As you have probably noticed when searching for the right WordPress theme for your website, there are thousands of free and premium themes available and it can be a real challenge to choose the right one.
What are the things you should pay attention to when comparing different themes? How can you narrow down your search to find the perfect theme which fits exactly to your project? We will try to give you some help with this article.
Start with the purpose of your website
You should be able to easily answer this question: What is the purpose of your website? Are you creating a serious company website? Is it a fancy site for a restaurant? Or a personal blog about your hobby?
Based on your project you can do an advanced search for the right theme and you might be able to find a ready to use starter template or even the perfect theme very quickly. Themes are often grouped into many different categories and niches: Business, Blogging, Ecommerce, Photography, Restaurant, Wedding and many more. Maybe your project already fits into one of these categories. Then you can just search directly for themes and your category. You can start with going through one of our collections if there is a suitable one for you:
Another very good option is to look into site template collections of the most popular themes. Many of them come with a lot of ready to use templates and designs you can choose for your website. Usually some of them are only available in the pro versions, but still there are a lot of free site templates you can try. The most popular themes are often a good starting point as you can be sure that those themes are of high quality, regularly updated and come with a lot of customizer options and plugin support. All the people using them cannot be wrong, right? Here are some examples of site templates for Astra and Blocksy:
Astra Site Templates
Blocksy Site Templates
Try and compare free themes and their customizer options
A good way to start is to look at popular themes, which are in use on thousands of different websites. You can be sure that those themes are of high quality, are updated regularly and are constantly improved.
Popular themes usually come in a free version with limited features and a fully packed pro or premium version with all the features enabled. It depends on your needs if you really need the premium version. In many cases the free one can be enough - at least it can get you started until you might want to use extended features later on when your website develops and grows.
By trying the free version of a theme you can get a good feeling about how easy and intuitive to use the admin options and customizer settings for this theme are. Every theme is slightly different in that case. Just try and activate a theme, go into the customizer and admin panel options to see how the interface looks and to what extent you can change things like colors, fonts, screen sizes, headers, logos, page templates and so on. Let us have a look on two popular themes and what the differences are between them, Astra and Blocksy:
When you install Astra theme, you get a new navigation entry under the “Appearance” tab in the wordpress admin interface called “Astra Options”. There you get internal links to the settings in the customizer and also some more information on what other options you would have if you purchase the pro version of Astra. On the right side you see boxes with information about starter templates and other important links.
(Astra version 3.7.5, “Astra Options” under the “Appearance” tab in Wordpress admin)
Also Blocksy has on own menu entry in the “Appearance” tab when installed and activated, named “Blocksy”. Here you also have various options to directly jump to the wordpress customizer to change colors, header options and so on. Blocksy also lists some useful plugins, the changelog and an overview and comparison between their free and pro version in the other tabs.
(Blocksy version 1.8.11, “Blocksy” under the “Appearance” tab in Wordpress admin)
There are not many differences until now between the two themes. Both have an extra menu entry in the wordpress admin interface, which is nice and gives you the option to directly jump to specific settings in the wordpress customizer.
Let us see what the differences are within the customizer. Astra has the following options in its free version. You can set three different global color palettes which can be very handy. You can choose a site background color and a content background color. Every color option can be changed individually. The interface is easy to use.
In Blocksy theme the customizer options for the colors look like this. Colors can also be set up in global color palettes. Blocksy theme comes with 15 already predefined and good looking color palettes. Every color option can also be changed if you like. Also you can change the site background color based on the device the website visitor is using (desktop, tablet or smartphone).
So, by just comparing the customizer color options of both themes we already see some differences. In this case Blocksy offers a little bit more when it comes to predefined color palettes and fine grained options for example for every different headline size. Nevertheless also the options in Astra are very good and might be able to fulfill all your needs of customization. It is worth checking these settings before really deciding for a theme to be sure that the theme can give you every option you need.
Already now you might have a tendency towards one of the themes as the user interface and the options in the customizer might just feel best for you. Dig a bit deeper into the settings and try some more free themes. This is the starting point.
Technical basics every theme should provide
These are important points you should check for every theme you consider to use. Without these basics you might experience problems pretty soon and in the end this always has negative impact on your website visitors (leaving, not returning, etc.). So make sure the themes you test come with these essential basics included:
Your website needs to look good on every possible screen size, no matter if desktop monitor, tablet, laptop or smartphone. Responsive design makes sure that your website keeps being usable for every visitor. If a theme is not responsive this is a big red flag.
Same goes for browser compatibility. No matter which browser your vistitors are using, your website always has to be pixel perfect. You can easily check this by yourself. Just open up your website with the theme to be tested in the major different browser Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge.
Plugin Support and Page Builders
Plugin support is important as you might want to include some plugins in your wordpress project. Many themes are being developed with having plugin support in mind. Especially page builder plugins are often considered (Elementor, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, Site Origin, etc.) Always double check plugin support before deciding for a theme.