You’ve set up your blog. You’ve written some content. Now it’s time to start thinking about your theme design and which theme you want to use to help you customize it and make it your own.
In this post, I am going to walk you through on how to choose a theme, what theme I use, why I use it and some of my favorite child themes. This will help you decide which theme you should start your WordPress blog on.
Free vs Premium Themes
There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes you can use. If you want to get started with a free theme, head on over to the WordPress theme directory.
Is a free WordPress theme right for you?
When I installed my first WordPress blog back in the day, I started with a free WordPress theme. I wasn’t about to shell out money for something I was just learning about. In fact, it took me over 8 hours to install my first ever WordPress blog.
I had no clue what I was doing and there weren’t as many WordPress tutorials around as there are now.
There’s no shame in starting with a free WordPress theme and learning along the way. Once you start making money or start getting more comfortable you can invest in a premium theme if you choose.
Cons of Using Free Themes
Unfortunately, with the free themes you expose your WordPress website to some possible vulnerabilities.
- Most of them do not come with support
- Many are not updated on a frequent basis or at all
- They are more likely to leave you open to vulnerabilities
This is the main reason that most people will use a paid-for-theme. If you’re still considering getting started with a free theme, discuss some of the most popular free themes later on.
The WordPress Theme I Use
I currently use the Genesis Framework (by StudioPress) and the child theme I’m using is the Centrix Pro theme. I purchased all the Genesis themes years ago when I was looking for popular themes to use. This means that I can use all the themes any time I want.
Which is great because I can use them in my freelance business. Buying the whole package may not be the right choice for you.
If you’re the type of person who knows you won’t ever want to change out the child theme, I recommend buying just one theme.
However, if you know that you’re a theme junkie and are always looking for a new look and feel to your website, it would be cheaper to buy the whole package.
Why I Use and Recommend Genesis
As I mentioned, when I first picked up the Genesis package I only did so because of all the raving reviews online. I knew I wanted to learn WordPress so I figured why not just get the package. (plus I believe they were having a Black Friday deal 🙂 )
Now that I’m a little more knowledgable of WordPress, I’m glad that I made the investment. Here’s some of the reasons why I use and recommend Genesis.
1. Genesis is build on a 2-part Framework
If you decide to purchase just one theme, you will need to purchase the Genesis Framework. The Framework is kind of like the motor for your new child theme.
This means you can’t use the child theme without the framework. The framework provides the functionality of your site and the “child” theme can be designed and customized without breaking the framework. (You never want to make any changes to your Genesis files).
2. It’s Well-Coded and Comes With Support
Genesis is supported by a group of developers from StudioPress. As a Genesis user, you get updates for life.
If you require support, I highly recommend browsing the Genesis community tutorials. You can also access the forums, where people ask all kinds of questions about using the child themes. It’s extremely easy to get all your questions answered so you can start learning Genesis.
Most of the themes are up-to-date with HTML5 coding. They also have a PDF eBook called “A Beginner’s Guide to The Genesis Framework” which can help cut your learning curve.
3. You Won’t Lose Your Customizations
Let’s say it takes you 4 hours to get your new blog looking the way you want. The next day you log into your WordPress dashboard and Genesis says there is a new update.
You won’t have to freak out, because you won’t lose any of your changes. The only time you will lose your changes is when you switch child themes. Once you learn how to customize it, you can make changes to your 404 page, like I did.
4. Built-in Features and Dedicated Plugins
Out-of-the-box Genesis comes with SEO options, state-of-the-art-security, advanced custom widgets. (See this page on StudioPress to find out more features). If a feature is not available, many developers have created 3rd party plugins that can help you accomplish what you need to.
Here is a list of Genesis plugins you can bookmark to use later. This will make it easier when you are ready to find a new plugin to use.
5. Mobile Friendly
We all know the importance of having a mobile friendly website. In fact, if your blog is not mobile friendly, you may end up getting penalized by Google, read this. All of the HTML5 themes on Genesis are mobile friendly. You won’t have to worry about using a plugin to make your WordPress blog mobile friendly.
