Some of the links below might be affiliated links. No extra cost for you, sometimes with discounts and always the correct product. Read more
Episode 4: Which are the best WordPress themes on Theme Forest, what’s the fastest WordPress theme out there, where to find themes for Elementor and how to get Genesis framework for free
WordPress.org offers thousands of themes (the look and layout of your site) and plugins (extensions to your site like an app on a phone) to choose from. At the time of writing this post, there are over 8,000 themes and over 50,000 plugins to choose from in the WordPress.org repository and many more are available outside of that.
With such a massive choice it’s not easy to find the right WordPress theme, especially when you’re just getting started. This post will break it down, so let’s have a look at which are the most popular WordPress themes, the best places to find Niche WordPress themes and what multi-purpose WordPress themes are. We’ll look at where you can find the greatest choice of themes, best prices and discounts, and which is the fastest WordPress theme and best framework for WordPress with the least bloat.
Check out all topics: ‘How to start a blog 2021 – The ultimate WordPress tutorial series step-by-step‘ – learn how to start a blog or a small business website on a budget
What is a WordPress theme?
A WordPress theme is a template for your website. By choosing a theme you give your site a layout – whether your website will have one, two or no sidebars, what it’s background colour will be, where the navigation bar is located (e.g. above or below the header), whether the navigation will scroll with the user and therefore be accessible easily, and whether your site will display a header, a logo, or a slider.
Any theme today should be responsive so it will look good on any device, from a large screen down to a mobile phone. Will your homepage display specific content, such as most recent posts, in columns or in a carousel? Would you like to use a specific block editor such as Elementor, Divi or Beaver Builder?
Which easily adjustable options will your theme offer, e.g. can you add scripts to the header easily without the need to access files directly in the editor? How well is the theme coded, will your site load quickly and offer great SEO options? These and many more options will be dependent on the theme you choose.
If all this sounds a bit confusing right now, don’t worry. We’ll go through some of the most popular and best reviewed WordPress themes out there and I’ll give you a few pointers for themes I’ve worked with for years – themes I’ve always loved and have never been disappointed by.
All of the themes mentioned in this post have great reputations and excellent WordPress developers working behind the scenes to make sure they stay up-to-date with the ever-changing WordPress development world.
All these themes come with very detailed documentation, so you can have a look at them first before deciding which WordPress theme suits your needs best. Whichever WordPress theme you’re going for, I have worked with all the themes which are mentioned by name in this post, multiple times over the years.
I create WordPress training for clients websites and I can honestly say that all the themes which are mentioned in this post are all first-class ,and most of them are very flexible in regards to the look and purpose of your site.
Where can I find the best WordPress themes?
What does that actually mean – the best WordPress theme? I don’t think there is such a thing as one best WordPress theme. There is strong competition in the WordPress theme industry, developers are constantly trying to offer more features at lower prices.
Therefore, we have lots of modern themes to create elegant and beautiful websites which load fast. WordPress themes which are well coded with lots of flexibility, very user-friendly customisation options and great customer support – I guess that’s what you could call the best WordPress themes out there.
From working with WordPress for over 10 years there are a few themes which spring to mind, these are all themes I have seen over and over again on client’s websites in many different combinations and customisations to create various types of websites.
I have created training for many of them multiple times over the years for different clients. Because these themes have such great reputations with developers and website agencies, developers use them over and over again – with good reason. Many of them have had hundreds of thousands of downloads because they look good, they work well, they’re flexible, elegant, award-winning and fast.
I love working with the themes I list here, you just can’t go wrong with any of them, so let’s have a look at some of my favourites.
ThemeForest – the largest WordPress theme collection
If you’re looking for a place which offers one of the largest WordPress theme collection out there, you can’t go wrong with ThemeForest. Here you can choose from some of the biggest and most successful themes in the WordPress world.
If you’re just getting started with WordPress or looking for a theme for a new site, ThemeForest is a great place to get started. You will get an idea of what’s possible and can compare all different types of WordPress themes when you browse the massive choice of WordPress themes at ThemeForest.
