When it comes to picking a WordPress theme, it may seem like you can just pick a theme that visually looks great, install it, and be on your very way with building the perfect WordPress website. That’s what I thought too when I started developing WordPress sites, but today, I’m gonna break down why the visual look is one of the last things you should consider when buying a WordPress theme. I know what you’re saying, “What do you mean? “I want site that looks clean and modern. “And that’s why you buy a WordPress theme. “You need one that looks great “and represents your brand well.” And that’s right.
But there’s a critical side to WordPress themes you may not think about, and that’s the backend. So if you just wanna know what WordPress themes I recommend, go ahead and check the description below. But let me take a second to explain why the WordPress theme you pick will have a huge effect on your entire website building experience and how it can be the difference between a great WordPress experience and a nightmare.
So at its core WordPress is a blogging platform. I know some will argue with me over this because WordPress has evolved greatly over the years. With the introduction of Gutenberg, it’s starting to feel more like a complete drag and drop website builder. But let’s be real, WordPress was structured with blogging in mind. And because of this, we have two main components of vanilla WordPress.
When I say vanilla WordPress, I’m talking about a fresh install of WordPress with no third party plugins and the default theme. When we install WordPress, we’ve got the Posts section and the Pages section. It’s really pretty simple. If you’re posting a blog, you go to the Post section. If you need to create a page on the website, you go to the Page section. So if you look at vanilla WordPress, you’re probably going, “Man, this is really simple.
“I can’t imagine how people make complex WordPress websites “with sliders, rich visuals, and complex layouts.” And that’s because any serious WordPress website uses a third party theme with its own backend and plugins that modify the WordPress editing experience. And that is why picking the right WordPress theme is critical. I’ve used some terrible backends before that make no sense, are very limiting and just make an overall terrible experience to use. Each theme usually comes with a different set of instructions to modify things like the global colors, logo on the menu, font size, et cetera.
So what’s my stance on picking themes? Focus on the backend editor and credibility of the theme developer first, then take a look at visuals. The WordPress theme should be seen as a framework for your website, a set of buttons, controls and layouts you can use to build your site, but more importantly, a backend for you to build your site. I’ll talk about this more later. But now I wanna highlight my three picks from my top WordPress themes. First, we’re looking at my new personal favorite, Salient. This theme is a best seller on Themeforest and for a good reason. First released in 2013, this theme has seen a lot of updates.
The developers are committed to making it the best WordPress theme on the planet. And it’s their one and only WordPress theme they currently offer on Themeforest. Just by looking at a demo of Salient, you’re sure to be impressed. Elements have a clean and modern feel, and there’s over 330 section templates to choose from. This right here is a big reason I fell in love with Salient. Most WordPress themes will let you import the demo sites, meaning they will import all of the demo pages, the full Home page, About page, Pricing page, et cetera. This gives you a good starting point and lets you modify the site as needed and make it your own.
However, Salient takes this a step further. They have modular section templates that you can mix and match to build your own page so you can pick and choose which sections to use. This lets you build a killer page without spending hours designing it from scratch. If you wanna design it from scratch, you can do that as well. Salient uses the WPBakery Page Builder plugin, which is my personal favorite plugin and where I’ve invested a lot of my time to learn how it works. Salient has a lot of flexible options for many layouts.
This was important to me when I was searching for a new theme, because I find that themes are often restrictive and don’t give you many options over how menus are structured. With Salient, you can do full screen menus, menu items centered, left-justified or right-justified and much more. The theme gives you a flexible Settings page to easily adjust fonts, colors, and blog post styling. Salient has a great set of documentation and tutorials and you can open support tickets to speak to their team for help if you can’t figure something out. At its $60 one-time price point, Salient is seriously a killer WordPress theme.
If you want a theme that is headache-free, reliable and has a lot of options, I highly recommend Salient. I’m using it to rebuild my app company website, and I’m really happy with the results so far.It includes the WPBakery Page Builder, has documentation and support, and has a lot of demos to import. As of the latest update, you also have access to Gem Blocks, which is the same concept from Salient where you can import sections of demo pages to assemble your own page with different pre-made modules. TheGem was originally released in 2016, and is one of seven themes offered by its developer. And if you like the design, I highly recommend checking it out. Last is gonna be an honorable mention and that’s Divi. Now first, I have to give a huge disclosure.
I haven’t used Divi for a website in years. It’s another mega theme that has been refined and redone for years and years. So it’s not even close to the theme it was when I used it back in the day. With that being said Divi is a flexible, powerful theme from Elegant Themes that uses their own proprietary page builder. Elegant Themes has been around for a long time, and they’re the first company I bought WordPress themes from when I first started playing around with it. I can’t say much about Divi, because it’s been years since I’ve used it. So I wanna be clear here. This isn’t a personal recommendation from me, I’m just mentioning it since it’s a popular, powerful theme that many people are happy with.
