WordPress Themes: Tips To Help You In The Great Theme Hunt

I’ve mentioned creating a blog and talked about WordPress. Readers asked what WordPress themes I recommend.

There are many, many WordPress themes, commercial, as well as freebies. I’ve used both commercial and free themes and have been happy with both.

Theme recommendations are a challenge, because everyone’s situation is different.

That said, if you have a new WordPress install — use the default WordPress theme until your install is running well.

WordPress: new install? Use the default theme, then a free theme

When I create a new WordPress install, I begin with a FREE theme, usually the default WordPress theme.

(That’s the theme that’s visible when you stare at your blog after installing WordPress. You’re incredulous that your blog looks nothing like all those pretty theme previews. :-))

Reasons for starting with the default theme?

Two main reasons:

  • Your hosting; and
  • Plugins.

Let’s look at hosting and plugins and why they matter.

WordPress hosting: challenges happen

Your web host is important; it needs to be reliable. I currently use SiteGround as a host and am very happy with them. Over the past couple of decades, I’ve used many hosts. It’s a real pain in the you-know-what to move sites but WordPress is a content management system — essentially a database — so your hosting is important.

Tip: you will strike hosting challenges occasionally. Most will occur no matter which company hosts you. For example, you might need a PHP upgrade on your server. So you’ll ask your host to do that for you. Or perhaps one day your blog won’t load… Everyday hosting challenges happen.

Then there’s WordPress and a fresh install. Generally speaking installing WordPress today is a breeze. You can install with a couple of clicks, and chances are everything will be fine.

However, until your blog is “bedded down” on your host, and all is well, avoid theme upgrades.

Write and publish some blog posts. Give your install a week, then tinker with themes.

Plugins are vital too; you need them up and running before you mess around.

WordPress plugins: ensure your essentials are OK

How any WordPress website performs depends on your theme and a framework, yes. But mostly, website performance depends your plugins.

For example, I have MyBookTable installed on this blog, as I do on many of my blogs. It’s an essential book marketing plugin for me. So, before I tinker with a theme, I want to be sure that my basic WordPress install works well with my host, and with MyBookTable.

Your needs will be different, depending on what you want your blog to do.

Maybe you want to create an online store to work in conjunction with your Etsy shop, or eBay. WooCommerce is a free plugin which lets you sell anything you like, including digital downloads. So, before you tinker with your WordPress install’s themes, you’d want to be 100% certain that WooCommerce is working for you.

Perhaps you’re a freelancer. You want portfolio-type website, because you need the Sprout Invoices plugin.

Whatever your needs, for a well-functioning site, aim to install your must-have plugins before you tinker with your themes.

What about a WordPress development sandbox?

Yes, you can stage your WordPress install on a sandbox site while you’re setting up plugins and themes, rather than working with a live site. SiteGround has staging options you can use too, as do other hosts, but real challenges only arrive when your site’s live.

Getting back to themes.

WordPress themes: start with freebie themes

You’ll find a stack of WordPress themes here, both free and commercial.

Click on the theme in which you’re interested, and you’ll see some details. I quite like the free Scratchpad theme, which you can see below.

Why experiment with free themes?

Over the years, I’ve found it’s best to experiment with a free theme before I lash out and pay. I’ve spent many thousands of dollars on WordPress and other blogging themes. I could have saved myself a lot of time and aggravation over the years by working with FREE themes first.

Then, once I knew what I wanted, I could install a commercial theme.

Enjoy WordPress, and good luck with your install. 🙂

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