In this guide, we’ll take a look at what WordPress themes are and how you can use them to customize your site. Then we’ll dive into where to find themes based on your site’s niche and explain how to install them.
As a new WordPress user, you might be excited about customizing your site. You can even have a mental picture of what your finished site will look like. However, if you are inexperienced in design or coding, meeting your vision can be a daunting task.
Fortunately, themes are one of the most inherent and useful features of WordPress: they allow you to customize the appearance of your site and even incorporate additional functionality. In fact, with the right theme, you can customize your site to your exact specifications (in many cases) with no coding or design experience required.
Introduction to WordPress themes
A WordPress theme is a group of files (graphics, stylesheets, and code) that dictates the overall appearance of your blog or website. Themes can control something as vast as the layout of your site, or as tiny as the colors of your hyperlink. It’s easy to think of a theme as a “look” for your site, but they are much more powerful than that.
Rather than simply providing a look and feel for your blog, a theme lets you control the presentation of your site. For example, let’s say you have a food blog, but you also have an online store. The right theme can display your blog posts in a certain way while offering a completely different layout for your store pages.
Themes are an inherent part of WordPress. In fact, the platform includes several ready-to-use themes. However, there are a few reasons why you might want to choose and install a new theme on your site:
To improve the visual appeal of your site. If you have a specific vision for your site, you can choose a suitable theme and customize it to suit your needs. To allow further customization of the design. If you’re new to designing or coding, many themes offer a host of customizations to help you create the right layout. Implement additional functionality. Depending on your needs, a theme may include functionality related to your niche that cannot be found anywhere else.
While the default or custom version of a theme may work for many websites, there are actually thousands of themes available to choose from, covering specific niches and purposes. Let’s look at this in more depth now.
Multipurpose topics vs. niche topics
In summary, there are two categories of loose topics. First, a multipurpose theme adapts to several different niches and types of sites. They typically include various types of pages, extensions, tags, widgets, and tools to provide more options for customizing your site, regardless of your focus.
While niche-specific themes can also be customized, they will often be tailored to a specific theme or industry. They won’t include as many customization possibilities as multipurpose themes, but the refined functionality will generally focus on the exact requirements you will have for your site.
For the most part, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing your WordPress theme. However, it is important to know your requirements before making a decision, and your budget is one of those elements.
Free vs premium WordPress themes
Before talking about spending money, it’s important to know that there are plenty of high-quality WordPress themes that don’t cost a penny. We’ll get to where to find them later, but themes found in the WordPress.org theme directory must go through a rigorous review process in order to be included. This ensures quality and allows you to opt for a theme exclusively in design, functionality, and user reviews.
However, there are drawbacks with free themes. For starters, support is usually minimal. Many topics offer support through dedicated forums, usually leaving you to work out the solution. Additionally, updates can be more “ad-hoc” depending on the developer’s priorities.
While they are developed in the same way as free WordPress themes, premium solutions are a different beast. You will often find support and updates have been vastly improved, along with more features and functions. However, you will find that this requires a regular subscription depending on the developer. Of course, this cost is justified if you think you will need regular support and updates, and we recommend that you keep your theme up-to-date to ensure that you are safe.
Ultimately, choosing a free or premium theme will always be based on your unique requirements. If you have the time and experience, along with a minimal budget, a free theme might be ideal. However, in most cases, a premium theme is probably your best option, given the large amount available.
2 quality places to find WordPress themes
As we briefly mentioned, there are a plethora of places to find WordPress themes, covering all kinds of budgets and niches. Let’s take a look at two of them, starting with one we’ve already mentioned.
1. The WordPress.org theme directory
The WordPress theme directory is the official repository for free WordPress themes. You can access this via the web or alternatively read it from your WordPress dashboard. All topics have been manually verified through a rigorous review process before being listed. As such, we recommend that you start here when looking for a new inexpensive topic.
For each topic, you will be able to access information that can help you make an informed decision. For example, you can see how many active installs a topic has, check when it was last updated, read customer reviews and ratings, as well as access the topic’s support forum.
Also, you can preview the theme directly from your listing using default data (and also using the actual content on your site if you navigate within WordPress). For a more comprehensive live demo, you will often find a link to the developer’s website. This gives you the opportunity to see the theme in action, although installing a theme on your own test site carries minimal risk.
Finally, downloading and installing themes is a piece of cake, especially when done directly within WordPress.
2. Directly from WordPress theme developers
If you find the prospect of going through a large directory overwhelming, you can always go straight to the source. Many WordPress theme developers sell their work directly, although you will need to perform your own quality checks. Here are two that we recommend:
StudioPress is the developer of the Genesis Framework. They offer a wide variety of premium children’s theme options, covering a number of niches and layouts.
Theme Hybrid offers a variety of premium and free themes. This is a membership site that provides different levels of support and theme options depending on the subscription you choose.
While both platforms offer a variety of theme options, there are other sources you may want to consider. For example, WooCommerce offers the Storefront theme. This is a dedicated eCommerce theme designed to fully work with the WooCommerce plugin. Typically, when conducting an internet search for a topic in your particular niche, you will bring up a host of options to choose from.
If you looked everywhere for the right theme but didn’t find one that fit your vision, you can also directly hire a developer to create a custom theme. Developing custom themes is of course more expensive than going for a premium “prepackaged” theme.
Modifying the appearance of your new WordPress site without coding or design experience is an inherent part of using the WordPress platform. WordPress doesn’t just include a default theme, there are thousands of options covering multiple niches and price points.