If you’re looking for a popular, easy-to-use website building platform that’s perfect for beginners, WordPress is probably the best option for you. Millions of website owners around the world agree, which is why 45.8% of all websites now use WordPress as of 2023.

WordPress offers thousands of themes, plugins and features, giving you the flexibility to customise your website to fit your exact vision. Plus, with millions of active users and thousands of developers, you’ll be able to access plenty of guidance and support if this is your first time building a website.

However, one downside to this huge amount of choice is that it can be difficult to hone in on exactly what you want for your website. Even choosing an overall theme for your website can seem impossible since there are thousands to choose from. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can narrow down your search for the best WordPress theme, bearing in mind your website’s needs, your target audience and your site’s appearance and functionality.

What is a WordPress theme and why is it important?

Your WordPress theme is a key building block of your final WordPress website. On the surface, your WordPress theme dictates the style of your website and how users interact with it. Behind the scenes, your WordPress theme consists of code files, templates, fonts, stylesheets, images and JavaScript files, which all affect how your site is displayed on the front end.

Choosing the right style for your website is an essential part of establishing a recognisable brand identity, which you can copy across multiple platforms to increase brand awareness and reputation. Plus, the style and appearance of your website can make or break your connection with your target audience. Depending on the demographic you’re targeting, the style of your site (including the font, colours, images, etc.) may directly appeal to them and attract their attention, or it could be off-putting to them and make them feel like the website wasn’t designed with them in mind.

You can find thousands of free WordPress themes on the WordPress website, or you can discover premium themes on sites like ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, CSSIgniter and StudioPress. You’ll need to pay for these premium themes, but you can benefit from better customisation options, greater tech support and more regular updates from developers.

After you’ve selected your WordPress theme, you can personalise this template to create your unique website. To learn more about the entire process of building a website from scratch, read our in-depth guide on how to build a website.

Things to consider before choosing a WordPress theme

Before you begin your search for the best WordPress theme, you need to consider the aim of your website and your target audience in more depth. As mentioned above, your website’s theme needs to align with your branding and your audience, or you could risk failing to make a connection with the right people.

Here’s what you should think about before starting your WordPress theme search:

1. WordPress hosting

All websites need a web host to make them accessible online. When you purchase a web hosting plan, this means you’ve rented space on a web host’s server to store your website’s data, which allows your website to be accessed online through people’s web browsers.

WordPress hosting is a type of web hosting that’s specifically designed for WordPress websites. By choosing WordPress hosting for your new WordPress website, you’ll be able to optimise your performance, improve your site’s security and get tailored features for your site.

Here at Fasthosts, our WordPress Hosting plan gives you everything you need to get your site up and running in no time at all. Thanks to our instant setup wizard, automatic updates, on-screen guidance, and curated WordPress themes and plugins, you can build and manage your WordPress website with ease.

2. The purpose of your WordPress website

The overall aim of your website will have an effect on which themes are the most suitable. For example, are you building an ecommerce website, a blogging site, an art portfolio, a forum or a website for your business? The purpose of your website will determine the features you want to emphasise, such as content, images and product images/descriptions.

Not all WordPress themes are suitable for all types of websites. Some themes will specialise in offering ecommerce features, whereas others will focus more on visual branding for your business. In the WordPress theme directory, you can filter your search based on the type of website you’re building, helping you find a theme that is compatible with your aims.

3. Your target audience

You also need to keep your target audience in mind when searching for the best WordPress theme. What sort of content, images, colours and fonts do you think would appeal to them and make them more likely to stay on your website?

When thinking of your target audience, write down key characteristics like age, gender, preferences, location, occupation and problems to create a customer persona. By creating a persona, you’ll have a clearer picture of who your target audience is and what they’re looking for. This will help you pick a theme that resonates with them.

4. Your brand identity

Next, you should consider your brand identity. This should be informed by your target audience and your aim, but your brand identity is essentially the visual style of your brand. Elements like your website’s font, colour scheme and logo are all part of your brand identity.

Your brand identity should always be consistent across platforms, otherwise you risk confusing your customers and diluting your online presence. Therefore, if you already have a distinctive style and branding on your social media profiles, make sure your WordPress theme can emulate the same appearance.

5. The features you need

To help you make a decision, we would also recommend writing a list of essential features and desired features. As explained earlier, different WordPress themes are suitable for different types of websites, such as ecommerce sites, blogs and business websites. For example, if you’re building an ecommerce website, you’ll need a theme that’s compatible with ecommerce plugins and features design elements like columns, which can be used to display products. Alternatively, blog or forum sites will need features that enhance readability and make your content stand out.

How to choose a WordPress theme

After you’ve considered all of these aspects, you’re ready to start looking for the best WordPress theme for your website. However, even with all of this preparation, it can be daunting to scroll through the thousands of available themes in WordPress’s theme directory.

To narrow down your search, you need to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for in a WordPress theme. Here are the key features a theme needs to have to be the best WordPress theme for your site – no matter what your website’s aim is.

1. Simple design

When designing a website, simplicity is key. Although you may like the idea of having loads of cool features and dynamic elements, too much clutter can exhaust your audience and potentially slow down your website, making it more likely for people to leave your site and go to your competitors.

Overall, you need to strike a balance between aesthetics and functionality. Your website should be interesting to look at and interact with, but this shouldn’t interfere with how people navigate through the site and find information. We would recommend choosing a simple design that won’t slow down your website or become an eyesore, but still offers a good amount of customisation options so you can add your own unique branding.

