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How to choose a WordPress theme for your website or blog

If you’re having trouble deciding which new WordPress theme to download or buy for your site, try using this checklist to narrow your selection.

Which WordPress theme should I choose, X or Y?

Or Do you think theme X is any good? I get asked these questions quite a lot. Answering them is harder than it may seem. Why? Because theme selection is never just a matter of personal taste. It goes right to the heart of your website’s purpose.

Here’s an example of an email I received recently:

“Hello, I hope I am not disturbing you but I have just seen your review of the Bimber theme which I found very useful. I am a journalist and I am now on blogspot. But I want to make a change and create a digital magazine. I was looking at various options (including the Bimber theme). But I am also contemplating The Fox Magazine. Can I ask you your feedback on it? Thank you very much.”

In order to know which theme to choose, you first need to know what you want your site to achieve. What’s your plan? Answering that question should lead to a list of criteria that can be applied to theme selection. After that it’s a question of testing the theme, checking for known issues and then taking the plunge.

For the remainder of this post, I thought I would break down the theme selection process into a detailed checklist of things to do before buying a WordPress theme. My list is not exhaustive, so if I’ve missed something important, please let me know in the comments below. Also, I’ve added a theme battle at the end of the post for kicks and giggles. Which theme would you go with in response to the email I mentioned above?

Theme Selection Checklist

1. Your Website

  • What is the main purpose of your site?
    E.g.: To sell a product; to provide a service; to showcase a skill etc.
  • What will the main media of your site be?
    E.g.: Text, video, audio, photo etc.

2. Design

  • Which existing website designs do you aspire to?
    E.g.: I like abc.com, dfg.net and xyz.com etc.
  • Which specific features would you take away from those sites?
    E.g.: I like the color scheme of abc.com; I like the content layout of xyz.com etc.

3. Layout

  • What sort of layout do you want for your site?
    (E.g.: One column, two columns, three columns, four columns, left sidebar, right sidebar, no sidebar. Here are some examples of standard grid based layouts.)
  • What type of theme are you looking for?
    (E.g.: Blog, Magazine, Portfolio, Video/Photo blog etc.)

4. Templates and Widgets

  • Do you need any specific post or page templates?
    (E.g.: Contact form template, archives template, sitemap template, resume template, about template, full width post or page template etc.)
  • Do you need any specific widgets
    (E.g.: Mailing list widget, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter widgets, etc. )

5. Social Interaction Features

  • What sort of social features do you need?
    (E.g.: Social media icon widget, social media icons in the menu, social share buttons in the content etc.)
  • What type of comment system do you need?
    (E.g.: Standard WordPress comments, Facebook / Twitter based comments, disqus or other comment service)

6. Price and Support

  • What is your budget?
    (E.g.: Free theme: $0, premium theme: $30 – $100, bespoke theme: upwards of $200.)
  • How reliant will you be on developer support?
    (E.g.: I need standard support to help with basic troubleshooting; I need someone to walk me through installation and general use; I want someone to do it all for me.)

Download this checklist as a Word file of PDF. DocXPDF

Theme Battle

Ok, let’s have a little bit of fun! It’s time for a Theme Off! Which of these two themes would you choose for a news/article based website? Let us know why you would choose this theme in the comments below.

The Fox Magazine Theme

In white and black, designed by WiThemes and priced at $44, give it up for The Fox Magazine WordPress Theme.

The Fox is a contemporary WordPress magazine theme that recreates the look and feel of a newspaper or paper magazine in digital form. A lot of effort has gone into the font treatment and layout options in this theme. When you land on the front page, your eye is drawn right into the main masthead image and title. It looks great on all mobile devices, particular tablets and it is an exciting option for a new magazine or web publication.

The Bimber Viral and Buzz Theme

In white and pink, designed by BringThePixel and priced at $49, give it up for the Bimber Viral and Buzz WordPress Theme.

Bimber is a viral WordPress theme developed by BringThePixel. It is inspired by popular viral content sharing sites such as BuzzFeed and ViralNova. The theme is designed to make your content as shareable as possible. Strong use of images, colours, whitespace and clear font work help give this theme a visual punch. See my review of Bimber.

Your turn! To cast your vote, click on the theme you like the most. Also, let us know why you would choose that theme in the comments below.

The results so far

The results are displayed according to user ratings.

  1. The Fox WordPress Magazine Theme

    1. The Fox Magazine Theme

    Rating: 1405 Wins: 98 Losses: 83

    The Fox is a contemporary WordPress magazine theme that recreates the look and feel of a newspaper or paper magazine in digital form.

  2. Bimber Viral WordPress Theme

    2. Bimber WordPress Theme

    Rating: 1401 Wins: 84 Losses: 98

    Bimber is a viral WordPress theme developed by BringThePixel.


Written by Will Ellington

Originally from the UK, I currently live in Osaka, Japan, where I work in higher education. I’ve been a WordPress user since 2004 and have developed numerous projects with it over the years. Wpliving is a place to share things i've learnt along the way, and to explore innovations in WordPress too.

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