WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme is a group of files that work together to dictate the overall look, feel, and style of a website.

The design of your website is important because it affects how your audience perceives your brand. Just as a powerful theme is an important element of a good screenplay, it’s also a crucial part of web design.

Choosing a WordPress theme can be daunting, especially when there are so many to choose between. If you’re setting up a WordPress site for your business or brand, read our article below to get you started with selecting a WordPress theme.

Out-the-box web design options

In the early days of web development, it was handy to know how to use a coding language to build and design a website. Even today, code dictates everything about a website, from how its core software runs to where the navigation menu appears on a page or what happens when visitors click on certain links and buttons.

The good news is that, over the years, this entire process has been perfected and simplified; websites no longer need to be outsourced and built from scratch. Much the same as a brand new mobile phone or device, many websites now come “out the box,” with default settings and themes installed, to be tinkered on for adding touches of personalization that best suit a business or brand.

A new WordPress site, for example, is downloaded with a default theme and a basic set of plugins. It’s then up to the site owner or administrator to extend the site’s functionality and change its overall design and appearance to one that is preferred.

This is where WordPress themes come in, which are not to be confused with plugins or templates.


Plugins vs. themes

Themes affect the ‘look’ of your site (the design, layout, color schemes, templates, etc.), whereas plugins affect your site’s functionality. Plugins change the way your site works and allows it to do new things.

You can only have one active theme on your site, while you can have multiple active plugins, so be sure to select your theme based on the look and layout you want, rather than the features it includes. You can always add any additional functionality you need using plugins.

Templates vs. themes

As mentioned above, themes affect the design of your site. A WordPress template is a layout only for certain pages, not the whole site. Themes include several different templates — so by using a specific template, you can have a completely different look for a blog page or a contact page.

How to choose the right WordPress theme

With thousands of free and premium WordPress themes out there, users are spoiled for choice — which can also be very overwhelming when starting with a new WordPress site or even when looking to change the design of an existing one.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a theme. Here are four top tips for choosing the perfect WordPress theme for your site.

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Tip #1: Browse WordPress theme marketplaces

WordPress.org isn’t the only place where you can get WordPress themes. There are a few marketplaces out there that offer quality, premium (paid for) WordPress themes. If you are struggling to decide on your design direction, looking at different themes may spark your imagination; alternatively, getting a good idea of what’s possible with a theme may whittle down the options and help you select the right one for you.

Below are some examples of WordPress theme marketplaces.
  • CSSIgniter: With an individual theme starting from $49 and complete access for only $69, CSSIgniter gives you a collection of attractive, simple-to-use designs at a competitive price.
  • Elegant Themes: One of the oldest and most well-known WordPress theme marketplaces, Elegant Themes offers premium WordPress themes, plugins and has one of the most popular themes in the world, The Divi Builder.
  • MOJO Marketplace: Home to thousands of themes, carefully organized into topics and categories with a filterable search feature.
  • StudioPress:  A top premium themes provider for all your business, ecommerce, photography, or lifestyle needs.
  • ThemeForest: Boasts a large collection of premium WordPress themes and might be the best place to find some of the cheaper WordPress themes.
  • WordPress.org Theme Directory: With thousands to choose from, WordPress.org Theme Directory has the largest collection of free WordPress themes. A huge advantage of getting a theme off WordPress.org Theme Directory is that themes strictly adhere to WordPress theme directory guidelines.
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Tip #2: Do your homework

  1. What do you want your site to look like? If you have a specific style in mind, pick a theme that meets your needs. If you have a company logo, try to match its color scheme. You can’t do much customizing with a premade theme so choose wisely. Make a list of the features you want ahead of time and pick a theme that’s intuitive to use and explore.
  1. Make sure to review theme versions — is the theme compatible with newer versions of WordPress? You can also learn a lot by reading user reviews and checking ratings. Is the theme easy to use? Is the design responsive? A theme that works for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you since you might have different requirements.
  1. It’s also important to check if there is theme support from the developer and if there are available support forums for the theme. You don’t want to be left in the dark should anything go wrong with your theme, which can happen if the code is hacked or regular updates break any theme elements.
  1. Read developer notes to understand all the features offered —  this includes if a theme allows for custom headers, colors, backgrounds, footer widgets, full-length templates, etc.

During your research, if you find a WordPress site that matches your desired look and feel, run it through this free Theme Detector to confirm the theme the site is using.

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Tip #3: Consider your budget

Free themes

Choosing a free theme is incredibly tempting. Especially when it’s not coming from a dodgy site (themes downloaded from the WordPress.org theme directory will have undergone an official review process, for example). That said, the quality and customization options can vary greatly, and there are sometimes limited support options with free themes, so bear in mind, you’ll get what you do (or don’t) pay for.

Premium themes

A high-quality premium theme is an investment. Premium themes have more features and customization options, as well as ongoing support and updates.

