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The Definitive Guide to Choosing the Best WordPress Theme

Learn how to choose the best WordPress theme for your website, the difference between premium and free themes, and how to customize them to suit your business needs.

Millions of people around the globe have chosen WordPress as the preferred solution for their business or personal websites. This open-source platform allows users to create websites that enhance their uniqueness using specific themes.

That’s why themes have become a vital part of websites. Most users want to install a theme, add their own content and imagery, and boom – there’s your website. But themes hold a lot more power than that.

They’re more than just the “appearance” of your website. They are designed to help you control the behavior of specific site elements when users interact with them. For example, when a visitor hovers over an icon, they may see a slight toggle animation that reveals text below that icon. It’s a minor change but gives the website a little more character.

If you fully utilize themes, your website will not only stand out from the crowd – it will also assist with showing users that your brand is impeccably sound. It keeps up with the tech and gives its users a solid and interactive browsing experience. 

This guide is here to show you the ins and outs of WordPress themes.

Here are all the topics that we’ll cover:

  1. What is a WordPress theme?
  2. How to choose an ideal WordPress theme
  3. Premium vs. free WordPress themes
  4. Themes, theme builders, templates
  5. Recommended WordPress Themes
  6. How to use WordPress themes
  7. WordPress themes: In Summary

What is a WordPress Theme?

A WordPress theme is the “front-end” aspect of your website and controls the way your website looks, as well as how elements function when interacted with.

All WordPress websites need a theme – it’s a core part of the website build. Themes dress your website and add an on-brand, visual flair to it. It shows off your brand to the rest of the world in the way you want it to. If you had to try to have a working website without a theme, it would give you a tough time.

When you first sign up with WordPress, you’ll see that it has a default theme. This can be changed almost immediately, but it’s important to pre-plan your website architecture before you go ahead and choose a new theme.


Website Architecture: What is it, and why does it matter?

Website architecture, also commonly referred to as “website structure,” is just that – the hierarchical structure of pages on your website. It helps you design your website in the best way possible for website visitors. You should add internal links and make the website as intuitively navigable as possible.

Remember, these days, people prefer to watch 5-second Tik-Tok videos – they won’t stay on your website longer than a few seconds if they can’t easily navigate it.

Having a strong website architecture with an attractive theme helps users easily find what they are looking for, and navigate through interactive pages intuitively. This combination also keeps users on your website for longer, improving your site’s search engine optimization (SEO).

So, now that we understand the power of marrying the foundation and looks of a website let’s review how to choose themes in more detail.


How to Choose an Ideal WordPress Theme

Choosing the right theme for your website is a crucial step in the website build process. Themes will affect the design of your site; it’s the visual essence of your platform. But it also affects vital features like site performance, site speed, search engine optimization, and overall user experience.

Now it’s suddenly much more than aesthetics. This is a key point to remember when choosing a theme. Look for features that are more detailed than how slick a theme looks.

There is an abundance of theme options out there for you to choose from. Here are a few key points to look out for before putting one of them in motion:

how to choose a wordpress theme

Analyze product reviews

When shopping around for themes, you may notice that most of them have reviews from other website owners. A theme is like any other product on the market. Before you purchase it – read the reviews! People who have had first-hand experience with the theme are sure to have honest opinions about how it performs.


Test on mobile devices

We live in a world where mobile browsing accounts for approximately half of the web traffic worldwide. There’s no shying away from mobile users. Your theme must be able to function on mobile devices and look good on them too. Preview the theme demo on several devices to ensure that the widths of banners align correctly, there is no overlapping text, and the menu is easily accessible. 


Check for regular updates

If you’re looking at a free WordPress theme, note that sometimes they are free for a reason. Often it’s because the theme isn’t updated as frequently as other WordPress themes, and as a result, it ends up lagging and becomes troublesome in the long run. Check for the last date that the theme was updated. This way, you can view if it is regularly maintained. It should be updated at least every six months, if not more often.


