Finding the Best Free and Premium WordPress Themes

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This video is all about WordPress themes. One of the many reasons I recommend WordPress for almost anyone looking to build a website is that it can be used to create all kinds of sites for all kinds of purposes, using themes. A theme can completely change the look, feel and functionality of your website. Many themes are available for free and many more are available at price (usually pretty affordable).

Watch the video below for everything you need to know about WordPress themes:

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Hello, I’m Shane Melaugh from SwissMadeMarketing.com and welcome to another SwissMadeMarketing Bootcamp video.

This is the next entry in our series of videos on how to build and optimize a website from scratch and today we are going to look at WordPress themes. Themes are the easiest way to completely change the design and even the functionality of your website. This is one of the reasons I really love to use and recommend WordPress because with WordPress and the right theme you can make an absolutely professional, awesome looking website and you don’t need any design skills or really any technical skills yourself at all.

So let’s go ahead and look at a few examples of WordPress themes. This first one here is called 2010 and it is the standard WordPress theme, so this is what your website will look like after a fresh WordPress installation, before you change anything. This is a pretty minimalistic and simple blogging theme but that is not to say that it is a bad theme, it is actually a pretty good theme if all you want is just a simple blog and I actually personally have one niche site that I use this theme on. It’s a profitable site and it ranks well for several keywords so it’s not like you have to pick a different theme, in order for your site be successful.

However, depending on what you want to do with your website, you might want to consider changing the theme, so let’s have a look at a few more examples.

The next example would be this here. This is just another simple blogging theme really, so you also have the posts listed one after the other, it just looks different. That is one of the basic things that themes do: they make your site look different.

Then here is another example – again, completely different. This is for “mini blogging”. This kind of them is often referred to as a “tumblog” because it is like a tumblr blog and you can add these small posts and images and it makes something like a collage of them on your home page.

Then here is an example of what is often referred to as a corporate theme. This would be typical for a corporate theme: we have a nice, stylish but kind of minimalistic design; you have a nice homepage slider here. You have kind of a gallery. You have a testimonials box and also typical for corporate themes you have a large footer with things like your contact form or a mailing list subscription form, social media buttons and stuff like that.

Now one thing that is important to realize here is that with this theme, it is going to be very easy to create a homepage that looks like this, with this stylish slider and the testimonials and all that, because most of the design work is done by the theme. All you would have to do is upload a bunch of your own pictures and change the text content.

Alright, the next example: here is a completely different theme, which is specifically made for showcasing applications. It wouldn’t have to be an iPhone application but that is one thing it is definitely suitable for, so you have like a large button where people can access or purchase your product. You also have pages with descriptions and stuff and they have this slide out menu on the side here, which is quite interesting.

Here we have a portfolio theme. This is a theme that is very specifically made for people to showcase visual work like photographs or maybe web design projects and stuff like that. You have these image galleries and the homepage itself is also a styled image galler. Themes like this are usually called “portfolio themes” and they’re built for showcasing visual work. There are some fantastic specific portfolio themes available.

Here is another theme that has a nice homepage slider that has some interesting features on the homepage. This one is more of a classic blogging theme again, where you have blog posts and the sidebar like this but once again a completely different design from what we’ve seen previously.

Then here is one that is a product review theme. This would be a product; you have your star rating systems for various features or categories, you have your review, you have a big purchase button where you could put your affiliate link and you have a system where users can leave their own star ratings when they leave a comment. Let’s also have a look at the homepage: here and we have a slider with featured products and you have your top editor rated, top user rated products and all sorts of review specific features.

Next, here is a theme that is specifically made for AdSense. For sites that you want to monetize using AdSense with large ad blocks that are very easy to insert.

Then here is another very interesting one which is specifically made for restaurants. You have things like a map, so that people can find the physical address of the restaurant easily. Then there’s this specific page layout that is made for showcasing the menu of the restaurant and each of these menu items gets its own post with a nice image etc.

The final example I want to show is an e-commerce theme. Here, you can basically create an online store with your product listings, product descriptions and even an integrated shopping cart. Let’s say I want to order one of these, I can add it to my shopping cart and then go take a look at that shopping cart. There is even a coupon feature and people can basically use this as a finished online store. You would have to integrate it with some kind of payment processor like PayPal or something, but remember this is just a standard WordPress site and using just this theme it gets turned into a fully featured online store.

Those are some examples of how themes can completely change your website and believe me, I’m only scratching the surface here. There are absolutely thousands upon thousands of themes available for WordPress.

Now here are some pointers for what to look out for when you are picking a theme for your website: the first thing I want to mention is that you should get themes from trusted sources only. Since a theme is something that you upload to and install on your your server, it is possible to add malicious code or a virus of some kind into a theme and have that virus affect your whole hosting account (this has happened to me, unfortunately). That is something you want to avoid and it is just something that can happen if you get a theme from just anywhere on the internet.

For free themes the number one trusted source of themes is the official WordPress theme repository. If you go into your admin panel you click on the “appearance” tab here and then you click on “install themes”. Here you can search for themes or you can also select criteria for what you want your theme to look like and it will bring back a list and all of these are free themes in the official WordPress theme directory.

Another place you can find the same themes here is on http://wordpress.org/extend/themes and this is the same database with a lot of free themes that you can browse through. These themes can all be considered safe.

