Are you looking to purchase a new WordPress theme? Whether it is your first time, or you are looking to replace your old theme, selecting a new theme can be a difficult process; there are so many themes available, and it can be challenging to know which are good.
So, I’ve assembled this checklist of 12 items I use when selecting a WordPress theme. Go through each point as you review themes to help find the best one possible.
1. Aesthetics & design
When selecting a theme, you want one that’s pleasing to the eye. The design should be modern. Nothing scares a visitor away faster than a site that looks like it was designed in the 90s. But you will also want to keep in mind your brand. You’ll want colors and design that match with your site’s brand.
2. Customization options
No theme is perfect right out of the box. It’ll require some set-up and customization. Different themes give you different levels of customization. Some themes limit customization to just select a color palette, while other themes let you change everything from fonts to layouts and more.
You will most likely need certain functionality built in to your theme. If you are building a portfolio site, for instance, you’ll want your theme to have a built-in portfolio. If you are building an online magazine, you’ll want your theme to have a magazine style homepage.
4. Plugin compatibility
If you plan on using a plugin like WooCommerce, WPML, or bbPress, you’ll want to be sure your theme integrates with these plugins. Most of themes that are compatible will specify as such. If the theme does not, however, you should contact the theme’s creator and see if their theme is compatible with the plugin you plan to use.
You should research what previous purchasers say about it. If you are purchasing your theme from a theme marketplace like ThemeForest, reviews are built in to the site. If not, you could do a simple Google search for the theme name along with keywords like “reviews” or “feedback.” Be sure to include negative keywords like “known issues” or “problems,” so you can see what people complain about.
If something goes wrong with the theme, or if you have questions, you want to be sure there is someone you can reach out to for help. Before purchasing your theme, be sure the theme company or theme author has a way to contact them. Either a help desk or even just an email address. You can even try reaching out to them before purchasing to see what level of support they provide.
7. Continued updates
Theme updates are good. They include brand new features and bug fixes. Plus, when new versions of WordPress are released, theme updates keep everything working smoothly.
So you want to avoid themes that aren’t updated. Take a look at when the theme was last updated. If it has been over a year since the last update, perhaps the theme maker has stopped updating it (and possibly supporting it).
8. Browser support
Nothing is worse than purchasing a theme and finding out it looks horrible in certain browsers. So, you should check how the theme looks in various browsers before purchasing it. I recommend using Browsershots. Input the theme’s demo URL and Browsershots will give you screenshots of the theme in various browsers.
You definitely want your theme to be responsive. A responsive theme looks great on any screen size and any device (such as phones or tablets). A simple way to test it is to open the theme’s demo on your phone or tablet and see how it looks.
Theme companies use a variety of different pricing structures. You should be aware of exactly what you are paying for. Some theme companies use a simple pricing structure, where you pay one rate and get the theme, updates, and support for life. Other theme companies use a subscription model, where you pay annually for continued support and updates. And some theme companies use a membership model, where you still pay a yearly membership rate, but get access to all the themes they make.
11. Child theme ready
If you are a developer or looking to make customizations to the theme’s code, you’ll want to be sure you can easily make a child theme. Many themes are even built upon a framework which makes customization even easier.
12. Validate code
This is a more advanced step, but you should run the theme demo through the Markup Validation Service. This will scan the code, and make sure it’s compliant. While you won’t find a website that is 100% compliant, if you see too many errors, it may be a sign that the theme is poorly coded.
Follow these 12 steps when selecting your next theme to find the best one possible.
If you have any additional tips for selecting the perfect WordPress theme, please share them in the comments below!