So you’ve made the decision to set up your site on WordPress. Congratulations on an excellent choice! If WordPress was an obvious choice – in our humble, unbiased opinion as WP-theme makers – quite the opposite is true when it comes to WordPress themes.

With hundreds of new WordPress themes popping up daily, each one looking more attractive than the other on the surface, it’s very easy to lose orientation. You can start going around in circles, flipping through ThemeForest for hours on end. This is where we come in with our insider’s reflections and tools to help you dig deeper, cut down the overwhelming choice and get to the core of what you should look for in your next theme.

1. “… preparation is the key to success.” (Alexander Graham Bell)

Having content or at least some basic guidelines ready before you begin your hunt is crucial. It is useful to imagine what your website would look like in advance:

  • Think about the type of layout that would suit the purpose of the site.
  • Compile an inspiration list of websites that you like.
  • Draw your ideas on a piece of paper.
  • Create a gallery of images you wish to use. Here are our suggested design resources.
  • Think of the features you might need right away or in the future (e.g. contact forms, slider, call to action, e-store, PDFs, videos, etc.)

This will help you stay focused when the hunt actually begins, as you will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

2. Use numbers as your weapon

The advantage of buying a theme on ThemeForest is their standardized and objective rating system. If the theme review is lower than 4 stars, it is probably a good idea to skip it. Now that comments are available too, you can also read them to get an even better idea of why a customer has rated the theme the way they did. Another significant indicator is the ratio between the number of sales and the time the theme has been online. If a theme is having consistent sales over longer period of time, there must be something good about it. As a theme author, we know that such themes are providing a constant money flow and are therefore worth keeping up to date.

3. Support

No matter what your level of expertise is, a good support system can save you lots of time and frustration when you’re wading through a theme’s settings only to find out what you were looking for was there all along, two clicks away.

To check the quality of support, it is useful to read the comments section of a theme in ThemeForest, to see if there are many problems or issues with the theme and how support reacts to it. You can also check their public support forum, if available, or ask a pre-sale question to see how they respond.

4. Easy installation and practical demo content

Some themes are easier to set up than others. The possibility of importing demo content is a big bonus, because you can recreate the look of the demo site instantly and start working from there by simply removing and adding elements. You don’t want to spend a week just to recreate the basics, but get on with your content and ideas right away!

5. Less is more

Stay away from bloated themes with too many features which slow down the website, and make it hard to find information. Google and other search engines also don’t like slow sites, so your SEO will suffer as well. How important is to have a frilly, great-looking site, if a visitor leaves before it has even loaded? Also, avoid everything that’s bundling together lots of premium plugins. Keep in mind that cool features are only cool if they support the goal of your website. Everything else is excessive and is driving attention away from what your site is about.

6. The Web is like a box of … boxes

Page builders are tools that help you create interesting custom layouts with a simple drag-and-drop interface, without any coding. You want to make sure your theme is compatible and/or bundled with one of those. If it’s widely used and well supported, like Page Builder by SiteOrigin, all the better.

7. It is responsive to your needs …

This may seem obvious in 2016, but it is still worth stressing the importance of actually testing the demo for responsiveness prior to purchase. Not just by resizing the browser window, but with an actual touchscreen device to see how everything works, not to mention if you like the way the mobile version of the theme looks. It can be quite pricey or time-consuming if you need to re-make the entire layout just for the mobile.

8. The Team Behind your Theme

Make sure your theme was crafted by a respected author, who updates the theme on a regular basis. Avoid themes by new authors that have only been in business for a couple of months and have less than 100 sales, because there is no way of knowing if they will stick to the business, provide support and make regular updates in the future.

9. The devil is in the detail

There are many look-alike themes out there. Our lead designer’s advice is simple: “Skip ’em.” The ordinary, second-rate tells your visitor you didn’t invest much in the quality of your website, which might also mean you are not willing to go that extra mile when it comes products and services you are selling to them.

You want your website to have that certain extra something that will make it stand out from the gazillions of other websites.

Hopefully we have provided you with a compass to find your way out of the mesmerising possibilities of themes on the market. If you narrowed your choice to 2 or 3 items, which you can take for a test-drive, you’re on a good track.

Remember that it is virtually impossible to find a theme that will fit with all of your smallest demands; you may have to compromise a little bit, or even better, make some customizations in the code. The important thing is to find a theme that generally fits your purpose and is easy to work with. Top it off with responsive support and interesting design details, and you are onto a winner!

Thank you for reading – we are really keen to find out what you guys have to say:

  • What are your tips & tricks to save time when selecting a new theme?
  • How to avoid buying an inappropriate theme?

If you think we missed an important aspect of theme-selection process, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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About the Author
My first encounter with WordPress was through blogging. I fell in love with it, and every aspect of the online world. That's when I started learning about web development, and I haven’t stopped since. Offline, I’m a swing dancer and amateur painter.