Ultimate WordPress Themes Guide

You are looking for a WordPress theme and don’t konw where to start? You are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of themes? That article will guide you in 7 steps through the theme jungle to the best WordPress theme for you. Before we start I want to help new users to understand WordPress and themes a bit better.

You jump directly into the guide:

  1. What’s the Purpose of your Website?
  2. Free or Premium WordPress theme?
  3. Live Demo and Theme Functionality

Why do you need WordPress?

WordPress is the most popular blogging and open source content management system (CMS) in the world now. Over 23% of all website are using WordPress (September 2014). It has twice as much user as Joomla, Drupal, Blogger and Magento together. WordPress is currently in the version 3.9.2. and 4.0 is already announced. WordPress started 11 years ago as a free blogging software. It was, and still is, easy to install, configure, and use. You can setup your website in 5 minutes and get a powerful and SEO friendly CMS. In 2005 the developers added WordPress themes and a template system which is still popular today.

What exactly is a Wordpress Theme?

WordPress themes allow website owners to change the look and functionality of a website without changing the content or structure. WordPress themes are complete packages of code and design and strictly separated from the content. They give websites a professional web design. You can change your WordPress theme with just a few clicks.

Change the WordPress Theme for your Website

Change the WordPress Theme for your Website

Now let’s jump into the guide and find the perfect WordPress theme.

What’s the Purpose of your Website?

1 WordPress has grown from a simple blogging CMS into a flexible and versatile all-rounder CMS. There are nearly unlimited different WordPress themes for all kind of businesses, corporates, agencies, hotels, job boards, magazines, blogs, and many more. For each category you will find hundreds or even thousands of themes.

That’s why you need to specify your searchterm. If you Google for WordPress themes you need to be as specific as you can. Add the category and even the kind of design you like. Your final search should look like this:

  • Simple WordPress business themes
  • Creative WordPress photography themes
  • One-Page Portfolio WordPress themes

If you struggle to find a suitable category you can go through this list.

WordPress Blog, Magazine and News Themes

Blogging was the original purpose of WordPress. Most blog themes still use a classical one-column layout for posts and a sidebar for widgets. The magazine or news website is the big brother of the blog. Magazine themes have multiple columns and offer configurable advertising spaces. The layout is optimized for content-heavy websites with multiple topics.

WordPress Portfolio and Photography Themes

Portfolio themes are for agencies, freelancers, and artists. You want to present your personal or business portfolio with a professional design. The portfolio is a seperated part in the WordPress theme and offers special options for customization. Most portfolios use AJAX filters with a grid or masonry layout.

Photography themes are similar to portfolio themes. These themes showcase your work with full-screen images, sliders, and slideshows and focus even more on images.

Business and Corporate WordPress Themes

Business themes work well for small businesses, corporates and start-ups. WordPress can also handle bigger company websites with multiple domains, and deeper levels, but it’s not very comfortable to handle in this cases. You can choose often between one-page and multi-page layouts. Business themes use a clean and modern layout with a professional design.

WordPress Directory Themes

WordPress business directory themes are perfect for job boards, company listings, real estate websites, classified ads, and similar purposes. The integrated user management system of WordPress is a great tool to encourage users to register to your website. Users can vote, generate content, and help to grow your website.

WordPress Real Estate themes

Real estate agencies want to present their properties in the best possible way to the visitors. Real estate themes have filters, sliders, and other widgets will help you to do this. WordPress real estate themes include special plugins to import and export real estate data to popular real estate platforms.

Ecommerce WordPress Themes

Combine WordPress with the free eCommerce plugin WooCommerce and you get a strong online shop system. WordPress is a real alternative to Magento, PrestaShop, OpenCart, and other stand-alone systems. WordPress eCommerce themes are optimized to sell products.

Special Categories

There are so many different categories it’s hard to have something for everybody. You have not found your category here? You may take a look here: 50+ Responsive WordPress Themes or check the category WordPress themes.

Free or Premium WordPress Theme?

2 Free WordPress themes are free for personal and commercial use. You don’t need to pay anything. That’s great. But they are not as good as premium WordPress themes. You might find some good free themes in the popular categories. If you need a directory or real estate theme you most likely need to invest in a premium WordPress theme.

Let’s compare these two categories.

Free WordPress Themes

The themes directory of wordpress.org offers 2,675 free WordPress themes with a staggering amount of 110 million downloads. It’s the biggest source for free WordPress themes. There are plenty more developers with free WordPress themes on their own websites.

Main reasons to choose a free theme:

  • Free of costs — Try as many themes and designs and don’t waste your money.
  • Easy-to-use — Free themes have fewer options for customization, but you get your website faster online.
  • Responsive web design — Modern themes offer a responsive and professional design.
Nice Collection of Free WordPress Themes

Nice Collection of Free WordPress Themes (themesmart.com)

I started to work with free WordPress themes a few years ago. I also recommend it, if you have not much experience with WordPress themes. If your budget is limited and it’s just a small side project you may choose a free WordPress theme as well.

You find some good themes here: 28+ Best Free WordPress themes

Premium WordPress Themes

The better WordPress themes are so-called premium WordPress themes and cost some money. There are even more marketplaces and providers for premium themes than for free themes. The most popular marketplace is themeforest with over 4,500 items and 4,3 million members.

You have to calculate with $50 to $80 for one premium WordPress theme. Considering the professional web design you get it’s stll ridiculous cheap in my opinion. A few years ago you had to pay thousand of dollars for a far less attractive design and less options.

Reasons to choose a premium theme:

  • Free long-term support and better documentation — Look for video tutorials, online documentation, and a free support forum.
  • Customization —You get a higher number of page templates, shortcodes, iconfonts, and custom widgets.
  • Premium WordPress plugins included — Drag and drop page-builders (Visual Composer) and premium sliders are often included.
  • Regular updates and upgrades — This means less bugs, more features, and a you get use the theme for 2 or 3 years worry free.
Popular Premium WordPress Themes

Popular Premium WordPress Themes (themeforest.com)

Today I use nearly always a premium theme, because I get more features and regular updates. I highly recommend a premium WordPress themes too everyone who aquires clients or customers with the website. A professional design is the most important criteria and you should not shy away from $50 or $60. It’s a precious investment which will pay off for sure.

You might take a look here: 25+ Best Premium WordPress themes

You should have a good idea what kind of WordPress theme you need for your project. You can Google for themes and you will find plenty articles and collections for each kind of theme.

Live Demo and Theme Functionality

3 Let’s go one step further and look at the themes in detail. Virtually every WordPress theme has some sort of live demo. This means you can watch the theme in action with demo content. I would often go throught 30-50 demos to get a feeling for the design and functions I can expect.

Of course you look at the design and bookmark the themes you like most. If you need some special functionality for your next project you check this too. If you want to create a business website look at the about page, contact page, and team page. If you plan an online shop you should examine the product detail page, product filters, and the checkout process.

It’s important not to fixate to much on the design. The functionality and amount of page templates is also critical for the success of the project.

Here is a short checklist for you:

  • Do you like the overall design?
  • Do you get all the page templates you need?
  • Are all important elements styled with CSS (tables, accordion, forms, typography)?
  • Does the theme include shortcodes for buttons, icons, columns, and other elements?

I collect the 10-20 best themes before I check the the backend and go into the theme description

Theme Description, Backend Demo, and Meta Data

4 More.