If you’ve ever spent time trying to select a WordPress theme to use for your blog you know that it can be a frustrating process. One of the great benefits of using WordPress is the fact that there are thousands of quality free themes available, along with premium and custom themes. But all of these choices can sometimes make the decision even more difficult.
The first step is to decide if you want a free theme, a premium theme (one that you will pay for but will be used by some other blogs as well), or a custom theme (a theme that is designed specifically for you). If you have a little bit of design experience you can also make some changes to a free theme to create a more unique look for your blog.
Most new bloggers don’t mind using a theme that is also used by others, so they choose to go with a free theme. Ok, so the first part of the process is down, now all you have to do is choose from the thousands of available options.
When choosing a theme, here are some things to consider:
1. Will you be making money from the blog? If so, you may want to go with a premium theme or a custom theme I order to make yours look as professional as possible. If not, a free theme should do. You’ll always have the option to upgrade later.
2. How will the blog’s look affect your success? For a personal blog having an original look is probably not that important, and free themes will do just fine. For businesses that are attempting to convey a professional image, spending the money for a theme design is justified.
3. How many blogs use the same theme? Some of the more popular free themes are used by thousands of blogs. Obviously this makes it more difficult to stand out, but sometimes it also has benefits. Some of the most popular themes are supported well, and if you have a problem it can be easier to find help.
4. Is the theme search engine-friendly? With free themes you will get a VERY wide variety. If you are not familiar with HTML and CSS it may be difficult for you to evaluate the SEO capabilities of a theme. In this case, a safe decision is to choose a theme from Courtney Tuttle’s collection of SEO-ready themes. Court has taken a bunch of free themes and made some modifications to optimize them for search engines.
5. Will the theme fit your monetization plans? If you have any thoughts or intentions of monetizing your blog you should take this into consideration when choosing a theme. If you are going to be placing AdSense ads, text link ads, or banner ads on your blog, the theme should have a good place for them. Trying to stuff them into a theme that isn’t intended to allow room for ads will create a very cluttered look that will distract and annoy readers.
6. Is support available? Some premium themes will include support from the designer, which can be a big plus. Some free theme designers will provide limited support and others will provide none. If you think you might need support somewhere down the road, take this into consideration. If you are familiar with themes and feel comfortable solving your own problems, don’t worry about support.
7. If you have a logo, does it match the theme? You’ll see a lot of free blog themes that have a logo added to the header that just doesn’t quite look right. If you plan to use a specific logo or header image, choose a theme accordingly, or look into getting a new logo to match the theme.
8. Is it widget-ready? Do you need it be? If you plan to make a lot of changes to the sidebar and you don’t want to mess with the code, choose a widget ready theme. However, a widget-ready theme still doesn’t offer the same amount of flexibility and options as working with the code directly.
9. Are there hidden links? You might be surprised how many themes include some form of hidden link. Choosing a theme for a reputable source will usually help you to avoid the problem of hidden links.
10. Does the code validate? About 99% of bloggers probably don’t care about valid code, but some do. Valid code will give you the best chance of giving your visitors a problem-free visit. A great-looking, valid theme is available from Jon Phillips, and appropriately it’s named Simply Valid.
11. Will you be able to grow with the same theme? As your blog grows you may want new features or room to add new things. Some themes won’t offer much flexibility or room for growth. Be sure that your theme isn’t going to limit you.
Besides the places mentioned above, you can find free themes at:
- The WordPress Theme Viewer
- Weblog Tools Collection
- And of course, Daily Blog Tips just released Deep Blue
Some of the best premium themes can be purchased from:
- Brian Gardner
- Rockin Themes
- Unique Blog Designs