Selecting a WordPress Theme

Now that you know all about the structure of the WordPress admin, we can dive into the world of design and understand how WordPress manages designs with Themes. With any luck you didn't get hung up on this stuff earlier in the guide and you already have at least some of your content ready to go on a simple pre-designed theme. But now you might want to select a theme for the long-term growth of your site. This is exactly what this page is all about.

There are two major classifications of themes available to select from: Pre-Designed Themes and Self-Design Themes.

Pre-Designed WordPress Themes

If you've followed our guide up to this point, you probably already quickly selected a pre-designed theme: great job! They're perfect for getting started fast so you can focus on your content.

They're also perfect if you don't want to design or heavily customize your site's design yourself as you can pick a WordPress Theme that best matches the aesthetic you like. This is by far the quickest method to get your site up and running. Since, at the outset, your focus should be on creating great content, not the design of the site, this is the best choice for beginners. Some of the most successful sites on the internet are based purely on great content with average designs.

The downsides of this option are:

  1. Rigidity: Many themes do not provide you with controls in the WordPress Customizer for changing fonts, colors, and layouts, so you're stuck with the styles and layouts your theme provides unless you're ready to start editing either CSS or PHP code (or both).
  2. Support Limitations: Many pre-designed themes aren't as well supported as self-design themes. That's because self-design themes are built to be long-term frameworks, so the developers are typically in it for the long-haul, whereas pre-designed theme developers typically make their money by selling more and more themes, meaning their older themes often get left behind.

Self-Design WordPress Themes

If you want to design your site by selecting your own colours, fonts, and elements to show in each part of your site this process is going to take longer, but you'll have more control over the styles of your site without having to write code. To make this work, you'll need to start with a theme that provides you with the capability to manage styles, fonts and core page layouts from the WordPress Customizer.

The only major downside of opting to self-design is the time investment necessary to build the design from the ground up.

These types of themes typically start you off with a blank canvas - simple black text on a white background - and you then must configure all of your styles in the theme's Customizer settings, such as navigation & header colours, accent colours, font faces, sizes, headings, footer layouts, etc. entirely from scratch.

Tip: if you love the idea of using a Customizable Self-Design Theme, but don't want to put the time in to do it yourself, we can help! Check out our SiteMaker plan here.

Select the option you'd prefer to proceed with below for more details.

Warning: avoid content builders that come with your theme

As mentioned above, a WordPress theme helps with one or both of the following things:

  1. It provides you with a single spot to configure presets (like header styles, link colours, general font styles, etc) and consistent global areas that always appear no matter what page of the site you're on (like your header, menu, footer, and sometimes the sidebar), and/or
  2. It provides you with a design you like so that you don't have to design it yourself.

But some themes will also try to get you to build your page content using their built-in tools.

We strongly recommend avoiding the use of a theme's built-in page building tools and shortcodes unless they provide them through a separate plugin that isn't built into the theme. This is because if you ever wish to change themes later, you'll need to go through every page where you've used their tools (shortcodes, builders, etc) and manually change them all to the new theme's tools, which may not even be available!

If your selected theme does this, you should either ignore their page building tools and strictly use the WordPress block editor or a respected page builder for WordPress, both of which are discussed in the step of this guide called Learning WordPress.

WordPress Design FAQ

Next up: making money with your website

The next phase of this guide is optional and you'll want to pick from one or more options to learn how to make money with your website: