A theme is WordPress speak for a blog template. When you first install WordPress on your site, the default theme is set as the site template. The default theme is loaded to get you started, but once you have found your way around the WordPress dashboard I would recommend looking for another theme.
Starting out it is best to choose a free theme until you are completely familiar with how WordPress works. There are thousands of free themes out there and the hardest part is choosing one. I have spent days worth of hours clicking through themes directories. If you find a theme if like, bookmark it for future reference, and once you have a shortlist, go through each theme.
Free WordPress Themes directory
The first and most obvious place to start is the WordPress Themes directory. This can be also be accessed through your blog dashboard and you can download themes straight to your site.
Beyond WordPress there are loads of free theme sites. Just Google “free wordpress themes” and you will see what I mean.
After using free themes for a while and becoming more familiar with WordPress, I decided it was worthwhile to pay for a theme that had the features I wanted.
I have tried many themes for sites that I have worked with, and this is my list of premium themes I like.
StudioPress have an excellent selection of themes that are easy to set up and use. StudioPress themes run with Genesis Framework, which is a clean and simple theme upon which StudioPress themes run on. travelbloggersguide.com is currently running on the Magazine Pro theme by StudioPress.
Like StudioPress, Dynamik Website Builder by Cobalt Apps also runs on top of the Genesis Framework. This theme is easy to use and highly customizable, though you will need a higher level of design skills to get it looking beyond its basic settings. I’m currently using it on is the theme that used on bookmarktravel.com.
MyThemeShop – Professionally designed premium WordPress themes by MyThemeShop that are easy to use and comes with super fast support and amazing features.
Theme Forest is the biggest marketplace for website templates with a huge selection of WordPress themes. I find it’s good when I have already found a theme as there is no preview image in the catalogue.
Woo Themes – I have used their free themes (which are still available), and they have a selection of smart looking premium themes.
The Thesis Theme for WordPress – Another clean and highly customizable theme, but I would only recommend using this theme if you are comfortable with PHP. I don’t know code beyond HTML, and I am not interested in learning, so I had difficulties with this theme.
Maybe you have gone through 10,000 themes by now, free and premium, and still not found something you like. Then consider hiring a designer. I have not gone down this path (yet), but if I was to, I would be certain to have a very clear idea of what I wanted in a site before going to a designer.
What themes NOT to use
WordPress Default – The original default theme. Whenever I see this I associate it with either being on a spammers blog or as a holding page for a site under development.
[Don’t use this theme]
Travel Themed Themes – I have seen some free themes that are travel related. They usually have a palm tree, a cruise ship or airplane in the header. These images are embedded into the site, so anyone else who has download this theme is going to have the same looking website.
I would avoid any theme that has an image embedded into the site. You have no way of knowing how many other people are using the same theme, so your site will be looking like a whole bunch of other sites. It is better to just go with a plain theme and customize the site with your own images and colors.
“Free” Premium Themes – Sometimes you see a premium theme that is being being offered for free. Unless it is from the official theme page, do not download it! I learned this the hard way. I once wanted to see why a premium theme was free. When I uploaded it to my site it then dumped a whole bunch of virus codes that took a good day to work out how to remove again.
Free themes with inbuilt spammy links – Some free themes come with built in text links in the footer. It is acceptable to have a link to the theme developers website, but when they are for insurance, mobile phones, dating sites and other unrelated commercial sites, don’t bother.