Choosing the Best WordPress Free Themes
In these days, there are over 4,500 free themes available, and this number is increasing. Selecting the best themes is not an easy task. Additionally, there are thousands of premium themes available elsewhere.
Over the years, WordPress themes have become more customizable and include similar features. With the inclusion of the block editor system in version 5.9, options have become more abundant today.
However, it’s important to understand that themes are not one-size-fits-all. Instead, you need to think about what you want the theme to accomplish, and therefore, there is no such thing as the absolute best theme. Everything is subjective.
Nevertheless, I will explain how to choose the best theme for your website.
What are WordPress Themes ?
A WordPress theme is a collection of style sheets and templates that create a unique appearance for your website. They come in various forms, focusing on specific aspects, making the choice extremely difficult.
Each theme can be customized to a certain extent, with some being more customizable than others. The most common elements you can configure are colors, fonts, and font sizes. If you want to make changes to the theme’s layout, it requires a significant amount of coding, but it is entirely possible.
Furthermore, each theme comes with its own set of user interface elements or sections. This is unique to each theme. Some may have a user interface element area for the sidebar only, while others may have multiple header, footer, and sidebar areas.
It really depends on the theme and its developer. While themes may seem purely cosmetic, they are not. Due to increased competition over the years, many themes have been integrated with plugins and other premium tools.
This is a common practice with many premium themes, where they are often bundled with page builder plugins and other premium tools.
Themes are also encoded differently, which can make one theme better than another at times. Excessive coding can lead to slower page load times, directly affecting search rankings.
Poorly coded themes can negatively impact a site’s performance. Let’s take a look at the factors you need to consider when choosing WordPress themes.
How to Choose the Best Themes :
Step 1 : Identify Your Needs
What may be the right appearance for someone else could be the wrong look for your website. There is no universal “best theme” that fits every case. Therefore, before you start thinking about themes, you need to understand your specific needs.
For example, will you have multiple pages on your site, or will you have a single-page layout? It’s a simple question but can make a significant difference in the decision-making process.
Page-specific, lightweight themes will enhance performance. However, expanding its scope using your website becomes challenging as it expands. It’s a simple yet crucial consideration in the decision-making process.
Similarly, if you’re creating an e-commerce website, choosing a blogging-focused theme would be a mistake. These are two very different types of websites that require specifically designed themes.
Does this mean that general-purpose themes are bad? Not at all, but in most cases, purpose-focused themes tend to perform better in those specific conditions. It’s somewhat similar to using regular tires in winter instead of winter tires. Yes, they work, but the other option is better.
Step 2 : Read Reviews
User reviews are incredibly helpful, whether you’re looking for a new place to eat or a new theme. The WordPress theme directory allows users to leave star ratings and include their reasons, providing a highly useful indicator of what real users liked and disliked about the theme.
The same applies to premium themes as well. Since people pay for them, they are likely to leave feedback. However, sometimes popular themes may have thousands of users bu
Step 3 : Ensure Responsiveness
There was a time when responsiveness was optional, but that wasn’t the case in 2022. In most cases, mobile traffic accounts for more than 50% of the overall traffic. The good news is that most modern themes are designed to be responsive.
In fact, it is included as a feature in almost every theme. So why do we mention this?
Because at this stage, there are different levels of responsiveness.
The real question is how can you know if a theme is truly responsive in its design?
The simplest way is to test the demo site on your smartphone. Any theme worth its salt will have a pre-displayed demo site that showcases what it can do. If that doesn’t happen, it’s usually a big red flag.
Then test it on your smartphone and any other mobile device you can get your hands on. If things look good, that’s a good sign, but if not, it’s not the end.
To be fair, there are many cases where a demo site may look bad, but it’s always good to check anyway.
Step 4 : Explore Support Options
As is the case with most situations nowadays, people create websites without experience, which is somewhat beautiful. However, this is thanks to a large number of tutorials in the WordPress community, but sometimes themes can be very specific.
This can cause a lot of suffering for beginners, which is why having direct support options from the developers is helpful.
Sometimes you can freely send an email with a question to the theme developer and get a response within days. However, some people can’t wait that long.
