There are 100s of themes in the WordPress ecosystem. So, how does one make a choice of one single theme that is ideal for a specific websie project or can be used for all client websites within an agency setup?
There is a no single best theme for all WordPress users. However, there can definitely be ‘one’ or more than one theme best suited for your own websites and client projects. This decision-making process starts with matching your technical know-how, website requirements, tools stack, and a few other variables.
Factors to select WordPress Theme
There can be a lot of factors to consider for selecting a WordPress Theme that can be a good fit for you. Here are a few theme aspects to consider to start with this decision making process.
- Does the theme work with my tools like with my choice of a page builder, SEO needs, and other specific requirements?
- Is it SEO friendly with basic schema structure and markup?
- Is it regularly updated in relation to new changes and security updates of the core WordPress?
- How expensive is the theme for building one website or many websites for clients in a web agency setup?
- Is there a community behind the theme for additional help and support for custom feature(s) implementation?
Days of ‘Do it all’ multi-purpose Themes
A few years back, most new users would end up using “do it all” multi-purpose WordPress Themes. Those themes are still around but with changes in the WordPress ecosystem and more page builder usage – their popularity has gone down by a big stretch.
Another practice of buying pre-made template themes from places like Theme Forest for specific niche client projects has faded. While such themes can still build you a fancy looking WordPress website but how efficient and neat it would be under the hood? Well, not much – hence I don’t prefer to wander on this theme choice path.
Themes for Page Builder Users
If you plan to use a page builder or already using one, then there are a lot of solid base WordPress theme option. If you are a non-page builder user and love the manual code route, you can still consider using these themes as they are lean and neatly coded.
Elementor page builder is the most popular and talked out in the WordPress ecosystem. For Elementor users with a better understanding of code using the minimal Hello Theme is a perfect choice. But this theme would not work for users wanting more options in the customizer. In that case, the hugely popular combination of using Elementor with Astra Theme should work like a charm.
Beaver Builder is another very popular page builder and majority Beaver Builder users do tend to use the in-house Beaver Builder Theme. Besides this, there are a lot of other recommended themes for Beaver Builder users. Similarly, for Divi Builder users using the in-house Divi Theme makes more sense.
Fortunately, there are a bunch of WordPress Themes that can be a good fit for the majority of page builder users. Most of these themes have similar features set but differ in implementation and user experience.
01. Astra Theme – It is a hugely popular theme with a wide appeal among different page builder users. Plus, their Astra Sites feature (pre-made layouts) is a big draw among small and medium agency users.
02. GeneratePress – It has slowly climbed up the popularity charts, thanks to the solid theme code and functionality. Also, the community around GeneratePress theme is flourishing at a good pace.
03. Page Builder Framework – Another theme ideal for page builder users that thrive on its solid code and practical features on the offer.
So, which is the best theme for your website or your client websites? Well, all the above themes have a free version – just install and test drive. The base WordPress Theme(s) is free and available in the WordPress repository (directory). For more features, each theme offers a pro version plugin which adds all the pro features to the theme on install and activation.
There is an exception to the theme rule when it comes to the Oxygen Page Builder. This page builder does not require any theme as it takes over the default installed theme and all the building is done via the oxygen builder itself. So, there is that!
Themes for Blocks Editor Users
With improvements in the Gutenberg Blocks Editor, more WordPress users have started using blocks for building their post content and page layouts. Since, majority building is done via blocks itself – theme only comes into focus for the following few things:
- Ability to go full-width canvas for post or page.
- Features to set base typography like fonts, colors, responsive.
- Regular theme updates as per WordPress changes.
- Solid theme support, just in case.
- Community around the theme for that extra help.
- Single blog post layout options and variations.
Fortunately, the majority of the base WordPress themes work well with blocks and fulfil essential requirements (mentioned above). Nowadays, each theme ecosystem has its own companion blocks plugin that makes the whole building with blocks more easy and seamless. A few theme options to consider:
01. GeneratePress Theme – The creator has Generate Blocks plugin to build with blocks editor. Even though Generate Blocks work with other themes, sticking with products from the same developer makes more sense.
02. Astra Theme – They also have a blocks plugin which will only get better. Also, with their big existing user-base community and pre-made layouts (coming soon for blocks) would make this ecosystem choice a no-brainer.
03. StudioPress / Genesis – They are trying to pull right triggers to leverage ‘Genesis’ brand value for their upcoming blocks based plugin, called Genesis Pro. StudioPress themes are lean and neatly coded – hence another ecosystem worth considering (for code loving website creators).
Another theme with compatibility for page builders and Gutenberg blocks editor is the eStar theme from Greta Themes. It is a lightweight developer focussed theme with hooks for finer modifications. For geeky users, building own theme based on Underscores theme or Bones Theme is also a popular option.
How do I make the ‘One’ theme choice
I myself use multiple themes depending on the website in question. For example, for a very small brochure website, I usually end up using Astra Theme in the majority of cases. For complex websites with a lot of custom data handling, I rely on Beaver Themer addon for Beaver Builder plugin. In this setup, Beaver Builder Theme is the most natural (and comfortable) choice.
There would not be and should not be ‘one’ theme choice if you are building client websites. Of course, you may use that ‘one’ theme for the majority of projects but be ready for a little experimentation.
We often make this mistake of sitting in one product ecosystem and be very comfortable. I have done that mistake and corrected it in recent times (at-least trying). Add some openness to your creative mind and do lookout for new options emerging in the WordPress ecosystem.
On the practical level, the best way to make a theme choice is to install it and use it yourself. The majority of base WordPress Themes have a free version, just test drive the theme and see which fits your mind (and heart) better. Remember, the majority of features in most themes are exactly the same. They only differ on how those features are presented to you (UI/UX), theme support, pricing, community, and companion plugins.
Just spend some time matching these variables and find your ‘one’ or more than ‘one’ theme choice for building your own and client websites. Happy building and if you got a theme-full question – chime in the comments below.