WordPress themes are ludicrously inexpensive (ranging from free to USD$99).
These low prices are bad for anyone trying to sell themes, but good for anyone interested in creating a beautiful website at very low cost.
If you’ve spent any time trying to find the perfect WordPress theme for your next project – then you’ll have do have one problem however: there’s too many themes to choose from!
In this post, I’ll quickly list my top 10 WordPress theme providers and offer some advice on finding the perfect theme for your next project.
Finding a Theme
Firstly, WordPress themes loosely fall into different categories. Knowing the terminology can make finding what you’re looking for a lot easier. Categories include:
- Business/Education themes – standard business/education style websites
- Portfolio themes – themes with an in-built gallery for showcasing products, images or past projects
- Blog / Magazine themes – themes popular with newspapers, magazines and blogs – which (generally) aim to promote a lot of articles on the homepage
- E-commerce themes – themes with in-built e-commerce functionality which allow you to sell and list products online
- Specialist/App themes – themes for specialist audiences including restaurant sites, band/musician sites, real estate agents and themes modeled on well-known existing sites such as Facebook, Kickstarter, Groupon etc.
My Top 10 WordPress Themes Providers
Below is a list of my favorite places to browse and buy WordPress themes.
- StudioPress.com – Really high quality themes built on the popular Genesis framework and the first place I go when browsing for themes. Over 40 themes to choose from and over 125,000 happy customers. This site is built using a StudioPress theme – as is my learner management system.
- Array themes – Mike McAlister and John Parris make fabulous themes and offer really excellent support. I believe they are back selling their themes again on ThemeForest because they found it difficult getting traction out on their own – which I think is a shame. They make really cool, trendy-looking themes that are well-coded and expertly crafted.
- Web Savvy Marketing – Elegant, classy-looking themes built on top of the popular Genesis framework by StudioPress. I built a website for a medical practice this year using their Patricia theme. I had a hard time convincing my client that it was suitable for promoting his practice – but when he saw the end result he was delighted with it.
- Elegant Themes – These guys have been around a long time. Even their themes from a few years ago still work really well. You can buy access to all 87 themes for $69 per year and that includes access to two really good plugins (Monarch and Bloom) that I now use on all my websites.
- Obox Designs – Cutting edge designs – perfect for creatives and start-ups. I must admit, I’ve never used one – but they’ve came close to being selected for a few projects that I’ve working on because they’re so damn good looking.
- Graph Paper Press – Really beautiful themes for photographers, artists and creatives. Over 250,000 happy customers. If you’re a photographer then check these guys out. Get one theme for $79 or get all 51 themes for only $149!
- The Theme Foundry– 12 beautiful designs, great for bloggers and creatives. $79 each of the lot for $199. Really well-coded and well-supported so if you’re an artist, photographer, architect or blogger then go check them out.
- BluChic – a dozen or so really beautiful themes designed for female entrepreneurs and bloggers. Priced at $79 each. Check these out if you’re blogging or selling stuff to a female audience.
- ZigZagPress make stunning themes built on the genesis framework.
The above WordPress theme providers all have one thing in common: they are each committed to building and supporting quality WordPress themes for their customers, long term.
Theme designers who don’t wish to make this long-term commitment sometimes opt instead to list their themes on a marketplace – like ThemeForest.
Even though some of the themes are of questionable quality – there are still lots of really nice ones, so at number 10…
10. ThemeForest – ThemeForest is not a theme provider, instead it’s a market place for independent theme designers. There are thousands of themes to choose from at great prices. However good support and clean code is not guaranteed!
If however you want a fast, reliable, well-coded, secure, well-supported theme, then ThemeForest may not be the best choice.
In fact, when I get a new WordPress user who wants to build a site themselves, then I generally recommend avoiding ThemeForest and going with one of the providers listed above.
Evaluating a theme
Just browsing themes is a great way to come up with design ideas for your new site – but if you are planning on actually buying one for use on a live site then you need to do some due diligence first.
When evaluating a theme, explore the demo carefully and consider the following:
- Look and Feel – Do you want something that looks corporate, serious, funky, childish, informal? Do the colours suit your business. Is there adequate space for your company logo? Do you like the font?
- Use of images – Images are an important part of web design and can be a very effective way of establishing rapport with a visitor, as well as grabbing their attention. One point to consider is that if your theme comes with a lot of sample images – then these will all need to be replaced. If they are just photographs then this is no big deal, however if they are (what’s known in the advertising world as) “creative” – then you will need to hire a professional graphic designer to replace them.
- Homepage layout– Your homepage should have suitable space to include all the information you consider important for your visitors to see straight away. i.e. space for your calls to action, your company logo, product features, key selling points, testimonials, photos of yourself or product, promotional videos etc. If content marketing is a big part of your Internet strategy, then make sure the homepage displays some latest blog posts.
- Layout of standard pages – WordPress pages generally take up the full-width of the layout, or they contain one or more sidebars. Do you need stuff in the sidebar? Do you need different sidebars on different pages?
- The blog page: if you plan on having a business blog then make sure your blog posts display the way you want them to. E.g. some themes will display an image alongside each blog post, others will not.
This can be a tricky thing to evaluate pre-purchase. But here’s two things to look out for
- Feature bloat. Does the theme come with 7 different types of slideshow? How about e-commerce integration, 5 different types of image gallery and 10 different homepage designs? If so, then be very careful because it sounds like your dealing with a monster! There’s a good chance it will be difficult to configure and cause performance problems (i.e cause your site to crash if you get lots of visitors at once).
- Documentation and Support: Look for assurances from the seller as well as comments and reviews written by other buyers. If you’re still unsure, contact the seller, outline your plans and level of expertise and simply ask.
Buying premium themes can save you a lot of money – but on the flip-side it can be quite a time-consuming task; browsing through all those theme providers.
It can save time and result in a better quality finish if you engage a professional designer to find and configure a theme for you.
Here’s a list of the professional WordPress designers for your consideration.
Have I missed any excellent theme providers? Please let me know in the comments.
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