Once you purchase the Framework, you won’t ever have to worry about buying it again. You get updates for life. If you know that you’re going to be building your blog and turning it into a business, you might want to consider the All-Pro-Package.
This will give you the best bang for your buck. You will get access to all the StudioPress child themes, without having to spend another penny. Of course you’re the only one who knows if buying all the child themes is a wise investment.
Beautiful Out-of-The-Box Designs
Chances are you are looking for something you can download and install without a lot of headaches. All the themes look great right out of the box, without any customization.
So don’t feel like you have to be a developer just to use the Genesis Framework. Many bloggers use the Framework because they love all the features it comes with, if you missed it you can read about the features.
Regardless of why you’re looking at purchasing a premium theme, you can’t go wrong with the Genesis Framework.
Some of My Favorite Genesis Child Themes
Let’s take a look at some of the child themes you can choose from. All these themes are mobile responsive and look great right out of the box.
Daily Dish Pro
This theme is built with HTML5 and is mobile responsive. Right out of the gate the theme looks awesome and is great for lifestyle bloggers, fashion and food bloggers. It is a clean white child theme, but is easy to customize it to your liking by adding color and widgets.
The home page is set up to display your images. If you have a food blog, this can be a great way to show off your recipes. The available widgets in the Daily Dish allow you to accomplish pretty much anything.
I wrote a tutorial that walks you through step-by-step tutorial on using the Genesis text widget.
Minimum Pro Theme
Things I love about Minimum Pro
- I’ve used this child theme in the past and loved how easy it is to customize
- Big featured image on the homepage
- Huge social icons (although I prefer using this plugin for my blog)
- Multiple widget block areas in the footer section
I eventually plan on replacing my current theme to either the Parallax Pro or the Showcase Pro theme. There’s so many decisions to make, it’s hard to make them sometimes….not sure if this will actually become a reality?
Things I love about Parallax:
- It looks very slick
- The home page has a parallax scroll effect, which looks awesome
- Big call to action that sits at the bottom
- 3 menus you can use (header right, primary, secondary)
As I mentioned above, this is the theme that I am considering replacing my current theme.
Things I love about Showcase Pro
- The eye catching header at the top
- Typography that come built in
- Look and feel of the buttons
If you have a site that is in the food niche, you definitely should take a look at the Foodie Pro. Don’t think that you have to have a food blog to use it. This theme will work well for more than just the food niche.
Things I love about Foodie Pro
- multiple widget areas (Read this widgets guide)
- Responsive slider so you can show off your feature posts
- The ability to set up your home page the way you want
- Clean and easy on the eyes
- Typography fonts consist of
- Pontano Sans, Helvetica and Arial Sans-Serif (don’t let this stop you as you can add your own if you choose)
These are just a few of my favorite Genesis child themes. Everyone has their own favorites and once you start using it, you will realize why so many people recommend them.
Which Child Theme Should You Choose?
I’ve shown you some of my favorite Genesis child themes. Only you can determine which one you want to use. When choosing a theme it’s important to make your decision based on the layout of the theme. You can always add different fonts and colors to a theme.
Base your decision on important elements such as (sidebars, footer, header, home page layout, available widgets and etc..) are they laid out how you want them to be? If not is it easy to get the layout that you see in your mind?
Try to get a child theme that is closest to what you desire. If you can accomplish this, it will mean less coding and customizing down the road.
Tip: If you’re new to blogging and don’t have a clue of what you would like your site to look like. Browse around and find some popular blogs in your niche. What do you like about their layout? Does their header have a call to action? How wide are their sidebars? Do they have their sidebars on the right or left side?
These are all things to consider when looking at a theme. Try sketching out how you would like your blog to look. You don’t have to use anything fancy, just grab a piece of paper and pen and draw out the basic layout of what you would like.
