We all have to start somewhere, and the same is true with WordPress themes. Where do you even begin? The answer is with Astra.
Astra is our top pick for WordPress beginners for its slick customization options, high level of functionality, and the considerable number of free extensions available for it.
I mentioned earlier that ensuring great page builders were compatible with a theme was important, and Astra doesn’t disappoint. Some of the most popular page builder plugins, like Elementor and Beaver Builder, are easily used with it.
On top of that, Astra offers a lightweight experience, allowing it to load exceptionally quickly. That’s without mentioning the super easy customization and pre-built options for blogs, portfolios, and online shops.
Other key features of the Astra theme include:
In terms of pricing, you can get Astra for free, and this provides you with a basic theme able to get you up and running. For some, it might be all they need.
There is also a pro version of Astra available that offers additional settings and options. The pro version is a must if you need a great deal of customization and new layouts. You can purchase it for $59.
Tusant by Second Line is a first-rate theme that’s best suited for podcast creators, musicians, voice-over actors, and music streaming.
While many themes can offer flashy designs, Tusant is practical, too, allowing you to embed audio and video from multiple sources.
For example, a podcast creator would be able to embed an entire ongoing series with ease, while musicians could display their latest work. The developers say Tusant can showcase an unlimited number of entries.
What’s more, Tusant supports all of the vital podcasting plugins such as PowerPress, Seriously Simple Podcasting, and PodLove. You can host MP3 files locally, too, so there’s little to get in the way of your creativity.
Tusant also offers the following:
Over 900 Google fonts supported
One-click theme install
Responsive mobile design
WordPress built-in customizer
Full documentation for each section
Page builder support included
For the pricing, there are three distinct tiers from the Tusant creators:
Single Podcast Theme: $69 for one Second Line Podcast WordPress theme of your choice + 12 months of updates and support
Podcast Theme Bundle: $139 for access to all Second Lines Podcast WordPress themes + 12 months of updates and support
Lifetime access: $389 for unlimited lifetime access to all Second Lines Podcast WordPress themes + lifetime updates and support
Second Line currently has five different podcast WordPress themes. Tusant offers multiple layouts, beautiful displays for playlists, and supports over 20 podcast hosting providers. If you’re a podcaster, you cannot go wrong with Tusant. Buy it here.
Whether you’re a freelance marketer, editor, or content writer, an excellent theme to show off your accomplishments and details is essential.
That is where Sydney comes in. This is a powerful and feature-rich theme ideal for freelancers, both those new to the industry and those who have been doing it for years and might want to change things up.
Sydney has more than 600 different Google fonts to choose from, and users have access to a full-screen slider, which can make a strong first impression on potential clients.
I also like the custom Elementor blocks that can be designed just how you want, enabling you to focus on getting your branding right.
Other features of the Sydney theme include:
Slider or static image header
Sydney has a free version, and you’ll have access to a lot of vital features.
With that said, the pro license only costs $59, and the upgrade will allow you to take things to the next level with extra page options, templates, WooCommerce, video headers, and more.
It’s a good idea for most freelancers and small businesses.
This compelling WordPress theme is perfect for sharing new recipes and the best cooking tips with your online audience.
Minimalist and clean, yet offering loads of features and specific design choices, you can’t go wrong with Foodie Pro.
Consisting of the Genesis Framework—both secure and search-engine-optimized—Foodie Pro offers an almost countless number of color and typography options.
You’ll be able to upload your brand’s logo quickly, and a selection of pre-built templates only helps speed things up if you’re in a hurry to launch.
Other features of Foodie Pro include:
Works with popular plugins
Child theme based on the Genesis Framework
There’s no free version of Foodie Pro, but you can buy the theme and complete framework package for $129.95, which I think is a fair offer based on what you can do with it.
There’s also a Genesis Pro option for those who love the framework and want to invest further. The Genesis Pro variant includes access to additional support and every future theme the company releases.
Genesis Pro is a good choice for those with big plans and costs $360 a year.
Travel Way is perfect for travel bloggers and photographers who want to show their locations’ real beauty. Travel Way is also great for travel agencies and portfolios.
With call-to-action buttons, multiple sections, and handy social icons, it’s a theme ready for the modern traveler.
