What do you Look for in a Theme?


Almost two months ago, we found out what your favorite themes were, and with so much discussion lately on finding WordPress themestheme malware, and plans to protect against it, there’s one discussion-worthy question that we’ve managed to miss.

What do you look for in a theme? What makes you say, “I have to have that,” above all other choices?

Is is simply the colors, the functionality, or perhaps something more specific?




  1. DB Ferguson (8 comments.) says:

    I’d been planning a change of themes for a couple of months now, and after tons of searching, I changed my theme to the “Canvas” theme by Woothemes. It had a simple look that would work with my content, and had the features I wanted that would allow me to have the look I want without a ton of plugins that were slowing my site down.

    These were the selling points that convinced me to pluck my money down on this premium theme:

    “Tumblog” functionality of the box, via the new Wootumblr plugin integrated into the theme – I knew I wanted easy-post functionality, and I loved the Tumblr format. Having this feature integrated into the theme was a major selling point for me.
    Design of the theme – In addition to the the Tumblr functionality which was #1 on my wish list, my make-or-break features were: Excerpts on the front page, uniform thumbs on the front page (so I could get rid of a thumbs plugin), clean lines (white background, grey text and background, etc), and nicely themed threaded comments. The Canvas had every one of these features out of the box.
    Multiple pre-formatted page templates – I loved the fact that the Canvas theme had a Contact template (allowing me to get rid of an antiquated Contact form plugin), Archives page plugin (allowing me to get rid of a slow and buggy archives plugin) and Sitemap page plugin.
    Support forum – although the forum has been kind of hit-and-miss for me on questions I’ve proposed, the search ability has allowed me to find tons of easy customizations to the site via answers that were available in the forum. Knowing that I would have support was definitely a comfort.
    Easy customization via a theme dashboard – I always tell my blogging buddies, “I’m a content creator, not a coder”. I know enough to do basic mods, but that’s it. The dashboard makes it super easy to make adjustments to fonts and layouts, without having to know a lick of code.
    Ability to play with theme in sandbox environment provided by Woothemes – HUGE selling point for me – spent 14+ hours in sandbox doing trails of my most popular blog post formats and formatting styles in multiple themes before buying.
    Simple theme updates and framework updates – I know that with 3.1, there’s going to be even more built in functionality with WP, especially the Custom Posts function which will affect my Wootumblog styled posts. I’ve struggled with updating themes in the past to incorporate new WP features, so I liked knowing that, with a child theme, I could easily update my theme and the framework behind it with a simple push of a button and without losing my customizations.
    Video Tutorials – Before I bought the theme, I watched close to an hour of tutorials provided by Woothemes, walking me through all the bells and whistles in the theme I was considering, as well as how to set up a child theme for site customization. I’ve never used a child theme before, but after the video, I found the process to be very easy.

    Just so you know – I don’t work for Woothemes, I’m just a blogger who happens to like my theme and the features that this theme network provides.

    • Frank Tocco (@FrankTocco) (1 comments.) says:

      g I couldn’t agree more. People spending hours on FB building their site and not their own. It’s a lot easier to use WordPress than people think.
      @DB Ferguson Thanks for the in depth look at how and why you chose a Premium Theme.

      I use mostly Premium Themes myself for tutorial sites with lots of video content. (including a WordPress tutorial)

      I’ve build over 300 WordPress sites in the last 5 years and pick themes based on what the site needs to do for the visitor. In fact, before starting any blog, i ask a few simple questions:

      1. Who is this blog for? What’s my audience?
      2. What do they want or need?
      3. How can the site offer that to a visitor in a fun, unique and practical way?

      Only then do I look for a theme that can do what the site needs to do depending on how to best present the material on the site. ie. videos, images, text…

      Most of my sites use a lot of videos so themes that are easy to work with videos make the top of the list. Also, I like themes with social elements like @Aline Ideias does, it really help spread the word about the site online.

      And finally, but no less importantly, I look for themes that are easy to navigate and share with others. The more people friendly the theme is, the better.