The good news is that there are faster options available, but they usually come at a cost. Instead, most themes offer a pro version that includes support. However, sometimes it’s tied to a higher-level plan, so make sure to read everything.
Also, the good news is that you often get much more than just support; you get additional features in the process. Official support has become great now, but it’s no longer the only option.
Often, some popular themes with thousands of users have a lot of helpful online resources created by these users. Some web hosting companies may also have guides for popular WordPress topics.
t only a few reviews.
This might be because the theme doesn’t prompt users to leave feedback. Of course, reviews don’t only come from users currently. There is a wide range of lists and reviews for various themes available.
Step 5 : Ensure SEO Compatibility
One of the key factors when choosing a WordPress theme is whether it is suitable for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Similar to the responsiveness aspect, almost every theme claims to be SEO-friendly.
However, you can’t take this claim at face value. You need to look for certain key features. The most important thing is to ensure that the theme organizes content properly.
Essentially, this is where elements are loaded in the correct order, and if not, it may appear unconventional. Have you ever loaded a page and seen some sidebar or header areas load first, followed by the rest of the page? This is poor content ordering. The main content should always load first.
This issue typically arises from poorly coded themes, which can be difficult or impossible to determine if you don’t know anything about coding. Unoptimized themes always lead to worse outcomes.
Not to mention, such problems can result in issues like Longest Contentful Paint and Cumulative Layout Shift in Google Search Console.
The only way to verify this is by using an external tool like the W3C Markup Validation Service. If you can’t read the code, this is the best alternative. Other key features to look for are diverse navigation options, support for formatted excerpts, full control over meta tags, and more.
While plugins can complement any theme feature, they can never be as good as optimized design.
Step 6 : Ensure Regular Updates
One of the most important reasons why many developers change their themes is that they are no longer supported. Everything might be up-to-date when you start, but you may have just received the latest update. A theme that isn’t regularly updated is a security liability that can cause you a lot of trouble.
Generally, there should be updates every one to three months. Anything longer than that is a red flag. Unfortunately, not many theme developers, whether free or premium, explicitly state when they will end support.
At this stage, your only option is to find an alternative theme. Therefore, make sure the developers have a proven track record in this regard.
By following these general guidelines, you should be able to identify the best WordPress themes. Afterward, you’ll need to customize them to make them your own.
What are the best free or premium themes ?
This is a big question that almost everyone asks: why is there a stigma suggesting that premium themes are “better” than free themes? But that’s not entirely true. Both free and premium themes are just code. Some themes are coded better than others, and that can happen whether they are free or premium.
However, premium themes do come with additional tools and support compared to their free counterparts, and that may be the decisive factor for many. In fact, that’s what you pay for when purchasing a premium theme.
The actual price is also worth considering. Let’s face it; if you’re starting a new blog, saving an extra $50 or $100 is a big deal. Even if the additional features are fantastic, they may not be worth the hassle when starting out. So, to answer the actual question, one is not necessarily better than the other. One simply has more features to offer.
How does it fit with page building ?
Page builder tools allow you to create unique content that standard tools don’t allow. The good thing is that most themes work well with page builder tools. Therefore, most users will list page builder support as a selling point, making it easy to find this information.
However, there’s something left by theme and page builder developers: how they impact performance. In most cases, you won’t notice any slowdown or performance impact. However, once you start using a lot of custom elements and text, it can start to have an effect, although this is rare.
Typically, when performance is affected, it’s due to poorly coded themes. Ultimately, using page builder tools should have a minimal or negligible impact, but if it does occur, you may need a new theme.
Choosing the right free themes is not an easy task :
Unfortunately, many quick guides tend to gloss over how to choose a theme. This can lead to a lot of trouble down the road and make the developer’s life somewhat difficult. However, by following the steps above, you should be able to find a great theme. After that, it’s all about customizing the theme to create a unique experience that will amaze and attract your audience.
And this is not an easy process; expect to spend hours getting everything right. The good news is that once it’s set up, there’s nothing else to it. The only time you’ll make significant changes is if you decide to change the website layout or if Google changes its search engine optimization rules, which happens mostly.