There are two well-known ThemeForest themes I’d like to mention. I have worked with both many times over the years and if you use either of them you can’t go wrong.
The Avada WordPress theme
Their bestselling Avada WordPress theme has a fantastic reputation in the WordPress world, it’s well built and offers a lot of choices. The Avada WordPress theme has been downloaded over 650,000 times and is ThemeForest’s most popular theme since its launch in 2012.
It comes with 100% flexibility and absolute design freedom. Avada comes with unique dynamic content options which give you ultimate design flexibility. But that’s not all, you can even design each element of the header and footer individually.
The Avada theme comes with over 80 pre-built page designs with one-click import, but also with an uninstall option if you change your mind. The theme offers over 120 layout elements and WooCommerce integration. Avada comes with its own page builder, but I’ve often seen it combined with the Elementor page builder, they seem to work really well together and I’ve never seen any compatibility issues between them.
Avada is of course fully responsive, so websites built with the Avada theme look beautiful on any device.
The Avada WordPress theme is available for $60 on ThemeForest which is a great price for such a versatile and well-loved WordPress theme. The Avada theme is extremely flexible but also very user-friendly, so any web design layout is possible and your site can be up and running quite quickly even if you’re not really familiar with WordPress yet.
ThemeForest Kalium theme
Another well-known ThemeForest theme is Kalium, not as famous as Avada but definitely one of my favourite themes. Kalium was launched a few years later than Avada in 2015 and is a very elegant, multipurpose WordPress theme. It comes with lots of demo content which you can import with one click, so it makes building your new site super easy in literally a few minutes.
The Kalium theme on ThemeForest also comes with WooCommerce integration and e-commerce support, WPBakery page builder (worth $60), two top sliders (Slider Revolution and LayerSlider worth over $100 together), lots of different header styles (over 15 different ones) and over 30 portfolio styles.
Kalium is also fully compatible with the Elementor page builder if you prefer Elementor over WPBakery. It goes without saying that the Kalium theme is of course fully responsive – so it looks great on any device, it’s highly customisable with lots of build-in options, shortcodes and extra elements.
It loads super quickly and is SEO optimised. The theme comes with multiple blog and shop layouts, and is also multilingual.
Kalium is a really good looking WordPress theme, it’s really easy to use even for beginners, but with all its extra functionality you will never run out of options, and pretty much any web design is possible to build with that theme.
You can get Kalium for $59 on ThemeForest which is a bargain for a premium theme like that, the premium plugins alone are worth over $200. All the different page layouts which come with the theme will save you uncountable hours of building the actual website. Well, I think it’s easy to see why I like Kalium so much.
Before you start browsing, there is one thing to be aware of. ThemeForest is a vast library of themes and templates not just for WordPress and it’s easy to get lost on their site. So be a little careful to stay in the WordPress section on their website, as their market place is huge and they also offer HTML, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and other themes.
How about independent WordPress theme providers?
There are a lot of independent theme providers out there, many of them are really great at what they do and get a lot of respect in the WordPress community. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular WordPress themes and how they compare.
The most popular WordPress theme in the world – Divi Theme
The Divi theme is used by over 750,000 people who love the Visual Drag & Drop Builder. There is no coding knowledge needed with Divi, it’s really easy to learn, and is loved by novice and more experienced WordPress users alike. Divi is not just a theme, it’s a complete design framework that allows users to design and customise every part of their website from the ground up. Many developers build all their sites using only one framework – I know a few developers who use the Divi theme for all their client’s websites.
What’s the difference between Divi Theme and Divi Builder?
Some people are confused by Divi Theme and Divi Builder and wonder what’s the difference. The Divi Builder is a plugin which can be used with any theme, so you can download it separately. It’s a page builder like Elementor, Beaver Builder and WPBakery.
