The overall look of your blog is all down to the particular theme that you choose to use on your blog. Your first ever installation of WordPress will send you to a default theme that is very basic and has no bells and whistles, so you will more than likely want to choose a better and more editable theme for your blog. There are many great themes out there to really make your blog stand out in the crowd.
This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on a particular link in this post I will receive a small amount of commission, at no additional cost to you. In this post I only recommend products I either currently use myself, or have used in the past – which I have purchased myself.
This post was updated December 26, 2017
If you are a new blogger and money is an issue, or if you just don’t want to pay out for a premium (paid) theme, then it is completely possible to customize any free theme by learning some basic coding. However, if you want more control over your theme, and a more professional looking theme you will have to purchase that theme.
So how do you know which theme to purchase? What do you need in a theme?
What do YOU need in a WordPress theme?
The first step in any search for a theme has to be a good think about what YOU need. For instance, who are you blogging for? If you are blogging for children, then a bright eye-catching theme with lots of pictures and graphics would be great for that. Are you trying to blog to women about design – then you might want a very designer-looking blog, that still has a female element to it. Or if you are blogging to business-women you might want a look that is very business-like, but also feminine at the same time. Your target reader will dictate what your theme/style should be. However, when you select a theme you should gear your selection to the layout of the theme (not to the colors or fonts being used for instance), you need to see BELOW to select your theme. Put it this way – if you find the house you really like, but the owners have painted every room a shade of green – and you hate green, would you walk away from that home or would you purchase the home and change the paint colors? That is what choosing a theme is like. If you like the ‘bones’ of the theme, the general layout, then just because the colors are not what you would choose – don’t focus on that. Colors, fonts etc can easily be changed in a theme with just some basic coding instruction (there are tons of websites and articles to teach you how to do just that). Just focus on the layout you want. Do you want a sidebar on the left, or on the right?, do you want several areas that are able to be customized on the home page etc?
Do your research on WordPress themes
I really think that the best way to know what exactly you like and need in a theme is to research what others are using for their themes. Search through many blog sites and decide what it is you like and don’t like about those sites. You may decide you don’t like a sidebar on your front/home page, or you may decide you like a static (fixed) page for your home page, rather than your latest blog posts featured on the home page. It is only through seeing other blogs and sites that you can decide what you personally like.
Find out what WordPress themes others are using
Once you have looked at what others are doing and decided what you like and don’t like in a theme, try to discover what themes and plugins others are using on their sites. There are two great free resources that you can use to discover the theme a site is using, and also to discover which plugins that site is using: What WordPress Theme is that? and also WP Theme Detector. Both these sites are great free online tools for discovering which website a blog/company is using, and what plugins they may also be using.
To use both those sites, Just put in the URL of any website. The search results for that particular theme will come up in a box of information. You will see which particular theme is being used, the theme homepage address and the author of the theme. You can also see which version of the theme is being used, and if it is a child theme that is being used you will see what the main/parent theme is (for instance Genesis is a main/parent theme, but Darling, is a child-theme of Genesis). If it is a child theme that is being used, the parent/main theme details will also appear in a box below the child theme details. There will then be a listing of all plugins that were detected being used on the site (plugins are little pieces of code that can do different things to a site, to improve functionality).
Looking up a site’s background information is also a really great and easy way to find out how a site is doing something (for instance, their theme has this capability, or they are using a plugin to do this). You may want to purchase the same theme as a site/blog you really like is using. That is great if you really love the design, but always try to make it more personal than just a ‘cookie cutter’ site. For instance, if you can change the colors, fonts and layout and use your own plugins, your theme will be more unique to ‘you.’
Just remember that just because a certain theme is being used for a certain site doesn’t mean you cannot use that theme for a different genre of site. For instance the Foodie Pro theme which is used a lot by food bloggers, doesn’t just have to be used for a food blog. If you like the general layout of this theme then you can use it for any genre with some customization.
Why you should always choose a paid WordPress theme
I know it is tempting, especially if you are just starting a blog and don’t have a lot of spare cash, but I would always recommend purchasing a theme. The reason for this is that a purchased theme will not only have support available to you (and there is usually always something with any theme that you just can’t figure out how to do, or need assistance with), but that theme will also be updated, and those updates pushed out to you. The coding in a free theme may also be bad. Developers may also abandon a theme completely, with no updates or work being done on them at all. Purchasing a theme doesn’t need to be expensive, there are some great deals out there. It is money really well spent.
How to make your final decision on the WordPress theme for you
Once you have an idea of what it is you like and don’t like in a site, and what it is that you and your readers need in a theme, you can start searching for your ideal theme. You will see many great themes out there. Always choose a theme based on the layout first. Don’t get hung up on the colors and fonts etc, because these are all easily customized, but the layout isn’t (there are many plugins available to customize your theme or you can write special code to do this later on). I purchased a theme once that I really liked, only to discover that it didn’t have a sidebar on the home page, which I really feel is a requirement for me. Don’t choose a theme also based on its name. A theme may be named something related to food for instance, which makes you think it is just for a food blog, but you can easily turn any blog into the right one for you. You should also consider if you are going to offer things for sale through your site, if so, you will need a theme that can be used for e-commerce. If you plan to feature ads on your site, you will also need a theme that will allow you to place ads prominently where you want them. Many companies providing themes offer questionnaires or guidelines to assist you in finding the theme that is right for you. Always use these guides, they are an additional resource provided to you for a good reason.
What WordPress themes I recommend
I love Genesis as a parent theme. Having tried many different themes I have to say that Genesis is by far the easiest to customize, especially for the beginner, and I have always gone back to Genesis themes even if I have ever strayed away. Genesis is a parent theme, which is the basic mechanics of a theme, the general layout of the theme. A child theme is then used on top of a parent theme to provide more customization. This means that any changes that are made to the child theme will not affect the basic mechanics of the parent theme. Genesis also has great support available (I really do insist that any company’s products that I use have great support). My advice to you if you are a new blogger, or really don’t want to have to learn tons of code to customize your site, is to go with a Genesis parent theme, and then purchase a Genesis child theme to customize and add all the bells and whistles that you want. You may still have to do some customization if you want really advanced features on your site, but I really feel that Genesis and their related child themes will allow most bloggers to have the website they really want. Read my post here on why I use the Genesis framework for my blog theme.
In the past I have also used themes by Restored 316. They have an absolutely amazing selection of feminine WordPress themes, that are pretty and very functional. I love their themes because they are child themes of the Genesis framework and they are highly customizable, giving you more control over your theme. They also offer great customer support, so I feel very comfortable recommending them. Check out their range of themes here.
How to find a WordPress theme
Creative Market is another great place to find good WordPress themes. Check out their selection here. They offer a wide range of themes and other graphics to purchase. They also offer 6 freebies of all kinds of graphics every week. Another way to find themes is just to do a simple Google search, type in ‘WordPress themes’ and many themes and companies producing themes will come up in the search results.
Whatever theme you ultimately choose to go with, please always try to pick a theme from a reputable company, and from a company that offers great support.