Expert Tips on Choosing a FREE WordPress Theme: 7 Things to Consider

Nowadays, using themes has become one of the most popular methods to consider when building a WordPress website. People can choose one of two types: free or premium themes depending on their desire. In this article, we will just discuss expert tips on choosing a FREE WordPress theme for those who want to save their budgets, or just simply, don’t have any intention to purchase a premium version.

We believe that with our 7 things to consider when choosing a free WordPress theme, you can have your most satisfying free theme for your website. Now, no more words, let’s get started!

Your WordPress Website Purpose

First of all, before diving into seeking a free WordPress theme, you have to clarify your purpose of building a website. By keeping in mind your goals through the process, you will avoid ending up with a theme that doesn’t have the functionality and the design you need. This process may be time-consuming at first, but it will pave the way for you to find your best and suitable free theme more quickly on the whole.

Here are some recommended questions for you to ask yourself about your purpose:

  1. What are your niches or your main topics on your website? (sport, music, art, food, news, technology, fashion, …)
  2. What kind of website do you need? (blog, magazine, portfolio, e-commerce, business theme, CV online, …)
  3. What kind of design do you want? Or which style is suitable for your site? (minimalistic, classic, vintage, modern, professional, …)
  4. Which features do you need to include on your site? (blog post, about us, portfolio, testimonials, booking, …)
  5. Who are your visitors/users/readers?
  6. etc

By answering these questions, you will have a basis on your ideal website. Even if you can’t find a 100% perfect free theme that meets all your expectations, you will find one that meets your purpose.

Appearance and Design

Start off with a theme’s appearance to quickly see whether you like it by looking at the demos provided. You can assess the free theme design through some questions below:

  1. Does this theme have a good and harmonious design that suits your needs?
  2. Can this design help you effectively showcase your content?
  3. Does it fit your brand that you are chasing? Can it express your website’s style?
  4. etc

Generally, in terms of design, a free theme is quite similar to its paid version. However, it is limited in the variety of layouts and templates so you may not as efficiently and flexibly display your content as using a paid version.

Besides, some free themes don’t really look like their demos because the demos are built from the pro versions. That may cause your attempt at making your website similar to the demo in vain. Thus, you should carefully check to see whether the demo belongs to a free version or paid version to avoid time-consuming.

Some themes let you know their version by adding Lite/Pro in the demo’s title. Some others mention this information on the theme homepage so you need to carefully read all the introduction or documentation. If you can’t find this information, just ask the author to clarify.

Features and Customization

In general, a free theme includes fewer features and customization options than a premium one, so you shouldn’t hold too high expectations. However, make sure that the chosen free theme comes with basic features and easy customization.

Basic Features

Depending on its different functions, each theme provides different basic or advanced features. For example, a free blog theme should include blog post sections, about us, interaction sections (like, comment, share), … Or such sections as service, testimonial, portfolio, featured images, … is indispensable to a free business theme.

Easy Customization

There are different customization methods such as Live Customizer, page builder plugin, theme options on the dashboard … Each one has its own strengths that can help you easily edit or variously customize your site.

In my view, Live Customizer is the most popular and easy-to-use way, especially for beginners. Besides, this is a default tool that is available in every theme. Therefore, I recommend choosing a theme that its Live Customizer has multiple customization options and an easy-to-use interface so that you can simply and strongly modify your site.

How to Check the Features and Customization

You can check information about both features and customization on the theme homepage or its documentation. The author usually mentions their outstanding, important features as well as customization tools and options there.

However, some theme shops/ themes authors don’t include this information in the themes’ introduction, so you have to install and experience these free themes by yourself to explore all their potential. Or you can refer to our in-depth review of features and customizations of each theme on FreeWPThemesReviews.

Plugin Compatibility

When your theme hasn’t included some necessary or advanced features, it’s time you need a plugin to help you out. The advantage of WordPress plugins is countless. They can help you increase website speed, add schema to your site, … The multiple plugin compatibility of a theme can make it more functional and allows users to versatilely run their website.

Besides the compatibility with some must-have WordPress plugins for every website, a free theme should support plugins that provide necessary features for your specific site. For example, a business theme may need some plugins like contact form plugins, lead generation and conversion plugins, eCommerce plugins, and so on. To get more plugins for business websites, refer to this article.

Therefore, when choosing a free theme, remember to consider the plugin compatibility of a theme. If you aren’t sure whether a free theme supports your favorite plugins, don’t hesitate to ask its author.

Responsive Design and Cross-browser Compatibility

Nowadays, responsive design and cross-browser compatibility have become necessary things of a theme, even a free one. People might access your website to read your content or use your service from different devices like PC, laptop, tablet, mobile, … and browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, IE, … Thus, the chosen theme should ensure that your site always displays properly and nicely to give everyone the best experience.

To check the responsiveness of a theme, you can use an online tool on the Internet to test its demo. For example, here I’m using the Am I Responsive tool to check the responsiveness of the Justread theme. Scrolling down from top to bottom in each device, all the elements of this free theme still looks good on multiple devices.

The free WordPress theme have a responsive design and cross-browser compatibility

 

In case you’re using Google Chrome, just take advantage of DevTool by pressing F12. You can also check the display of the demo theme on different devices.

Check if a free WordPress theme is responsive or not with the Google Devtool

With the cross-browser compatibility, you can check by using different browsers or using online tools like LambdaTest, CrossBrowserTesting, …

Performance Optimization

Every WordPress website needs SEO and speed optimization to give users the best performance and experience.

SEO brings many benefits to your website and an SEO-ready theme can help improve your website ranking on search engine result pages. You should use some online tools such as SEOquake, to check the SEO-ready of a theme before deciding to use it.

Similarly, a website with speed optimization is usually higher valued. It is one of the popular ways to improve users’ experiences, reduce the bounce rate, and so on. Thus, don’t forget to check the speed of a theme before picking it out.

For example, here I’m using the online PageSpeed Insights tool to check the speed of the free eStar theme. As you can see, the result is excellent beyond my expectation of a free theme.

Check the performance optimization of eStar - a free WordPress theme

Note that the result of checking speed may be affected by the amount of the demo’s data: the more data, the slower the demo is. So, the result might be relative.

As for me, a free theme that gets an around 70-80 PageSpeed Insights grade is quite good to use.

Credibility and Customer Support

Looking at the credibility of a theme is another important factor to consider. You should find a theme available on some believable resources such as wordpress.org, GretaThemes, CatchThemes … And then you should choose a theme with high downloads, high rates, and positive reviews.

Besides, you may need supportive customer service from the author when using a free theme, especially if you are a beginner.

If you pick up a free theme from wordpress.org, it has a support forum on this site. You should take a look at the forum to see whether the topics are delicately supported by authors or not.

Free WordPress themes from wordpress.org have support forums on their sites.

Additionally, some free themes receive questions via ticket system, live chat, or have official user groups on social sites, …

Last Words

Choosing a free WordPress theme may be challenging and take your time, especially when there is an abundance of themes available for you. Hopefully, throughout our expert tips with 7 things to consider when choosing a free WordPress theme, you have found your best favorite one. With a perfect theme, it is easier for you to build up and run your website because “well begun is half done”. Thus, keep patience!