Review customization features

Whether you’re a website developer yourself or intend to outsource the development, you will need to check the level of customization that comes with your theme. Most themes are good to go as is, but you may find that you want to add a custom table, interactive infographic, or campaign landing page in a year’s time. This type of ask always needs a certain degree of customization, so checking the personalization level on a theme upfront is recommended.

Wordpress Plugins


Premium vs. Free WordPress Themes

The ultimate question for all WordPress users is – should you choose a free or premium theme?

The truth is that there is no right or wrong answer here. The choice is entirely up to you. There’s a common misconception that free themes are lower quality than premium themes. Many people think that if you have a free theme, you can’t optimize your website for SEO, and it looks less attractive. This is untrue.

The difference between free and premium themes is that premium themes have a higher level of customization in a theme than a free one does.


The Pros and Cons of Free Themes

Free themes are truly free – no string attached. There are also hundreds of themes to choose from. But often, free themes are not updated and can’t be personalized to the degree that you need them to be.

You can have a free theme and pay for add-on features. This allows you to add a degree of tailoring to your free theme on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Free WP Themes Pros and Cons


Is a Premium Theme Worth it?

For many out there, choosing premium feels like a better choice in the long run. Here’s what premium has to offer:


Make it Unique

Premium themes come with a good amount of flexibility in the design space. You can easily create variations that make the theme look miles apart from the standard design you purchased. Premium versions also enhance the tailoring of pages with “drag and drop” functionality – letting you create landing pages in minutes.


Get Greater Security

Cyber-attacks are a massive concern for everyone hosting a site on the Internet. Having a secure website is vital to ensuring the site runs optimally and isn’t attacked by hackers. If you have a free theme and it is attacked, chances are that you may have to delete the theme and lose its functionality. Generally, premium themes are more protected. If there are any unforeseen attacks, the WordPress developers provide an update for you to install, and just like that – you’re protected.


Contribute to the Community

Website owners using premium themes are also contributing to the WordPress developer community. More contribution to the community means more advanced plugins and themes in the future. 


Themes, Theme Builders, Templates

Themes are often confused with theme builders or WordPress templates. They are all actually separate elements and can be used for different reasons:


WordPress Themes:

This forms the structure and foundation of design for a site. It determines the general look and feel of your site. The foundation of design includes the header and footer stylization, the backgrounds, color palettes, sizing of pages, page layouts, etc.


WordPress Theme Builders:

Theme builders are more recent to the WordPress world. It allows you to replace your theme with custom-made designs. You can replace the entire theme or only some of it – the choice is yours. Its “drag and drop” functionality lets you customize pages without having to tweak PHP or CSS code.


WordPress Templates:

Templates only pertain to specific website pages. This is quite different from a theme. For example, your theme is the foundation and overall look and feel of your house. But your template is only related to one room in that house. 

You can use all three options on your website or just the theme. It all depends on what level of personalization you want on your site.

A key takeaway is to always choose what’s suitable for your needs – not necessarily what’s the newest or quickest to make.

wordpress com


Recommended WordPress Themes

Choosing your WordPress theme can be quite a complex task. Free themes are an obvious choice for many because – well, they’re free. But premium themes offer a plethora of layouts and superior customization features. Let’s review some of the best WordPress themes out there today:


Astra Theme

Astra is one of the most popular themes. It is most loved for its speedy nature. In fact, it was developed with the best coding standards and, as a result, can load up in less than half a second. Astra pairs very well with Elementor and has plugin integrations built into the theme – making it quicker to customize on Astra Pro, the premium version.


Astra Theme

Blocksy Theme

This lightweight, quick-to-load theme is younger than Astra but also offers many powerful features. Blocksy is an excellent choice if you’re looking for great blog and landing page layouts that load rapidly. 

Blocksy Theme


Kadence Theme

This theme is rated one of the best on the market. It is built on SEO-friendly code, and the theme is known for its lightweight nature and high-speed performance. Kadence is known to work exceptionally well with the Gutenberg page builder making their extension plugins like Kadence Blocks a reason why so many users love it. Kadence is available on free or premium versions.

Kadence Theme


Divi Theme

If you’re looking for something a little more focused on easy-editing, Divi is the theme for you. This responsive and versatile theme by Elegant Themes offers a front-end visual editing feature. The integrated page builder lets you customize pages and preview edits in real-time.

