Choosing a theme for your blog is kind of a big deal. Like we mentioned in our post, How to install a theme in WordPress, the way your blog looks is the first impression readers have. Some of you will see a theme and instantly know that it’s the one for your blog. Love at first sight. For others though, you’ll look and compare and look again. There are a lot of themes to choose from, so I totally understand your dilemma.
If you get to know me, you’ll quickly find out that I am horrible at making decisions. As is Devin. I remember when we registered for our wedding, we sat in front of towel section for what seemed like forever trying to decide on what color of towels we should get. I knew then, that we were in for a lifetime of never being able to decide.
For those of you that are like us, I’ve put together a list of elements to look at when picking out a theme for your new blog. This list is intended for people who don’t want to adjust any of the code for their theme. I hope this will help you find a turnkey theme for your blog. We recommend using a * Genesis theme for your blog (if you haven’t yet, can read why we love Genesis). We are going to look at 9 different elements of a theme that make them different from the other.
There are 3 main types of home pages: blog roll, static, or dynamic. By default, WordPress blogs use the blog roll as a home page. The Genesis theme Eleven40 Pro is an example of a theme that sticks with this traditional blog roll home page.
Other themes move the blog to another page, usually yourblog.com/blog and have a dynamic or static home page. A static home page has content that stays the same and does not change (unless manually changed by the blogger).
The new trend for home pages is a dynamic page. These pages are built to update when you add new content. The Metro theme also displays featured posts on the home page. The first post is the most current post and it fills the full width of the content section, followed by excerpts of other recent posts below.
The Epik theme is a displays combination of static and dynamic elements. There is a slider with popular posts that takes up the full width at the top, followed by static content below.
Take note: most of the home pages are widget areas, which means you get to control what is displayed in the different sections. Don’t focus on what the demo has in the sections of the home page, but how the sections are divided. With the use of the Genesis Featured Posts plugin (it comes default with Genesis themes) you can make any of the areas a featured post section. Or, you can choose to display static content.
In the menu of every Genesis theme demo, you should be able to find a link called page layouts, make sure to check and see if the theme has your desired layout.
1140 pixels is the default width of the content section for the Genesis framework, but some themes adjust this width. You can use a measure it app to see what the measurements are for different elements of the blog design. I always like to look at the widths of the post section vs. the side column. I also pay attention to the width of the menus. Some menus are the same length as the content + sidebar, while others (like ours) stretch the width of the full screen. I also like to measure the width of the spacing and padding between elements. Originally, this blog was going to be on Metro theme, but I want a little more white space between elements. You don’t have to be this picky (see why I can never make a decision!).
Check out how these 3 themes style the title area of a post differently: The title in the Centric theme is followed by the post information with icons and colored links.
The Metro theme has the title followed by a basic line of text for the post info. Matching the theme, the links are bolded.
The Modern Blogger theme has a script title, the post information is separated by lines, and the links are colored.
On a side note, you can adjust what appears here by going to Genesis – Simple Edits and then changing the short codes in the post info box.
Typography elements are the small little details that aren’t always noticed individually, but make a big impact on the whole of a blog design. Typography elements to look at when picking out a Genesis theme are: fonts, headings, block quotes, lists, and links. To find the different font styles, the newer themes have a page called typography. That page will show you most of the elements listed below. With the rest of the themes, you have to maneuver around the demo a little to see the different style. If the demo has a blog roll as the home page, there are usually different blog posts with the titles of the various formats. If the home page is static, I usually go to Page Layouts – Content/Sidebar to find the posts.
Luckily, most of the Genesis themes use great fonts that are easy to read. Still, make sure to take a look at the fonts in the theme. For example the Eleven40 theme uses a san serif font in the titles, but a serif font in the body text. Whereas, the Epik theme uses a sans-serif font all around.
Headings are an important element in your blog. Not only do they help your reader understand the flow of your post, but the correct use of them helps improve your SEO. In most themes, headings are differentiated by size of the text.
The Enterprise theme is a nice example of a theme that has clean and clear headings.
Some themes, like Modern Blogger theme customize the headings a little more with different colors or fonts.
Take a look at how the theme uses block quotes. Pay attention to how they stand out from the normal text. Are they a different color? Is there an indent? Some themes even use a larger quotation mark.
