When starting out and learning the ins and outs of WordPress, the last thing a beginner wants is having their site break because of a bad theme.
A bad theme can also cause your site to be hacked. It will result in hours of wasted time to get it back to normal. It’s important to your business to have a stable theme for your website.
So what are the best themes out there?
Having worked with many themes I’ve had my share of breakdowns when an update went bad. A theme that is kept up to date by the developer is crucial to your website.
You will see many articles on what is best, I believe there is no such thing as best. There are many great themes out there by developers that offer support, are SEO optimized and will be perfect for your business.
In this article I will show you what to look for when searching for a theme and some options to choose from.
An up to date theme
Is your theme compatible with the latest version of WordPress and the plugins you use? You will be alerted if you need to update your theme in WordPress’ back end. For paid plugins, developers will always maintain and keep them up to date. For free plugins WordPress will indicate if updates have been made and when.
What should you look for when researching WordPress themes?
SEO Friendly: An SEO friendly theme is one that is coded and tested for ranking in search engines.
Mobile Responsive: You are able to view the theme on any mobile device, laptops and handhelds.
Schema.org Markup: Schema microdata are tags within your HTML that can boost your SEO.
Fast Loading: Page load is crucial to users on your website. If your site is slow to load it is certain that they will leave and move on to another website.
Well coded: A poorly coded theme can affect your site’s performance. Multi-purpose themes tend to have a ton of code that you don’t need. Here is a great article that dives deep into bloated themes.
Cross Browser Compatibility: Does it work on all browsers? Theme developers will generally mention this in their features. If not you can test the theme on different browsers.
Where should you start?
I narrowed it down to 3 as they are highly recommended based on many articles I have read. I also share what your investment will be.
I currently use StudioPress themes built on the Genesis framework. They have been around since 2010 and their framework is required to run one of their child themes. The Genesis Framework is the “mama theme” and you use a StudioPress child theme for designing your site.
- The Genesis Framework is committed to security. It is built following all WordPress security standards.
- The code is lightweight and web page load can be measured in milliseconds.
- Built in SEO supports Schema.org code.
- Mobile responsive design built on HTML5, with the ability to deliver audio and video.
- One-Click demo installation for an easy quick-start.
- Customized widgets and layout options.
- Works well with Beaver Builder page builder plugin.
- Documentation for getting started.
- Support for their framework and themes.
Their most recent theme, Navigation Pro offers theme-specific sections and layouts through Atomic Blocks.
There are many industry specific child themes to choose from, so you can quickly get started with a food blog, news blog, digital business or real estate business.
If you do know some CSS, the child themes and your customizations will not be affected when updating to the current Genesis Framework. Their themes are pre-styled for WooCommerce and are Gutenberg ready.
Genesis Framework: $59.95 includes the basic starter theme for free. The framework and starter theme can be used on unlimited websites.
Child Themes: All their child themes are priced with the framework included and range from $99.95 to $129.95.
When you purchase the framework you will receive discounts on future themes as a member.
Other Purchase Options:
Pro-Package at $499.95 with over 50 themes and access to future themes.
With a WP Engine or Get FlyWheel hosting account the framework and themes are included.
Divi Builder and the Divi Theme
I have worked with Divi in a past project. They offer over 800 premade layouts. The Divi theme works on the Divi Builder and they are 2 separate things. The theme is minimal and you can build a custom website with just the builder. They do make a lot of themes, but most people are drawn to the builder.
In my experience I have found Divi slow when building a site, and their support slow to respond. There are so many options in their builder that I spent much time learning before getting started. I also found myself throwing in a lot of CSS based on customizations my customer wanted.
Another drawback, if you have used Divi to build a site and wanted to change to a different theme, WARNING – deactivating the Divi builder will result in shortcodes.
In short there are many sites that use Divi and researching further (it has been over a year when I last used Divi), their support has improved and so has the load time of the builder.
- Rock solid security.
- A large community of Divi plugin developers.
- 800+ premade designs.
- WooCommerce modules that give you the option to customize product pages.
- 24/7 Support
Yearly Access: $89.00. Includes Divi Theme, Extra Theme, Bloom (an email opt in plugin) and Monarch (a social media plugin). Unlimited use.
Lifetime Access: $249.00. 1-Time charge and includes everything that is in the Yearly Access price. Learn more about Divi here.
I have not tried the Astra Theme but researching many blogs and their website they look to be a great choice for the beginner just starting out. It is an all in one. I would suggest to stay away from all in ones for fear of them being heavily coded, resulting in a slow website. But, the load time on this theme is super fast.
The Astra Theme is trusted by beginners and big names in the WordPress industry such as Chris Lema – VP of Liquid Webs, Syed Balkhi – Founder of WPBeginner, and Adam Preiser – Founder of WPCrafter.
- Theme is less than 50kb.
- Follows best WordPress coding standards.
- Loads in ½ seconds.
- SEO optimized with inbuilt Schema markups.
- WooCommerce integrated.
- Made to work with various page builders such as Beaver Builder, Elementor, Site Origin etc.
- 24/7 Support.
Astra offers a free version and pro version of their theme. You can compare here.
They offer 3 different pricing tiers with the option of annual or lifetime.
Yearly Access: Pro – $41, Mini Agency Bundle – $169, Agency Bundle – $249
Lifetime: Pro – $249, Mini Agency Bundle – $499, Agency Bundle – $699
With the Agency Bundle you will get access to SkillJet Academy. Online courses to get started in your business. Learn more about Astra here.
What to do next?
Go to the theme sites I listed above and also Google for reviews on StudioPress, Divi and Astra.
Again there are other good themes out there, if you would like more of a selection to choose from WP Beginner has a great list of both free and paid themes to look into. They research themes based on theme support, reputation and quality of the themes.