Don’t get too hung up on this part of choosing a theme. Remember, you main focus with your blog is to write awesome content. People won’t really care too much about the layout if you’re providing them with great content.
How to Choose A WordPress Theme
You don’t have to use the Genesis framework when you’re first getting started. I realize that beginners may not want to get started with a theme that has a huge learning curve. The most important factors to look for on a theme are:
- Does it have a solid foundation you can build your blog on?
- Is it SEO optimized to make your job easier?
- Can it be customized easily?
- Does it load fast?
- Is well-coded with customer support?
If the theme you choose can answer all those questions positively, then you have found a good theme for your blog.
Alternatives to Genesis
If you’re not ready to get started with the Genesis Framework, you may want to consider the Elegant Themes or Beaver Builder. I have and continue to use these on client sites. They are drag and drop builders that do not require any coding.
They are great for beginners and the best part is that they are both fully mobile responsive.
Whether you choose to go with Genesis, Elegant Themes or Beaver Builder, you can’t go wrong. It may take a little longer with the learning curve for Genesis. However, all the themes will allow you to manage and customize your own blog. So if you’re a DIY blogger like I am choose one and get started.
Which Theme I Recommend
I use and recommend the Genesis Framework. So if you pick up the Genesis Theme, be sure to bookmark my site because I will be putting out tons of beginner tutorials that will help you learn the ins and outs of it.
Genesis Quick Links
Once you become a Genesis user, it’s important to know how to find the help you need quickly. I’ve put together this list to help you find everything you need quickly.
A Beginner’s Guide: This guide will help you learn the ins and outs of using the Genesis framework. The best part is that it’s free.
Child Themes: Take your time and browse all the available child themes you can choose from. If you’re buying an individual theme, you won’t get access to all their themes.
StudioPress Pro Plus All-Theme Package: You understand that your blog is your business. It’s important for you to have access to over 90 child themes you can use in your business without paying another penny.
Genesis Features: Read through all the features before you make a buying decision. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time to do some research before you make a buying decision.
Visual Hooks Guide: Visually see the hooks in your Genesis theme. (this is for the advanced users or people who want to get more indepth with Genesis)
Genesis Responsive Tool: Use this tool to see how your site looks like on mobile.
StudioPress Forums: Need help with a specific child them? Don’t hesitate to ask for help in the forums. I’ve used the forums to get answers to several of my questions.
Become a StudioPress affiliate: Love Genesis so much, make money any time someone uses your link to purchase Genesis.
What Are The Best Free Themes?
Making an investment in a WordPress theme may not be the right choice. When I started blogging, I used a free theme for years before I decided to upgrade.
Blogging is hard work, you don’t want to make a huge investment until you realize this is something you want to stick with long-term.
WordPress default themes: every WordPress installation comes with a pre-packed default theme you can start using right out of the gate. Currently the Twenty Seventeen is the default theme that was recently released. This is a theme what was released by WordPress.org.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Choose a WordPress Theme
What type of layout do you want?
What’s your niche? (try to find a niche related theme)
Are you willing to dig in and learn the ins and outs of the theme? (If not then you may be better off getting a drag and drop builder)
Is the theme mobile responsive? (this should be standard, don’t settle for using a plugin to make your blog responsive)
Are you planning on building a membership platform? If so then make sure that your theme will be compatible with the plugin you will be using.
Does it offer support? If you go with a free theme, chances are there won’t be a lot of support. You can always go here and here for support on using your new WordPress theme. (you just can’t expect high quality support.)
Final Take Away
This article should help you understand the process on how to choose a WordPress theme. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to choose the right theme.
Chances are as your blog starts to grow you will change your theme. As I mentioned, eventually I will be changing my theme. You have full control over your self-hosted blog and can easily change your themes and plugins whenever you choose to.
If you haven’t started your blog, head on over here to get started.
If you’ve made your decision on your new WordPress theme, leave a comment below and let me know which theme you installed. Why did you choose that theme? I know your comments will help others decisions a lot easier.
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