How to Choose a Theme for your WordPress Website

n this article, I’ll talk about what you should do before you go theme shopping, what the most important things are when searching for themes, and where to find the best WordPress themes for Genesis.

This article is for those who are…

  • Just starting their blog
  • Looking to change the layout of their existing blog
  • Looking for a theme with more functionality
  • Tired of their blog looking like everyone else’s
  • Confused about where to find quality themes

If you’ve decided that is the best platform to use for building your website, then the next step is finding a theme to use for your blog. Themes can really impact how your site looks and functions, and are therefore a really important consideration.

If you read my article on whether or not you should use the Genesis framework, then you’ll be a step ahead of the game. Limiting your theme selection down to those only available on the Genesis framework will help narrow down the choices and will, hopefully, also help eliminate some option paralysis.

But even after you’ve limited your theme search to just Genesis themes, there can still be a dizzying number to choose from. The Studiopress website, which we’ll get to in a minute, has 50 themes. 50! That’s a lot when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. So how do you choose a theme?

Get a good understanding of what you’d like your website to look like

Before you even go looking for themes, the best thing to do is to come up with a really good idea of what you want your theme to look like and do. To do this, I suggest getting out a couple pieces of paper and a pen. We’re going old-fashioned here!

Spend about an hour on the web finding websites that you think are just awesome. They don’t all have to look the same, and they don’t have to be awesome in their entirety. But find some websites with cool features, good layout, or color themes that you think you’d like to see on your website.

Tape your two pieces of paper together end-to-end to emulate a long version of your website. Then draw out where your logo goes and what your navigation looks like. Draw in your sidebar, if you have one, any widget areas you’d like to see, and any other features you think you’d want to have. You don’t have to get too specific, just get the general idea down.

Then turn it over and do it again. Draw out the changes you had a difficult time deciding between on the previous one. Get creative. Then get some more paper and do it again.

I recommend making at least four drawings of some website layouts you think you would like. They can be similar with just a couple changes, or they can be entirely different.

Then look really carefully at all your drawings and pick one – or pick features from each and create a final drawing. This is what you will use when you go shopping for themes. If you have a good idea of what your want your site to look like, you’ll have an even greater head start at narrowing down your choices.

What’s the most important when looking for a theme?

Alright, now’s the time to take your carefully crafted drawing and get to searching. I recommend finding a theme that matches 90% of the things you lined out in your drawing. Most important is the theme functionality – can you do all the things with your theme that you know your website will need?

For example, a recipe blog, like this one, needs to have some way to display a list (or even multiple lists) of recipes from specific categories. Can the theme you are looking at do that?

Widget areas are also important. You can generally use a widget area in many different ways, but it’s important to be familiar with where they are and how they are laid out.

Try to get as close as you can to your layout drawing. Things like colors and fonts can be changed pretty easily, so if a website has a pink color you don’t like, that’s okay. I’ll go over how to change these in another post. What you’re mostly looking for is layout and functionality.

Where should I look for themes?

The best place to look for a theme and the first place I always go is to the StudioPress website. They have over 50 themes there that are guaranteed to be rock-solid (i.e. good, clear code). They also have a 30-day guarantee, so if you buy a theme and decide you don’t like it, you can get your money back. Huge bonus!

I also really like Restored 316, where I purchased my current theme (Divine). I’ve also used themes from Pretty Darn Cute Design and have been really happy with them. All of these websites have really great documentation and support for their themes, as I have experienced first-hand.

There are many other Genesis theme developers out there who no-doubt make wonderful themes. A quick search on Google should take you to them, but I’ll leave my recommendations at the ones above due to personal experience.

Finding a theme that you love can be really tough. There are so many great ones out there, and it’s difficult to know exactly what you want when you get started. But if you have a plan, finding your perfect theme can be a bit easier.

Here are a few other tips:

  1. Be unique. Just because everyone else is using a specific theme doesn’t mean you have to, also.
  2. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to email the developer and ask if a theme does something you need.
  3. Do research. Make sure the developer you are buying from is reputable and respected.
  4. Take the time. Don’t rush through this – it takes a lot more time to switch themes later than it does to spend a couple hours researching, planning, and searching now.

If you have any other tips or recommendations for theme developers, be sure to leave them in the comments!