July 10, 2014

One of the perks of using WordPress is the large number of themes. There are themes that provide just about any aesthetic or function, with many thousands of free and premium themes available from the official repositories, theme marketplaces like ThemeForest, and direct from developers like Elmastudio — one of my personal favorites.

But, not all themes are equal. Because of WordPress’s popularity, theme developers can make a lot of money. That’s attracted many people to the market, both the talented and professional, and the under-skilled and slipshod. For a new WordPress user, it can be difficult to discriminate between the two — a theme that appears perfect in a showcase can disappoint after payment.

I’d like to offer a few simple guidelines that will help new WordPress users make a choice that they’ll be happy with.

Take Care With Free Themes

There are some amazing free themes out there, and if you’re running a personal site or blog that doesn’t require much in the way of distinctive branding, there’s no reason at all you shouldn’t choose one. However, free themes are one of the most common vectors for inserting security vulnerabilities, malware, and spam links into a site. If you want to use a free theme, don’t just Google “free WordPress themes” and install what you find. Use a trustworthy theme repository.

Make Sure The Theme You Choose Has The Flexibility You Need

It can be annoying to purchase a great-looking theme and discover that it’s difficult to customize it in the way you want. Some themes make it very easy to change all sorts of details, some make it difficult and expect you to use the theme within strict parameters — for a developer, they’re easy to customize, but for a non-developer, it can be a pain. To avoid disappointment, don’t just glance at the demo site and buy, make sure you’re getting what you want.

Check Out The Reviews And Support Forums

The best way to find out whether a theme is worth the money is to check out the experience of other users. Most theme marketplaces will provide support forums and reviews. Take the time to read about what other users think of the theme before you buy it. Look at the support forums to determine whether the developer is responsive and helpful.

Talk To The Developer

If you have a question, ask! Most developers are more than happy to answer pre-sale questions. They want you to choose a theme that meets your needs, and most will be prepared to help with any extra information you might need.

Find The Refund Policy

The best developers will offer a refund policy. Because it’s often difficult to be sure that a theme will work out for you, the ability to get a refund is a great safety net.

Much of this seems like common sense to anyone who has spent time in the WordPress world, but it’s not so clear to those who are new to WordPress. If you take a little time to make sure a theme is right for you, you’ll have a more positive experience with WordPress.


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