As the folks at WordPress say, a theme is a basic template for your website. It creates a basic structure which you may then customize. From the super simple Saka, to more complex “page-builder” themes such as Bento, WordPress has literally thousands of themes to choose from in the WordPress Theme Repository.

However, the hard part can be, well, choosing. Many people have referred to picking and working with a WordPress theme as “theme wrangling” – getting a WordPress theme to do exactly what you want it to do. This requires a bit of understanding how themes work. The folks in CIRT can help you there. However, we do have some general things to consider and we’ll have some themes to recommend as well.

First, a quick note about how WordPress works. The look and feel of a WordPress site is governed by its theme (the template). The content you write, such as the text and images you use in a blog post or a page, is completely separate. That’s the way it should be. You should not be worrying about your website design at the same time you are writing content.

A good theme will allow this concept to make sense to you. A good theme will have a balance of speed (in terms of the page loading in the web browser), simplicity, good layout (which you can modify to some extent), readability (nice fonts), and a good use of color.

A good theme will also have the following features, which you can filter for when you’re searching for a theme on the WordPress Theme Repository:

Next we’ll look at a couple themes in the Repository. The first one, Anissa, is one that we’ve used a couple times for faculty portfolios and other projects. Here is the screenshot of the theme:

Looks nice right? Sure. And it has all the features (except robust accessibility) above. However, here is what the theme looks like after you first install it:

Again, nice, but not quite as attractive as the screenshot of a finished website (with the featured images and social icons, etc.), but it’s a good start. The point is that you’ll need to do a slight bit of customization of a new theme, but it shouldn’t be a daunting task. The folks at CIRT are happy to help you here.

Two last things to consider before we turn you loose looking for your theme – ratings (along with the active number of installs), and the date the theme was last updated.

ratings and last updated

As far as ratings go, use your best judgement. Obviously a five-star theme is ideal, but it’s also obviously subjective. Use the ratings as a guide. Just like reviews on Amazon, people like or dislike things for different reasons. Also look at the number of ratings people have given. A five-star rating by one person may not mean as much as a four-star rating by a thousand people.

Also, avoid themes that have this warning:

Old theme warning

A theme that’s kept up-to-date is one that will keep working when WordPress updates their software. An older theme will be one that will more likely have issues working correctly, or even worse have security vulnerabilities.

Lastly we’ll share some links of where to find some good themes:




Photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash