Before we dive into my tips and tricks on what to look out for, I want to address a question you probably already have. Should I go with a free theme or spend money on the premium theme. While I can’t tell you what to do, I’ll give you the low down on some pros and cons of each to help you decide.
Free Themes: The main pro choosing a free theme is of course that it’s FREE… duh. There are also a few other factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as: typically little or no after-sale support, they are updated less frequently, and are more likely to have security vulnerabilities.
Premium Themes: Because you are paying for them, they tend to offer you more all around. They typically have support in place to help you out after you buy, they update their theme more often, they take security more seriously, and of course usually come with more advanced functionality.
*This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a percentage of any purchased products. I do not recommend any products that I don’t have full confidence in. For more information you can always check out my disclaimer.
Check out the great blog article written by Nathan B. Weller from Elegant Themes, on the comparison between free and premium WordPress themes, it’s really worth the read to help you decide! Go to Elegant Themes, go to Blog and search the term: “Free vs Premium WordPress Themes”.
What to look out for when choosing your WordPress theme
Below I’ve compiled a list of the things that I’ve learned to look out for when looking for a new wordpress theme. I have figured these out because I have made these mistakes and hopefully I can save you from doing the same! Enjoy!
1. Demo Site View: Demo site view is a way for you to actually play around in the actual theme before purchase to make sure it has what you need. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a theme without trying out the demo view. If you are planning to blog, check out what blog layout options they have, if you want to have an online store, make sure they have that feature built-in and it has a look that you like. What’s the point in buying a theme if you want to change the way the entire site looks right off the bat? This is usually also where you can see how customizable the colours/pages are. I have examples down below where you can check out two different demo views for two different theme companies.
2. Photo Packs: Most people looking at a theme to buy don’t realize that all of the wonderful pictures featured in the theme don’t actually come with it. Believe me this was a HUGE surprise the first time around when I was stuck with a whole bunch of grey boxes where all the nice photos should be and I felt soo tricked! A good suggestion is to make note of all the photos you are actually going to need to source to make your site look great, especially on the homepage. Good thing that nowadays there are soo many FREE stock photo sites. Now, there are some themes that do offer you photo packs at an additional cost but they really are few and far between. I’ve only seen one site which was specifically for Virtual Assistants but I wasn’t crazy about the theme design itself and the photo pack was an extra $70.00. Check out the picture I got from Restored316’s website that really gives you an understanding of what you are dealing with in terms of figuring out the pictures you will need beforehand. If you are looking at this theme and thinking “WOW”, don’t worry I will talk about them further down!
3. After-Sale Support: This has three parts to it in terms of offering you the total support package. First, is that you want the theme creator to offer you in depth “Theme Documentation”. This means they have written and video tutorials that literally take you step by step in the process of setting up the specific theme you purchased. You want this to be specifically tailored to the theme you purchased as not all themes made by the same person/company will have the same features. It’s also a good idea to look over the “Theme Documentation” before you purchase as it will give you a good idea of how thorough the information is and what it’s going to take to get everything all set up. You also want there to be some sort of support by email or telephone in case you run into a problem that you can’t find a solution for on the creator’s website. Typically you can find the answer on their FAQ’s, knowledge base, or a good old Google search, but that extra support is necessary just in case. Lastly, you want to make sure that once you purchase a theme, you will always have access to that theme’s updates.
4. Mobile/Tablet Friendly: It is sad that I have to mention this as almost all themes are on the level with today’s standards, but just something extra to look out for. You also want this as you may want to change some features and how they display on mobile vs. tablet vs. computer. For example, making sure that your menu bar on your mobile site is a dropdown and not listing each page individually, which would take up the whole screen and really ruin the user experience.
5. Install and Setup Services: This may or may not be important to you, dependent on a few things. If you are relatively savvy with computers and happy to take a few days to have your site looking like the demo and are ready to customize, then don’t worry about this. If, however, you wouldn’t mind paying a small amount to have the site installed and looking like the demo site (minus pictures of course), in a shorter amount of time, then making sure the theme provider offers this service is important. Keep in mind I also offer setup/install services for a GREAT price as well, and you can contact me HERE anytime to chat.
I really hope the above information has given you some direction in what to look out for when picking your new theme. If there are any other questions you have about certain features, please shoot me a message anytime, I’d love to hear where you’re at and see how I can help!