Page builders make it easy to create beautiful layouts using a drag and drop editor. The Divi theme includes the Divi Builder plugin already, and has everything wrapped into one theme. So when you download the Divi Theme, you are good to go to build your website without the need to purchase anything else for it.
They also offer a cool Divi Demo Page where you can try the WordPress theme for free and get a feel for how the Divi page builder works. On the demo page you can simply click into any of the elements to edit or move them. No account or sign up is needed, just go to the Divi Theme page and click the purple button ‘Try it for free’ on the left hand side of the header.
The Divi Theme (including the Divi Builder plugin) is available for $89 for an annual plan or for $249 to get lifetime access and updates. I have lifetime access with Divi which I think provides great value, however their annual plan is the more popular one. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee. So you can use the theme for a full month and if you don’t like it they will give you full a refund.
Best framework for WordPress – Genesis: flexible, providing a secure and search engine optimised foundation
Another well known and respected theme provider is StudioPress. They are powered by WPEngine and they offer the most popular mobile-responsive themes and design framework for WordPress. StudioPress is the creator of the Genesis Framework — probably the most well-known theme framework for WordPress.
Genesis is very flexible, and provides a secure and search engine optimised foundation for any website. The Genesis Framework needs to be used with a child theme, the child theme is there to protect your customisation which otherwise will be overwritten with the next update. You can create your own child theme or you can download an existing Genesis child theme by StudioPress. Here you can read how to get started with StudioPress Themes and the Genesis Framework.
To be honest, some novice WordPress users might find Genesis a bit more complicated than other themes as it doesn’t offer lots of options out of the box, it’s actually quite a simple theme and that’s why so many developers love Genesis, as there is no bloat. But it also means that a bit of CSS knowledge and general technical understanding will make it easier to work with Genesis.
Before WordPress 5.0 there was another big difference, and that was how to edit the home page. In most WordPress themes, you go to ‘Pages – Home’ and then edit the home page, in Genesis you had to go to ‘Appearance – Widgets’ and there you would find widget areas which were called ‘Home Top’, ‘Home Middle’ and ‘Home Bottom’ or similar.
When you added widgets to those widget areas you could populate your front page, then you had to click into the individual widgets directly to add your content. That’s very different to other themes and can be a bit confusing for people when they just get started with Genesis. You will still find that kind of setup in WordPress sites which use an older version of WordPress. However, if you start now you will download the newest WordPress version anyway, and can use the block editor on the homepage.
Here is a nice video on how to get started with Genesis Pro and WordPress 5.0+.
How to make Genesis more user-friendly for WordPress beginners
Page Builder Beaver Builder
There is some more good news if you’re not really into CSS and coding, or for some reason don’t want to use any of the pre-built Genesis child themes. You also have the option to get all the benefits of Genesis and make it more user friendly by opting for the premium page builder Beaver Builder. I’ve seen it used in many Genesis-built websites, it’s also well known and has been discussed on the StudioPress community forum for years, so Beaver Builder and Genesis work really well together.
Beaver Builder is a premium page builder, you can sign up to it here for $99 for the first year and then get a 40% discount when you auto-renew the year after – that’s $40 discount per year! If you opt out of auto-renewal they usually still offer you the 40% discount for another 2 weeks after your subscription has expired. Just after that, the discount will be gone and you’ll have to pay full price again, so ideally keep auto-renewal on to get the discount, all upcoming updates and really great customer support. They also offer a 30-day money back guarantee if you change your mind.
Genesis plugin Design Palette Pro
There are also a whole bunch of plugins for Genesis and one of them is called Design Palette Pro, which will give you the ability to customise pretty much any area on your Genesis site without touching any code. It includes the header, navigation, content area, sidebars, footers, colours, fonts, backgrounds, margins and padding – pretty much anything, with just the click of a button. The plugin is available for €49 per year for one site, and is a great addition for anybody who doesn’t like to code, but would like to customise their Genesis theme easily.
How to get Genesis framework and themes for free?
