Having an Internet presence has never been more important, as ongoing global happenings continue to push people to be more content driven. Social media can be a great place for reaching out to clients and staying in touch, but many businesses will also want to consider a website as a hub for all of their operations.
Knowing where to get started can be difficult, and while there are plenty of great website builder (opens in new tab) services, sometimes there’s a need for more customization and personalization. WordPress certainly ticks this box, and encourages the installation of a huge number of third-party plugins (opens in new tab) and themes.
In theory, you could use WordPress (opens in new tab) without any of these add-ons, but it’s best seen as a blank canvas that’s made even better by the help of third-party developers. Then, of course, you have the benefit that somebody else has designed a super slick theme for you, which is great if you don’t have the know-how. Many themes can be bought with a one-off payment, but it’s worth considering annual and renewing licences that offer extended support, updates, and more.
We’ve picked from some of the most common use cases for a WordPress site and highlighted our favorite theme that caters to these needs. Because we recognize that every WordPress user will have a different set of needs, there are also some additional theme options worth checking out that fit different criteria.
These are the best WordPress themes of 2023
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Blogging is a great way to start getting your content out there, whether that’s personal thoughts or academic research. Picking from seemingly thousands of themes is difficult, but they can be narrowed down by cost, and what makes Baskerville 2 (opens in new tab) stand out in an industry that can be tough to break into is that it’s free of charge.
It has everything you’re likely to need in its standard configuration, with space for text, images, and videos. Customize it and you’ll find options for adding pages, personalization, and widgets. You can pick from a number of templates, like full width, and it’s designed to work smoothly on any device including mobile screens (which makes up more than half of all Internet sessions).
Also worth mentioning
If you’re more of a fan of simplicity, Hemingway may appeal more. There are fewer customizations available, but it’s clear that the design team has spent a lot of time making things look fresh. It’s also a good choice for beginners, and like Baskerville 2, it’s free. On the other end of the scale, OceanWP has tonnes of customization available, but while the core elements are free of charge, expect to pay for a pro design. If you’re looking to make a bit of cash out of a hobby, it has ecommerce functionality, too.
Avada (opens in new tab) is among the best-selling WordPress themes, totalling more than 850,000 use cases around the world. It’s reasonably priced and, unlike some other elements in WordPress like plugins, it doesn’t require an ongoing subscription.
It comes with 80 website templates and a handy Avada Builder plugin that helps you to build a layout quickly. As you’d expect from a premium product, it’s responsive to a large number of devices and is translation-ready, so you could begin to share your work more broadly without having to do in-house translation.
It costs $69 and should appeal to a wide range of audiences; it even has templates for education and WooCommerce integration if you’re planning to run a shop.
Also worth mentioning
BeTheme is another popular theme among WordPress users for its extensive list of templates and site designs, totalling more than 600. It comes with a tool called Muffin Builder which is designed to let you customize your pages easily with drag-and-drop, and is designed to work with a number of displays including the high pixel density Retina displays made by Apple. It’s only $10 cheaper than Avada, so it’s worth comparing them to see exactly what you need from a theme.
What we like about Astra (opens in new tab) is that it has multiple tiers to support growing businesses at various stages, including a free plan, though this makes do without many of the features that make up the paid plans. It has over a million active installs, and has annual and lifetime pricing so you can choose how you wish to commit.
Some of the features that stood out to use include infinite scroll that allows products to load dynamically as a visitor scrolls down, helping to improve performance; front-end filtering; and checkout options such as two-step or distraction-free. All in all, it should be able to deliver a service that works for your brand. There is a price to pay for all of this, though, and things can get pricey as you climb the subscription tiers.
Besides being responsive to any device type, whether that’s text, images, or other CTA, you can also pick from a number of self-hosted Google Fonts and custom fonts and build it with SEO in mind.
Many features are free, though there are some that are reserved for the Pro version, which will cost you $59, $169, or $249 per year, or a one-time fee of $299, $849, or $1,249 (often on offer for cheaper than these, though).
