You need a new website and you’ve been told WordPress is the way to go. Great, we’d probably tell you the same thing. WordPress is perfect for just about any type of website, it’s flexible, user-friendly and open source so you don’t get locked into a single provider like Shopify, Wix or Squarespace.

Now, what’s your new website going to look like? You might know that WordPress offers thousands of free themes (also called templates) so you head off to the WordPress theme directory and starts browsing.

Three hours later, your eyes are square from looking at too much stock photography and your fingers hurt from doing so much scrolling. And, you’re really no closer to picking a theme for your new WordPress website – they all look good, or bad, or all the same.

The problem isn’t you, it’s the themes, and there’s a good reason for that – what you’re looking at is not the theme, it’s a mock-up of demo content (text and photos) using the theme – the actual theme is just code, you can’t actually see it, so you have no idea how the theme will make your content look like.

It can be slightly helpful to get a very rough approximation of how the theme could be used to layout your content, or if you need to choose from themes with specific features (e.g. a one-page scrolling site) but aside from that it won’t help. You’re better off using that time to watch Grey’s Anatomy (and I mean that in a good way).

Should I look at premium themes instead?

Are we suggesting you should head over to somewhere like themeforest (is this where we should be inserting an affiliate link?) and browse premium (paid) themes instead?

No, in fact, that’s probably worse.

We very rarely suggest using a premium theme (unless you have a definite use case for one). Premium themes are often poorly written, run slow, are complicated to use or configure (and hence cost even more in the long term) and have been known to contain bugs, security holes or even malware.

Unless you have a good reason for using a premium theme, give them a miss.

How should I choose a website design?

In general, we would say forget choosing a specific WordPress theme. Instead, consider these six key elements every website design should have:

  1. Mobile friendly (responsive design) – A non-negotiable requirement these days. In most cases, more than half of your visitors will be on a smartphone or tablet.
  2. Showcases your content well – What you want to tell visitors, and what action you want them to take, should be front and centre of your design.
  3. Look and feel that matches your target market – You might need to spend a little time figuring this out if you haven’t already worked out your business branding.
  4. Good usability – Common layouts – while hated by many designers as ‘boring’ – do this well because visitors don’t have to spend time trying to figure out how to navigate your site and get what they came for.
  5. Lightweight – Opt for a fast, lightweight design that isn’t weighed down with too many images or fancy animation.
  6. Branding – Do you have a logo, a colour palette, company fonts, taglines or other branding elements? Your design should align seamlessly with (and enhance) your existing branding.

If your budget allows for it, working directly with a designer or branding agency can help you craft the perfect website design. We can then turn your design mock-ups into reality, and develop a WordPress site based on what you and your designer have come up with. It won’t be cheap but if you are very specific about the aesthetics of your website, this is probably the best option (just make sure they have experience designing for the web).

Alternatively, you can leave it to us. We have over 10 years experience designing and developing WordPress websites that are affordable, functional and match your business branding.

Also, remember that good design is a lot about content, not the theme. Spend time collecting great photos that showcase your business products or services really well, and fine tune your copy (or get us to do it). Here are some free resources that you might find helpful.

Why scrolling thousands of WordPress themes is a waste of time