How to Choose a Theme and What I Use

In WordPress, your blog’s overall look (or design) is determined by the theme you choose. When you first install WordPress your site uses the default theme that comes prepackaged with WordPress. Most people want to customize their design a little (or a lot) to make it their own.

how to choose a wordpress theme

Free themes vs. paid-for themes

I used free themes for years and taught myself how to customize them. Free themes are great for those starting out on a budget. The problem with them is, a lot are not updated regularly, many are abandoned completely, there is no support for most of them and the quality of the coding is not always ideal.

For these reasons, I switched to a paid-for theme. It’s been an excellent investment.

Currently, I use Genesis* and the child theme I use is a customized version of Sixteen Nine. But people, let me be honest. I’m a theme junkie and have a tendency to change my mind regularly. So, back in the day, I just bought them all so I can use any of them forever. Yeehaw!

Here are some reasons why I love Genesis.

Built on a 2-part framework

A good theme consists of a 2-part system with two layers: the main “parent” theme underneath and the “child” theme on top. The “parent” theme provides the main functionality of the site; the “child” theme allows design customization without touching (and potentially messing up) the framework underneath. If that’s confusing, this analogy might help.
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Support

The benefit of a paid-for theme is that you get support. Genesis has a great support forum as well as a help desk if you need it.
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Mobile responsive

As I mentioned on my list of Blog Design Dos & Don’ts, these days mobile responsiveness is imperative. Genesis has many mobile responsive child themes to choose from.
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Large selection

There are many child themes to choose from with Genesis and they are continuously adding more. You can buy the child themes individually or you can purchase their Pro Plus All-Theme Package which gives you access to all child themes (excludes 3rd party themes). (If you like to switch out your theme frequently, have several websites or are a blog designer, I highly recommend it. I bought this package a couple of years ago and it has paid for itself many times over.)

Tip: If you buy an individual package, you’ll pay for the Genesis Theme Framework and the child theme together. If you decide to buy a different child theme down the road, you do not need to buy the Genesis Theme Framework again.
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Which child theme should you choose?

The choices are overwhelming. First, I recommend you choose one of the mobile responsive themes. You can find those by going to the Themes page and then using the middle filter menu as shown here:

mobile-responsive-genesis

If you want to have ads in your sidebar, choose News Pro, Beautiful Pro, or Metro Pro or Minimum Pro because the sidebars on those themes will accommodate a standard 300×250 pixel ad.

If you are brand new to blogging and are a little intimidated by HTML or CSS, I recommend Prose. Prose has a few more Design Options than the other themes which makes it easier to customize.
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The list of features goes on

In addition, you’ll get built-in SEO, great coding, speed and more. There’s a helpful info page here.
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*There are affiliate links in this post.

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