid options. The other major problem you may be facing is that a lot of themes are looking amazing. Then you have themes with a massive list of features that blows your mind.

So it comes down to the question, “How do you find the perfect WordPress theme for your needs?

I will share my thoughts on the things you should consider to make your choice easier.

The Perfect WordPress Theme – Is Perfect Realistic?

Regardless of what some people may believe, there is no such thing as a perfect theme. I say this because there will always be some form of a trade-off made. Of course, the word perfect is subjective, but the key is knowing what you need and what you don’t need.

In a perfect world, a theme would have everything you need, look amazing, and never need customization. Even better if your website content is magically placed in the correct areas. Speed is also a major factor nowadays with Google, so it will make them happy and rank your website higher.

Know What Your Website Needs

Never go shopping for a theme until you know what your website is about. This will help prevent impulse buying which ends up with regret. Too often people will see a theme that has the WOW factor, and out comes the credit card! The WOW factor is when you see a theme that looks absolutely amazing and loaded for bear with endless features. More on this shortly.

But planning website content is the most important part of the website creation process before you go looking for a theme. It’s the part that requires the most self-discipline because it’s tempting to go for the flashy fully-loaded theme.

The Perfect Theme is Not A Bloated Theme

I mentioned the WOW factor as it relates to these amazing themes you see on marketplaces like Theme Forest. Yes, their screenshots, demos, and mile-long feature lists are hard to walk away from. The authors that make these themes know how to entice and in some cases, take advantage of you. So why is this a problem?

Many WordPress themes come with lots of colors, complex layouts, flashy animations, and they appear to be the perfect WordPress theme. But they can severely affect your website performance. It’s hard, but try to restrain yourself against installing a theme with so many features because you think they’re cool. In most cases, the typical website only needs a small fraction of what they often include.

Think of this…the more features and functions a theme has, the more chances something will break. There is also the possibility that you may encounter conflicts with plugins, or even future updates of WordPress.

Look for Theme Simplicity

Look for a theme having design simplicity while supporting your website needs. Of course, also look for one that looks good, but try to avoid themes that could compromise stability, compatibility and does not hinder load times.

For Rough Pixels, I try to keep our themes as simple as possible while striking a balance of good looks and functionality.

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As much as I would love to have you get one my themes, I still encourage you to check out other sites too.

Consider Plugins

Planning your perfect website must include thinking about what plugins you plan to use. There are themes that include built-in plugins, but I recommend staying away from these. The real power of WordPress comes from using plugins which gives your website additional features and greater flexibility.

However, with 1000’s of plugins available, some are considered “must-haves” while some may be nice, but not required. Just like bloated themes, you also want to think about how many plugins you put into your website because these also add bloat. Keep them limited and make sure to use only what you need.

Free vs Premium Themes

Now comes a very important decision of whether you should go for a free theme or opt-in for a premium (paid) theme? There are some really nice looking ones, so don’t rule them out because you could find your perfect WordPress theme. Premium themes, on the other hand, will include more features and also premium support.

Here are some faqs about free vs premium:

Free WordPress Themes

  • Most have simple designs.
  • They will have limited features.
  • Some theme authors could stop updating the theme or perhaps discontinue it.
  • Most free theme authors do not offer support (Rough Pixels does).
  • If you got your theme from a third party source, you could end up with a poorly coded theme. Try to look for free themes at wordpress.org, such as my free themes.
  • Your website has a security risk if it was coded incorrectly or if it’s not kept up-to-date.

I personally do not recommend free themes for serious websites, whether it’s a blog or an official business website, but they can give you a starting point. There is also the possibility that premium themes have a free version, which lets you try them out before you decide to purchase the pro theme.

Premium WordPress Themes

  • Premium themes have reasonable prices — $39 to $79 for most of them.
  • Far cheaper than paying a web designer to create a website for you, or in this case, a theme. However, a web designer can definitely give you the perfect WordPress theme because it’s custom built.
  • For the most part, theme quality is generally higher because theme authors dedicate more time to ensure happy customers.
  • Premium themes will have premium support included.
  • Themes will have more options and settings to make it easier to customize your website.
  • Careful with Premium themes because as I talked about theme bloat earlier; they may look amazing, but this can be a serious problem, especially with many themes from marketplaces such as Theme Forest.