2. Easy customisation

Even if you end up choosing a WordPress theme that already has the exact kind of style you’re looking for, customisation will still be a huge part of your website building process. To reinforce your brand’s unique identity, you’ll need to customise all aspects of your website to create a consistent image that perfectly encapsulates your aims, style and approach.

If you already have a social media presence across multiple platforms, make sure you examine your branding on all of these sites so you can maintain consistency with your new website. Your chosen WordPress theme should allow you to easily customise all of the visual features of your website to better fit your branding, including the colour scheme, font, images, layouts, widgets, logos and more. If a theme doesn’t allow easy and comprehensive customisation, it probably isn’t the best choice for building a unique and personalised website.

3. Mobile friendliness

As of October 2023, 92.3% of internet users now access the internet using their mobile phone. The rise of mobile searches has led to Google adopting a ‘mobile-first’ policy for website indexing, which means that websites that don’t perform well on mobile devices may be ranked lower in search engine results – even when someone is searching from a desktop.

To work well on mobile devices, your website needs to feature responsive design. This means that the site can ‘respond’ to changes in screen size (such as moving from a desktop screen to a smaller mobile screen) by automatically adjusting to the dimensions of any screen. You can test if your website features responsive design by loading it on your phone or using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

In addition, you need to choose a responsive WordPress theme to ensure that the layout of your site can easily adjust to the screens of different devices. Most WordPress themes are now mobile-friendly as standard, but it’s best to check the description for a ‘mobile-friendly’ tag just in case. Plus, we would recommend previewing your chosen theme in different sizes and web browsers to ensure that there are no formatting errors.

4. Optimised for search engines

As well as being optimised for mobile devices, your WordPress theme should be optimised for search engines. To be SEO-friendly, your WordPress theme should feature efficient coding, image optimisation, caching options, optimised meta data and a lightweight design. All of these things will increase your rankings in search results for relevant keywords or reduce page loading speed, which is a key on-page SEO factor that Google uses to rank websites. Plus, improving page load times is important for improving user experience, as your customers are more likely to use websites that load quickly and are easy to navigate.

Although most WordPress themes will be optimised for search engines, make sure you choose one that specifies this in its description. Typically, well-optimised themes will feature a simpler design, which is also beneficial for user experience and clearer branding (as long as there are still plenty of customisation options).

Read our beginner’s guide to SEO to learn more about how to optimise your website for search engines.

5. Frequently updated

New versions of WordPress are constantly being released, which means there are regular improvements to your website building experience. However, these updates can cause issues like plugin conflicts and security problems if your theme becomes outdated.

To avoid these issues, you need a WordPress theme that’s consistently updated by its developers. You can check the date of a theme’s last update on the WordPress theme directory. If a theme has a consistent update history, this is a good sign that it will continue to be updated regularly in the future.

6. Compatible with your plugins

Your WordPress theme handles the design of your website, but a lot of its functionality will come from WordPress plugins. These plugins add essential features to your website, such as ecommerce storefronts, contact forms, caching and social media integration. Therefore, you need to ensure that your chosen WordPress theme can support all of your plugins, otherwise you may not be able to build the kind of website you were envisioning.

Some WordPress themes have a lot of built-in plugin-like features, but this can also cause issues. For example, if you ever wanted to switch to a new theme, you’d lose a lot of your current features and would have to add them in again with different plugins. However, if you choose a simple theme that’s compatible with all plugins, you can just add the features you want without worrying about being locked into your theme – if you ever needed to switch, you could just install the same plugins on a different theme.

7. Adequate support

Support is especially useful for beginners, but even experienced web developers will still need guidance sometimes. This is why you should always check how much tech support is offered with your chosen WordPress theme. For free themes from the WordPress directory, you should be able to check the theme’s support channel to see how active it is.

If technical support is high on your priority list, you may benefit from paying for a premium WordPress theme. These themes typically offer more customer support, which is ideal if you’ve never built your own website before.

8. Positive reviews

Always check the customer reviews before picking your WordPress theme. In addition to checking the star rating, make sure you look at reviews that specifically mention the features you’re most interested in, such as customisation options or compatibility with plugins. If you know someone who has built their own website on WordPress, it may be a good idea to ask them for their personal recommendations too.

9. Translation-ready

This may not be important for all websites, but if you’re hoping to reach an international audience or create a multilingual website, you should check if each WordPress theme is translation-ready. This is a feature offered on some WordPress themes, and it means that you can easily translate the content on your site to connect with global audiences.

To find a WordPress theme that offers easy translation, you can click on the ‘Translation Ready’ filter in the WordPress theme directory. Or, you may be able to find premium themes that specialise in creating multilingual websites.

Where to get your WordPress theme

Most beginners will choose a free theme from the WordPress theme directory, as this is the simplest and most budget-friendly option. However, you may decide to buy a premium theme from a website like ThemeForest or StudioPress to benefit from extra features, which can include:

  • More customisation options
  • Better customer support
  • Added functionality
  • More frequent updates

More experienced web developers may place more value on the greater customisation offered by premium themes, as this will allow them to create more unique websites with advanced features. Beginners can also benefit from premium themes (and their more comprehensive customer support), but free themes are often viewed as a great place to start due to their simple, beginner-friendly designs. Ultimately, you can create a fantastic website using free or premium themes – it all comes down to personal preference.

To get your new website up and running, you’ll need a web hosting plan. Here at Fasthosts, our WordPress Hosting is specifically designed to cater to the needs of WordPress websites. Plus, we offer plenty of amazing features for beginners to help you build your WordPress website with ease, such as curated themes and plugins, on-screen guidance, instant setup and 24/7 support. Take the stress out of searching for WordPress themes and plugins with Fasthosts – get in touch today to find out more!