If you sign up for a WPEngine hosting account you can get the Open Source Genesis Framework & 35+ StudioPress Theme Packages with it for FREE! So if you don’t have a hosting account yet, and are interested in building a really fast-loading, good looking website, while using one of the top WordPress hosting providers out there, you can sign up to a hosting account with WPEngine and get the Open Source Genesis Framework & 35+ StudioPress Theme Packages for free – that’s over $2,000 in value! With those savings you can then easily afford to purchase the Beaver Builder or the Design Palette Pro plugin, if you want to make your site easier to customise.
As a bonus, you can also get 3 months free hosting with WPEngine on top of getting the Open Source Genesis Framework and 35+ StudioPress Theme Packages for FREE
You might also be interested in ‘My top recommended hosting providers and what to look out for when choosing a hosting provider‘. I’ve learnt a lot about hosting providers over the last 10 years, by working with dozens of them from all over the world – they all offer hosting services, but they are not all the same.
Best free WordPress themes and cheap premium themes by independent theme providers
And then of course there is MyThemeShop – they are premium developers who create themes and plugins. At the time of writing they have developed over 160 themes and plugins with clean and efficient code, fast website loading times, and search engine optimisation, and they have over 690,000 customers using their products.
One of their best known themes is Schema which is a very fast-loading, ultra-SEO friendly WordPress theme. It has all the best MyThemeShop features, including their custom options panel, all their shortcodes and widgets, and a pixel perfect design. Schema also includes rich snippets in order to help search engines understand your site and rank you higher.
Another very popular MyThemeShop theme is AdSense, – it does exactly what it says on the box. It’s a really fast-loading Google AdSense theme to increase revenue, it comes with the great feature of an inbuilt Adblock detector, and can easily be used for affiliated sites too.
MyThemeShop has a great range of products including free WordPress themes, single themes for very reasonable once-of purchase prices starting from $19, various licenses to use themes on 1, 3 or unlimited numbers of sites, and an extended membership which gives you access to over 160 premium WordPress themes and plugins, all their new products and loads more for $99/year.
Best place to find niche WordPress themes
MyThemeShop also has some really great niche themes (i.e. Science, Drop shipping, Crypto, Coupon, Newspaper, Real Estate, Pets, Writer and Affiliate Marketing themes and many more) and often have some great special offers on too, so it’s worth checking them out.
MyThemeShop customer support
What can I say about MyThemeShop customer support? It’s brilliant and very fast. They have lots of people in their customer support team but I frequently see the same moderators in their support chat helping people out in a very efficient manner. They usually reply within a few hours and they are happy to help with a bit of coding etc. too – even though I’m not even sure if that’s officially included in their customer support 😉
So, yes it’s always worth reading each providers’ FAQs on what’s supported of course, but from my experience over the years, MyThemeShop has never refused to help me with anything.
The fastest WordPress theme by ThemeIsle
And then there is one more independent theme provider I really have to mention and that’s ThemeIsle. They are around since 2012 and are well known for their WordPress premium themes Neve and Hestia Pro.
Hestia Pro is a very popular and beautiful one-page business theme with lots of 5-star reviews, which is worth checking out if you’re looking for a great one-page theme.
Neve WordPress theme
Neve is one of ThemeIsle’s super-fast, most user-friendly and customisable WordPress themes – over 200,000 sites run with Neve. It loads in less than 1 second on a default install, 0.6 seconds to be precise – that’s impressive!
But Neve is not just one of the fastest WordPress theme out there, it also comes with a starter site library, so you have the choice of well-designed templates for any of your pages, straight out of the box. And it is AMP compatible – which is really important to Google and will be one of the most important features in the near future for all themes!
Themes for Elementor page builder with Elementor booster
The Neve theme comes with drag-and-drop components, so it’s easy to customise even for a novice WordPress user. Its seamless integration with Gutenberg and all well-known page builders such as Elementor, Beaver Builder, Visual Composer, SiteOrigin and Divi Builder makes it easy to create beautiful post and pages without any coding.