The free version of Travel Way is flexible and highly customizable, with the option of setting up galleries, booking forms, services, and portfolios. There’s a huge amount you can do with this theme.
Even better, it works well with all of the major browsers, is very responsive, and offers unlimited pages for each section of your site.
Other attractive features of Travel Way include:
More than nine custom widgets
Custom sidebar areas
Full layout controls
Page builder compatible
Extensive slider options
The pro version features advanced custom widgets, multiple options for comment sections, more menu and logo positions, and quite a bit more.
It costs just $55 for personal use and $99 for developers, so if you’re pretty set on the theme, I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade for the rest of the features.
What I Looked at to Find the Best WordPress Themes
Deciding on a single WordPress theme for your brand can be overwhelming. There are tons of options out there, and it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re struggling to pick one, try thinking about the complete picture.
The first aspect to think about is whether you should get a free or paid WordPress theme. The difference isn’t just in the pricing.
A free WordPress theme can offer a lot to the right person, but it’s worth knowing some of the drawbacks. The main one is the lack of ongoing support for that specific theme, which, in most cases, can mean you’re left tracking down the original creator’s email for help when something breaks.
Far from ideal.
Not to mention that the same free themes can pop up on many websites, taking away originality from your branding.
But you can usually try out a theme for free before deciding to invest in the full paid version, so they do have their uses.
Paid themes are a better bet for brands in general, though. They generally include regular updates and support, higher levels of customization, and higher-quality code.
Another thing to mention is that WordPress.org, or ‘self-hosted WordPress,’ (as opposed to WordPress.com) is the best bet for most businesses as it gives a greater level of control and is cheaper overall. This extends to themes, availability, and customization.
With that said, I’ve seen some top brands on WordPress.com, or ‘hosted WordPress,’ with some genuinely dazzling themes, too.
If you’re in doubt, I’d still say go for WordPress.org.
Other key things to think about are the following:
Thinking about functionality is very important. I’m talking about what you need a site to do to conduct business.
Do you need social media icons that link out to brand accounts? How about a comment section or forum, and what about the e-commerce side of things like a shop?
In other words, you need to think hard about the features you need.
The great news is that WordPress plugins can add a significant number of extras whenever you want, but it’s worth looking into the functionality of a theme you like.
For example, specific themes might be coded in such a way that adding a forum could prove difficult.
If you like a theme, make sure you’ve done your research before buying it and that it can support your core needs.
Is your new theme going to look good on any screen size?
A mobile reader needs to have the same complete experience as a desktop user, so any good WordPress theme will adapt to this on a case-by-case basis. Don’t forget that Google has made it mandatory for sites to be mobile responsive, which can affect your rankings in a big way.
Mobile traffic is increasing every year, so a responsive WordPress theme is essential. Most WordPress themes include this as standard, but not all do, and free themes often don’t. Think carefully about this when researching.
A good page builder will allow you to drag and drop to create pages with little fuss.
Most WordPress themes come bundled with page builders, but not all of them do. Some themes may even use a bespoke page builder that could slow down a site with unwanted code.
Ideally, you want a WordPress theme optimized to work with the best page builders, particularly if you have a preference.
You could find a WordPress theme that provides almost everything you want, only to find it’s incompatible with your favorite builder. Or buy one that features a proprietary builder, but it’s just not very good. Too late, though, because you’ve already purchased it.
A theme can load smoothly and look beautiful on your browser, but what about on your customer’s browser? It’s worth noting that not all themes will work correctly on every browser, so a good deal of testing is a sound idea.
You can usually check a browser’s compatibility under a WordPress theme’s details, but the developers won’t always list this. In that case, test it yourself.
It’s as simple as downloading a few of the most popular browsers, loading up your site with its new theme, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
More often than not, you’ll find an issue or two that only occurs on a specific browser. I’ve seen pages breaking inexplicably on certain browsers while others were fine. This is often an overlooked area, so it’s prudent to get ahead of any potential issues.
There are tons of beautiful WordPress themes out there, and my list has given you just a snapshot of everything you can do on the platform. But many themes work better for specific uses.
The picks on the list offer some of the best themes available in their respective areas: