Your theme is the foundation of your website. That means it must be built well and made to last. Plan to spend at least $100. If you think that’s expensive, consider that it’s less than the going hourly rate for a decent WordPress developer. You’ll experience fewer problems in the long run if you choose a quality theme upfront.
Make your website easier to design with a Page Builder. Page Builders make designing WordPress easier and faster by giving you pre-built modules and layouts to build your website drag-and-drop style.
What is a Theme?
Choosing a WordPress theme is one of the first things most people do when spinning up a new WordPress website, and for good reason. A theme controls almost everything about the look and layout of your website design. You should consider it the foundation of your website. That means it must be built well and made to last.
So how do you go about selecting this theme from the thousands of choices? You want your website to match your brand, so you go looking for a theme that “looks right,” right? No! Stop! Or at least pause.
Choosing a WordPress theme is like choosing a partner
Look for websites and themes that inspire you or look like what you want to achieve, but then put them on a Pinterest board or bookmark them to reference later. Whatever you do, do NOT be tempted to choose a theme based on looks alone. That’s right—you want substance and not just a pretty face. What the heck does that mean for a website? I shall explain!
First, know this: There is no 100% perfect theme that perfectly matches your brand and provides all the layout features you need. I promise. It doesn’t exist. You might be thinking, “But I saw this amazing theme that matches my brand and has like 100+ page layouts for me to choose from! How can that not be good enough?”
Themes can slow down and break WordPress over time. Generally speaking, the more complex (or “feature packed”) a theme is, the more headache you will experience down the road.
You want to start small and lean. Only turn on features as you need them. That’s good advice in any area of life, right? But this also proves true in web development! If you are using 1 bloated theme and a zillion plugins, I guarantee your website will last fewer than 2 years before it MUST be redesigned (or worse, when it breaks!) And I feel like that’s a generous estimate…
Page Builders + Themes = Match made in WordPress Heaven
So here’s where we are: We know we want our theme to be lean but also match our brand. We are DIYing this website so it needs to be easy to set up and design. The biggest complaint that people have when moving from a web builder like Squarespace or Wix to WordPress is that you can’t manipulate the themes as easily. Enter the Page Builder!
Page Builders make designing WordPress easier and faster by giving you pre-built modules and layouts to build your website drag-and-drop style. WordPress added its own page builder-esque tool called Gutenburg back in 2019, but it’s still not quite as user-friendly as most third-party builders. Two popular visual builders are Elementor and Divi. A lot of people love using Divi, but be warned: Divi uses shortcodes, which means that if you ever migrate your site to another platform, you’ll have a lot of text cleanup to do. Elementor is an excellent choice for people who are already used to working with a platform like Wix or Squarespace. But I use another one: Beaver Builder.
My Favorite Page Builder and Theme
My favorite page builder is Beaver Builder. I know, I know.it has a weird name. But it’s generally most loved by developers for its usability and performance (meaning it doesn’t slow down your website), and that means it works really well with a lot of premium WordPress tools you might want to use as your website and business grows. AND since developers like it, it’ll be easier to find expert help should you ever need it. I also recommend Elementor as a super close runner up, though I don’t currently use it for my client projects.
For the last 3 years (about a decade in internet years), I’ve been using ONE theme for every website. That’s right—ONE theme for 30+ websites.
The best themes are super basic and endlessly (and easily) customizable. This is why I and so many other developers adore Astra. It’s very fast, easy to customize, and integrates perfectly with premium business plugins—including everything in this guide. Plus, it is used by more than 1 MILLION websites! You know it’s good!
If you really want to start on good footing, you can upgrade to Astra Pro. Astra Pro is actually a plugin that augments the Astra theme and costs $59/year (but is often on sale.) I recommend upgrading to the Agency Bundle ($249/year but prorated if you’re upgrading.) It includes a lot of add-ons for Beaver Builder, plus a really cool conversion plugin called Convert Pro that will help you create pop-ups, welcome gates, banners, and more types of marketing calls-to-action.
Astra starts off super basic. You’ll need to customize it to match your brand. With the help of a page builder like Beaver Builder or Elementor, you can go back to those “inspiration themes” I told you to save but not buy to make Astra match your brand. Here’s a video from WP Crafter about how to customize Astra.
In summary, when choosing a theme:
- Do NOT choose a theme based on looks alone. Your website will not end up like the beautiful demo site that makes you want to buy it.
- Do NOT buy a theme without also buying a compatible visual builder, especially if you are new to WordPress.
- Plan to spend ~$100-150 for your theme and visual builder. Don’t skimp on your foundation!