WordPress is often advertised as a one-stop-shop for all your website needs.

Want a site you can build and edit yourself? WordPress. Want a site which will stand the test of time? WordPress again. Want a site which has the flexibility to be a small, personal blog or a large e-commerce website? You’ve got it in WordPress. 

Using the information above you’ve decided to go for a WordPress website. Brilliant. Now you can do everything from choosing hosting, a theme, building the site and installing plugins, all without having to leave the WordPress platform. 

However, it’s not always a simple as that. Yes, WordPress is a one-stop-shop and great for beginners but what if you want a website which doesn’t look like it’s been built from your spare room in your spare time? Or you need more functionality on the site than your current setup allows? 

The first thing to consider is whether you want to use WordPress.com or WordPress.org. 

Even though they have the same name they are 2 different platforms. One allows you to do everything on their platform. The other allows you complete autonomy and freedom to build and maintain your own website to your exact specification. 

Here’s a quick comparison of the two: 

WordPress.Org

You pay for your hosting/theme & domain

Unlimited theme options

Unlimited plugin options

You’re responsible for your website maintenance

Can create membership websites

Can create e-commerce sites

Branding – you’re in total control of your  website brand

You can use whichever analytics tools you choose

You can monetise your site with adverts

WordPress.Com (Free Version)

Free WP subdomain & hosting up to 3GB

Limited theme options

No plugin options

WordPress handle your updates & maintenance for you

Can’t create membership websites

Can’t create e-commerce sites

Limited branding options. Users can’t remove the WordPress branding

Analytics tools are limited to WordPress’ own

No control over advertising which appears on your website

WordPress.com offers 4 different plans from the free plan, which is limited, through to a business plan which is billed at £240 per year. To see the differences between the plans you can click this link. 

As the only way to get complete autonomy over your website and hosting, and at a lower cost, is through a WordPress.org account, I would recommend you use this option.  

Jump to:

Themes

With over 55,000 WordPress themes available it’s easy to get lost whilst searching for the right theme for you. The first place I would recommend you start your search is by looking at websites you like online. You probably already have a few which are saved to your favourites, whether they’re online shops, service based websites or blogs. Make a note of what you like about them so you can refer to the design elements when searching for your own theme. 

Once you’ve found a few websites you like, pop the URL of each site into WPThemeDetector and if it’s a WordPress site it will tell you which theme it’s using and where to find it. 

You can also search for themes on marketplaces. Here are some of the most popular: 

When on the marketplaces you can search for themes you found via Theme Detector or you can include key elements which are important to you. For example if you are a photographer you could search for ‘photography themes’.

Page builders

When choosing a theme you’ll also be choosing the page builder which is an essential part of designing your website. The page builder will contain the options and settings for different elements such as: text boxes, titles, images, separators and backgrounds. 

It is also where you control the design settings which make your website unique – for example the padding (spacing) on columns and containers and how rows and columns align. 

Mike Cottam, from Cottamweb explains about page builders in this post.

A lot of the most popular themes come with their own page builders as part of the theme and I would recommend these as they’re designed to work together rather than using separate themes and page builders as this can lead to a buggy website.

Where to buy your WordPress theme

Anyone with coding knowledge can create a WordPress theme and sell it on online marketplaces such as Etsy, Creative Market, their own website. I would stick to searching on the main marketplaces as these have to meet the quality standards of the marketplace selling them. 

I would recommend checking out the testimonials attributed to the theme, it’s star rating and do a quick Google search to see the feedback on the theme to assess whether it’s the right one for you. 

You can also take this further to look at the theme’s support forum to see how quickly developers respond to and resolve enquiries.

What’s the price?

Premium themes come with a price tag. You can expect to pay anything from $10 to $100 for a theme. The majority of themes will be a one off purchase and as long as you have a license key and register it, you’ll be able to have the theme for life and update it as and when the theme releases updates. Some themes can be purchased on an annual subscription basis and you will only be able to update it if you continue to pay for a yearly subscription. 

Demo or custom built?

There are 2 options for designing your website when using WordPress themes: you can import a theme demo where the site has been prebuilt by the developers of the theme you have chosen or you can choose to build your website from the ground up, starting from blank pages and adding in the design elements yourself. Some themes will have the flexibility for you to choose to build some pages yourself if you choose to and import some prebuilt pages to cut down on your workload. 

Here are the pros and cons of using a demo:

Pros

The site has been built for you so saves a lot of time

Less likely to conflict with plugins as the demo should have what you need

Cons

Your site can end up looking like others (especially if you’ve chosen a popular theme)

Can be inflexible if you want to add elements to the design

Here are the pros and cons of custom building your website:

Pros

Your website is unique – no-one else will have the exact same design and code 

You can get your site exactly as you want it using whichever elements you choose

Cons

It’s a steeper learning curve than using a demo 

It takes longer to build

Child themes 

When creating a website I always recommend you use a child theme – this inherits all the styles and settings of your chosen theme (parent theme) but crucially, when updates are rolled out by WordPress or the theme itself, any customisation changes you make will not be overwritten by the updates. Often premium themes will come with a child theme which you install and activate once you’ve installed and activated the parent theme. If your theme doesn’t come with a child theme then there are plugins or instructions available online to create a child theme. 

Conclusion

If you look at using the more popular WordPress themes you’re unlikely to go wrong. The more popular the theme, the more likely it is to have a team of developers working on it to keep it up to date with the latest versions of WordPress, to produce relevant documentation and tutorials. They should also have good customer support should you need to contact them. 

For more information about themes including how to install, update and remove themes please read this post.

A note to my readers

Sometimes I use affiliate links in my posts. This means if you click on a link and then go onto to purchase a product/service I get a small amount of money for recommending it. It is your choice whether to click on the link or purchase the product/service. I will always be transparent in letting you know which ones are affiliates. They will always have the name of the product or service so you can Google them if you’d rather not click the link and affiliate links are displayed in this colour. Any other links in the post not in this colour are not affiliates.

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