      Thanks for this blog, I’m loving it

  2. Aline Ideias (3 comments.) says:

    I ALWAYS look for a theme with social integration. A box on the sidebar with social icons (twitter, facebook, likedin..) or icons placed on the header… when i creat a blog, my readers have to know who i am and where they can follow me. The facebook like blog plugin is cool but it isn`t enough.

    The colours influence too. Neutral colors are better so i can personalize details with the colours i like.

  3. Shane Hudson (2 comments.) says:

    I generally look at the code. Usually I create my own, but if I want a solid framework to work from I go with something like WooThemes, Thesis, Headway, Hybird etc. Depending on my mood!

    If I am not making it myself though, the theme I use almost always has the ability for hooks so that I do not need to worry about problems with updates.

  4. shadowfax says:

    I usually look for free magazine style themes and themes that are easy to modify to contour to my images, logos, and color schemes. The aesthetic must also look very neat, clean, and professional in appearance.

    Even though the web has “evolved” over the past few years, it appears that many blog themes / WordPress themes seem to “degrade” to the point where they look more like “cookie cutter blocks” that resemble more along the view of web pages of 1996 instead of works of art that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also functional and content rich. It is to the point of when I see new themes come out, they all look the same to me, the same rectangle block at the top with the title, the same block right hand column with links, the same footer bar with copyright disclaimers, and the same content block on the left side.

    The magazine style themes to me seem to venture more out of the blocky / boxy layouts and project a more modern look and feel.

  5. gestroud (5 comments.) says:

    In no particular order:

    1. Clean coded, orderly .php and .css files.
    2. Must be non-dependent on plugins to function.
    3. Multiple sidebars.
    4. Magazine styling.
    5. GPL. Possibly Creative Commons.
    6. Image free except for icons and images used for rounded corners, sidebar headers and title elements.
    7. The only required link is a link to the designer.
    8. Headers no higher than 200px.
    9. Minimal javascripts.
    10. Neutral background colors.

  6. tom g (3 comments.) says:

    I choose themes according to what the site is going to be about. Every site is different and requires different funtionality. I never paid for a theme yet but was tempted a few times. I can find one that works w/out paying for it. It has to flow with the way people use the site and have everything they need to contribute or share. That is why I love WrorPress because of it’s many cool free themes. I spend way too much time looking through the themes search page on the site for new ones to use.

  7. Lisa Durham (1 comments.) says:

    I have never built a website before so I was looking for something easy to use without having to pay anything out of pocket. I was steered toward using WordPress by a friend and had no idea what to do past that. I found a theme that was clean and easy to read and got some help installing it and getting my information on it. All in all it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

    • tom g (3 comments.) says:

      I thought it would be too at first with 2.7. I think it is easier than faceBo**. Many people get to know their way around that site. I tell them all to try thier own site with WordPress but they think it so hard. Then they spend 3 hours on fb playing farmVil* …funny. I don’t get it? All my sites use WordPress!

  8. David (1 comments.) says:

    Although I’m not a WordPress Power User, I do have a few sites up running WordPress each with it’s own theme. Here are some things I look for in a theme:

    1. Price – how much is this theme going to cost me? I was introduced to WP a few years ago and I was delighted to find some really good themes that were free! However, if I required more functionality or something with a little more horsepower, I’ve had to fork out some cash. Surprisingly, there are some pretty kick-ass premium themes out there for under $50 bucks.

    2. Functionality as I mentioned above.

    3. The theme colors/design itself. I prefer bold colors with a simple clean design.

    4. Back-end functionality. I’m by no means a programmer and when buying a theme “off the rack” I look to see how easy it is to customize. I’ve found some great themes that allow me to tweak a lot of things to it with ease from the admin panel.


  9. Michael LaRocca (1 comments.) says:

    The text has to be easy to read. It has to be the point of emphasis. I don’t like themes that show part of each entry unless the reader clicks “read more” to get the rest of it.

  10. TechVista (1 comments.) says:

    i like a clean theme with a user friendly navigation’s. And a complete control panel for user of a theme.

  11. Doug (1 comments.) says:

    In no particular order
    – price
    – social media integration
    – clean, simple design
    – easy to customize. My programming skills being as basic as they are I appreciate a theme that allows customizing through the admin or has simple enough .php and .css files that I can tweak without hurting myself.

  12. Essex Weather (1 comments.) says:

    Price and functionality has always been important to me. I started off using the free themes, but these days happy to pay up to $75 for the right one.

  13. Nikita (1 comments.) says:

    When I was choosing theme for my site, I considered the following.

    – Support for fluid width. My deep opinion is that fixed-width design is broken. Site MUST follow user’s choice of browser window size. Horizontal scrollbars in window wide enough to read content are not acceptable.

    – Support for internationalization. My native language is not english; I want site to work in my native language.

    – Correct display of wide objects. If I choose to include a code block into blog entry, and code is wide, it must not clobber any on right.

    – Concentrate on site content. No too fancy graphics or similar.

  14. Rob (3 comments.) says:

    One of the best themes I’ve worked with is Suffusion. It’s got a great blend of functionality and features. So what do I look for?

    1) Typography. It’s surprising how many themes don’t really consider the flow of text.

    2) Design and flexibility. Does it look like a blog theme and how easy is it to modify/change the look.

    3) Child theme support. Does it support child themes and how easy is it to hook into.

    4) Support and feature updates. Probably one of the most important, how frequent does the author update and maintain the theme and implement new features.

    5) Security. Related to above how secure is the theme in regards to code and features. Things like sanitising data to prevent injection attacks.

    6) Core features support. Does it support the core WordPress functionality such as menus, featured images, backgrounds, etc.

    7) Theme optimisation. How much load does the theme put on a server. I noticed some themes using up to 10Mb more than others which begs the question why? Some themes make 40-80 queries to the database again could these be optimised or improved?

    The main problem with this I’ve yet to see a good tutorial/article on best practices on reducing server calls/optimising theme data.

    8) The last question is: Does it meet my clients needs? It’s this one that will make or break a choice and whether I go down a bespoke route.

  15. Marios (1 comments.) says:

    I usually look for a modern and simple theme, One that is different form others and easy to use.

    Something that stands out, from the crowd.

    I don’t want to use the same theme as everybody else because then I am everybody else, I want my theme to be original and unique.

  16. Oliver says:

    - Good-looking : I have my talents, but graphics creation isn’t my forte, I am simply incapable of creating beauty for the eye

    – simple code : I only care about the graphics for a theme, because for all the rest, providing the code is simple and isn’t a useless powerhouse with tons of non-needed php, it will be me having fun hacking the theme until only the outer shell and the div structure remains unchanged.

  17. Alberto (1 comments.) says:

    Need have good seo, clean html and css.
    Web standards is the first thing I look for in a theme.

  18. polly (1 comments.) says:

    I look for something that isn’t too cluttered or too designed.

    The worst thing is when you’re website looks distinctive to that template rather than unique to your site.

    For that reason I use twenty-twenty, straight out of the box – it is so simple that as soon as you change the header image it’s undeniably a unique website.

  19. Chuck (1 comments.) says:

    When choosing themes for different sites of mine, I generally want a few things built in, even though they can easily be done with editing or plugins.

    1. Favicon, yes I know this is easy to do with plugins but I really don’t see why this isn’t just built right into wordpress itself.

    2.A sidebar on both the right and left side. Yes they can be optional, but the additional widget areas can be really helpful.

    3.The option to change sidebar content depending on category or page/post etc.

  20. Ryan (1 comments.) says:

    I personally look for a clean themes with everything functional. I also look for ones with a lot of versatility and something different from everyone else.

  21. Nej (1 comments.) says:

    For me, the theme must be search engine friendly, and easy to customize; has clean codes, and simple & user-friendly design.

  22. F Reed says:

    Bearing in mind that I do not have any coding skills (although I can write code for PLCs) I think a theme should be easy tou customise with clear instructions on how to change theme options. It should also be lightweight as some are too heavy and slow things up quite a lot.

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