How to Choose a WordPress Theme

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There are over 30,000 WordPress themes in the wild. How in the world is an aspiring WordPress website owner to choose the best theme for their unique situation? Fortunately for you, I have tried many different themes and have found just a few that outperform the rest. Some of them are among the most popular themes in the world – there’s a reason for that.

If you’re looking to create more than one website or want to become a WordPress web designer, I recommend sticking with your favorite and becoming an expert on it. By learning a single high-quality theme inside and out you will be able to build sites with greater ease and efficiency and avoid the learning curve each new theme demands.

So what are your options?

1. The Genesis Framework + StudioPress Child Themes

These sites were built by Parrot Digital on the Genesis Framework.

The Genesis Framework is one of the most popular options for professional WordPress developers and designers and is what we use almost exclusively at Parrot Digital. The codebase is immaculate and updating the WordPress install is a breeze because most of your edits will be to the StudioPress child theme you choose. Genesis is maintained by a team of professional developers and functions seamlessly with the whole range of WordPress plugins. For many full-time professionals in the WordPress space, Genesis + StudioPress is the go-to. I use a couple of plugins to integrate Genesis and the Beaver Builder page builder and have been loving it.

  • Genesis Framework Pros
    • Great code
    • Flexible
    • Looks clean and attractive
  • Genesis Framework Cons
    • Pricey
    • Need some coding chops
  • Genesis Framework Cost
    • The Genesis Framework is $59.95, and most of the themes are $129.95
    • Genesis and all the StudioPress themes are FREE with any WP Engine hosting plan.

Sign up for a WP Engine Hosting Plan and get the Genesis Framework and 35+ StudioPress themes for free!

2. Avada by our talented friends at Dreammaker Productions!

Avada is the most downloaded theme of all time, and for good reason. This multipurpose theme can be used to create almost any kind of website. They have a huge range of templates you can import to rapidly develop a website prototype and an easy to use back-end site builder. The sites are responsive, the theme is easy to use, and their support is solid. Avada is a great option for new designers just starting out, or people who want to put something simple together quickly.

  • Avada Pros
    • Import Demos for almost any kind of business and customize for your needs
  • Avada Cons
    • Have to use their back-end editor
    • Can feel stiff for creative designers
  • Avada Cost: $60 per license

3. Divi by Elegant Themes

Divi’s biggest selling point is its powerful drag-and-drop front-end editor, which easily combines with custom CSS for advanced designers. They call themselves the future of WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get, AKA programs that allow you to see the effects of edits in real-time) and they might be right. You can quickly build attractive sites with their editor and ship websites more rapidly. Think of Divi as a site builder on steroids, all on the WordPress CMS (content management system).

  • Divi Pros
    • Awesome site builder
    • Affordable
  • Divi Cons
    • No website demos
  • Divi Cost
    • $89/year for unlimited sites

4. Beaver Builder

Beaver Builder is an advanced front-end site builder plugin that I personally love. It’s sped up my website design process tremendously. The Beaver Builder Framework Theme is custom made to integrate perfectly with the Beaver Builder Page Builder plugin. Similar to Divi, a drag-and-drop front-end editor is BB’s biggest selling point.

  • Beaver Builder Pros
    • Lightweight
    • Simple to use
    • Comes packaged with page templates
    • Theme + Page Builder packaged togeher
  • Beaver Builder Cons
    • Limited module functionality
  • Beaver Builder Cost: $199/year for unlimited sites

5. Browse ThemeForest

ThemeForest is a huge marketplace of over 45,000 WordPress themes and templates at a wide variety of price ranges. They’re worth checking out if the big players don’t suit your needs for whatever reason. The themes here vary in quality and price, but you might find something that fits your use case perfectly. If nothing else, it’s fun to browse the themes and see what people are coming up with.

  • ThemeForest Pros
    • Find a hyper-custom solution
    • Large selection
    • Price
  • ThemeForest Cons
    • Single-use licenses
    • Quality may vary
  • ThemeForest Cost: Varies

What about free themes?

Free themes are a waste of time for any serious business. If you’re putting together a simple blog as a hobby and you don’t expect to make any kind of money from it, then go ahead. For all other use cases, a premium theme is not optional. Your site will look and function far better and you’ll have access to qualified support for your theme. Free themes may have bugs, lack customizability and options, and generally aren’t maintained or supported by the independent developers who created them. Do yourself, your sanity, and your customers a favor and pay the small up front cost for a premium theme that will provide a great experience for your site’s visitors.

Choose Your Hosting

Even the best themes can perform poorly on a cheap host. For the love of God, please do not host a website important to your business on a budget host like GoDaddy or Bluehost. You will regret it – they will nickel-and-dime you for every little feature, your site will be slow (which is costing you half your traffic), and you will be opening yourself up to security breaches.

Invest in your business and pay for managed WordPress hosting from companies like WP Engine or Kinsta. Your site will be up to 10x faster (I’ve seen it happen) and you’ll receive perks like free SSLs, analytics, up-time monitoring, and daily backups. Their support is also far, far superior to what you’ll experience with budget host.

Trust me – when you wake up to a down site, you’ll want the best support you can find. Your hosting game needs to be on point.


The WordPress theme ecosystem gets stronger and stronger every year. There are a lot of great options out there, and these are the best I’ve seen. Whatever theme you choose, I’m sure you’ll be able to make something great. Good luck!

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Howdy! I'm the owner of Parrot Digital Marketing, Austin's best-reviewed web design studio.

I've been working full-time as a self-employed web designer and digital marketer for the past few years and and have worked on hundreds of sites across a range of platforms, including Wix, WordPress, WebFlow, Shopify, and Squarespace. I've managed six figures in ad spend across Google, Facebook, and YouTube. I also helped teach a digital marketing bootcamp at the University of Texas at Austin.

In my free time, I read, play the bass, travel, work on creative projects with friends, and watch a lot of documentaries. Recommend me one!

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