Divi WordPress Theme

Each of these themes has its advantages and disadvantages, but they are all solid choices. For more varieties on color controls, header and footer designs, and page layouts on all four themes, visit wesharewp. We offer all premium versions of these themes at discounted rates.


How to use WordPress Themes

Now that we have covered what themes are, how they differ from templates and theme builders, and the difference between premium and free versions, it’s time to look at WordPress themes in a practical way.

If you’re ready to get your website up and running, here are a few essential tips to get you started:


How to Install a theme

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Your dashboard has a built-in menu item called Appearance.
  3. Click on Appearance.
  4. Then click Themes.
  5. Click the Add New button.
  6. Type in the theme you are looking for e.g., Astra Pro.
  7. Once it is found, mouse over the theme and click Install.
  8. The theme will now install.
  9. Once installed, the Install button changes to Activate.
  10. Click Activate. Your new theme is now live on your website.

Add WordPress Theme

If you are using a free theme, you may need to follow specific instructions from for installation.

If you purchase a premium theme from a marketplace, they may have different installation methods too. Sometimes premium themes are purchased and then downloaded as a zip file. This can be uploaded via your WordPress dashboard:

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Click on Appearance.
  3. Then click Themes.
  4. Click on Upload Theme.
  5. Click Choose File and select the relevant zip file.
  6. Once it is found, click Install Now.
  7. Once installed, you will see an Activate button.
  8. Click Activate. Your premium theme is now available for use.


How to update a WordPress theme

You may be prompted to update your theme every now and then. This is completely safe to do, and updates are released by developers to keep your website secure. However, it is recommended to back up your website before any commencing with any updates.  


To update your theme:

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Click on Appearance.
  3. Then click Themes.
  4. Above the theme, you will see a message displaying, “New version available. Update now.
  5. Click Update now.
  6. Wait until WordPress completes the update – and you’re good to go. 

Update WordPress Theme


How to customize a WordPress theme

Customizing a theme is also a feature readily available within WordPress. It helps website owners make a specific page layout or banner more tailored to their needs.

You can access the standard customization section from the dashboard or use CSS coding to tailor your content and page layouts.

Here are a few customization techniques in more detail:


Use the WordPress Customizer

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Click on Appearance.
  3. Then click Themes.
  4. Click on Customize.
  5. This will open a Customizer that lets you edit headers, footers, breadcrumbs, sidebars, and more. 

Customize Theme


Use Custom CSS

If you are familiar with CSS, you can personalize your website using CSS coding. This is a more manual process and is recommended if you’d like to have precise edits done to your website that the theme does not support. Most site owners use this for particular transitions or animations they want on a mainstream page or call-to-action.


How to delete a WordPress theme

This may sound a bit alarming, but the fact is – if you’re not using an older theme – delete it. Themes are large and take up space on your server. By deleting them, you’re cleaning up your codebase. If unused themes are deleted, it also prevents any chance of you receiving any malware from themes. Remember, a clean shop is always a happy shop.

How to delete a theme:

  1. Open your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Click on Appearance.
  3. Then click Themes.
  4. Click on the theme you want to delete.
  5. This will open the theme details.
  6. Click the Delete button on the bottom right corner.

how to delete wordpress theme


WordPress Themes: In Summary

Choosing an ideal theme doesn’t have to be difficult. Review options like our Astra Agency Bundle – an Astra Pro theme with add-ons, giving you the perfect starter kit for your website.

A bundle option lets you get the most out of a theme, with additions like Schema Pro and WP Portfolio. These additional website features are designed to help you create a website with best practices in mind.

You can easily create a beautiful WordPress website on your own. You can even do it in a day if you want to. The intricacies come in when you want to start making that website more of your own. But once you’ve laid out your site architecture, theme choice, and desired customizations – getting your website where you want it to be isn’t complicated.

It just takes a bit of time to research, understand, and maintain the theme – ensuring you create the best experience for your visitors.

After all – that’s what a great website is all about – a gratifying user experience.

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