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Tip #4: Consider the purpose of your website

Some themes make more sense for certain types of websites or industries. Is your website featuring a blog? Is it an online store? Pick a theme that has the basic structure you want for your site.

Here are some of the types of websites you can create on WordPress, as well as theme examples for each type.

Blog themes

Before it became the world’s most popular website builder, WordPress was once a simple blogging platform. Over the years, its blogging and personal website components have remained a firm favorite, with themes becoming more diverse, sophisticated, and refined.

Two examples of winning blog themes are Easy Blog and Blog Life.

Ecommerce themes

WordPress is also a very popular solution for building an ecommerce website. Plugins like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads make it easy to transform your WordPress website into an online store.

Examples of great ecommerce themes include Classic Ecommerce  (free) and global ecommerce store.

Education themes

WordPress is built to be future-proof and it has multisite functionality — that’s why thousands of schools and college websites around the world are powered by WordPress.

Ovation Themes has developed a free theme for education sites, Education Insight.  Wen Themes’ Education Soul is another theme developed for learning institutes using WordPress.

Entertainment themes

Many online users visit the web for entertainment, whether it’s for catching up on celebrity news, confirming sports fixtures, or getting recipe ideas from their favorite food blog.

Have a look at Foodiz and Write and Read for examples of entertainment themes for WordPress

News themes

WordPress has an array of tools available to optimize news and magazine sites, including comment section tools to allow readers to engage with the content. The Greatnews magazine theme by Theme Palace and Engage News by Candid Themes are some examples.

Real Estate themes

WordPress is arguably the most popular CMS among real estate companies and realtors. The themes and functionalities make it easy to showcase their property listings.

The AgentPress Pro theme by StudioPress is mobile responsive. It has its own listings plugin, which allows you to add a listings management system to your WordPress site, and is highly customizable.

Real Estate Salient Pro is a fairly inexpensive WordPress theme for property listings, while the free Construction Realestate theme is a good option for showcasing commercial properties.

Portfolio themes

If you’re a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or even a web designer, WordPress offers great themes with stunning image galleries and attractive sliders.

Have a look at the BlogJr Portfolio theme (a child theme of BlogJr) and the ePortfolio theme to get inspired.


“Use the right tool for the job.”

WordPress Theme Editor vs. WordPress Theme Customizer

Two tools provided by WordPress to edit or customize a theme are the theme editor and Theme Customizer.

The WordPress theme editor is a simple text editor found in WordPress that allows you to modify the code in the theme files. The editor displays a list of the files which you can modify to your preferences. To access the WordPress theme editor, go to Appearance -> Editor. The theme files are written in PHP, CSS, JS, and JSON. It is important to note that if you do not know how to code, you should not use the theme editor — ask a professional to help you.

However, the Theme Customizer allows you to personalize your website using existing themes and a graphical user interface. From the theme customizer, you can change your site title, widgets, sidebar, create custom menus, and many more. It is a simple way of drastically changing your WordPress site’s appearance and functionality, from a simple interface, without potentially damaging the theme files. To get to the customizer in WordPress, navigate to Appearance and then Customize.

WordPress theme updates

There is a myriad of reasons to update your WordPress theme, from remaining relevant and keeping up with the competition to increased security and bug fixes. It is of utmost importance to update your theme as soon as updates become available. However, this doesn’t come without its challenges.

WordPress is entirely open source. This means that the code is publicly available,  easily creating opportunities for attackers to uncover vulnerabilities and exploit them.

To combat this, the WordPress team is constantly working on regular updates to fix the bugs and increase security. These updates need to be installed as soon as they are available to give your site the best possible protection.

Updates sometimes come with new features which might not be compatible with your existing WordPress plugins and core software. It is therefore important to back up your site to restore it if things go wrong.

Themes must be tested in a staging environment and bugs should be removed before deploying to the live website.

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Any more questions? Have a look at our FAQs below.

WordPress Theme FAQs

  • How do I report a bug with my theme?

    Report it to the developer or create a ticket in WordPress’s bug tracker.

  • How do I know if a WordPress theme is safe to use?

    Stick with reputable platforms like WordPress’s official Theme Directory, or you could use a tool like Theme Check to see if it’s safe. Theme Check verifies code quality and the presence of malware. Also, it lists all the themes that have already been checked, so be sure to search the list using the filters provided to save rechecking ones that have already been validated.

  • What is the difference between a theme builder and a page builder?

    Page Builders help you create the desired layout for a single piece of content. A theme builder allows you to create templates that automatically apply to some/all of your content.

  • Is it worth paying for a premium WordPress theme?

    The benefits of support and design flexibility make it worth the price. 

  • How much does a WordPress theme cost?

    Pricing for a premade theme ranges all the way from $10 to $200, while a custom theme could cost thousands.

  • What is a child theme?

    A child theme is a sub-theme that allows you to modify an existing theme without making any changes to the parent theme’s files.

  • Need help with your WordPress themes?

    Our WordPress experts are ready to help you manage, maintain, safeguard, and improve your website.

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