Types of WordPress themes
Deciding on a WordPress theme can be one of the most important choices you can make for your blog. One of the great WordPress features is that you can make your WordPress based site look anyway you would like by installing a new WordPress theme. A WordPress theme leaves your content the same, but changes the way the website and content is rendered. Themes can literally make your website look like a completely different website with a simple click.
In addition to controlling the look of your blog or website, WordPress themes also play a critical role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of optimizing your blog or website so that it ranks high on the search engine result pages (SERPs) of such search engines like Google and Bing. The higher your site ranks for various keywords on the SERPs, the more traffic your site will get from those search engines. This will become a key factor in earning a side income. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…back to WordPress themes, we’ll discuss search engine traffic and monitizing your site later in this series.
There are basically three types of WordPress themes:
Let’s dive in and look at the various pros and cons of each option.
Premium WordPress Themes
I personally prefer to use premium WordPress themes over any other type. Premium themes are very high quality WordPress themes that are developed by small or large companies and in most cases you pay for. Premium themes generally range from: $50 – $100 for a single site license. To me though the cost is well worth it, as premium themes offer the following benefits:
- High quality code
- SEO Optimized
- Implement the latest and greatest web standards
- Highly optimized and performance focused
- More flexible customization
- Full Support
Anyone with a little PHP and HTML knowledge can hack together a WordPress theme and make it available. Let’s face it though, some people know what they’re doing, others don’t. Poorly written themes can really hurt your sites performance, cause it do to crazy things and negatively impact your SEO efforts.
Premium WordPress themes often come with an extensive array of options and customization features as well. These features allow you to really tweak the functionality and look of your website. In many cases the options let you change the colors and layout of your site with a simple point and click interface. Most free themes do not provide these types features and capabilities.
One of the key areas where free themes are lacking is support. If you run into an issue with a free theme, you’re often on your own to figure out how to resolve it; however premium themes often come with forum support and/or email support meaning the answer to your question is just a post or email away.
For Side Income Services, I generally use whichever theme my client’s prefer, but I always recommend the
Genesis to them when asked for building blog sites. For my authority niche sites, that promote products, particularly those that use the Amazon Associates Program, I use the Income Galaxy Framework theme, and their add-on products.
Free WordPress Themes
There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes available on the internet. The easiest way to find most of them is to visit the WordPress.org themes directory. The great thing about free themes is that they’re 100% free (bet you could have guessed that huh?). As I always tell my kids though: “Nothing is free“. The big downside to free WordPress themes is that you have to be careful which ones you use. Some free WordPress themes are top notch, being put together by professional developers that really know what they’re doing. Others though are done by amateurs and hobbyist that don’t always understand the importance of doing a theme correctly.
WordPress Themes have a big impact on: site performance, SEO, look and feel, and extensibility of a blog or website. Given this, don’t just pick the best looking theme, read about it, research it, and read the reviews. Do your research to make sure the theme isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also performs well and is SEO optimized. Failing to pay attention to these basic criteria can really hurt your blog.
If you don’t have the money to purchase a premium theme and aren’t comfortable deciding on a free theme, the free themes included by default with WordPress are both good options, especially the Twenty Twelve and Twenty Thirteen.
Custom WordPress Themes
Custom WordPress themes are the way to go if you want to give your site a truly sophisticated and unique look. Custom themes are often required for online stores and other unique types web sites.
Custom WordPress themes are developed specifically for a website by web designers and developers and offer flexibility and options only limited by money and technology. On the downside though, custom themes can be very expensive, generally running $500 – $3,000 dollars depending on how sophisticated they are and how skilled the designer is. The more custom graphics they have, generally the more expensive they are.
Another option you should consider to get the look and feel of a custom theme but with a lower cost is to customize a premium theme. Many premium themes provide a large amount of customization out of the box in their options pages. Where you need more, you can generally higher a web design and development company to do the additional customizations for you. This is the type of work I do at Side Income Services. This site is a great example of this option. Side Income Blogging is running Thesis, but it’s hard to tell! Another recent client customization I did was for Mandy Rose at House of Rose. Her site is running a highly customized version of Genesis.
WordPress Themes – One size doesn’t fit all
Which one of these WordPress theme options is right for you? As usual, the answer depends. The option I like best is customizing a premium theme like Genesis. Premium themes have a reasonable cost and provide the base infrastructure so that customizing your theme, or having someone customize it for you, is far less costly than a full custom theme. This option is a great compromise between a free WordPress theme and full custom WordPress theme.
If your funds are limited (i.e. you have none), than a free WordPress theme is going to be your best option. Just do your research and pick one that looks nice and is properly optimized. Use this theme until you grow your blog enough to afford a premium theme, then migrate over.
For complex and specialized sites or if you you have deep pockets, going with a custom theme is probably the best option. Custom themes will give you that unique and professional look.
Fortunately switching themes in WordPress is really easy so you can play with different options…which leads me into the next upcoming article in the Start a money making blog series: How to install a WordPress Theme.
Thanks for the overview and love the suggestion about tweaking a premium theme in lieu of purchasing a full custom theme.
Love your blog and look forward to reading more!
I vouch for free themes. I love free themes, they make it easy for you to set up a blog about anything, as there are so many themes!
WordPress is great, which is why I power my philosophy blog with it 🙂
Every now and then I take a look at premium themes, because everyone tells me I should use one. But when I try them out, I often find my site actually runs SLOWER with the premium theme than with my amateur Artisteer-created one. I recently found out why, I think:
Marisa, thanks for sharing that article – I personally found it a very interesting read. Very glad to see Thesis 1.8 came out on top. Thesis is my theme of choice due to flexibility and overall performance.
Do you think Thesis or Genesis is better/easier for a novice to set up and nagivate? I have been trying to decide between the two and the reviews for Thesis 1.8 were very good, but 2.0 not quite so positive. Also, do you know if it is true that plainer sites are higher ranked by Google versus sites with tons of extras on them? I’m currently using a free theme with a picture background, but I’ve started to realize that it isn’t ideal for visibility of my widgets and future ads.
For a novice, I personally think Genesis is better. Genesis has more screen level customizations options and doesn’t require as much custom coding. I love Thesis 1.8, but for more sophisticated changes, it’s definitely more of a developers tools.
I have not heard that “plainer” sites are higher ranked. What I have heard is that faster loading sites are ranked higher. The more stuff you have on your site, the slower it will load. I am not an advocate of lots of stuff. Your site should be simple and easy to use. Focus on your user and make it load fast, and you’ll be good.