What Makes an Awesome Theme for a Blog?
Finding the best WordPress theme for a blog can be easy when you know what features to look for.
If you are setting up a new blog, starting with a freemium theme may be wise. There are ample high-quality free WordPress themes for blogs available and if you are new to blogging, it could take some time to grow into your niche and determine what your needs are for a premium (paid) theme.
Most new bloggers have a tight budget. Take advantage of the cost savings and start out with a free WordPress theme. Also, with free themes, you can change your mind and try a few out so you are not limited by a set of particular features or layout.
“WordPress themes are in general classified into two categories, free themes and premium themes. All the free themes are listed in the WordPress theme directory and premium themes should be purchased from marketplaces and individual WordPress developers.” Wikipedia WordPress Themes
You can find and install free themes directly in WordPress in Appearance-Themes-Add New from your Dashboard. However, the library is massive. Check out vendors directly for the best freemium themes. Then you can go back to your dashboard, find the theme and install it from there in most cases.
Function Before Fancy Is Best for a WordPress Theme for a Blog
A blog should be mobile friendly, easy to read, and simple to navigate.
Responsive means mobile friendly. A responsive theme is a must have so your blog can be properly viewed across all types of devices. Navigation and content are modified to fit smaller screens.
Easy to set up. A good WordPres theme for a blog should not take a long time to configure.
Plenty of white space. Reading online causes a lot of eyestrain and since most of us are online throughout the day, having a blog cluttered with too many colors, images and ads can be overwhelming.
Custom Headers, Menus, and Colors
Easy to customize. Choose a theme that has these formatting options so you can create a blog with your own style. The best WordPress theme will accommodate your preferences and serve your purpose.
Page template choices to customize a page layout. Can you create a home or landing page where your widgets will not be displayed?
Easy to read fonts. Can you change the typography within the theme? Black or navy blue fonts against a white screen are preferable.
Many blogs have small font sizes and faint colors. They are difficult for me to read and I imagine that is true for others.
One way to customize your typography is with the plugin WP Google Fonts.
Optimized graphics. Your website must load fast. Are images optimized for the web?
You can also optimize images before you upload them onto your website using the free web tool compressjpeg.com. Use it to compress jpg, png, and pdf files.
Load speed and functionality affects rankings in the search engines. Your theme should be light and fast and easy to navigate.
It is not that Google judges your color scheme, it is if your theme is loads slowly or is confusing to visitors, they will immediately click off of your site which signals Google there is a problem.
The fewer plugins you need for your website the better. You will need plugins for various things like blocking spam comments, backing up your site, etc. Try to choose a WordPress theme for a blog that has all of the formatting basics covered you want.
Too many plugins can slow down your site and you need it to load fast for your readers. Choose the best-optimized WordPress theme you can find.
Vendor support and tutorials. Premium WordPress themes purchased from vendors should provide support and video instruction or a step by step guide. Free themes have support from the vendors, but there may not be tutorials available.
Also, check for regular theme updates. WordPress updates their software often and can make themes outdated. It is important a theme is updated regularly to keep up with WordPress changes.
The purpose of a child theme is to keep theme updates from overwriting your customizations. A WordPress child theme is a separate theme from the original or parent theme you can use for customizing without having to edit the original or parent theme template files.
Genesis Framework from StudioPress is a good example. The Genesis Framework is the original/parent theme. Other Genesis themes, such as Lifestyle Pro, are actually child themes that include the Genesis Framework. I would purchase a child theme if I chose Genesis.
“The way your site looks can be instantly updated by what’s called a child theme, while all of the SEO benefits and core Genesis functionality remain untouched. That means that changing the look of your site is a snap — and you don’t need a designer or developer to do it. You could radically change the look of your site every week if you wanted to, and you’d never hurt your search engine rankings … because your design functions are kept completely separate from the core code.” – SudioPress
Once you have selected a theme. If it is the original version, you can create a child theme and use that version for your site. One way to create a child theme is using the plugin Child Theme Configurator. For Genesis Framework, I have included a link below under references.
“A WordPress child theme is a WordPress theme that inherits its functionality from another WordPress theme, the parent theme. Child themes are often used when you want to customize or tweak an existing WordPress theme without losing the ability to upgrade that theme.” – wpbeginner.com What is a WordPress Child Theme? Pros, Cons, and More
What WP Theme is That?
Have you landed on a website and want to know what theme they are using? In most cases, if it is a WordPress theme, you can find out at whatwpthemeisthat.com.
It will tell you about the theme and detect plugins the site is using. In some cases, it cannot determine theme details if it is a customized or proprietary theme.
Preview Themes Before Switching
With WordPress, you can install and preview themes without activating them. To test a new theme, install it and click live preview so you can see how it will affect your site.
When shopping for premium (paid) themes test them out via live example, read the reviews, and look at their showcase to see how website owners have customized them.
Changing WordPress Themes
I researched themes for this article to prepare to change my own blog theme. The free WordPress theme I started with is Twenty Thirteen. I actually liked it a lot, but I outgrew it and needed to make a change.
If you have a new website, you can simply pick a theme and install it. However, if you like me, have an established website then you should take precautions to avoid affecting your site’s performance and SEO when you change your theme. See the reference area below for links to pages at wpbeginner.com to understand what to expect and safely change your theme.
Note: Some links in this article are affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase I will get credited for my recommendation. You will not pay more and the information I provide is based on my research and experience. If you decide to make a purchase, thank you!
Divi is a beautiful completely customizable WordPress theme and, according to a blogging friend that tests themes, is as good as Genesis. Also, it is more affordable. Pricing starts at $69.00 per year for access to all themes, updates and support and for a one time fee of $249 you will have lifetime access to everything.
“The Divi Builder was made with user experience at the forefront of its priorities. The builder transforms elements into visual building blocks, allowing anyone to understand and edit the structure of their page without touching a single line of code. There are no limitations as to how builder elements can be customizations and arranged, making Divi the most flexible theme we have ever created. Divi will change the way you build websites forever.”
Generate Press is an excellent freemium WordPress theme for a blog. A blogger friend that tests website themes uses and recommends it. It is free and you can upgrade for lifetime updates, use it for multiple websites including client websites, and have all of their add-ons for just $39.95.
“GeneratePress is a fast, lightweight (less than 1MB zipped), mobile responsive WordPress theme built with speed, SEO and usability in mind. GP is compatible with major plugins like WooCommerce, WPML, BuddyPress, bbPress and many more. It’s also mobile & tablet responsive, 100% valid HTML, Schema microdata integrated, search engine friendly, translated into over 15 languages and cross browser compatible (including IE8). GeneratePress has 8 widget areas, 5 navigation positions, 5 sidebar layouts, dropdown menus (click or hover), a back to top button and so much more. Navigate to Appearance > Customize to start customizing. Create your website exactly the way you want it using the Customizer and see your changes take place right in front of you before publishing.”
Get Matthew Woodward’s WordPress theme! Authority for $69.00.
“Authority is a highly optimized WordPress theme to help your blog build trust and authority in any niche. Modelled after Matthew Woodward’s six figure blog and with his full endorsement, this is a theme you can trust to help build your brand. Packed with features and customization!”
Genesis WordPress themes at StudioPress are used and recommended by top industry bloggers, website designers and developers worldwide. There are many themes available and they can be purchased individually. They also have a Pro Plus Membership for access to everything for $499.95 plus $99.95 per year.
Genesis Framework is a parent/original theme and one of the most highly recommended themes available anywhere. Get unlimited updates, support, and sites for a one-time fee of $59.95. (See How to Build a Genesis Child Theme under References below.)
“The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you’re a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.”
Genesis Lifestyle Pro, a child theme, is popular and one of my favorites. It includes the Genesis Framework. Get unlimited updates, support, and sites for a one-time fee of $99.95.
“Stylish online publishing has never been so easy than with the bright, magazine-style frame and amazing flexibility of the Lifestyle theme. Lifestyle’s array of smart layouts and clean design options let you express yourself with articles, videos and everything in between, while valuing your strong point of view.”
Amadeus is another excellent freemium WordPress theme for a blog and you can find many more free themes at Themeisle. They also have multiple specialty premium review themes starting individually at $49.00. Be sure to check out their inventory. You can upgrade and have access to all of their premium themes for $149.00.
“Amadeus is a responsive blog theme that features a modern and clean design. Features include: a parallax header image, Metaslider integration, ability to use Google Fonts, social icons, full color control, custom widgets and much more.”
Join theme club to get access to all themes for $79.00 for a year of updates and support.
“iTheme2 is a revamp of iTheme that was originally released by Nick La. Now with the Themify framework, it is even better and have more options. It is the perfect theme for technology & Mac related blogs. It uses media queries to target different displays such as desktop, notebook, iPhone, iPad, and other mobile devices.”
This is a freemium theme made especially for bloggers developed by the team at wpbeginner.com. They have a nice selection of premium themes available starting at $69.00 for a year of updates and support.
“Slipstream is a mobile-friendly responsive blogging theme that lets you share all of your thoughts and ideas in one place. Great for personal and leadership blogs.”
Thrive is incredibly popular and highly recommended for blogs that convert. Thrive Themes has a membership program for $228.00 per year (for individuals) that includes all of their products. “Use all of our plugins & themes on all of your own websites.”
“The Thrive Membership is perfect for bloggers! Besides building landing pages and opt-in forms, the Content Builder is great for building blog posts.”
Ignition is $49.00 for a single site license and includes all the features, unlimited free updates and 1 full year of free support.
“With Ignition, it’s a joy to create awesome looking sales pages and marketing pages for your products, memberships and services. With full-width page sections and excellent pre-built templates to work from, this is the perfect theme for anyone who sells products online.”
FocusBlog is also $49.00 for a single site license and includes all the features, unlimited free updates and 1 full year of free support.
“Simple, professional and elegant, FocusBlog is your go-to blogging theme. This theme strikes a balance between design that draws attention, yet doesn’t distract from your content.”
I hope my research helps in your quest to find the best WordPress theme for your blog. I thought I had made up my own mind about a theme and now I am torn between a couple. Decisions!
UPDATE: I chose the Authority theme from mythemeshop.com and I just love it. It was easy to setup and has all of the extras and features I needed and wanted and the price was great. Sign up for their ‘freemium’ services and they will email you with discounts!
Thank you for reading How to Choose the Best WordPress Theme for a Blog. Do you have a question or a helpful tip? Leave it in a comment below!