Website speed is one of the highest priorities for many website owners, as neither readers nor Google like slow loading websites – so it’s well worth checking out ThemeIsle’s fastest WordPress theme Neve for any project.
ThemeIsle offers different plans and has over 450,000 happy users, or pirates as they like to call their fans. All their plans include header and blog booster, Elementor booster (to add extra features to the popular page builder Elementor), different custom layouts and unlimited support and updates for any number of sites.
ThemeIsle’s personal plan starts at €59/year. Their Business plan includes premium starter sites, WooCommerce booster and priority support for €99/year.
Download the fastest WordPress theme for free
ThemeIsle offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, but the best part is that you can check out their Hestia Pro demo page first, and even download the super fast Neve theme for free to see how easy it runs, without signing up for anything.
ThemeIsle offers free WordPress themes, premium themes and plugins, all developed by ThemeIsle’s own developers. They have a very informative blog, lots of tutorials and a well-documented FAQ section on their website.
Best WordPress theme conclusion
Now, this list of best WordPress theme providers got a bit longer than I thought – much longer actually – but there is just so much out there that it’s difficult to make it shorter. Well, let’s try to briefly summarise our best WordPress themes for different projects.
If you’re looking for one of the most popular multipurpose WordPress theme with lots of prebuilt layouts and customisation options you can’t go wrong with either the Avada, Kalium or Divi. All three are very versatile themes with lots of options but are really easy to get started with and your site can be built within minutes.
If you’re interested in a more simple theme, which is extremely flexible and provides a secure and search engine optimised foundation, you should consider the Genesis framework. Genesis is a firm favourite of many developers as it’s so powerful without any bloat. As mentioned before, here is a really good special offer with WPEngine where you can get the Open Source Genesis Framework & 35+ StudioPress Theme Packages for FREE & 3 months free hosting with WPEngine on top of that. That’s a saving of over $2,000!
If you’re not really sure of the layout for your website yet and you would like some inspiration, your best bet would be to go to ThemeForest and browse their massive WordPress theme and template library. They offer the widest choice with thousands of premium WordPress themes for corporate or entertainment websites, non-profit sector, e-commerce web stores, creative sites, blog and magazine themes – and many more. It’s a great place to get inspired and find the perfect theme for any sector with lots of discounts and prices starting at $14 for premium WordPress themes.
If you’re looking for some of the best Niche WordPress themes, you should check out MyThemeShop. They have some really great niche themes (i.e. Science, Drop shipping, Crypto, Coupon, Newspaper, Real Estate, Pets, Writer and Affiliate Marketing themes and many more) and often have some great special offers too, so it’s definitely worth checking them out. Their themes start at $19 and they offer some great membership options too.
So, I hope you’ve found this post about WordPress themes to be useful, and please let me know in a comment below which theme you went for.
Now that we have covered the exciting part of choosing a WordPress theme, you can get stuck into customising your site. But amidst all this excitement, we should also remember that all these great options to do it all yourself also come with responsibilities: you are in charge of your site, and that includes maintaining a hosting account, taking care of backups, looking after software and security updates, and fixing things – which might need some coding – if something goes pear-shaped.
Of course, it’s not impossible to do or learn, and there are loads of tutorials out there. However, many people who don’t work with websites on a regular basis might find all this to be quite technical and very time consuming. This is actually often one of the biggest headaches I hear about from my students, but don’t worry there are ways to make all this much easier and to remove the stress of keeping your site running securely.
Check out ‘What is a website maintenance plan, what can it do for my site before I run into issues and why could it be the best investment ever?‘ so you can spend more time blogging and creating content knowing your site is secure.
So, what about you, which theme did you go for and why?
Please let me know in a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
You might also be interested in Why WordPress and what to know before getting started or How to find your niche before you start blogging.
Check them both out or click the button below for the full index of the How to start a blog in 2021 Index- step-by-step WordPress tutorials so far and I’ll keep updating this index as the guide develops.