In general, if you pay for a theme, if you buy a premium theme that you have to pay for, that is also usually a safe bet because people who are selling themes, have a great stake in their reputation as a trusted source, as a good source for online themes and they would completely jeopardize their own business by adding any kind of malicious code into any of their themes. If you are paying someone for a theme that is usually a safe bet.

By the way, you can find the links to everything that I talked about below, so you can find the free theme repository of WordPress and you can also find my two favorite sources for premium themes which are elegant themes and themeforest.

With that out of the way here are the other important criteria. One of them and this is especially important for free themes: make sure that the theme is up to date. Make sure that you know last update isn’t years ago because that will almost certainly cause trouble when you try to install plugins and stuff like that. Plus, you want to make sure that the theme is compatible with the latest updates to WordPress itself. Once again this is important for free themes, mainly. Keeping everything up-to-date is usually part of the service, with free themes. You are paying people for that, for keeping your themes up-to-date.

The next point is loading speeds. You want to take a look at these web pages… if I go and take a look at one of these themes again, basically, you look at the demo (there is usually a demo or a preview site where you can look at what the theme looks like) and you click on some of these links. Click on some of the links in the navigation menu or wherever and you want to make sure that it doesn’t take forever to load these pages. Ideally, every page should load within 3 seconds or so (also depending on your connection speed, of course).

Some themes can be kind of overloaded with all kinds of features and sliders and images and so on, until it takes very long for the pages to load. Slow loading can also just be caused of bad coding and one of best ways to chase away your visitor is to have slow loading websites. So, you want to make sure that the theme doesn’t slow down the loading speed.

There is also a link to a tool down below where you can get kind of an objective loading speed measurement. You can simply paste in the URL of the demo site for the theme in there and check out how quickly it loads.

Kkind of an optional criteria is checking whether the code is valid, whether there are any errors in the coding of a page or not. What you do again is there is a link to a code validator down below, you simply grab a page from the preview side of theme and you put that in there and you run that through the validator.

Let me be clear about this: it’s rather rare that any site or any page passes the validator with zero errors and if you just see a couple of minor errors that the validator finds that is not a reason to completely discard the theme. I do like to run them through the validator because if it comes back with tons and tons of errors all over the place that is a sign that it is just a badly coded theme and that will probably cause all kinds of issues in the long run.

Finally another thing I like to look out for when I pick a theme are page templates and short codes. This actually depends a lot on what the purpose of your website is going to be, but just to give you an example, here are many examples of different page templates and for example here there is a custom 404 error page so that when people come in through an invalid link you can put in some content here to display, which is useful feature to have. We also have sitemap feature with this specific theme, where you have a page listing all of the pages of your site which is also quite a useful addition to have. One thing I like to see is a good full-width page template, which simply means that you can create pages like this one with no sidebar. That’s very useful for when you want to display large videos or things like that.

Here is an example of what short codes can do for you: all of these columns are created by simply using short codes. I don’t know how to code html properly, so for me it would be quite difficult if I wanted to have this kind of columns layout in my text. With short codes it is very, very easy and you can create things like this by simply adding in a tiny bit of code that says make this bit of text 1/4th of a column and make this bit of the text ¾ and it will automatically format it and make it look right. So that is an example of short codes and you can usually find on the demo pages of the themes that there will be feature listings like this. This button here is also something that you would be able to create with a short code and in the case of this particular theme, there is even a pricing table feature where you can design an entire pricing table like this using very simple short codes.

Finally, the most important thing to consider whenever you are picking a theme is always the user experience. You want to be think about who is going to be in the target market for this website that I’m building, what kind of people are these, what kind of features, what kind of type of website would appeal to these people and you want to think about what the purpose of your website is. As I said at the beginning, if all you want is a very simple blog with a few articles on it, then you might not need to pick a theme other than the standard WordPress theme at all, but if your website is going to be focused on reviewing products, for example, then it makes sense to go and look for a theme that is specifically built for product reviews and gives you all kinds of features that can turn your site into a much more appealing, much more fully featured review site.

This is especially important if you are building sites for clients. You really want to think about, what does this client’s company represent, what kind of an image do they want to have and to go and pick a theme that matches that image, that matches their branding and so on and that also matches the purpose of what they want their website to do as closely as possible.

Alright and that about wraps it up, that is all you need to know about WordPress Themes. The links to all of the resources that I talked about and also to my favorite to get premium themes and free themes are down below this video. As always thank you for watching! I am looking forward to reading your comments and your feedback!

Links:

Note about Themes and SEO:

As you’ve probably noticed, I did not mention SEO as one of the important criteria for picking themes, even though themes are often advertised as being especially well optimized for search engines. This may be true, but there are plugins (which we’ll discuss in the next video) that take care of your most important SEO settings (for any theme) and the user experience is simply more important than the SEO optimization of the theme’s code.


For example, if you are working with a client who owns a restaurant, using a perfectly suited and beautiful theme, that offers a great user-experience will be far more useful to their business than if you pick a dull-looking blogging-theme that has pefectly SEO’ed code.

If you have any questions or want to share your favorite themes, please leave a comment below!

Shane Melaugh

About

Shane Melaugh is the Chief Marketing Officer of SwissMadeMarketing who is responsible for most of the video- and marketing-related stuff you see on this site.