A Beginner’s Guide to Selecting a Theme for Your Site

People starting to build a site commonly ask, “what theme should I choose?” You can pick from among many designs — free, premium, simple, versatile. Overwhelmed by your choices? Here are things to consider when selecting a theme for your site.


What kind of content do you publish?

Are you a photoblogger, sharing an image each day? A writer of micro-fiction and tiny tales? An essayist or administrator of a small literary magazine? The type of content you create naturally informs the format of your posts and overall site design.

A photoblogger may prefer a portfolio-style design with their images featured prominently on their homepage, like these grid layouts. If you’re a photographer highlighting your freelance gigs, you can combine this type of theme with the portfolio feature, which allows you to showcase projects separately from blog posts.

Jessica’s Nature Blog publishes daily images and uses the Photo Blog theme.

Short story writers may want a traditional blogging template — like Independent Publisher 2, Libre 2, or Libretto — displaying stories equally in a stream and giving each their moment to shine, while longform writers or editors managing publications might seek out magazine templates — like Zuki, Hive, and Oxford — that offer more customization.

Kindred, an online magazine formed by a group of writers, uses the premium Oxford theme.

What if you don’t publish new content regularly and instead have a static website for your business or archive of work? Consider themes like Profile or Gateway that act as a landing page and your online hub, or transform any theme from a traditional blog to a website by activating a static homepage.

Quick Tip: Use the filters at the top of the theme showcase — like Layout and Subject — to narrow your search results. If you want a specific feature — a custom header that supports video, or a template with multiple menus — click on “Feature” and search with keywords.


What’s your style?

Your personal aesthetic should also inspire your site’s overall design. Are you a home and lifestyle blogger with a love for clean and spacious interior design? Give minimal and polished themes with lots of white space, like Spatial or Perle, a whirl. Want to make a statement with color or typography? Consider Adaline, with its bright default yellow header (plus six additional color schemes), or designs with big and bold display fonts, like Finder, Gema, and Eighties.

Film critic Ben Kenber’s site, The Ultimate Rabbit, uses the Eighties theme.

Perhaps you have a personal blog for your family’s adventures and just want to start writing. Some themes, like Little Story, Vagabond, Nurture, and On a Whim, have built-in header designs and color palettes with lots of personality — so you don’t have to think about customizing it further.

Or maybe you’re building a web presence for your nonprofit and want a professional and modern look. Versatile designs like Lodestar, TheFour, Maisha, and Venture can tell your organization’s story in a fresh way.

Quick Tip: Use the Style filter to find themes with descriptive terms (“dark,” “colorful,” “flowery,” “geometric”). Remember, however, that while a theme has default settings, you can customize many of its features: tweak the fonts, upload your own custom header, change the background color, and — in some cases — switch its color palette. Revisit your theme’s support page to see what it offers.


What’s your budget and level of commitment?

Consider how much money and time you can spend on your site. You can browse themes with the “Free” and “Premium” filters at the top of the showcase. The cost listed for a premium theme is a one-time fee, not annual. For people who love to switch their designs often, the WordPress.com Premium and Business plans offer unlimited access to all premium themes.

Think about site maintenance: do you plan to tinker around each week, or do you expect to do as little upkeep as possible? A static front page with no blog is ideal if you hope to set it and forget it. A theme with a front-page feature like a post slider is dynamic and interactive, but requires regular refreshes. Be honest about how much time and effort you want to pour into your site, which will help inform the design you choose.

Quick Tip: Test-drive a theme before activating or purchasing it. If you see a theme you like, click on Open Live Demo, and then Try & Customize at the top right. In the Customizer, explore the panels on the left and watch how your site transforms on the right of your screen.


Want to do more on WordPress.com? Get unlimited access to all premium themes; advanced customization, monetization, and social media tools; and more with the WordPress.com Premium plan.

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May 22, 2018Design, Inspiration, , ,