Recommended Premium WordPress Themes
Now we are getting into the really fun stuff! I could literally customize WordPress themes all day long and be the happiest little bee. Below are 4 different highly recommended places where you can find stunning and highly functioning premium WordPress Themes. There first two listed are my faves but I’m not going to play favorites, I love them equally, I swear. The second two come highly recommended by others but I have not used them for my own client work.
I just can’t get enough of these guys! They are a husband and wife team that saw a hole in the market for stunning feminine inspired WordPress themes and they are just killing it! They have over 15 gorgeous paid themes to chose from and also offer 3 free themes, if you provide them with your name and email address, so you can try them out beforehand. Other than photos, there is nothing else you need to worry about, the theme comes with everything as well as excellent theme documentation, great support and install services (remember you can also talk to me about this). They also have a “SHOWCASE” tab which is a compilation of websites that people have created using their themes. This will give you soo many great ideas of what you can do with the theme you are considering. They also have a “FREEBIE” page which has a whole bunch of amazing resources and guides.
Also worth mentioning is an amazing front end editor for your pages and blog posts that works amazingly well with Bluchic. Normally, to make pages and posts in WordPress, you would use code or the back end of WordPress for your pages and posts, which would look like this:
In my opinion this sucks…. do you know what a pain it is to continually go back and forth between the back end view and front end view? You also are soo much more limited in terms of what you can do with the layout of your post unless you know how to use code. I do have some coding knowledge but still, no thanks… Enter in Elementor! I THANK God I stumbled upon this plugin. Oh and did I mention they have a FREE version! What! I was using the free version up until a few days ago but switched over to the paid version because I want to start using it for client sites. If I was just using it for this site alone, I would never have a reason to switch over. Now a word for the wise, always ask your theme provider if their theme gels with Elementor. I know for a fact that Bluchic does and it’s recommended. Elementor even talks about Bluchic on their site! This is what it looks like to edit this post on the front end with Elementor, prepare to be mind blown…
How great does that look to literally be able to see exactly what your page or post is going to look like as you are building it. Also look down the right side of the screen shot to see just some of the options you have for adding elements into your post. To me this a serious no brainer and I know that there is no way my site would look the way it does today without Elementor!
Alright, so there is quite a bit to cover with Restored 316 designs. First of all, holy crap, whoa! If you haven’t seen what any of these look like yet, you need to take a peek, you WILL fall in love! Now one very important thing to note is that you need the “Genesis Framework” in order to use these themes. What does this mean? Essentially you need to buy the Genesis Framework by Studiopress as the framework for this theme to look the way that it does. This will cost you a bit more than the Bluchic themes, but if you are looking online at various themes, you will notice a lot of them require the Genesis framework so it is quite common. You can find the Genesis link HERE. Restored 316 offers 20 different amazing WordPress Themes and some of their new ones even come with custom Pinterest graphics that match the theme. They also have a really great Showcase where you can see everyone else’s sites that have been created using their themes. You can filter the search by Theme and only spend time looking at sites for the themes you are interested in. They also have an amazing downloadable guide for choosing the right theme and it literally tells you which themes are best for certain industries. They have a wonderful freebie page that has printables, Photoshop tools and stock photo instagrammables. They are totally worth taking some time to look at!
3. Divi by Elegant Themes
As mentioned above, I haven’t personally tried Divi but let me tell you, people are crazy for it. There is a bit of a learning curve but the possibilities with Divi are literally endless. The main attractions are its page builder functionality and 20+ pre-made layouts. Now, it’s not going to give you a pre-made template from start to finish, but it’s perfect for the creative person who has the exact vision in mind of what they want their site to look like. It’s certainly worth taking a peek into!
As the name suggests, this is an online marketplace where you can find almost anything, including some amazing WordPress themes. Now keep in mind that not all themes are created equal, so if you find a great one on here, just make sure you check some of the things we discussed earlier before you purchase. It also may be a good idea to check out the refund policy of the theme just in case you get stuck with a theme that you are not happy with. I have seen some really gorgeous themes on Creative Market but I haven’t had a reason to get one for a client yet.
I really hope all of this info serves you well, I’m working on some additional posts to show you what I have done with some of the themes listed above and I can’t wait to share them with you. Hop on our newsletter train below if you want first access to the information when it comes out!