Again, think about what your website is about, the content, features you need, and even what plugins you plan to use. Budget will also be part of your decision-making process, but if you are building a serious website, go for a premium theme.

Theme Support and Updates

Very IMPORTANT! Make sure you get support and updates. Stay away from theme shops that only offer public forum support; meaning that support comes from other users only. If you are paying good money for that perfect WordPress theme, you want the theme creator to give you support directly.

 

WordPress theme updates are also important so that features, styles, and even security bugs are kept up-to-date. It also ensures your theme has a longer lifespan.

Code Quality with WordPress Standards

Apologies for getting a little nerdy here, but a poorly coded WordPress theme can have unforeseen and adverse effects on your website’s performance. If the author did not follow WordPress standards, you can also end up with potential problems that could end up giving you a security nightmare of getting hacked. As such, try to get a theme that adheres to the latest coding standards and safer practices.

If you use a free theme from the WordPress.org, you are in better shape because each theme goes through a strict review process and must pass 100% before they allow it to go live. If there is a pro version, your chances that it will also have quality coding.

One thing you can do if you ever decide to check a theme yourself is to install a plugin that the theme review team at WordPress.org uses (and one that I use). Install the Theme Sniffer plugin and test your theme(s).

After testing, you may see some warnings, but what you don’t want to see are “errors”. If you do, contact the theme developer and let them know what you found. Hopefully, they will respond to let you know if it’s OK, or better yet, fix the problems.

Page Builders – I’m No Fan!

Page builders are WordPress plugins that allow you to create page layouts using drag and drop user interface. Most page builders give you a huge selection of blocks that can range from small things like lists to more complex things like portfolio carousels or price tables.

You might notice that many theme shops require page builders. Ever seen these amazing themes from Theme Forest and popular well-known theme sites? Guess how you achieve those amazing looking demos? Page Builders is the answer. Try installing one of their themes without a page builder installed—absolutely plain looking.

The only way to get your website to look like the demo is to install the required page builder and then the demo content (which you have to replace or change with your own content).

Why I Have a Problem with Page Builders

Using page builders to create landing pages or a complete website can produce massive bloat of unwanted code. The other major problem is that if you ever switch the theme, every page will require a lot of cleaning up or worse, completely rebuilt.

The reason why that happens is what is commonly known in the web design industry as “Lock-in“. This means that if you ever deactivate the plugin, your content becomes a mess of shortcodes on the front-end. In most cases, your content will be lost and what remains is what looks like a bunch of programming code.

There is also the issue of customizing elements that are created through the page builder. You need to have a good level of understanding CSS code and be capable of using your browser’s Webmaster Tools to find the right code from a sea-of-code.

In a nutshell, once you start using a page builder, you are stuck with it for the life of your website. In a worst-case scenario, you could also be stuck with the theme you are using forever too! The reason for that is because the theme could have special custom coding for the page builder as well as unique styling.

If You Like Page Builders

If you are some who likes page builders, consider the theme you are going to purchase and check the feature list to see what page builder it requires. The most common builder plugins are:

  1. Beaver Builder
  2. Elementor
  3. Divi
  4. Visual Composer (now called WPBakery)

There are some free ones, but if you plan to use a page building plugin, I would recommend checking out the first 2 at least.

In Summary

That was a lot of reading, I know. But hopefully, I gave you some helpful information to help you find your perfect WordPress theme. Let me bring it all down to a short list for a quick reference:

  • Know what your website is and what features you need.
  • For serious websites, invest in a premium theme.
  • Go for simplicity and try to avoid the bloated themes with 1000 features.
  • If you are looking for a really fancy flashy website like you see on a marketplace such as Theme Forest, be aware you will need to use a page builder plugin.
  • Make sure your theme includes premium support from the creator/theme shop, and updates.

One last thing…most people will go on Google and search for “the best WordPress themes”. Yes, you will get a ton of results, but be careful because when you visit these sites that have “The top 20 themes for…”, “The best this…”, “The best that…”, you will find that many are affiliate linked and don’t really offer true reviews of the theme.

Also, make sure you only go to reputable or known sites and NEVER download themes from sites that claim to offer free downloads of premium themes that you normally would be paying for; you run the risk of malicious code hidden in the theme.

What Are Your Thoughts?

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