Also worth mentioning
Shopkeeper is another easy-to-use theme, and as such it requires little to no experience or knowledge of site building. With support for things like digital downloads, affiliate links, and stock management including promotions, it has great appeal. As it’s a one-time purchase, it’s a fair bit cheaper than Astra can be.
The clue is in the name, really: this is a free version of a family of themes under the Deep name. We think this is a great thing, because if and when you decide to expand your WordPress site and you’re looking for more premium theme options, you could consider the affordable Deep Pro.
While it is a parred-down version of Deep Pro, it’s not short on features. Things that stood out to us included header and footer builders which allow for more customization than you thought you needed, support for widgets, and even basic e-commerce abilities thanks to a WooCommerce plugin. Adaptive image scaling helps to load appropriate sizes depending on a user’s device, in turn giving a handy boost to your site’s performance.
Also worth mentioning
We also like GeneratePress for its focus on speed and optimization. Helping it to stand out above many competitors are its accessibility credentials, such as WCAG 2.0 compliance and translation readiness, including RTL (right to left) languages. Like so many free things, there are premium (paid) versions that offer even more.
While it may not have the same traffic volumes as other sites, like e-commerce platforms, a portfolio has every right and need to look and function just as good. In fact, picking the right theme will help you to make the right impression.
Angle comes from WPZoom, which has lent its hand to building other themes too, so you know what you’re getting will have some technical know-how and expertise behind it. Like so many themes, it’s capable of adapting to different screen types including Apple’s high pixel-density Retina displays. Pricing is reasonable, but you are locked into an annual subscription.
Also worth mentioning
We’ve picked out Nikkon because it’s free, which is largely beneficial in a crowded space of premium products. Naturally, it makes do without some of the bells and whistles that you may expect, but for beginners it’s perfect.
Packed with hundreds of fully functioning demos, Bridge (opens in new tab) promises to be suitable for most types of businesses. Customization is aplenty, including different page types like landing pages, and there’s support for WooCommerce if you plan on running an online store.
There’s even more granularity for things like drop-down menus, text formatting, and social media integration, and it’s built to be optimized for SEO, which is great news if you’ve opted for an SEO plugin that can help you pick out the right keywords.
On the other hand, because there’s so much to consider, Bridge can appear somewhat overwhelming to less experienced users, but for a reasonable $69, we think it’s worth trying out.
Also worth mentioning
For something a little easier to use, consider Divi. It’s one of our favorite plugins for a landing page, but you can use it to build an entire website. It uses WYSIWYG which makes it great for tracking changes in real time, and there’s plenty of different elements to play with. It’s a little more expensive than some other options, but you can pay for lifetime access which will work out cheaper in the long run (supposing you don’t fancy a change in a few years).
Yes, there are customization options and different types of layouts, but that’s not what a minimalist theme is really about. They’re just bonuses. We think its unique selling point is the extensive catalog of more than 750 Google fonts, which allows users to put their own stamp on their site without having to have too many distracting elements.
The Blogasm Pro (opens in new tab) theme comes from an organization called Precise Themes, which heads up five other themes that are all designed to cater to minimalist audiences. Each priced at $49, we think you’d be better off going for the Theme Bundle which sells for $99, giving you access to pick from any of their six themes. There are lifetime support options, too, which aren’t especially expensive.
Also worth mentioning
We like to contrast paid themes with free themes because not every business or individual will be the same, and sometimes there’s no need to spend money on a theme. We like Koji, which instead encourages donations rather than setting a fixed fee. It claims to be great for people who are visually impaired or have color blindness, and there’s plenty of white space which makes it both visually appealing and easy to navigate.
Magazine(opens in new tab)
If you’ve got a WordPress site that’s focused on delivering timely content like news, or you want to showcase feature articles, then you’ll likely want a magazine theme designed to handle a large amount of content.
Clue’s in the name, but Magazine Pro (opens in new tab) is really well suited to a magazine-style site. It’s laid out just as you’d expect for such a theme, and comes with some handy tools like space for a customisable logo, and even ecommerce preparation.