The Crave theme indents the quote, uses a large quotation mark, and the font is lighter than the main body text.
The Lifestyle theme also uses a larger quotation mark, but not as dramatically large. The quote text is indented on the left, but the color stays the same.
Lists: Ordered and un-ordered
Differences to look for in lists are indentation and spacing. For the un-ordered lists, also look at what shape is used for the bullet point: square, solid circles, open circles, etc.
Look and see how links are formatted. How do they look inside posts? Some are just a different color and some themes underline links. Most themes make links inside posts look different from links in other areas of the blog. Make sure to hover over the links to see if and how they change.
The way a theme looks after the blog post varies a lot between the different themes. There are 4 different areas I look at after the blog post: the tag and category links, the author box, the after entry widget area, and the comments.
In the Beautiful theme, the categories and tags are linked in a different colored text. The author box is separated by solid gray lines and then there is a gray after entry widget box.
The categories and tags in the Centric theme have icons to the left and also use a colored link text. The after entry widget area is separated by solid lines.
In the Enterprise theme, the categories are aligned left and the tags are aligned right. The after entry widget stands out in a white box.
The Magazine theme does not use a different color to link the categories and tags, but bolds the text. The after entry widget area is separated by bold black lines and the author box is gray.
Most of the Genesis themes use threaded comments, meaning you can visually see when someone is replying to a specific comment or to the blog post. Each theme customizes the appearance of comments differently.
The Parallax Pro theme has a basic comment section with the threaded comments slightly indented to the right.
The Going Green theme uses speech boxes to enclose the comment and the threads alternate colors.
The Modern Blogger theme uses gray boxes for the comments, with large numbers on the comments. The threaded comments are indented and outlined in white.
The footer area is at the bottom of every page. Usually with a Genesis theme, the footer areas are widget sections, so you can decide what type of content goes in that area. You can choose to mimic the demo or put your own content in these boxes. Pay attention to the color and how many widget areas are in the theme.
The footer in the Foodie theme is a gray box, the demo is set up to show 3 widget areas: connect, popular posts, and a section for ads.
The footer in the Magazine theme is black with widget areas in 3 columns. You are in control of what appears in these widget areas.
Check out how the Parallax Pro theme uses the footer section for a bold call to action. It is a red bar with one widget area, followed by a black bar.
I hope this tutorial has helped you become more aware of the different elements to look at when choosing a theme. I’d love to know what theme you ended up selecting, leave a comment and let us all know why you picked the theme you did.
*Disclaimer: when you click on some of these links, and make a purchase I will receive a commission of the sale.
Pin it for later:
Hey Kristie, thanks for this post. My wife and I are trying to decide on a genesis theme and it’s actually been pretty challenging identifying the actual differences. This post helped me think about the more subtle details that make one theme different from the next. Thanks.
Kristie Hill says
Hi, Aaron. It can be hard to tell the difference, especially since there are definitely theme trends right now (big welcome hero image on the home page, followed by rows). I’m glad this post helped you look at the themes in a different perspective.
What will your site be about? Let me know when you have it up, can’t wait to see what theme you choose.
Thank You Kristie…
This was really informative and definitely going to be put to use =)
Kristie Hill says
You’re welcome Maija. Let me know which theme you end up choosing.
When it comes time to design a website firstly to choose a theme is a common issue . The choices can be daunting. In this case this article shared here is very conducive and tonic to choose the best wordpress themes . On the other hand plugins add more functionalities for site and make the site so popular to visitors .
Here i would like to share https://www.gsamdani.com/ , one of the best sources for nice and very effective plugins . Any way thank you author for sharing such good and very tonic article here .
Kristie– I have been hung up trying to pick a theme and really didn’t “get” what I should look for. This post helps so much! I have been reading for weeks and there are SO MANY articles about selecting a theme, but they do not approach it as clearly as you have… yours is the best!! Thank you.
Kristie Hill says
You’re welcome Lynda! I hope this helps you pick out the theme. Let me know if you have questions about any themes.
I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this post — it was literally SO informative and I clicked through PAGES and PAGES of “how to pick a theme” posts and all of them just basically go over paid vs. free themes and the pros and cons of each. I spent almost a week trying to research this topic and this was exactly what I needed! THANK YOU!
