So you’ve got a WordPress website right?
You’ve installed some great plugins, you’ve written great content, but is your website ready for a facelift?
Perhaps your current theme is failing to convert your readers?
Or maybe you’re sick of your website looking like every other generic WordPress website out there?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in the market for a premium WordPress theme.
In this blog post, I give you the Ultimate Cheat Sheet for buying the best WordPress theme for your website.
I also explain what you need to know before handing any money over to a premium WordPress theme provider.
My Approach to Getting the Best WordPress Theme
I’m a writer, not a developer.
I know CSS and HTML, and I’ve built websites for friends, family and customers. But, I dislike spending large parts of the day up to my eyes in CSS and PHP.
I’m happy to pay for a premium WordPress theme because I want to save time on development and concentrate on what matters.
I’d rather research and write blog posts and learn how to create great digital content.
It’s hard to find good WordPress themes though. I’ve wasted money and time on WordPress themes that let me down.
So, I wrote this blog post for non-technical readers who want to take their website to the next level with the best WordPress theme available.
What’s Wrong With Free WordPress themes?
Twenty Fourteen is a fantastic looking WordPress theme that will get the job done.
And there are hundreds of free WordPress themes out there that look good too.
However, Twenty Fourteen isn’t going to make your website standout from the WordPress crowd; it is the default WordPress theme after all.
And the code behind some free themes is poorly written, support can be unreliable, and these free themes are not always updated as WordPress evolves.
If you have the time and inclination to code, you can get the stock WordPress theme to do almost anything.
When you pay for a premium WordPress theme, on the other hand, you are (hopefully) buying a theme that will save you time and evolve with your website.
Before you buy a premium WordPress theme, ask:
1. Who is the theme for?
Check if your website and the premium WordPress theme have the same goals in mind.
My blog is focused on creativity and writing. I also want to build an email list of subscribers that engage with my content.
For WorkReadPlay, it’s critical to be able to place an email sign up form (subscribe now) above the fold on the right hand side of website, and at the end of each post.
My old theme didn’t support a visually prominent email sign up form, and this is the main reason why I switched.
Similarly, when I built a website for a gym instructor, I sought out premium WordPress themes aimed at sports enthusiasts.
Before you buy a theme, ask what you want to accomplish and if the theme you’re going to buy will help you achieve these goals.
2. What’s the support like?
Last year, I paid around EUR99 for membership to a premium WordPress theme provider’s library (I won’t name and shame them here).
For this price, I was able to use any one of 50+ themes on a WordPress website.
At the time, I thought this was bargain. I tested several different themes before settling on one for my website. Then, cancelled my subscription because I didn’t need any more premium themes.
Almost immediately, I ran into an issue whereby a premium widget that came with my theme stopped working.
I tried posting on the theme provider’s support forum only to find I was locked out.
The theme provider only provides support to members, leaving me out in the cold.
To compound matters, a subsequent WordPress update broke some functionality in the framework powering my premium theme.
The theme provider released an update to fix this issue but, because I wasn’t a subscriber, I didn’t receive it.
I subsequently switched themes.
Don’t make my mistake
To get the best WordPress theme, check:
- What kind of support the provider offers and for how long?
- If the developers provide support via ticket system, a forum, email or a combination of the above.
- What other users of the premium theme are saying on the developer’s forum, Twitter feed and website.
- If there’s a refund policy.
- How often the developer updates these themes
You will run into an issue with your premium theme at some point and when you do, it’s reassuring to be able to reach out to the developer and get a fix.
3. Does the provider demo or showcase their themes?
Most premium theme providers provide showcases of websites using their themes in the wild.
Similarly, a premium WordPress theme provider should provide you with a demo of their theme so you can see how it works.
You can use theme demos and showcases to see if a premium theme is relevant to your website and how other users customised the theme in question.
At first, I was concerned that these showcases meant my websites wouldn’t look original.
Now, I realise content is what counts and if a theme provider isn’t prepared to showcase their work in the wild, it’s not worth spending money or time on.
4. Is the WordPress theme mobile friendly?
When you’re buying a premium theme check your premium theme is responsive and HTML 5 compliant.
If your theme is HTML 5 compliant, it meets the latest web standards and will be able to display multimedia content without relying on third-party plugins.
And if your theme is responsive, your WordPress website will look just as good on a phone, tablet and larger monitor.
If the premium WordPress theme isn’t responsive or HTML 5 compliant, you’re just wasting money as you will have to upgrade later on.
5. How easy is it to customise the theme?
Most premium theme providers don’t provide customisation support or, if they do, it’s only for minor modifications.
If you want your website to have a distinct look and feel, you will either have to hire a designer on website like odesk.com or get your hands dirty with HTML and CSS.
I know a little of CSS, and I spent time making minor tweaks to the look and feel of Eleven40 Pro on this website. I changed the default red on this site to #D60000 for example.
If you want to customise your WordPress theme, email the provider and ask if they can recommend any developers for you.
This way, you can customise your website or outsource this kind of work to a reputable third party.
6. Is the Theme built on a framework?
Many premium themes area powered by a framework.
WPBeginner defines frameworks as: “a code library that is used to facilitate development of a theme.”
You install a framework in WordPress like you would a theme. The premium theme then sits on top of the framework.
“WordPress theme frameworks are intended to be used as a parent theme template where all the functionality resides,” WP-Beginner says.
“WordPress theme frameworks are intended to be used as a parent theme template where all the functionality resides”
For example, my website runs on the Genesis WordPress framework. Eleven40 Pro sits on top of this framework, and if want to change to another WordPress theme, I can do so without comprising how my website works because of this framework.
It’s not necessary to buy a WordPress theme with a framework, but WordPress frameworks can save you time and they make customisation easier.
7. How useful is the theme’s documentation?
This came as a surprise to me, when you install a WordPress theme, it doesn’t always look like it does on the developer’s website.
Lots of premium WordPress themes come with custom widgets for showcasing photographs, video, social media feeds and special content areas.
These widgets make customisation easier, but it takes time to figure out how they work. And you have to spend time entering information and laying out your theme.
Your WordPress developer should provide sample content and documentation with your theme, on their forum or via the demo page.
Don’t Install Your Theme Just Yet
If you made it this far, you’ve bought a WordPress theme and you’re ready to install it.
Researching and buying the best WordPress theme for your website is only half the job.
It takes several hours to get even the best WordPress themes looking how you want. You may have to:
- Change the fonts or colours
- Reorganise your widgets
- Review your blog posts
- Change the structure of your own page menu
- Check existing widgets and media galleries
If you don’t have a lot of free time, install your new premium WordPress theme on a second, staging website.
This staging website should be hosted separately from your primary website. And you should prevent search engines from indexing it.
This way, you can play around with your premium theme without your main website suffering. And if you decide you don’t like this premium theme after all (it does happen!), you can opt for another theme with harming your existing website.
When you’re ready to install your WordPress theme:
- Back up your primary website
- Install the premium theme on your main website
- Copy over any custom code
- Reorganise your widgets and menu items as necessary
- Double check your site navigation and widgets
Visitors will need time to adjust to your new website. You can make this process easier by writing a short blog explaining the reasons for this change.
Then, make a point to review your website’s analytics to see if there are issues with your new, more attractive looking website.
Who do I Recommend?
I love Studiopress themes as Studiopress places a heavy emphasis on websites that are built for bloggers, content creators and writers like me.
If your site is aimed at particular niche, CSS Igniter offers budget friendly themes, great support and comprehensive updates for a year from USD39.
If you want to see CSS Igniter in the wild, I recently built this website for a customer.
In the past, I used Pocket by Array Themes. When I used this theme, several readers emailed me to say they liked the minimalist look of my website.
If you don’t like any of these themes, spend time browsing Theme Forest. This is a marketplace for free and premium WordPress themes.
I’ve bought WordPress themes from ThemeForest in the past. If you find a theme you like, read the customer comments, check if the developers reply and how often they update the themes in question.
The best WordPress theme will help you increase traffic and engagement on your website. They will help you convert readers and, ultimately, they should pay for themselves.
What are your favourite premium themes? Please let me know in the comments section below.
Resources and Further Reading
If you’re still confused, I’ve gathered some of the best articles on the web. These articles and resources can help you buy the best WordPress theme for your website.
Did you find this post helpful? What should I add to my list of resources?
Please leave a comment below.