It’s part of the broader StudioPress company, which offers tonnes of themes, web building tools, and hosting, which can all be combined into a paid package which depends on your business (and WordPress site) size.
Also worth mentioning
We’ve already featured this above, but it’s such a powerful theme that it deserves a place here, too. Divi can built virtually any type of website and uses a nice WYSIWYG concept to building, but it can get pricey.
Best WordPress themes FAQs
How we test the best WordPress themes
To test the WordPress themes, we set up a demo site to try them out. It all boils down to how easy a theme is: ease of install, ease of use, clear pricing strategy, and so on.
There’s a lot more than just playing with the themes, though. We trawled through each theme’s website or information pages, digging up as much data as possible to check just how well-rounded they are. We also reached out to many of the developers to check on the themes’ support networks and how prepared their teams are to help should something go wrong.
Our final hours were spent reading online reviews from real customers: though these can sometimes be few and far between for WordPress themes, they provide a valid insight into how the themes work in the real world.
How to choose the best WordPress theme for you
If you’ve decided that you want to level up your WordPress site with a theme, there are a few things to consider before you even start to look at what may be available. You need to arm yourself with information like how much you’re willing to pay (if at all), and what you’re looking to get out of a theme, including your website’s main purpose(s).
Once you’ve whittled the selection down to a handful (you could do this by theme, as we have above), you can then begin to compare them in more detail. The organized among us may want to set up a spreadsheet and award points for each feature, but this is not necessary.
Remember to compare what’s important to you, and now more than ever, to check whether the theme you like represents good value for money. We’re talking low or no cost, or if it’s a little pricier, that it’s packed full of features that you’re actually going to use.
What is a WordPress theme and how does it impact ads?
Choosing the right WordPress theme for your website is much more than just opting for a minimalist, eye-catching design. To succeed online, you need to have a bit more acumen. Stephen Marsi, co-founder of Mediavine, shares some thoughts about what it takes to win online.
Advertising is always a delicate balance. What generates the maximum revenue and what provides the optimal user experience? Can those competing factions coexist?
Many things factor into this question, including WordPress (opens in new tab) theme frameworks. Hundreds of thousands of sites use them to customize functionality and appearance for just about every need, and they can significantly impact ad performance, as well.
To set up a theme framework, publishers need to purchase or download one for free. There are numerous options and pricing plans for additional features and options.
Not all WordPress sites require a framework - basic sites with a single landing page likely won’t need the customization options they offer - but many depend on the flexibility and optionality that they provide. So what does this have to do with monetization?
For digital content creators, running the highest-performing ads on WordPress websites, while still ranking in search engines that send valuable organic traffic, requires the right technology, tools and techniques - a combination not every theme framework delivers.
It’s crucial that WordPress frameworks reflect Google’s current best practices, including Core Web Vitals, Progressive Web Application (PWA) standards, Lighthouse guidelines and more.
Put another way - it’s extremely important for any website to load quickly and seamlessly. Pagespeed isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing. It is crucial to be cognizant of the importance of fast-loading pages and the disadvantages inherent in some frameworks.
(ed: That also means that choosing the right WordPress hosting (opens in new tab) service is important as well)
Solutions like open source WordPress theme framework, Trellis, are built with modern web technologies and designed for site speed and revenue optimization. Goals of perfect 100 scores on both desktop and mobile on PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse - the tool powering those insights - is built into the core development process.
Back to our original point; Google and most players view user experience as the linchpin of holistic website growth and sustainability. If something is bogging down your site - plugins, jittery, shifting content, ads, all of the above - that isn’t a high quality UX. Which, in turn, hurts your SEO, your traffic and your ability to monetize that traffic. It’s all interconnected.
Choosing the best WordPress theme framework is essential for content, SEO and ads to coexist in a productive way. That means a framework which plays nicely with WordPress (the most popular CMS (opens in new tab)) and focuses on Google’s best practices.