Kristie Hill says
You’re welcome! Now that I think of it, I need to update this post now that there are some more new trends in blog designs. The 9th thing I would look at is whether or not the theme has a gallery style categories page. That’s a big deal to a lot of bloggers theses days, and many have been disappointed when they find out there theme doesn’t have one.
What theme are you going to use? You can also check out this post with my 10 favorite WordPress themes, I talk about the different elements I like about each one and give real examples of sites using the theme.
Can you give the name of a good “Measure it app” and how to find it. (Newbie) Having trouble finding one. I use Windows 7, PC.
Great information. I have looked everywhere to find info on choosing a theme and the different things to be considered. I guess established bloggers don’t consider this of importance but it is
and it’s so hard to find good articles on the subject. Launching my blog as soon as I can get all the basics down. Your are a great help.
Hey Chick! 🙂
I’m not sure about the measure it app — but (at least on a mac) if you right click on any area, and click “Inspect Element”, a “developers” box will pop up and you can investigate the size/properties of any element! When the inspect box pops up, scroll the “right” column alllll the way down and you’ll see a rectangle with lines and numbers – like 457 x 110. The dimensions (ie: 457 x110) inside the smallest rectangle tell you the size of the area/photo/element.
Kristie Hill says
Hey there! Glad you liked this post Brooke. Thanks for including the mac instructions, I’m a Windows girl so never think to talk about using Mac. I love developer tools though! SO HANDY.
Please tell me a little about picking a color scheme. I don’t see the significance of the colors when I view Blogs. Are they really that important when trying to decide? Are there colors to stay away from? Are there good combinations for a ladies blog? Are brown or gray or nutural colors add or take away from a good looking blog? Do the brown/teal or gray/pink look funny or good? When I look at blogs, I can’t pick out the colors they have used. Where do I look. I can’t get a picture in my head of what any color combos will look like and where that show up on a blog. What is it I’m missing? Help.
Kristie Hill says
It’s not way up with February comments, that’s just the last time someone commented on my blog. I display most recent comments first!
The reason I mentioned colors in this specific post is because it is important to look at the color options that come with a theme if you DO NOT want to change the colors in the CSS.
Colors are all about branding. I wouldn’t say there is one color scheme that is better than another. Just make sure it looks good on the web. My colors are Teal, Blue, Redish/coral, and Yellow. You can see more about my colors and changing your blog’s colors here!
Are you trying to decide on colors to use for your blog or are you trying to pick a theme that has colors you like?
Pin and Gray are great colors. The tasteful theme has options for Gray/Pink/Navy or Gray/Pink/Yellow
I haven’t seen many themes with brown and teal. But teal is beautiful.
The bloom theme has a teal option, and has a neutral brownish background.
Flourish also has a great teal/blue color scheme.
Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions.
Nikki Frank-Hamilton says
I have been reading up on Genesis, would like to switch soon, thanks for pointing to the individual items, I was looking at only the big picture. I like the way my site looks but need it to be constructed better on the back end, and to begin monetization . So I am conflicted. Thought I was going with Foodie Theme or Magazine…or… But I read about the Dynamik Theme & was intrigued. What do you think about Dynamik?
Kristie Hill says
Hi! I’m excited that you are going to be switching to Genesis soon! The foodie themes is hands down one of my favorite themes. It has a built in color and font customizer so you don’t have to touch code to make those adjustments. There are also tons of different layout options for the home page.
Dynamik is pretty cool. The idea is that you can fully customize your site without touching code, but it is its own learning curve.
My blogging friend Sarah, built her site http://rufflesandrainboots.com/ using Dynamik
If you want a theme ready out of the box, go with Foodie. If you want to experiment and set up a layout on your own, go with Dynamik.
just noticed your Twitter link in the blue box above doesn’t work
Kristie Hill says
Thanks Marianne! I knew I was bound to miss something when I switched domain names! They were all for the old name. :/ I’ve fixed it now.
Great article Kristie, definitely agree with these great points to look for. It’s not just about the design. I’ll be sharing this one.
Kristie Hill says
I definitely made the mistake the first time I bought a premium theme of just looking at the overall look. Later, I didn’t like some of the small details. Thanks for sharing!