I would love to give it a shot and try it for a website. So if that’s something you wanna see, drop a comment below and I’ll consider making a review. So you might be surprised that I didn’t have more themes to recommend. But that’s because of what I mentioned earlier about why picking the right WordPress theme is so important. You see, I used to see WordPress themes by their demo pages. I would look for the perfect demo that exactly fit what I had in mind. I’d say oh, this is a great theme, it’s exactly what I’m looking for, the demo looks amazing. I buy it, then I would discover that the backend editor was absolutely atrocious.
Seriously, picking the wrong WordPress theme will cause you so much frustration. And if it’s your first time building a WordPress site it might make you never wanna use WordPress again. So I need to stress this. Do not judge a WordPress theme by its cover. Don’t look at the Demo page and say, “Oh, this is shiny and pretty, I need this theme.” Demos can look great, then when you see how horrifying or limiting the backend editor is, you’ll wanna quit. So what should you look for in a WordPress theme? Well, first you wanna find a theme that supports your preferred website builder plugin. I personally use and recommend WPBakery.
So I like to look for themes that include WPBakery and have tight integration with it. Salient and TheGem both check that box. I’m not telling you that WPBakery is the only option. Some of the big themes like Divi offer proprietary editors, and you may also see Elementor offered as well. This is all fine and dandy, but just make sure that if it’s a proprietary editor, it’s from a large theme developer that has sold many thousands of copies of the theme and people are happy. I’ve gone down the path so many times of buying a nice-looking theme with some cheap proprietary editor from a newer theme developer, and these always turn out to be the worst WordPress experiences. Once you have the page builder plugin narrowed down, look at how many people have bought the theme, what the reviews say, how detailed the documentation is, and what kinda support the theme developer offers. See if you’re actually able to find examples of real live websites that use the theme. How do they look?
Do they seem flexible? Would you want your site to look like that? When looking for a theme, my favorite place to search is themeforest.net. They have a huge selection, a lot of filters to narrow down supported website builder plugins, and some helpful stats like how many people have bought the theme, reviews, et cetera. And if you’re getting into freelance website building with WordPress, I’m gonna recommend that you just stick to one, maybe two, maybe three themes and that’s all you use. I used to make the mistake of having the client pick the theme, and guys don’t make that mistake, don’t tell your client, “Hey, just go to Themeforest, “send me a theme that looks nice, I’ll get it for you, “and I’ll put it on your site and I’ll build your site.”
Do not do that, that was the biggest mistake that I made and it cost me so many hours of headache, frustration and lost revenue. Really, you wanna stick to one to three WordPress themes that you know so well, you know like the back of your hand, and they’re super flexible, and you’ll get confident in how the theme works so you can actually build out a design and a layout for your client and say, “Hey, I got it.” They don’t even need to know what a theme is. Clients get confused by that. They don’t need to know what themes are or hosting is.
That’s why they hire you. So come up with one to three WordPress themes that you really know and love and you’re good at and then just put that on the client’s site, build the layout to their requirements, and they will be much happier just saying, “I give you money, you give me website.” Now you may be asking, “Why do I need to buy a WordPress theme at all? “Can’t I use one of the many free ones “in the Themes section of WordPress?” And you definitely can. It’s really a you get what you pay for situation. If you’re making a basic blog and you don’t need rich hero sections or homepage elements, I think you can reasonably get by with a free theme. If you’re wanting to build a quality website for your brand, a free theme will probably be too limiting for your needs.
They’re often just a lite version of a paid theme. And you can easily get suckered into upgrading to the paid version because you’ve already built half of the site using the free version, if you really want the full functionality. You then didn’t have an opportunity to research the theme reputation, features, documentation or anything else, but you just spent money on it to avoid having to start over and build the site again. This usually ends up being a frustrating WordPress experience, so I can’t stress this enough, pick the theme for your site carefully.
Don’t lose sleep over it and don’t make it rocket science, but make sure you know what you’re looking for. Do your research and you’ll have an awesome WordPress experience. Speaking of having an awesome WordPress experience, how would you like to have a step by step tutorial for building your WordPress website from start to finish? I’m talking where to buy your domain, which web host is right for you? How to set up WordPress on a variety of web hosts?
And every detail to build a great WordPress website from start to finish. I’m in the process of making my comprehensive WordPress online course, and you can sign up in the description below to be notified when it goes live later this year. You’ll get the opportunity to purchase the course outright at $19. That’s one time, no ads, no upsells, no just any kind of scaminess. $19 one time, that’s it. If that sounds interesting to you hit up the link in the description below and join the list. So what’s your favorite WordPress theme? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.